Wednesday, March 31, 2010

reading time: between simulacrum and literary legacy

Monday, 3/29 — 8:17 pm

The simulacral condition of hyperNetted textuality has become vertiginous, though still a kind of lowland (and very “noisy,” in the info sense). “Literary” textuality is very different, involving complex appreciation, giving time to reading, solitude.

The sense of appropriative bricolage I’ve rendered is not like the Internetted pointillism of cultural attention-deficit disorder which Kakutani circumspects (first link above: “Texts Without Context”). But I’ve not yet reached that deep echo of allusion that Kirsch reviews (second link: “Poets Haunted by Poets”).

I’m at some midpoint, aspiring for a netweave that would be very allusive (though not as focus, unlike literary namedropping, typical of academics)—not classically literary, like a Lowell echoing Eliot echoing Dante echoing whatever (mentioned by Kirsch’s review). Rather, I’m seeking a very good sense of our contemporaneity, expressing something important, I hope, about the first decade or so of our century discursively, as a kind of conceptual inquiry. Poetic prospects would be a condition of postmetaphysicalism (conceptuality echoing our evolving) as much as it would be resourcefulness (centripetal appreciation).

I’ve largely done it, I think—found the good sense I’ve sought—but I haven’t settled on the set of exemplars (readings) for showing that—the sense of so-called appropriative bricolage—which might well express a sense of Appropriation that’s nothing like the trivialization of appropriative art that Kakutani frames.

Wed., 5/31 —10:31 am

Kirsch’s “Poets...” seems to begin where Kakitani’s “Texts...” ends: hyperNetted life, where all meaning flows to lowland. “Poets...” typifies a highland, the loss of which “Texts...” laments, facing so much leveling of the landscape—literary salience and depth eroded by vast shallowness.

In simulacral culture, everything becomes derivative, disposable. It’s not basically an issue of cultural class difference, a self-serving elitism against lowbrow culture. But maybe the leveling should be portrayed like that. The kind of valuing, the kind of humanity matters (or fails to). The “...‘captious ill-will or sheer ‘negligence’ of the average reader-auditor” in F.H. Bradley’s early 20th century made then as hyperNet City does now “the world of art [into] the region of the worthless-in-itself,” according to mid-century Eliot (curmudgeon of elitism). “Text...” laments a vast devaluation of appreciative and creative individuation.

Appreciative individuation, relative to “Text...,” involves highly valuing “the solitary act of reading,” “‘reading in the traditional open-ended sense,’” “total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas,” “literary” concerns over ephemeral sociality, “the unity of the book,” “beautifully rendered works of art,” and “personal enlightenment.”

Creative individuation involves highly valuing “the primacy of the individual” over hypersociality, “the autonomy of the artist,” “‘authorship,’” “judicious”ness, the “ability to think deeply and creatively,” “assiduous analysis,” “clever”ness and “inventive”ness, “genuine expertise,” “virtuosity and experimentation,” “intriguing [endeavors] that raise important and unsettling questions about art and appropriation,” and “originality and imagination.”

High attunement, even an intimacy, between artist and appreciative reader continues an intimacy between artist and influence, be it a passion of engagement (love-hate), a happy “comradeship” (typified by Lowell’s synergistic misprisions), narcissism of influence (Eliot’s “thefts”), or anxiety of influence (the protegé’s will to power or fear of “becoming [the] epigone,” as Kirsch puts it)—an anxiety expressed through misprision (highlighted by Harold Bloom, Anxiety of Influence, as integral to literary originality). In any case, the highland writer is a living self-questioning of literary authority—be s/he transported or haunted. Sophistication of the word, enowning of the light is integral to the work, idealizing high craft in the wake of possession, which becomes, for a reader in love, echoes of influence or resonances of a horizon.

Ironically, literarity may grow to resemble a kind of simulacrum, Kirsch finds (but doesn’t make the overt connection), as the trace of an idea’s legacy echoes through chains of time, influence to reader to writer across generations, potentially a vertigo to the reader (like Ricks, to Kirsch) who seems to read too much.

My problem is that I too often can’t shake anxiety about so obviously (seemingly) having read too little. I easily feel a high pretense I haven’t earned—which is good for humility and lifelong learning, but can also become a chronic pain.

Monday, March 29, 2010

memo from the library

If you publish something, you want it read. You want to be influential.

There is so much published, and they all sought to be influential. Some lasted. Indeed, so much lasted, one might think that nearly everything that can be said about life, world, humanity, is said, waiting to be influential again, to be brought into another centripetal appreciation of legacies; or more, advancing what might last beyond our bones.

The Library is so large, so inestimably monumental. How could one plausibly dream of doing something lasting—more than self-possessedly idiosyncratic—not in light of the Library?

Otherwise, writing is ultimately: “See me in the world as worth your time just because I’m here. Give me stature, give me money for my entertaining.”

The chorus of Time smirks and turns away, back to its durability. “Read, fool. There’s no originality any longer that’s not aged in Us. Our serene Archive is all that matters on the forgetting Earth.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

philosophy pre- and post-quake

Long back in this posting trek, I quoted philosopher Philippa Foot quoting philosopher Normal Malcolm quoting his mentor Ludwig Wittgenstein on the latter’s deathbed, Ludwig saying he’d had a “good life”— not difficult when one comes from a wealthy family and has the leisure to wander Cambridge, go away into the heights to write Philosophical Investigations, come back when he pleases. I don’t recall that he gave a lot of attention to thematizing what a good life may be, as such—at least, he’s not known to have especially focused on that. Have it. Let others find in the record those general importances that gain one tenure.

There was a presumption for philosophy during his era—he may have initiated it—that seems to have belonged as well to philosophy in his wake—so-called Ordinary Language philosophy (my undergraduate entrance into philosophy)—that “we” intuit what a good world is; or intuit what a life going well is, such that philosophy is inquiry into the presumptions and implications of unproblematically presuming “the world as it is.” Philosophy becomes an excursion into understanding the elusive character (or ”nature”) of an acceptable world (philosophy otherwise being a therapy of sorts—Wittgenstein’s sense of philosophy—against confusions and untenable presumptions about the world as it acceptably is).

Inasmuch as intense experience makes the world as it is fundamentally unacceptable (insert long story about radical individuation in the late ‘60s onward, relative to academia), then the sense of what philosophy is, as such, becomes part of aftershocks—which reminds me of days when a sense of “future shock” had not yet become so obvious that it no longer warranted mention.

An exponential curve, early on and close up, may look flat for a long time before a quake exposes a radical curve that had been presumed to be linear. Remember Al Gore rising in a lift to dramatize the curve of our climatic sojourn. How many dimensions of exponentiation are we living that still seem to be ordinary lines?

a topologist in flatland

The day can feel defined by a sense of living in two separate worlds at once, where others, in casual relations, have apparently no idea of the possibility, so we interact in common sense, with common sense, as if that’s everything. The other’s comfort may depend (I feel) on an unrealized common-sense attitude that wouldn’t know what that is as such (it seems to me), because there’s just “the” day, the world in common. The notion of common-sense attitude only makes sense (as such) relative to there being a different way of understanding, that becomes, relatively speaking, an “uncommon” attitude (the issue of eccentricity again).

Like a kid who loves to be quietly hidden up in a tree as a friend searches for him, never looking up, I enjoy the liminality of being in a ground of “ours,” that is ours, where I’m also, at the same time, in a tree. It’s no invalidation of the friend that I stayed quiet while he’s so unlikely to look up. I may love my friend who doesn’t look up. But I’m not going to deny myself the pleasure of quietly sitting in the tree, partly for the sake of my own entertainment. Likewise, it’s no invalidation of others that, say, they seem surreal.

So, I may be gladly playing to common sense while standing elsewhere, playing to interpersonal validity that unwittingly presumes itself to be non-relative, while standing where the validity is quite relative—though presumed non-relatively valid for good reason (others’ development, organizational parameters). After all, the common sense world is common because the world needs broad-based commonality to work well at its prevailing level (where maybe so much flows to become part of the vast lowlands whose fruitfulness feeds midlands).

It’s not disingenuous to live with another as if there’s only “our” ground, which the other understandably believes wholeheartedly for the sake of his/her comfort. Their self esteem and identification with their developmental level maybe can’t be understood by them as [mere] developmental level, because that relativity only makes sense from a “vertical” view of interaction. But our valid bond maybe can’t be, for me, as totalizing as it is for the other, for their good reason. I see why their presumptiveness needs to be so for them.

I’m not going to alienate the other and undermine our valid bond by seeking recognition of my own stance, my ongoing sense of relativity. I appreciate the attachment of the other to their sense of the world (that works for them, sustaining enough self-efficacy).

So, life can be a kind of valid theater of No Theater, a playless play to the day that secretly validates the integrity of others’ common sense in my standing apart from that—“above” that, in a non-elitist sense.

A hidden sense of such inWorldness, if you will—an appreciation for presumed non-relativity of relativity—is no dishonesty toward the integrity of “our” ground, for those who don’t realize they need that presumption (lived as no presumption at all, i.e., they don’t yet realize a “vertical” alternative to common sense). There may be everything to cherish about and with the one-worlders, the flatlanders.

Having traveled widely (suppose), but living with those who’ve never traveled, I might feel their easy guiltiness about provincialness, as if being from elsewhere is an implicit invalidation of them (I’m caused to feel). So, I might not bring to mind where I’ve been, even evading others’ interest in one day going there, as truly “I’d love to do that with you.” (I’ve more than once failed to say that I’ve seen a movie, done a restaurant, read a book that the other wants to introduce me to.)

People will stop being candid in casual situations when they find they’re talking with a psychoanalyst; or stop being candid about their views of whatever, when they believe they’re being judged—actually projecting their own implicit discomfort with their own views. If you’re an ethnographer, it’s commonly better to act like a tourist.

I can so love being with others, on their own ground, as if, yes, “this” place is [like] everything, I too love here with you that’s so valid. The as if, to me, is endearingly everything for them, for us, because the integrity of that is easy to feel. “How fine that we are here.”

Parents don’t invalidate a child’s integrity by pretending the child’s world is everything. Good teachers let students play as if there’s no boundary to their presumptions (very instructive). Psychotherapists get into an alliance with the clients who may love them. Artists may “suffer” businesspeople because the world needs us all.

A dramatist lives in the “same“ world as everyone else, where there’s no presumption of a play, as the play unfolds as if there’s no theater. The fourth wall is like a mystery of the omniscient voice, as if gods were being entertained, and we gain that distinction by seeing a world be just a play that has a good ending. For the playwright, though, lightness of each day can be very strange, when playfulness is not to be. In the beginning, writers created the gods as uncreated creators in a universe that could be controlled and comforting.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

individuational writing on individuation

Well, finally, the “individuation” section of the “conceptuality...” project is done. It’s intended to be read as is, without some background explanation. But I can’t let well enough alone, I guess. I’ve posted a background explanation. Actually, 50% or so of what I wrote on individuation this past week or so got removed: notes on historical and academic background of the notion, a promissory note on developmental background (as theory, not as autobiography), distinguishing individuation from autonomy, framing an unrelated notion of sociocentric individuality, proffering a sense of subjective validity, and showing anxious confusion about the elusiveness of generalizing about something that’s always existential, really individual. All that will turn up later in separate postings, I guess. Today’s work on individuation is supposed to read without allusion to all that, without the background posting, without this posting.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Self-reflectivity ultimately becomes a play of the world, the way that being in the world or inWorldness happens, worlds (verb), Self worlding, self-worlding in the play of things in reflection. The horizoning child is ultimately phenomenological. The artist plays, improvises, sketches, stands back to see whom she is now, changes his mind, plays more.

Self-reflectivity proximally may seem withdrawing, abstractive, but flowers into its self-horizoning.

So it goes—will go—beyond my discussion of individuation for the “conceptuality...” project in its ending sense of flourishing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

holding time in being held

Persons make their own way by way of actualizing potential based within herself/himself, inasmuch as s/he’s true to his/her own venturing.

Unsightly slashes for a language lacking gender-neutral indicators.

Why not coin some neologisms: ‘hiers’ for “her/his”; ‘hiermself’ for “her/himself”? Is etymogeny malleable or what?

If individuation seeks gender balance—which was the Jungian-archetypal idea of Anima/Animus Shadowing on the way to one’s ownmost humanity in “the second half of life”—how are we to denote that female and male may each embody a balance of feminine and masculine?

At least, one may need the question for intimacies feeling all those so-gendered complementarities of Literature and psychology as ours, recountable in some singular way, as if in one name.

wondering a way

Friday, 3/19 — 6:41 am

Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day”: wanderlust

My way into spring will be magniloquent.

Friday / Saturday

Idealism is good. But it doesn’t presume actuality of the ideal. It’s not a given by which others are evaluated. My idealism is aspirational for myself, so I don’t regard myself as some exemplar of ideality actualized. I want to be influential, but I don’t expect it.

I regard ideality as part of a pragmatic engagement integrating a sense of realism (e.g., ordinary prudence, proper respect for factuality) with that ideality—both understood in light of each other, feasibility vis-à-vis prospecting.

Anyone would be glad to be influential. But that’s not my primary interest presently. Though one purpose of online writing is an interest in audience (thus, accessibility), I know I’d likely be more enjoyable if I were more oriented to accessibility than I am on Webpages. (I’m anticipating more abstractness.) Eventually, I’ll be better about that—after satisfying myself (my near-term interests in conceptual prospecting). Sharing a journal of development—which the entire Website might be (not this blogging)—isn’t intended to imply transparency, but it’s more acccessible than writing offline purely for my own benefit (perhaps undoing philosophical claims that there can’t be a private language—no). Satisfying my own conceptual interests online isn’t inconsiderate, as it’s partly for the sake of thinking about audience and appropriation. But I’m very aware that I could do much more to make sense, rather than being so interested in registering what already makes good sense for me.

I should add that I’ve been addicted to the health care legislative process in Washington.

This blog more or less pretends that the rest of the world hardly exists beyond what interests me here. But I’m very aware of each day’s leading news, though distanced by wonderlust.

Monday, March 15, 2010

project prospect progress note

I feel thrilled this morning. I had a very rewarding Sunday. Though I didn’t finish the piece on individuation, I made very good progress. I hope to have it done next weekend. It’s short, but very difficult for me to do accessibly. The whole project is a translation exercise (set of translation exercises)—which is very good for me.

I feel thrilled this morning because I’m feeling so attuned to the large scale of what I’m doing with the Website. It'll keep me busy for years—great. I love the prospects dearly. It’s fun to me. It’s not everything. Indeed, high flourishing is a rich notion, in my view—you’ll love it, I know—a notion that’s pointless if it’s not also something to be lived, not just written about.

There’s a divine comedy to me writing, as if it’s some kind of compensation. I’m very entertaining, to myself at least.

I mildly resent that Dante cornered the market on that phrase: divine comedy. I have no relationship to Dante; haven’t read his treatises in verse. But the concept is lovely. It’s why the extraterrestrials don’t answer: They don’t want to interrupt the show.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

value of individuation

[This is the same second half of the posting “I’m OK, you’re OK,” whose first half I’ve deleted.]

I don’t regularly go back in my blogs’ recent archives looking for threads, though I know I’ll find some when I do.

I’ve posted so seldom to “conceptual prospecting” that I might think there’s not much thread to be found. In fact, I hadn’t given the matter thought until a few moments ago when I wanted to find a posting that had associated interest in art with interest in individuality as such. No problem; I found it.

At that blog recently (relatively), a note on valuing is followed by a note on feeling, followed by a note on meaning of life, conceptual reverie, discursive reading, and a note on selfidentity. There’s at least a spirit of interest in high individuation exhibited that anticipates my upcoming focus on the theme of individuation as such—which is no frivolous or elitist leisure (though it will be somewhat eccentric) as the interest relates (I would argue, down the road) indirectly and directly to fundamental issues of life: understanding (albeit abstractly) the individuality of a good quality of life (high individuality, yet…); high aims of education; bases of ethical life; career satisfaction; aims of mental health services; purposes that sustain cultural values; finely artistic lives; character of creativity—I could extend the list. What I do (or will do), be it eccentric or not, is part of our humanity’s ecology of voices, perhaps, in understanding why we—some of us, I, at least—love life.

Friday, March 05, 2010

empathy through individuation

I’ve valued empathy as long as I can remember. As a kid, I preferred girls as friends to boys, and most all of my friends over the years have been women. (To my mind, Carol Gilligan was a great milestone, early ‘80s onward).

Empathy is intrinsic to us, if one is fully alive to oneself, in oneself, with others. But years teach—as any good parent or good teacher (or psychotherapist) knows—that what you “see” through empathy can be very different from what another sees of herself, himself. One is wise to yield to learning from the other. One’s wise to appreciate need to teach others who one is (outgrow childish presumption). So, the other (and oneself to the other) is likely a shared composition, pertaining to we as well.

Parenting which reliably exemplifies empathy and supports maturation of empathy is so important for individuation that makes a good life. I’ve suggested that appreciation of the world generally derives from appreciation of other persons, in light of which we personify inanimate treasures or find a sense of nature attending to us or eliciting our appreciation. (High individuation departs from the home that launches it, which can only be anticipated in the departing, not by home. A new sense of being arrives along the way by which one’s feeling for the world might be highly enriched so beyond very good beginnings.)

But, as days go by, there’s often not a lot of room for empathy, so appreciation can become abstracted, as if beginning there to recover an inhabitation. So, highly valuing empathy is highly recalling oneself, as if standing from a fall. Highly valuing empathy is “simply” a matter of appreciating who we are or who one is at best, and highly identifying with that or holding resolute fidelity to that value. Such appreciation is a retrieval of belonging to an intrinsic part of our being.

A need to have empathy for others follows from high valuation of empathy. But again, a sense of need is abstracted from its natural belonging. No need is realized as such if one easily has empathy, i.e., empathy belongs to one’s sense of Self. A moment calling for empathy elicits empathy because empathy feels naturally important.

A need to give empathy follows from that value possessing one, so to speak, rather than from desire to receive empathy. But mutuality or reciprocity is also worthy of high valuation; so desire to receive empathy—to have empathy in that sense—would follow from high valuation of empathy and mutuality.

Presumably, one doesn’t withhold empathy when another’s need is recognized. Persons who don’t recognize the need (or can’t—let alone those who choose to withhold empathy) are interesting in a clinical sense. Feeling their lack may elicit empathy for that. A kind of reparenting can be called for that lets the other’s real self come into play, so that empathy may be regained and matured.

This note on empathy isn’t intended to capture the subject, rather to indicate its importance to me and nearness to mind, relative to thinking about ethical life and the inestimable value of relationship (loves of sundry kinds) for individuation, about which I’ll be writing rather eccentrically (about individuation as such) in coming days.

The sense of individuation I want to render is not individualist. But it’s also not conformist or sociocentric. It’s quite postconventional. It easily seems abstracted from belonging with other persons, but I don’t see it that way. Nonetheless, though individuation is by no means the whole of meaningful life, of living fruitfully, high individuation (especially relative to a creative life) is like an axis of telic weaving for one’s life, centripetal to one’s flourishing—feeling life through one’s ownmost Sense of the world, sensual, richly emotional, and, too, intellectual.