not being here for four decades means i’ve missed out on a lot although i would have missed out on more, much more, if i’d stayed. it means that now i am here, i am much less, but also much more, than the ones who have been here the whole time.
so i missed out on ischa meijer. i only knew his name until i read connie palmen’s book, not I.M. with the famous simultaneous pants shitting scene, but the heartbreaking (in dutch there is a better word ‘hartverscheurend’ — i.e. it doesn’t just break your heart, it tears it into pieces) ‘logbook van een onbarmhartig jaar’.
ischa meijer would have been 75 if he hadn’t died at 52 and no less than three books about him have been published simultaneously, as well as some articles and pictures in the dutch press.
this picture of ischa and his mother in 1943 is especially poignant because some thirty years later he tore it up into little pieces. it is not recorded who put the pieces back together again or when.
if you are fortunate enough to understand dutch (and you have time on your hands) all of ischa’s radio interviews (400 hours) are available online here. thanks vpro!
A reconstructed romantic(us)
Having been eaten up and spat out by the postmodernist/poststructuralist rollercoaster in the eighties and nineties, I am a reconstructed, as opposed to an unreconstructed, Romantic — in Dutch the word is better because it utilises the Latinised form, romanticus, distinguishing it from the ordinary use of ‘romantic’, as in buying flowers for your GF.
What stayed with me somehow over all those years, is the capacity for a different relation to the impossible — a kind of magical thinking; even if for a long time I had to keep it hidden in a little pocket in a folded up part of my-so-called-self and I didn’t have words for it until I did a PhD.
When the new millennium came I was halfway through it and in a way I freed my-so-called-self from the the previous millennium. In 2002 I put everything I had into that gallery space, my books, my wires, my computers, one hundred thousand words. Everything was connected to everything else, except the neons that faded from TRUTH into BEAUTY and back again. And then I was, to all intents and purposes, finished with Art — and Art was finished with me, even if it did take the best part of a decade to be free of the Academy, such as it was, in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.
I am here, (i) as other.
(Sorry. Re-reading Rimbaud…)
I is another. If the brass wakes the trumpet, it’s not its fault. That’s obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.
If the old imbeciles hadn’t discovered only the false significance of Self, we wouldn’t have to now sweep away those millions of skeletons which have been piling up the products of their one-eyed intellect since time immemorial, and claiming themselves to be their authors!
Rimbaud in a Letter to Paul Demeny 15 May 1871.
Why I Am Not A Buddhist
From: Cornucopia: New & Selected Poems. W.W. Norton / Canada, 2002.
I love desire. the state of want and thought
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul
requires desire. I love the things I’ve sought-
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes
houses. redemption. Can a new mauve suit
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute
desire for nut gateaux is driven out by death,
but the cake on its plate has meaning,
even when love is endangered and nothing matters
For my mother, health; for my sister, bereft,
wholeness. But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony.
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love.
— via @emilynussbaum
i love this. somewhere there is something i wrote with the same title but my reasons are completely different. there is also a book by evan thompson called why i am not a buddhist. there is a slightly weird article on a buddhist website in which he explains why not and why he wrote the book very eloquently. i’ve archived it here so you don’t have to be subjected to buddhist pop-ups. you’re welcome.
Hannah Hoekstra Climbs a Mountain
three movies, each bad in their own way and for different reasons. one, about francis bacon, with derek jacobi, i abandoned because the director was trying too hard to imitate the painter’s style — or something — and i couldn’t bear it. the other two i watched until the bitter end, and bitter was the end of magic mountains in which hannah hoekstra climbs a mountain in the tatras, really, for no good reason. but hands up those who know where the tartra mountains are. exactly. who knew there was a spectacular mountain range on the border between poland and slovakia?
hannah hoekstra reminds me more than a little of a one time muse in newcastle, new south wales, 1993. of all the women i’ve loved perhaps that love was the most unrequited. i’d say hannah hoekstra would the only reason i can think of for watching the film and she might not be enough. it would love to see her in a really good film, with someone really good opposite her instead of the half-dead grub in this one, directed by, say greta gerwig, but it seems good films don’t made in the netherlands.
as for the other, a dreadful hotchpotch (even including horrible, gratuitous footage of civilian victims of war for no apparent reason) called ‘bird on a wire’, about leonard cohen. thankfully not the boring old hallelujah-i’m-a-zen-monk-now leonard but the earlier one who suddenly found fame and fortune in his 30s when, after a spectacularly unsuccessful career as a writer, he reinvented himself as a folksinger of sorts.
the film was made and then lost for 40 years until it was recently pieced together from 3,000 found fragments. it can’t make up its mind whether to focus on the performances, such as they are, or the shenanigans backstage and on the way to and from the gigs. the problem is : i just don’t get leonard cohen, never did, never will. ok i get that he has/had a marketable presence, and a disarming smile but his music is just not very interesting is it?
“suzanne comes from three different concerts,” the director proudly proclaims. “they were done in different tempos, different keys and even different lyrics. but with the wonders of today’s digital technology, we made it look like one performance.”
so leonard takes a bath, leonard begins to sing a song and then stops and complains about the audience clapping. the final concert was in jerusalem of all places. leonard leaves the stage halfway through the gig because he’s not feeling it. backstage leonard has a shave and drops a tab of acid then walks back out but you’d have no idea what exactly happened next except for leonard’s tears, which flow freely.
well that, at least, is something.
The ninety nine names of Allah
One of the benefits of converting to Islam, which admittedly I am quite unlikely to do, would be that it’d really piss off the Patriarch who reserves a special kind of hatred for Muslims, similar but not quite as intense as his dislike of Chinese people, Moroccans, young people, vegetarians and socialists.
The other benefit would be that you’d get to adopt an Islamic name. Am I correct in thinking that one of the ninety nine names of Allah is a common choice? And I would insist on only being addressed by my Islamic name.
Would you choose the name for the meaning or for the word itself?
If I was to go for meaning, the name I would choose would be Al Fattaa الفتاح The Opener — or Al Mujeeb المجيب The Responsive; The Answerer.
If I was to go for a word, I would choose العزيز Azziz— also spelled Azeez but to have the letter z in one’s name three times would be awesome. I love the letter z for its shape, but also because it is the last letter, and it seems quite underused. Also you can add z to be the beginning of any file name and when you reverse sort the list of files by name it puts it first in the list.
As an aside, this a pretty awesome solution to the downside of monotheism, the doctrine that there is only one true God, which is central to Islam.
What?! Only one God?
Yep … but we do have 99 names for Him…
1 : price vs value
the value of a human life, according to the US system for compensating civilian victims of war, is between 2,500 and 4,200 dollars. link (in dutch)
ober? mag ik even afrekenen?
2 : hypercapitalism vs necropolitics.
wake me up when it’s over.
Brigitte Bardot and friend on the set of Les Novices (1970) by Terry O’Neill.
in russian there are two different words for truth — i let a talking head on tv tell me this.* one of the words, Правда (pravda), is apparently a ‘more aspirational truth’ and therefore the word can be utilised for purposes that are not in fact related to saying something about how things actually are. now i recognise that speaking in terms of ‘how things actually are’ is deeply problematic, both philosophically, politically and from the point of view of psychoanalysis … i mean posthumanist therapy.
the other day i was having an asynchronous conversation with someone about what would be the first lesson of psychoanalysis … i mean posthumanist therapy. the heading would be ‘lesson one : what is truth?’. i started writing it but, like most things i am doing, it is nowhere near finished.
and in english?
i am not in favour of the misuse of the prefix post— which in the case of ‘post-truth’ seems to have lead to the idea that truth has become irrelevant and thus straight-faced lying, and just saying that you didn’t do what you obviously did do or that what happened did not, is perfectly acceptable, especially if you’re a politician or a news organisation which is owned by, and whose function is to represent the facts in a way which suits, the powers that be and the rich.
but there is ‘sooth’ as in ‘soothsayer’ — now archaic but maybe it could be revived. is that the truth, we used to say, or did you read it in the daily mail? (a notorious right wing uk newspaper.) i still say it with some regularity when the old man i live with expounds, at excruciating length, some absurd conspiracy theory and/or a horrendous wilful misreading of historical events. (am i using wilful appropriately there? wilful and deliberate are not the same thing! i think i learned this from sarah ahmed and i am not just saying that to parade my woke credentials)
‘sooth’ could be an appropriate word for a kind of soothing truth, like saying ‘it’s ok’ when it’s not actually, but the intention is to try and make it so, to console or to make someone feel better — and a soothsayer : one who by speaking, soothes, who speaks sooth, a different kind of aspirational truth perhaps?
*this is a straight translation of something dutch speakers say which i rather like in the context of so called post-truth : ‘ik heb me laten vertellen dat…’ it means that you ‘allowed’ someone tell to you something. it is a kind of humble pre-amble to something else you’re about to say that you don’t necessarily endorse yourself and/or that you cannot vouch for its veracity.
in the torturous application process for final approval to commence work as a supervisor in the spiritual care department of the largest oncological hospital in the southern hemisphere, the question arises, ‘what is my spiritual community?’. since i don’t belong to any religion this is interesting in a range of different theological and philosophical ways. to begin let’s consider what ‘spiritual’ could mean in a secular context.
‘spiritual’ is one of those words which means many different things to different people and one might say that the word has been corrupted in such a way as to make its usefulness moot; but if one is training as a spiritual carer or supervising such training, obviously it cannot be avoided.
in considering its etymology, the root of the word ‘spirit’ is ‘spire’ which means ‘breath’. this is echoed in words like ‘inspire’, ‘aspire’ and ‘expire’ — and the idea of inspiration. when you ask someone ‘what is your spirituality’, are you asking ‘what inspires you?’. what makes you feel alive? what makes you feel/think/believe that despite your own suffering and pain, and all the suffering, cruelty and injustice in the world, it is possible to continue, to live and to work, and to connect with others? and what do you aspire to? what would you like to be able to do before you expire?
these are questions a spiritual carer cares about — and questions a spiritual carer might, under the right circumstances, put to someone that they’re working with. they might also be questions that a supervisor asks of someone who is training as a spiritual carer.
when it comes to the questions : what is a community? and what does it mean ‘to care’? we might also ask if the two questions are connected. does community mean : people (and, if you are a posthumanist, also other living and non-living beings and entities) that are connected and that care? what do they care about and/or for whom?
in this news story (in dutch) what connects people, what makes them a community, is that they care about this 170 year old tree.
as to what spiritual health is or could be, i think codswallop is what that is. this word is a good word with a very specific meaning although there is some debate about which meaning is ‘the one’. one : a long time ago cod the fish was so plentiful in the seas around northern europe that it was considered to have very little value and so ‘cod’ was used in that way.
you have compassion for other people, beings, and things. for the world. you love and you are loved and you will be loved.
each tree, river, lake, mountain, stone, each grain of sand is asking you a question. perhaps it is not even a question, maybe it is more of an invitation :
… exist beyond the self … beyond your self … it’s not even yours …
please don’t say no.
please don’t say no to the world.
if you love yourself too much it is a big problem.
if you don’t love yourself enough it is also a big problem.
but if you loved yourself before and now you don’t love yourself, that is the biggest problem of all.
perhaps it’s a command.
it may even be a demand…?
did i post this before? If i did, it is worth repeating.
Er zit in het bestaan iets heiligs. Het onbegrijpelijke. Wat zich onttrekt aan de rede, wat zich onttrekt aan de ratio. Ik denk dat iedereen het bestaan weleens als iets overweldigends heeft ervaren, zowel in positieve als in negatieve zin.
— Arnon Grunberg
Trouw interview Stevo Akkerman 31-5-2019
In being there is something sacred. The incomprehensible. That which hides itself from reason, that which hides itself from rationality. I think that everyone at one time or another has experienced being as something overwhelming, in both a positive and a negative sense.
(apologies for the poor translation)