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Friday Afternoon Confesional: I’m a quitter

I mean, I was planning to write this on Friday but I felt a bit off and wound up watching the tennis. Tennis is such an unimaginative sport: the same people win in the same way all of the time. I vaguely remember that some 30 years ago there were occasional outbursts that seemed to indicate this was a sport of man rather than machine. Now, only one thing is for sure: successful tennis players are no quitters. Whatever, I watched it feeling every ounce of energy being drawn from me, knowing full well I should have followed through with my plan but still giving into the fascination for nothingness which is my true addiction.

In other words: I’m a quitter.

I would normally not feel inclined to see this as a confession were it not for the blatant fact that quitting is, societally, seen as the pinnacle of anti-social behavior. Perseverance, now that is something we should all have. Whether it is the passionate entrepreneur who, after 300 pitches says to herself “I just have to change this and try harder” or the artist who has eaten dirt for decades without faltering in his single-focused follies, it is the transpiration that is admired. The patient exercise of impatience to keep on going on because the reward is worth the effort of clinging on even if is  uncut misery topped with pure humiliation.

The quitter’s take: I’m rich enough to behave spoiled, so let that be my quiet rebellion.

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June 5, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Friday Afternoon Confessional | | Comments Off on Friday Afternoon Confesional: I’m a quitter

40.1.1: Pavel reporting

Fritz and Sandra grew closer; feeling irresistibly attracted, to him. I was their alibi allowing them to resist the urge to get up just as they had learned when they were young puppies in social life wanting to be distinguished dogs. The urge overcome, Fritz released their tension by laughing. It sounded like a pig grunting. “Tu t’appelles Pavel.”, he repeated in an attempt to make the joke his own – adding hesitatingly: “Nius has had his best times, don’t you think?”. “No.”, I answered, “Or rather. I couldn’t compare his times.” “I meant, …”, he went on, but I did not muster the attention span to hear his no doubt masterly retort.
Sandra just sat there and didn’t listen either. She was showing every sign of puppy love and, braless, this was accentuated twice in a way that did capture my attention. What Fritz meant will remain a mystery. Nipples are, most of the times, more fascinating than meanings. Her nipples pointed in the same direction of her gaze, which made me also look at Guido who, meanwhile, was greeting his hostess in the garden. She dismissed those paid to inform the peoples with a lordly gesture. Money she had abundantly, but no money could buy her the benefit of being a host making refined gestures. Guido kissed her hand. The flashing mob came to a final orgasm after which they were chased up the stairs and out of the house by those paid – hand on ear – by, little, Aurelia Bensone. A brief electric moment underlined the exclusivity now acutely felt by those selected by invite. Guido put one foot forward to gently almost-genuflect and kiss Aurelia’s hand until the flashes died out. Then he grinned and stood up, tall, opening his arms for her to jump in. Some isolated flashes were made in full retreat. Together they made a half turn, his rough coal-shovel hands unashamedly groping her thighs. Another flash. Another. From the house photographer, no doubt. A last one. Looks became serious again. Back to business as usual. Feet on the ground. Over to the order of the night.

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May 27, 2016 Posted by | boredom | Comments Off on 40.1.1: Pavel reporting

40.1.0: Pavel’s report

The sun was setting. It was still hot. ‘Why are we here?’, I asked myself – feeling out of place. The party was of the garden variety. Chaotic, it left us swimming, but not as fish. This was not our biotope; not hers, not mine, not anymore. Nothing here was organic – everyone was forced in their place.
Agnes and I were still a ‘we’ then. She was the answer to my question.
Here I was, sitting under a tree, a beautiful red beech, for the happiness of Agnes. Its deep red foliage protected me from the sun. I felt organically connected to it – like the ferns growing green in its shade. This fixation shielded me from the attention of others. Eagerly they went hither and thither. They were even more foreign to Agnes than they were to me. The odor of their sweat was all around as they were trying to connect to the hive. They belonged to another order, looking for themselves in the reflection of the others. It was a garden party – with emphasis on neither garden nor party – where the guests crawled around in Brownian motion; convinced of being part of a master plan. In my idealistic world, I remained slowly yellow, without the urge to leave the beech.

May 12, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Sunday Stories | , | Comments Off on 40.1.0: Pavel’s report

Sunday Cavell: Strike -cracy, keep demos (4)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press).

“You don’t have to talk to everyone about everything.” (p. 197)

I’m pretty sure this was not originally intended to have a political meaning. I’ll try to give it one all the same. The problem with democracy – and, as lofty the ideal is, there clearly is a problem with democracy – isn’t that it assumes a possibility of overlapping consensus in a Rawlsian sense. The democratic problem rests entirely with its suffix: the idea that such a consensus needs to be arrived at by a public discussion involving all, resulting in external institutions exercising power in the name of the people.

Let’s unpack this.

“He (the traditional philosopher) admits as much explicitly when he says that he is, in the context of his philosophizing, using the word “see” in a special, or “stricter than ordinary” sense. He wishes to effect that reconciliation, offer that concession. And this is another way of saying that, perhaps of beginning to see why, his conclusions are “unstable”. (p. 199)

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April 24, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: Strike -cracy, keep demos (4)

Monday Movies: Black

My neighbor played the piano. He was all by himself. It was something sad. I went out for a smoke in the back yard. I listened a while. My wife was waiting inside. She cried a little. A tear had made one spot on her T-shirt a darker grey. We left the door ajar and shared a beer.

Such was our mindset after watching Black. With hindsight it is shameful we didn’t see it a lot earlier. Maybe because it is a Belgian movie and it drew Belgian criticism of being full of cliché. It drew this criticism in large part because the film’s directors, Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi, were always cheerful when interviewed. They kept the painful and dark script for their art and were just their genuine happy selves when interviewed, proud to have done it and done it well.

Only once did I see a hint of irritation in their non-composed attitudes: when screening of the film was banned for a couple of days in Belgium back in the November ’15 lock-down. A ban which was even more senseless than the lock-down was. They did not complain that they were censored although they clearly and intentionally were: viewers for which it was intended could not see it because some felt its content was dangerous for them.

The best thing about Black is this: it just shows and tells. Continue reading

April 17, 2016 Posted by | boredom | Comments Off on Monday Movies: Black

Sunday Stories: Optimistically opting out of optimalism

A certain quiet came over him. He could have been me. His stomach was upset. Shit does not always happen when being hungry isn’t the reason to eat. He felt like he wanted to live another couple of years. Five, maybe ten. It wasn’t necessary though. Not for him. For me, for me it was.

The fog cleared. One has to love three word sentences. I can describe how things were not: white, clean, well designed. Disoriented, I lay ill. Dreaming of breakfast with the family, it was not optimal. I just wanted to live without deadlines. The line’s dead. Curfew for hopes and desires. I made a face.

– It could be worse, he said.

Could it?

– It is not optimal, I said.

Just an exercise. Stretching my fingers. Are you there? He was if it was the last thing he did in my life. My illness: unimportant. Names: of no consequence. Verbs: superfluous. Things one can do without. Nothing within, don’t get me started. He disobeyed – I guess it was his constipation overflowing with sympathy.

– We’re talking, aren’t we?, he said.

As if I had a choice in being cheered up.

– You are, I said.

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April 10, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Sunday Stories | , | Comments Off on Sunday Stories: Optimistically opting out of optimalism

Sunday Cavell: Skepticism of science (3)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press).

“What experience? Well, of course, an experience or sense that one may know nothing about the real world. But what kind of an experience is that? How or when does it emerge?” (p. 140).

I wrote in the margin: ‘Nothing: so close to everything.’ There’s a sense in which the sign of the times is that we know everything. What kind of an experience is that? Being certain, so certain that no room is left for doubt, means that there’s no room left for others – at least not if these others are unlike you. This experience used to be reserved for faith but now it’s more and more associated with science. If we don’t know, it’s just because we didn’t try to know. It sounds a lot like: ‘If we don’t believe, it’s just because we didn’t try to believe.’ In the two cases skepticism is reserved for others and the prize is certainty for themselves. It is a neat and comfortably conservative split. The more nuance you put (the higher cultural or moral construct in a Carnapian sense), the easier it is dismissed. Nobody doubts objects anymore because they are established by science. If there is such a thing as minds they are of the type that can be read of by a suitably complex imaging device.

I’m as scientific as the next guy (probably a lot more scientific, in fact) but I won’t have it. Shit ain’t simple, mathematics is. It’s not because something is hard to understand that it is complex Neither vice versa: it is not because something is everyday common sense that it is simple to get to the bottom of.

Meet philosophy.

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March 28, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: Skepticism of science (3)

Friday Afternoon Confessional: squatting

Somebody asked me what I was doing here.

I gave that somebody an answer but confess I don’t feel I got an answer myself. Sure, I am here. Yes, I am doing something. But what am I doing here?

Squatting, I guess.

Or maybe writing an interminable list of suicide letters. If I keep on doing this, like many a writer did, it’s the surest thing to keep me alive for a while.

But isn’t that squatting as well?

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March 11, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Friday Afternoon Confessional | , | 3 Comments

Sunday Cavell: some things are false, nothing is true (2)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press)

“(..) while the presence of symptoms (concomitants) of X can make it almost certain that X is present, the presence of a criterion of X necessarily makes it almost certain that X is present. The sense that “certainty” must be hedged, that the knowledge of reality provided, contingently or necessarily, can only be “almost” certain, is forced under the pressure of the question: But isn’t it possible that, given all the symptoms and criteria you like, the man may not in fact, then and there, be feeling pain? To which the answer seems, irresistibly, to be: Yes.” (p.39)

The brute fact of uncertainty may well be the perennial elephant in the philosophy room. I think Cavell can be read as nibbling away simultaneously at the thinking that establishes certainties and its skeptical counterpart of the certainty of our humanity as an anomaly. His sympathy for the skeptical position clearly aligns with the feeling that philosophy that deals in certainties is profoundly false and profoundly dangerous (specifically because this certainty is like sugar – or nicotine, or worse – for us human beings who cope so well with uncertainty that no computer even comes close but who, at the same time, need hooks and handles and, sometimes, a little peace of mind). Somehow the right position is somewhere in the middle – neither duck nor rabbit – but that truth, in a word, simply scares us.

As natural as it comes to us to deal with uncertainty in everyday life, as widespread is our hatred for theoretically dealing with probability, uncertainty and indeterminacy – with the scare word ‘statistics’. It was just when Hume started the empirical tradition that Bayes as well as some French mathematicians started to explore probability in a theoretical way. No amount of mathematical sophistication should fool us into forgetting how very recent this exploration is. A couple of centuries really is nothing in digesting break-through ideas to a point where we, as a culture, can integrate them in our form of life (Weltanschauung). I’m going to read this part of Cavell as interpreting Wittgenstein as coping with the brute fact of uncertainty so alien to philosophy as a clean, dehumanized, deductive framework.

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March 6, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sunday Cavell: criteria are ours (1)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press.

A measure of the quality of a new text is the quality of the texts it arouses. (p. 5)

I really don’t know where this is going. Nowhere, probably, but that’s not a bad thing. The really bad thing is this typically modern feeling that things need to go somewhere; where the somewhere is both sufficiently vague to gather a following, and sufficiently specific to trust a leader to go there. I’m sure the quality of this text is in itself not a measure of that of Cavell. This text is probably a dead end. Still, it was aroused – took as its starting point – the text of Cavell and a text is alive only insofar it invites to be interpreted rather than to be preached.

This is a Gadamerian point to make and that’s no coincidence.

The case is rather that, as I wish to put it, both statements of fact and judgments of value rest upon the same capacities of human nature; that, so to speak, only a creature that can judge of value can state a fact. (p. 15)

It’s not that science perverted us but that we have perverted science. We have imported, in these modern days, into science the certainties that, of old, came with the power of God. If we look at it this way, what we achieved is just a metamorphosis: one more effective at the expense of beauty. One of the great points Cavell makes, I think, is that the inspiration of ordinary language philosophy is to look at what we all say; to look at the inner logic – let us say, with Wittgenstein: grammar – of humanity as a talkative animal.

Let’s see how that, inherently, bridges not only philosophical traditions but, significantly, the two-faced nature of modern man (top down ‘reason’ and bottom-up ‘passion’).

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February 28, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sunday Cavell: criteria are ours (1)

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