Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rainy Day Blues

La Pluie / "The Rain"

The sky is grey, the rain invites itself
As if by surprise.
It is at our place and like a ritual
That bogs us down

The umbrellas open in step
Like a dance.
The drops fall in abundance
On gentle France

The rain is falling, falling, falling
On this (day of) Sunday in December.
In the shelter (lit: shade) of umbrellas
The passers-by hurry, hurry without waiting

We like it, sometimes it raises its voice
It pushes us around.
It gives no more of its news
In a heat wave

Then it comes back like a need
Out of affection
And it sings its grand song to us:
The flood

{Chorus} x 2

And it falls, and it falls, and it falls, it falls
It is hot
And it falls, and it falls, and it falls

Dali vs. Vermeer - The Lacemaker


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Indecision has a Price

But we will leave this tale, and do thou pipe unto me and we will both remember the Muses; for they it is, who have given these delightful gifts for us twain to have and our neighbours to hear.
- Theognis of Megara (1055-1058)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Melancholic to Manic Fantasies of a Trapped Housewife

Mania...a healthy sign that the torture of the ego and self through the wit work of melancholia has ended, and the ego has recovered its' optimism... and can now take out upon "the other" that which it formerly been taking out exclusively upon itself.

Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia"
It was our expectation that the economic condition for the emergence of mania after the melancholia has run its course is to be found in the ambivalence which dominates the latter affection; and in this we found support from analogies in various other fields. But there is one fact before which that expectation must bow.

Of the three preconditions of melancholia—loss of the object, ambivalence, and regression of libido into the ego— the first two are also found in the obsessional self-reproaches arising after a death has occurred. In those cases it is unquestionably the ambivalence which is the motive force of the conflict, and observation shows that after the conflict has come to an end there is nothing left over in the nature of the triumph of a manic state of mind. We are thus led to the third factor as the only one responsible for the result. The accumulation of cathexis which is at first bound and then, after the work of melancholia is finished, becomes free and makes mania possible must be linked with regression of the libido to narcissism. The conflict within the ego, which melancholia substitutes for the struggle over the object, must act like a painful wound which calls for an extraordinarily high anti-cathexis.—But here once again, it will be well to call a halt and to postpone any further explanation of mania until we have gained some insight into the economic nature, first, of physical pain, and then of the mental pain which is analogous to it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hyperborea Bound

To a talkative man silence is a sore burden, and his speech a weariness to his company; all hate him, and the mingling of such a man in a carousal cometh only of necessity.
- Theognis of Megara (295-298)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Un-Natural Births

According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, Myrrha, the daughter of Cinyras and Cenchreis, lusted for her father. Horrified by her emotions, Myrrha attempted to hang herself, but her nursemaid saved her at the last minute. After much imploring, the nursemaid discovered the cause of Myrrha's grief. Though appalled, the nursemaid devised way for Myrrha to consummate her lust for Cinyras, believing the sin to be a better option than suicide. Before the first sexual encounter, the nursemaid even urged Myrrha to go through with it. While Myrrha's mother, Cenchreis, was away at Ceres's festival, Myrrha had sex with her father, Cinyras. Cinyras was unaware of the girl's identity because these nightly encounters occurred in the dark while Cinyras was intoxicated. One night Cinyras brought in a lamp, discovered the girl was Myrrha, drew his sword, and chased her. Myrrha fled, and wandered for nine months until she came to rest at Sabo. After Myrrha prayed to the gods that she neither live nor die (since the severity of her crime would shock both the living and the dead), the gods turned her into the myrrh tree. The child Myrrha had conceived with Cinyras was ready to deliver, and Lucina enabled the birth from the tree. The child of this incestuous union, Adonis, was taken care of by Naiads and bathed in the myrrh which were Myrrha's tears. (x.298-518)

Powell's version differs from that in the Metamorphoses, in that Powell says Myrrha turned in to a myrrh tree as she fled from her father, who then killed himself, and that nine months later Adonis was born from the tree. According to Powell, Myrrha's incestuous love and its horrible consequences for Myrrha and Cinyras is the punishment allotted by Aphrodite in retribution for Cenchreis proclaiming that her daughter was more beautiful than Aphrodite. However, Myrrha gained Aphrodite's sympathy, and the resin from her tree is used at Aphrodite's altar. (156)

Grimal tells us that in some accounts of this myth, Myrrha is called Smyrna and her father is Theias. He also gives several variations for the birth of Myrrha's child. One is that the bark of the tree was split by the sword of Smyrna's (Myrrha's) father. Another version is that the tree was struck by a wild boar, foreshadowing Adonis's death. (13-14)

It is appropriate that Aphrodite's instrument of punishment is lust. Often the wrath of a god takes an extreme form of the power of the god's domain. For example, Bacchus punished mortals who spurned his cult by causing insanity and madness that often resulted in cannibalism, a perverted excess of the realms over which he has power, the life-force and rapture. Likewise, Aphrodite punished Cenchreis's arrogance through an aberration of her domain by causing the most vile of all loves to afflict Myrrha.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From Desire to Drive

Now Rinse and Repeat
Even if the object of desire is an illusory lure, there is a real in this illusion: the object of desire in its' positive nature is vain, but not the place it occupies, the place of the Real, which is why there is more truth in unconditional fidelity to one's desire than in a resigned insight into the vanity of one's striving.

There is a parallax shift at work here: from illusion as mere illusion to the real in illusion, from the object which is a metonym/ mask of the Void to the object which stands in for the void. This parallax shift is, in Lacanian, the shift from desire to drive. The key distinction to be maintained here can be exemplified with reference to the (apparent) opposite of religion: intense sexual experience. Eroticization relies on the inversion-into-itself of movement directed at the external goal: the movement itself becomes its own goal. (When instead of simply gently shaking the hand offered to me by the beloved person, I hold onto it and squeeze repeatedly, my activity will be automatically experienced as - welcome or, perhaps, intrusively unwelcome - eroticization: what I do is change the goal oriented activity into an end-in-itself.) Therein resides the difference between the goal and the aim of the drive: say, with regard to the oral drive, its goal may be to eliminate hunger, but its aim is the satisfaction provided by the activity of eating itself (sucking, swallowing). One can imagine the two satisfactions entirely separated: when, in hospital, I am fed intravenously, my hunger is satisfied, but not my oral drive; when, on the contrary, a small child sucks rhythmically on the comforter, the only satisfaction he gets is of that drive. This gap that separates the aim from the goal "eternalizes" the drive, transforming the simple instinctual movement which finds peace and calm when it reaches to a goal (a full stomach, say) into a process which gets caught in its own loop and insists on endlessly repeating itself.

The crucial feature here is to take note of here is that this inversion cannot be formulated in terms of a primordial lack and a series of metonymic objects trying (and ultimately failing) to fill the void.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Living in the End Times".

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Kant missed the necessity of unwritten, disavowed but necessary rules for every legal structure or set of social rules - it is only such rules that provide the "substance" on which the laws can thrive, or properly function. The exemplary case of the effectiveness of such unwritten rules is "potlatch"; the key feature that opposes potlatch to direct market exchange is thus the temporal dimension. In market exchange, the two complementary acts occur simultaneously (I pay and I get what I pay for), so that the act of exchange does not lead to any permanent social bond, but merely to a momentary exchange between atomized individuals who immediately afterwards, return to their solitude. In potlatch, on the contrary, the time elapsed between my giving a gift and the other side returning it to me creates a social link which lasts (for a time at least); we are all linked together by bonds of debt. From this standpoint, money can be defined as the means which enables us to have contacts with others without entering into proper relations with them.

This atomized society, in which we have contact with others without entering into proper relations with them, is the presupposition of liberalism.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Living in the End Times".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chasing the Lacanian "Big Other"...

...and sequentially "achieving" le objet petit 'a'
You can't EVER get what you want...
but if your try sometime, you'll find
you CAN get what you need.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Flying High

Munching on Melancholy

This melancholy London. I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.
- William Butler Yeats, letter to Katharine Tynan (1888-08-25)

Edvard Munch (12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker and an important forerunner of expressionist art. His best-known composition, The Scream, is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Movin' On

Mayst thou safely accomplish thy journey across the great sea, and Poseidon take thee to be a delight unto thy friends.
- Theognis of Megara (691-692)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Homeric Ode to Hermes

By dawn he was born,
By midday he played the lyre,
By evening, he stole the cattle
of far-reaching Apollo.
It was on that fourth day of the month
wherein lady Maia bore him.

When he leaped from the immortal knees of his mother,
Not long in the sacred cradle,
but sped forth to seek the cattle of Apollo,
crossing the threshold of the high-roofed cave.
There found he a tortoise, and won endless delight,
it was Hermes that first made of the tortoise a minstrel.

The creature met him at the outer door,
as she fed on the rich grass in front of the dwelling, waddling along, at sight whereof
the luck- bringing son of Zeus laughed,
and straightway spoke, saying:

"A lucky omen for me, not by me to be mocked!
Hail, darling and dancer, friend of the feast,
welcome are you!
Where did you get that garment,
a speckled shell, you, a mountain-dwelling tortoise?
I will carry thee within, and a boon shalt thou be to me,
not by me to be scorned, but you shall first serve my turn.
Best it is to bide at home, since danger is abroad.
While alive, you will be a protection from spells and witchery.
When you die, you will be a sweet music-maker."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Not Worried

The doors of many a man's lips do not meet, and many men are concerned with much that should not be spoken; for often that which is evil is better within, and that which is good was better before it came out.
- Theognis of Megara (421-424)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium, but where's my heart?

If thou lovest me and the heart within thee is loyal, be not my friend but in word, with heart and mind turned contrary; either love me with a whole heart, or disown me and hate me in open quarrel. Whosoever is in two minds with one tongue, he, Cyrnus, is a dangerous comrade, better as foe than friend.
- Theognis of Megara (87-92)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Virtual Living in a Green Screen World

Stay near me---do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find I thee,
Historian of my infancy !
Float near me; do not yet depart!
Dead times revive in thee:
Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art!
A solemn image to my heart,
My father's family!

Oh! pleasant, pleasant were the days,
The time, when, in our childish plays,
My sister Emmeline and I
Together chased the butterfly!
A very hunter did I rush
Upon the prey:---with leaps and spring
I followed on from brake to bush;
But she, God love her, feared to brush
The dust from off its wings.

- William Wordsworth

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Perfection

Surfeit, for sure, begets pride when prosperity cometh to a bad man whose mind is not perfect.
- Theognis of Megara (153-154)

Anobody know how to make Shadow Puppets?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Denying Ophelias

Mayst thou safely accomplish thy journey across the great sea, and Poseidon take thee to be a delight unto thy friends.
- Theognis of Megara (691-692)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Venturing Forth Towards Freedom

Never is slavery straight of head, but ever crooked and keepeth her neck askew; for the child of a bondwoman is never free in spirit, any more than a rose or hyacinth groweth upon a squill.
- Theognis of Megara (535-538)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Urban Assault Tactics - Unleashing the Dogs of War

Nobody is all-happy in all things; rather doth the good endure to have evil albeit men know it not, whereas the bad man knoweth not how to abide and restrain his heart either in good hap or in bad; of all sorts are the gifts that come of the Gods to man, yet must we endure to keep the gifts they send, of whatsoever sort they be.
- Theognis of Megara (441-446)

And Caesar's spirit, raging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

-Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar" (Act 3, scene 1, 270–275)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Evolutionist

Seeking Paving Stones for a Back Door of "Scientific Progress" that Leads into the Garden
23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Genesis 3

Nietzsche on the Historical Flaneur

...modern man suffers from a weakened personality. Just as the Roman in the time of the Caesars became un-Roman with regard to the area of the earth standing at his disposal, as he lost himself among the foreigners streaming in and degenerated with the cosmopolitan carnival of gods, customs, and arts, so matters must go with the modern person who continually allows his historical artists to prepare the celebration of a world market fair. He has become a spectator, enjoying and wandering around, converted into a condition in which even great wars and huge revolutions are hardly able to change anything momentarily. The war has not yet ended, and already it is transformed on printed paper a hundred thousand times over; soon it will be promoted as the newest stimulant for the palate of those greedy for history. It appears almost impossible that a strong and full tone will be produced by the most powerful plucking of the strings. As soon as the sound appears again, already in the next moment it dies away, softly evaporating without force into history. To state the matter in moral terms: you do not manage to hold onto what is noble any more; your deeds are sudden bangs, not rolling thunder. If the very greatest and most wonderful thing is accomplished, it must nevertheless move to Hades without any fuss. For art runs away, when you instantly throw over your actions the roof of the historical marquee.
- Nietzsche, "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life"

Monday, August 29, 2011

On Friendship

Do You Dare to Publish Your Love?

from "Approaching Plato: A Guide to the Early and Middle Dialogues"
The Lysis is one of the most engaging, life-like dialogues in the Platonic corpus. It is also one of least studied. The logos concerns friendship, as does the dramatic interplay of the participants. It depicts Socrates engaging the practical matter of falling in love and making friends, and in doing so it reveals how philosophic conversations about serious and beautiful things advance our universal hopes to secure friendship and love in our lives.

There is little adult supervision or conversation about erotic attraction and developing friendships in our culture today. We tend to arrange things for our children from the time they are six to ensure that they participate in school activities and after-school programs with children of similar age, and we simply assume that they will feel their way toward the inevitable business of making friends and peer socialization. Most adults feel unprepared to address or treat the insecurities of growing up, and the school system turns the matter over to guidance counselors who often find themselves addressing crises, rather than helping to foster friendships. Youthful ardor is dismissively labeled as “having a crush” or “being snowed.” If and when youthful heartbreaks occur, it was just “puppy love” after all. Something we all go through. Welcome to the human race.

Most adults and therapists don‟t want to remember, much less rehearse with children, their own disappointments and humiliations in this arena; no one helped them much, after all. What advice can they offer beyond the inadequate advice they themselves received when they were young? Erotic insecurity is something we all must accept and try to work through on our own. Buck up. You‟ll get over it. We are Polonius to Laertes, generation after generation.

By such neglect, adults pass on to children the same disappointments and frustrations they themselves encountered, as well as their own inability to converse meaningfully about this most important thread in the fabric of human life: how to make and keep friends. The self-help shelves at the bookstores are not for middle school kids. They are for adults whose youthful erotic fancies and forays were mismanaged by their elders in some deep and enduring way.

Making friends, finding acceptance, falling in love, and becoming loveable present real and lifelong challenges for human beings in every culture. The Greeks of the fifth century were more honest and intentional than we are. Friendship was a philosophic problem for them because they recognized that a man or a woman without friends, real friends, is incapable of the fullest flourishing. Such people will always just miss capturing the deepest sort of happiness. Socrates cared about the education of youth. He believed the time to address youthful eroticism was before the wounds of rejection and insecurity become lasting scars.

The Lysis begins in the dramatic present with Socrates recounting to an unnamed listener a past event. I have often wondered about this frame. Why would someone tell this story to another person?

Socrates recalls a chance encounter. He was, he says, “proceeding from the Lyceum to the Academy,” although he does not say why. We do know that he had a fixed destination, that he had somewhere to be. Here is an adult who had his own plans for that day. He describes the path he was taking as if to mark his urgency, as if it were a short cut. All of sudden, though, voices call out to him. In his path there stands a group of young boys hanging around outside a little known palaestra. They initiate the encounter with Socrates and playfully entreat him to put off his plans and to stay with them. Though he tells them he is on his way elsewhere, Socrates suddenly realizes that one of the boys is suffering. A little prying uncovers the problem.

Hippothales, blushing Hippothales, is in love with another youth, Lysis, who doesn‟t even know he exists. No, he hasn‟t even spoken to him. The very idea makes him uncomfortable. But needing to speak the name of his beloved, he has made the mistake of suffering aloud and confiding his agony to his other friends. Now he is butt of their jokes and ridicule. Because he does not know how to manage his longing, he has written poems to and paeans about Lysis and shared them with his peers; he has gotten drunk; and he has generally bored his friends to tears while making himself miserable. Erotic energy has to go somewhere.

Rather than attending to his pressing business, Socrates puts on the brakes and alters his plans. He stays; he listens. He hears the whole sorry tale and rather than comfort Hippothales, or pass it off as just one of those childhood crushes, he roundly rebukes him for a failure of will. The problem is weighty enough to address and now is the time to address it. The philosopher cares deeply about the youth who is in love.

Socrates insists to the group that there is a conversational art and skill to making friends. Although he admits he cannot tell Hippothales what to say, he thinks he can show him by demonstration how he ought to behave when approaching one‟s love interest for the first time. They decide to ease themselves into the palaestra where Lysis is likely to be so that Socrates can show Hippothales and the other boys how one ought to approach one‟s heart‟s desire.

On one level of the dialogue, then, all that follows is a Socratic demonstration that is meant to redirect erotic energies and educate Hippothales and his friends. Learning to converse philosophically is a cure for erotic agony. If Hippothales cannot learn to converse with Lysis, he will never make him his friend. If we cannot learn to converse with others, we will never have real friends. If adults are too busy to take a hand in such matters when they can, the youth will suffer. They will grow up, reenact the same ineptitude with their own kids, and spend their time browsing the self-help stacks of bookstores. The message is clear: philosophers are adults who should care about youths and their ability to channel eros to its proper end: making friends.

The second level of the dialogue is less obvious, but just as important. Socrates converses with Lysis for Hippothales‟ benefit. During the course of this conversation, while Hippothales hides but remains just within earshot, a new friendship takes root and sprouts among Socrates, Lysis, and Lysis‟ cousin Menexenus. These three spend a wonderful afternoon talking about friendship, about how it arises, about what governs its growth and flowering, and how little the highly regarded poets are able to inform us of the true origins of friendship. So even though on one level the conversation instructs Hippothales, on another level it engenders affection among the participants. The closing lines of dialogue bear this out. Socrates knows he has become friends with his dialectical partners that afternoon. No earnest conversation is merely a demonstration. It is always an opportunity to develop deeper connections with others.

Now, why should Socrates tell someone about this engagement? I think his unnamed listener has asked him a question. What question? “Socrates, how did you become friends with Lysis?” And this dialogue is Socrates‟ answer to that question. In answering it, Socrates reveals for his listener the sort of man he is. The candor of Socrates‟ account is likely to help ensure that he and his auditor become better friends as well. For Socrates discloses four important character traits about himself: First, Socrates has certain priorities which may call for sudden changes of plan. Second, Socrates is not above practicing a little deception in the furtherance of erotic attachments—Lysis and Menexenus, after all, have no idea that the impetus for their afternoon conversation with Socrates was Hippothales‟ education. Third, Socrates knows that there is no ready formula or recipe for conversation—He can‟t tell another what to say to make friends; he can only show him, by topic and tone, the comportment one must have to succeed. Finally, strengthening friendship is something one can accomplish by telling someone how one first made friends with another. For Socrates‟ confession surely reveals him to his auditor in an endearing way. The fact that the trio failed to discover the origin of friendship does not entail their failure to become friends. Philosophy can fail on one level and succeed on another. This is one reason that Socrates cannot tell Hippothales what to say. Philosophy is an activity, not a topic.

The logos or spoken discussion the participants engage in concerns the origin of friendship. The participants first examine what poets and others have taught to be the basis of friendship. “Birds of feather flock together” and “opposites attract” were as common in Athens as they are today. “The beautiful as friend” and “Kin as friend” are less familiar proverbs to our ears, but they are certainly borne out in real life. They might have said, as we do: “It is chemistry,” if they had ever heard of chemistry. But Socrates is not interested in these types or instances of friendship. He is looking for the origin of all the species of friendship. As in other aporetic dialogues, Socrates is searching for the Form of Friendship that unifies all its disparate instances. He investigates proverbs bequeathed by the poets. Aristotle noted that there are typically three types of friendship: benefit, pleasure, and virtue friendship (Nicomachean Ethics, 8.3). But however poets or philosophers classify the varieties of friendship, making friends and participating in friendships requires that we reveal ourselves to others in discourse and allow them to reveal themselves to us as well.

The Lysis is a multi-layered demonstration of the power adults can exercise on behalf of youth in the matter of friendship. In it Socrates helps educate Hippothales. He has a crazy conversation and in the process he makes new friends of Lysis and his cousin. All in all, the time flew by and he had a great day. To hell with going to the Lyceum.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Canadian Diarists

We all feel sorry, Cyrnus, for thy trouble, yet remember thou that pain for another is pain for a day.
- Theognis of Megara {655-656)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Welcome to the Machine

Be not over-eager in any matter; due measure's best in all human works; and often a man is eager of virtue in his pursuit of gain, only to be misled into great wrong-doing by a favouring Spirit, which so easily maketh what is evil seem to him good, and what is good seem evil.
- Theognis of Magara (401-406)

Cadmus & Harmonia - Lully

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Life inside the Society of Control's Panopticon

Foucault recognizes the panopticon, Bentham’s ideal form of the reformatory, as symbolizing not only the prison system but as characteristic of disciplinary practices in schools, hospitals, factories and the army. Students, patients, workers and soldiers may not be incarcerated, but the idea of the panopticon where subjects are divided, classified and constantly observed is as much applicable in hospitals or schools as it is in prison.

Furthermore, in all instances subjects are visible while power remains invisible. Those who are constantly subjected to a field of visibility will become self-regulating, thus rendering the actual exercise of power unnecessary. The panopticon, says Foucault, “is a marvellous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power.”

Read more at Suite101: Michel Foucault and the Disciplinary Society: The Creation of Docile Bodies | Suite101.com here.

Total control is just an internet mouse click away... "Electro-shock the inmates in Zone 3S180, now". ;)

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Helm of Hades

Hades possesses a helmet—which the CYCLOPES gave him (as they also gave the thunderbolt to Zeus and the trident to Poseidon)—that rends the wearer invisible. He sometimes lends it to both gods and men: for example, Perseus 1 put the helmet on his head when he went to kill Medusa, and Hermes, wearing the helmet, fought the GIANTS. Later Athena, during the Trojan War, put on the helmet of Hades so that Ares should not see her (see Diomedes).
With this she caught hold of Sthenelus and lifted him off the chariot on to the ground. In a second he was on the ground, whereupon the goddess mounted the car and placed herself by the side of Diomed. The oaken axle groaned aloud under the burden of the awful goddess and the hero; Pallas Minerva took the whip and reins, and drove straight at Mars. He was in the act of stripping huge Periphas, son of Ochesius and bravest of the Aetolians. Bloody Mars was stripping him of his armour, and Minerva donned the helmet of Hades, that he might not see her; when, therefore, he saw Diomed, he made straight for him and let Periphas lie where he had fallen. As soon as they were at close quarters he let fly with his bronze spear over the reins and yoke, thinking to take Diomed's life, but Minerva caught the spear in her hand and made it fly harmlessly over the chariot. Diomed then threw, and Pallas Minerva drove the spear into the pit of Mars's stomach where his under-girdle went round him. There Diomed wounded him, tearing his fair flesh and then drawing his spear out again. Mars roared as loudly as nine or ten thousand men in the thick of a fight, and the Achaeans and Trojans were struck with panic, so terrible was the cry he raised.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pity, That!

London, Burning
Nietzsche, "Human, All too Human"
For in pity at least two (maybe many more) elements of personal pleasure are contained, and it is to that extent self-enjoyment: first of all, it is the pleasure of the emotion (the kind of pity we find in tragedy) and second, when it drives us to act, it is the pleasure of our satisfaction in the exercise of power. If, in addition, a suffering person is very close to us, we reduce our own suffering by our acts of pity. Aside from a few philosophers, men have always placed pity rather low in the hierarchy of moral feelings-and rightly so.

Desire to arouse pity. 15 In the most noteworthy passage of his self-portrait (first published in 1658), La Rochefoucauld certainly hits the mark when he warns all reasonable men against pity,16 when he advises them to leave it to those common people who need passions (because they are not directed by reason) to bring them to the point of helping the sufferer and intervening energetically in a misfortune. For pity, in his (and Plato's) 17 judgment, weakens the soul. Of course one ought to express pity, but one ought to guard against having it; for unfortunate people are so stupid that they count the expression of pity as the greatest good on earth.

Perhaps one can warn even more strongly against having pity for the unfortunate if one does not think of their need for pity as stupidity and intellectual deficiency, a kind of mental disorder resulting from their misfortune (this is how La Rochefoucauld seems to regard it), but rather as something quite different and more dubious. Observe how children weep and cry, so that they will be pitied, how they wait for the moment when their condition will be noticed. Or live among the ill and depressed, and question whether their eloquent laments and whimpering, the spectacle of their misfortune, is not basically aimed at hurting those present. The pity that the spectators then express consoles the weak and suffering, inasmuch as they see that, despite all their weakness, they still have at least one power: the power to hurt. When expressions of pity make the unfortunate man aware of this feeling of superiority, he gets a kind of pleasure from it; his self-image revives; he is still important enough to inflict pain on the world. Thus the thirst for pity is a thirst for self-enjoyment, and at the expense of one's fellow men. It reveals man in the complete inconsideration of his most intimate dear self, but not precisely in his "stupidity," as La Rochefoucauld thinks. In social dialogue, three-quarters of all questions and answers are framed in order to hurt the participants a little bit; this is why many men thirst after society so much: it gives them a feeling of their strength. In these countless, but very small doses, malevolence takes effect as one of life's powerful stimulants, just as goodwill, dispensed in the same way throughout the human world, is the perennially ready cure.

But will there be many people honest enough to admit that it is a pleasure to inflict pain? That not infrequently one amuses himself (and well) by offending other men (at least in his thoughts) and by shooting pellets of petty malice at them? Most people are too dishonest, and a few men are too good, to know anything about this source of shame. So they may try to deny that Prosper Merimée is right when he says, "Sachez aussi qu'il n'y a rien de plus commun que de faire le mal pour le plaisir de le faire."18
15. This aphorism is directed against Schopenhauers exaltation of pity as the highest moral feeling (cf. The World as Will and Idea, Bk. 4, par. 67).

16. Je suis peu sensible à la pitié et voudrais ne l'y être point du tout . . . Cependant, il n'est rien que je ne fisse pour le soulagement d'une personne affligée. . . Mais je liens aussi qu'il faut se contenter d 'en témoigner et se garder soigneusement d'en avoir. C'est une passion qui n'est bonne à rien au dedans d'une âme bien faite, qui ne sert qu'a affaiblir le coeur, et qu'on doit laisser au peuple, qui, n'exécutant jamais rien par raison, a besoin des passions pour le porter à faire les choses. (I am not much moved by pity and would like to be not at all .... However, there is nothing I would not do to relieve a suffering person .... But I also maintain that one should be content to show it [pity] and carefully keep from having it. It is a passion which is useless to a well-developed soul, which serves only to weaken the heart, and which ought to be left to the masses, who, never doing anything out of reason, need passions to bring them to act.)

17. Cf. The Republic Bk. 3, 387-88.

18. Prosper Merimée (1803-70), Lettres à une inconnue, I:8. "Know that nothing is more common than to do harm for the pleasure of doing it:"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Kant Get This Out of My Mind...

The bad are not all bad from the womb, but have learnt base works and unholy words and wanton outrage from friendship with the bad because they thought all they said was true.
- Theognis of Megara (305-308_

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cave Talk

But we will leave this tale, and do thou pipe unto me and we will both remember the Muses; for they it is, who have given these delightful gifts for us twain to have and our neighbours to hear.
- Theognis of Megara (1055-1058)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wants v. Want

The fairest thing is the most righteous, the best thing health, and the sweetest to have our heart's desire.
- Theognis of Megara (255-256)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend Slippage

Thou hast lost me my good wits, lad, by reason of thy gluttonies, and art become a shame to our friends; but to me thou hast given a little time to refresh me, and with night at hand I lie quiet in haven after the storm.
- Theognis of Megara (1271-1274)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Power Sharing Agreements

Pray to the Gods; with the Gods is power; 'tis certain that without the Gods man getteth neither good nor ill.
- Theognis of Megara
Whom hateth woman most?- Thus spake the iron to the loadstone: "I hate thee most, because thou attractest, but art too weak to draw unto thee." The happiness of man is, "I will." The happiness of woman is, "He will." "Lo! "Lo! now hath the world become perfect!"- thus thinketh every woman when she obeyeth with all her love. Obey, must the woman, and find a depth for her surface. Surface is woman's soul, a mobile, stormy film on shallow water. Man's soul, however, is deep, its current gusheth in subterranean caverns: woman surmiseth its FORce, but comprehendeth it not.-
- Nietzsche, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Silver Bullet Man

In a sore dissension, Cyrnus, a trusty man is to be reckoned against gold and silver
- Theognis of Megara (77-78)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Indefinite Game Continues...

Though fair thou be, thou consortest, through the badness of thy mind, with men of the baser sort, and for this, lad, thou bearest foul reproach. And I that have failed, through no fault of my own, to win thy friendship, have the satisfaction of doing what is expected of a freeman like me.
- Theognis of Megara (1377-1380)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tonal Languages

My heart is ever warmed within me when I hear the delightful voice of the babbling flute.
- Theognis of Megara (531-532)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gas Masks Not Included

If thou wilt fain wash me, the water will ever flow unsullied from my head; thou wilt find me in all matters as it were refined gold, red to the view when I be rubbed with the touchstone; the surface of me is untainted of black mould or rust, its bloom ever pure and clean.
- Theognis of Megara (447-452)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Language, the True Father of Aphrodite?

...or, "Why You Can't EVER Get What You Want"

Hesiod, "Theogony"
(ll. 147-163) And again, three other sons were born of Earth and Heaven, great and doughty beyond telling, Cottus and Briareos and Gyes, presumptuous children. From their shoulders sprang an hundred arms, not to be approached, and each had fifty heads upon his shoulders on their strong limbs, and irresistible was the stubborn strength that was in their great forms. For of all the children that were born of Earth and Heaven, these were the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first.

And he used to hide them all away in a secret place of Earth so soon as each was born, and would not suffer them to come up into the light: and Heaven rejoiced in his evil doing. But vast Earth groaned within, being straitened, and she made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle, and told her plan to her dear sons. And she spoke, cheering them, while she was vexed in her dear heart:

(ll. 164-166) `My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.'

(ll. 167-169) So she said; but fear seized them all, and none of them uttered a word. But great Cronos the wily took courage and answered his dear mother:

(ll. 170-172) `Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our father of evil name, for he first thought of doing shameful things.'

(ll. 173-175) So he said: and vast Earth rejoiced greatly in spirit, and set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands a jagged sickle, and revealed to him the whole plot.

(ll. 176-206) And Heaven came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Earth spreading himself full upon her (7).

Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae (8) all over the boundless earth. And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Cythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Cyprus, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam, and Cytherea because she reached Cythera, and Cyprogenes because she was born in billowy Cyprus, and Philommedes (9) because sprang from the members. And with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honour she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods, -- the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness.

(ll. 207-210) But these sons whom be begot himself great Heaven used to call Titans (Strainers) in reproach, for he said that they strained and did presumptuously a fearful deed, and that vengeance for it would come afterwards.

The Symbolic Order (or the "big Other"). Whereas the imaginary is all about equations and identifications, the symbolic is about language and narrative. Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others. The acceptance of language's rules is aligned with the Oedipus complex, according to Lacan. The symbolic is made possible because of your acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, those laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication: "It is in the name of the father that we must recognize the support of the symbolic function which, from the dawn of history, has identified his person with the figure of the law" (Écrits 67). Through recognition of the Name-of-the-Father, you are able to enter into a community of others. The symbolic, through language, is "the pact which links... subjects together in one action. The human action par excellence is originally founded on the existence of the world of the symbol, namely on laws and contracts" (Freud's Papers 230).

Whereas the Real concerns need and the Imaginary concerns demand, the symbolic is all about desire, according to Lacan. Once we enter into language, our desire is forever afterwards bound up with the play of language. We should keep in mind, however, that the Real and the Imaginary continue to play a part in the evolution of human desire within the symbolic order. The fact that our fantasies always fail before the Real, for example, ensures that we continue to desire; desire in the symbolic order could, in fact, be said to be our way to avoid coming into full contact with the Real, so that desire is ultimately most interested not in obtaining the object of desire but, rather, in reproducing itself. The narcissism of the Imaginary is also crucial for the establishment of desire, according to Lacan: "The primary imaginary relation provides the fundamental framework for all possible erotism. It is a condition to which the object of Eros as such must be submitted. The object relation must always submit to the narcissistic framework and be inscribed in it" (Freud's Papers 174). For Lacan, love begins here; however, to make that love "functionally realisable" (to make it move beyond scopophilic narcissism), the subject must reinscribe that narcissistic imaginary relation into the laws and contracts of the symbolic order: "A creature needs some reference to the beyond of language, to a pact, to a commitment which constitutes him, strictly speaking, as an other, a reference included in the general or, to be more exact, universal system of interhuman symbols. No love can be functionally realisable in the human community, save by means of a specific pact, which, whatever the form it takes, always tends to become isolated off into a specific function, at one and the same time within language and outside of it" (Freud's Papers 174). The Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic thus work together to create the tensions of our psychodynamic selves.

GIVEN MAN'S RELIANCE ON LANGUAGE for entrance into the symbolic order, it is not surprising that, according to Lacan, we are not even in control of our own desires since those desires are themselves as separated from our actual bodily needs as the phallus is separated from any biological penis. For this reason, Lacan suggests that, whereas the zero form of sexuality for animals is copulation, the zero form of sexuality for humans is masturbation. The act of sex for humans is so much caught up in our fantasies (our idealized images of both ourselves and our sexual partners) that it is ultimately narcissistic. As Lacan puts it, "That's what love is. It's one's own ego that one loves in love, one's own ego made real on the imaginary level". Because we are working on the level of fantasy construction, it is quite easy for love to turn into disgust, for example when a lover is confronted with his love-object's body in all its materiality (moles, pimples, excretions, etc.), the sorts of things that would have no effect on animal copulation. By entering into the symbolic order (with its laws, conventions, and images for perfection), the human subject effectively divorces him/herself from the materiality of his/her bodily drives, which Lacan tends to distinguish with the term "jouissance."Note Through the Law (which we come to acknowledge by way of the Oedipus complex), the human subject effectively chooses culture over nature: "The primordial Law is therefore that which in regulating marriage ties superimposes the kingdom of culture on that of nature abandoned to the law of copulation". That Law, for Lacan, is "identical to an order of Language", specifically what he terms the symbolic order and it is supported by the symbolic fiction of the "Name-of-the-Father."

Desire, in other words, has little to do with material sexuality for Lacan; it is caught up, rather, in social structures and strictures, in the fantasy version of reality that forever dominated our lives after our entrance into language. For this reason, Lacan writes that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other." Even our unconscious desires are, in other words, organized by the linguistic system that Lacan terms the symbolic order or "the big Other." In a sense, then, our desire is never properly our own, but is created through fantasies that are caught up in cultural ideologies rather than material sexuality. For this reason, according to Lacan, the command that the superego directs to the subject is, of all things, "Enjoy!" That which we may believe to be most private and rebellious (our desire) is, in fact, regulated, even commanded, by the superego.

In constructing our fantasy-version of reality, we establish coordinates for our desire; we situate both ourselves and our object of desire, as well as the relation between. As Slavoj Zizek puts it, "through fantasy, we learn how to desire" (Looking Awry 6). Our desires therefore necessarily rely on lack, since fantasy, by definition, does not correspond to anything in the real. Our object of desire (what Lacan terms the "objet petit a") is a way for us to establish coordinates for our own desire. At the heart of desire is a misregognition of fullness where there is really nothing but a screen for our own narcissistic projections. It is that lack at the heart of desire that ensures we continue to desire. To come too close to our object of desire threatens to uncover the lack that is, in fact, necessary for our desire to persist, so that, ultimately, desire is most interested not in fully attaining the object of desire but in keeping our distance, thus allowing desire to persist. Because desire is articulated through fantasy, it is driven to some extent by its own impossibility.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Now let us rejoice over our cups, saying good things; what shall come after is for the Gods to look to.
- Theognis of Megara

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Male - Eternally Becoming

Traveling on his way, the Fool first encounters a Magician. Skillful, self-confident, a powerful magus with the infinite as a halo floating above his head, the Magician mesmerizes the Fool. When asked, the Fool gives over his bundled pack and stick to the Magician. Raising his wand to heaven, pointing his finger to Earth, the Magician calls on all powers. Magically, the cloth of the pack unfolds upon the table, revealing its contents.

To the Fool's eyes, it is as if the Magician has created the future with a word. All the possibilities are laid out, all the directions he can take: The cool, airy Sword of intellect and communication, the fiery Wand of passions and ambition, the overflowing Chalice of love and emotions, the solid Pentacle of work, possessions and body.

With these tools, the Fool can create anything, make anything of his life. But here's the question, did the Magician create the tools, or were they already in the pack? Only the Magician knows - and on this mystery, our eloquent mage refuses to say a word.
The Death of Man-Made "Absolute" Time and Restoration of the Natural Eternal Feminine?

On the tragic nature of choice and other so-called "veils of ignorance".

It's what Isaiah Berlin termed "the unavoidability of conflicting ends" or, alternatively, the "incommensurability" of values. He once called this "the only truth which I have ever found out for myself... Some of the Great Goods cannot live together.... We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss." In short, it's what Michael Ignatieff summarized as "the tragic nature of choice".


The result of this confusion is that one affirms the essence of justice to be the authority of the legislator; another, the interest of the sovereign; another, present custom, and this is the most sure. Nothing, according to reason alone, is just in itself; all changes with time. CUSTOM CREATES THE WHOLE OF EQUITY, FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT IT IS ACCEPTED. IT IS THE MYSTICAL FOUNDATION OF ITS AUTHORITY; WHOEVER CARRIES IT BACK TO FIRST PRINCIPLES DESTROYS IT. NOTHING IS SO FAULTY AS THOSE LAWS WHICH CORRECT FAULTS. He who obeys them because they are just, obeys a justice which is imaginary, and not the essence of law; it is quite self-contained, it is law and nothing more. He who will examine its motive will find it so feeble and so trifling that if he be not accustomed to contemplate the wonders of human imagination, he will marvel that one century has gained for it so much pomp and reverence. The art of opposition and of revolution is to unsettle established customs, sounding them even to their source, to point out their want of authority and justice. We must, it is said, get back to the natural and fundamental laws of the State, which an unjust custom has abolished. It is a game certain to result in the loss of all; nothing will be just on the balance. Yet people readily lend their ear to such arguments. They shake off the yoke as soon as they recognise it; and the great profit by their ruin, and by that of these curious investigators of accepted customs. But from a contrary mistake men sometimes think they can justly do everything which is not without an example. THAT IS WHY THE WISEST OF LEGISLATORS SAID THAT IT WAS NECESSARY TO DECEIVE MEN FOR THEIR OWN GOOD; and another, a good politician, "Cum veritatem qua liberetur ignoret, expedit quod fallatur." Pascal, "Pensees" -

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Urban Assault Tactics - Mortgage Meltdowns

For I have been ere now to the land of Sicily, ere now to the vine-clad lowlands of Euboea, and to Sparta the glorious town of reedy Eurotas, and all made me welcome in right friendly wise; but not one of them came as a joy to my heart, so true is it after all that there's no place like home.
- Theognis of Megara (783-788)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Socratic Paradox

The Socratic Paradox: People act immorally, but they do not do so deliberately.

Everyone seeks what is most serviceable to oneself or what is in one's own self-interest.

If one [practically] knows what is good, one will always act in such manner as to achieve it. (Otherwise, one does not know or only knows in a theoretical fashion.)

If one acts in a manner not conducive to ones good, then that person must have been mistaken (i.e., that person lacks the knowledge of how to obtain what was serviceable in that instance).

If one acts with knowledge then one will obtain that which is serviceable to oneself or that which is in ones self-interest.

Thus, for Socrates…
knowledge = [def.] virtue, good, arete
ignorance = [def.] bad, evil, not useful

Since no one knowingly harms himself, if harm comes to that person, then that person must have acted in ignorance.

Consequently, it would seem to follow we are responsible for what we know or for that matter what we do not know. So, then, one is responsible for ones own happiness.

The essential aspect of understanding the Paradox is to realize that Socrates is referring to the good of the soul in terms of knowledge and doing what's right— not to wealth or freedom from physical pain. The latter play no role in the soul being centered.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Fisher King's Realm

I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought they knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom--therefore I asked myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made answer to myself and the oracle that I was better off as I was.
- Plato, "Apology"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Urban Assault Tactics - Private Spectacles

No mortal man so soon as he is covered with the earth and goeth down to the house of Persephone in Erebus is rejoiced any more with the sound either of lyre or piper or with receiving the gifts of Dionysus. Beholding this, I will make my heart merry while yet my limbs be light and I carry an unshaking head.
- Theognis of Megara (973-978)

The Dejected Fisher King Returns to His Pond

Dear Master Drew,

If you please Sir I am a widow; & I think it very wrong that there is not any Mrs. Fisher, but I would not marry Mr. Jeremy not for worlds, the way he does live in that house all slippy-sloppy; not any lady would stand it, & not a bit of good starching his cravats.
Yr. obedient washerwoman,
Tiggy Winkle

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not Ophelia...

S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.*

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"--
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the
And this, and so much more?--
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . .I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
- T.S. Eliot, "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waters from Nymphs for the Wasteland

Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears: but yet
It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
Let shame say what it will: when these are gone,
The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:
I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts it.

- Shakespeare, "Hamlet"


I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.

While living I want to live well.
- Geronimo
The Seven Deadly Sins and Four Last Things
--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
-Shakespeare, "Hamlet"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Restoring the Fisher King

"O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
and on her daughter
They wash their feet in soda water"

- T.S. Eliot, "Wasteland" (199-201)

...And so they oughter
To keep them clean

- "WWI Australian soldier's song"

John 13:14-17 - "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

Missing the Fructifying Winds

In Roman mythology, Flora was a goddess of flowers and the season of spring. While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime. Her festival, the Floralia, was held in April or early May and symbolized the renewal of the cycle of life, marked with dancing, drinking, and flowers. Her Greek equivalent was Chloris. Flora was married to Favonius, the wind god, and her companion was Hercules. Due to her association with plants, her name in modern English also means plant life. Flora achieved more prominence in the neo-pagan revival of Antiquity among Renaissance humanists than she had ever enjoyed in ancient Rome.

Zephyrus, or just Zephyr (Greek:Zéphuros), in Latin Favonius, is the Greek god of the west wind. The gentlest of the winds, Zephyrus is known as the fructifying wind, the messenger of spring. It was thought that Zephyrus lived in a cave in Thrace. Zephyrus was reported as having several wives in different stories. He was said to be the husband of his sister Iris, the goddess of the rainbow. He abducted another of his sisters, the goddess Chloris, and gave her the domain of flowers. With Chloris, he fathered Carpus (fruit). He is said to have vied for Chloris's love with his brother Boreas, eventually winning her devotion. Additionally, with yet another sister and lover, the harpy Podarge (also known as Celaeno), Zephyrus was said to be the father of Balius and Xanthus, Achilles' horses.

One of the surviving myths in which Zephyrus features most prominently is that of Hyacinth. Hyacinth was a very handsome and athletic Spartan prince. Zephyrus fell in love with him and courted him and so did Apollo. The two competed for the boy's love, but he chose Apollo, driving Zephyrus mad with jealousy. Later, catching Apollo and Hyacinth throwing a discus, Zephyrus blew a gust of wind at them, striking the boy in the head with the falling discus. When Hyacinth died, Apollo created the hyacinth flower from his blood.In the story of Cupid and Psyche, Zephyrus served Cupid by transporting Psyche to his cave.

'What it that noise?'
The wind under the door.
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'
Nothing again nothing.

- T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Destined to Lose You

What virtue is there in the winning of a tippler's prize? surely a good man often loseth it even to a bad.
- Theognis of Megara (971-972)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shaving the Truth?...

...or jumping to the wrong conclusions. Why appearances are often deceiving.
'Tis hard in sooth for an enemy to deceive his foe, Cyrnus, but easy for a friend to deceive his friend.

No mortal man, son of Polypaus, ever deceived a stranger or suppliant unbeknown to the Gods.
-Theognis of Megara (1219-1220/143-144)

Another Day in the Life of a Paranoiac Critical Man

Men are not in the habit of dwelling upon the dark side of their own lives: they do not easily see themselves as others see them. They are very kind and very blind to their own faults; the rhetoric of self-love is always pleading with them on their own behalf. Adopting a similar figure of speech, Socrates would have them use rhetoric, not in defence but in accusation of themselves. As they are guided by feeling rather than by reason, to their feelings the appeal must be made. They must speak to themselves; they must argue with themselves; they must paint in eloquent words the character of their own evil deeds. To any suffering which they have deserved, they must persuade themselves to submit. Under the figure there lurks a real thought, which, expressed in another form, admits of an easy application to ourselves. For do not we too accuse as well as excuse ourselves? And we call to our aid the rhetoric of prayer and preaching, which the mind silently employs while the struggle between the better and the worse is going on within us. And sometimes we are too hard upon ourselves, because we want to restore the balance which self-love has overthrown or disturbed; and then again we may hear a voice as of a parent consoling us. In religious diaries a sort of drama is often enacted by the consciences of men 'accusing or else excusing them.' For all our life long we are talking with ourselves:—What is thought but speech? What is feeling but rhetoric? And if rhetoric is used on one side only we shall be always in danger of being deceived. And so the words of Socrates ("it is better to suffer than commit injustice"), which at first sounded paradoxical, come home to the experience of all of us.
- Jowett introduction to Plato's "Gorgias"

'While rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen.'

Sunday, June 5, 2011

...and the Limit of a Colour is the Size of the Passage Through which an Effluence must Pass?

Plato, "Meno"
SOCRATES: Well, I will try and explain to you what figure is. What do you say to this answer?—Figure is the only thing which always follows colour. Will you be satisfied with it, as I am sure that I should be, if you would let me have a similar definition of virtue?

MENO: But, Socrates, it is such a simple answer.

SOCRATES: Why simple?

MENO: Because, according to you, figure is that which always follows colour.

(SOCRATES: Granted.)

MENO: But if a person were to say that he does not know what colour is, any more than what figure is—what sort of answer would you have given him?

SOCRATES: I should have told him the truth. And if he were a philosopher of the eristic and antagonistic sort, I should say to him: You have my answer, and if I am wrong, your business is to take up the argument and refute me. But if we were friends, and were talking as you and I are now, I should reply in a milder strain and more in the dialectician's vein; that is to say, I should not only speak the truth, but I should make use of premises which the person interrogated would be willing to admit. And this is the way in which I shall endeavour to approach you. You will acknowledge, will you not, that there is such a thing as an end, or termination, or extremity?—all which words I use in the same sense, although I am aware that Prodicus might draw distinctions about them: but still you, I am sure, would speak of a thing as ended or terminated—that is all which I am saying—not anything very difficult.

MENO: Yes, I should; and I believe that I understand your meaning.

SOCRATES: And you would speak of a surface and also of a solid, as for example in geometry.

MENO: Yes.

SOCRATES: Well then, you are now in a condition to understand my definition of figure. I define figure to be that in which the solid ends; or, more concisely, the limit of solid.

MENO: And now, Socrates, what is colour?

SOCRATES: You are outrageous, Meno, in thus plaguing a poor old man to give you an answer, when you will not take the trouble of remembering what is Gorgias' definition of virtue.

MENO: When you have told me what I ask, I will tell you, Socrates.

SOCRATES: A man who was blindfolded has only to hear you talking, and he would know that you are a fair creature and have still many lovers.

MENO: Why do you think so?

SOCRATES: Why, because you always speak in imperatives: like all beauties when they are in their prime, you are tyrannical; and also, as I suspect, you have found out that I have weakness for the fair, and therefore to humour you I must answer.

MENO: Please do.

SOCRATES: Would you like me to answer you after the manner of Gorgias, which is familiar to you?

MENO: I should like nothing better.

SOCRATES: Do not he and you and Empedocles say that there are certain effluences of existence?

MENO: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And passages into which and through which the effluences pass?

MENO: Exactly.

SOCRATES: And some of the effluences fit into the passages, and some of them are too small or too large?

MENO: True.

SOCRATES: And there is such a thing as sight?

MENO: Yes.

SOCRATES: And now, as Pindar says, 'read my meaning:'—colour is an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense.
Guerin, "Morpheus & Iris" (1811)

So does virtue also vary according to the size/energetic strength of it's possessor and the angle through which it is viewed? That would certainly explain both the death of Semele and 1 Corinthians 13:12, which contains the phrase βλεπομεν γαρ αρτι δι εσοπτρου εν αινιγματι', which is rendered in the KJV as "For now we see through a glass, darkly."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Living on the Threshold of Virtue and Vice

Lorenzo Lotto - Allégorie de la Vertu et du Vice
The Four Virtues - Courage:Temperance::Wisdom:Justice

Plato, "Charmides"
Then once more, Charmides, I said, fix your attention, and look within; consider the effect which temperance has upon yourself, and the nature of that which has the effect. Think over all this, and, like a brave youth, tell me—What is temperance?

After a moment's pause, in which he made a real manly effort to think, he said: My opinion is, Socrates, that temperance makes a man ashamed or modest, and that temperance is the same as modesty.

Very good, I said; and did you not admit, just now, that temperance is noble?

Yes, certainly, he said.

And the temperate are also good?


And can that be good which does not make men good?

Certainly not.

And you would infer that temperance is not only noble, but also good?

That is my opinion.

Well, I said; but surely you would agree with Homer when he says,

'Modesty is not good for a needy man'?

Yes, he said; I agree.

Then I suppose that modesty is and is not good?


But temperance, whose presence makes men only good, and not bad, is always good?

That appears to me to be as you say.

And the inference is that temperance cannot be modesty—if temperance is a good, and if modesty is as much an evil as a good?

All that, Socrates, appears to me to be true; but I should like to know what you think about another definition of temperance, which I just now remember to have heard from some one, who said, 'That temperance is doing our own business.' Was he right who affirmed that?

You monster! I said; this is what Critias, or some philosopher has told you.

Some one else, then, said Critias; for certainly I have not.

Cover Me Over!

There's nothing better in the world, Cyrnus, than a father and mother who care for holy Right.
- Theognis of Megara (131-132)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mixing Metaphors - Medicine v. Commerce

A caduceus is NOT the rod of Asclepius. Somehow, I suspect that the likely Left-leaning producers of this video knew that...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Eurynome (Εὐρυνόμη, ευρύς -eurys "broad" + νόμος -nomos "pasture" - a second derivation of her name, "wide-ruling" can be taken from the Greek words eurys "wide" + nomos "law" or "ruling") and Ophion (Ὀφίων "serpent")

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Following My Dogstar

Aethon am I by race, but live in well-walled Thebes, forbidden my native town.
- Theognis of Megara (1209-1210)

Note - This is not an endorsement of Ecstacy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

American Urban Assault Tactics - Occupation

Stay none of our company, Simonides, that is unwilling to abide with us, nor bid to the door any that would not go, nay, nor wake thou any that gentle Sleep hath o'ertaken in his cups, nor yet bid the waking slumber if he would not; for all that is forced is painful. Him that would drink, let the lad stand by and pour him a cupful. Good cheer cometh not every night. But as for me, I keep to my measure of honey-sweet Wine, and so I shall go home ere I bethink me of care-easing Sleep; I shall have reached the top of wine's pleasure, seeing that I shall go neither sober nor over-drunken; whereas he that overpasseth the due measure of drinking is no longer master either of his tongue or his mind, but telleth reckless things disgraceful to sober ears, and hath no shame in what he doeth in his cups, a wise man once, but now a fool. Knowing this, drink not thou to excess, but either arise thou and go out privily before thou be drunken —let not thy belly constrain thee as if thou wert a bad day-labourer —or else abide and drink not. But nay, this vain Pour me a cup is thy continual chatter; therefore thou art drunken. For there's one cup cometh for friendship, another for a wager, another for libation, and another's kept in hand; and thou knowest not how to say no. He surely is invincible who shall say no vain thing when he hath drunken deep. But speak ye wisely albeit ye abide beside the bowl, withholding yourselves far from mutual strife, and speaking, whether ye address one or all, that any may hear; in this wise is a carousal a right pleasant thing.
- Theognis of Megara (467-496)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Carpe Diem! and Live a Happy Death.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:

And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying*.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,

The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;

But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:

For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
- Robert Herrick (1648)

*note - The orgasm has been widely represented in the literature over the centuries. In antiquity, Latin literature addressed the subject as much as Greek literature: Book III of Ovid's Metamorphoses retells a discussion between Jove and Juno, in which the former states: "The sense of pleasure in the male is far / More dull and dead, than what you females share." Juno rejects this thought; they agree to ask the opinion of Tiresias ("who had known Venus/Love in both ways," having lived seven years as a female). Tiresias offends Juno by agreeing with Jove, and she strikes him blind on the spot (Jove lessens the blow by giving Tiresias the gift of foresight, and a long life). Earlier, in the Ars Amatoria, Ovid states that he abhors sexual intercourse that fails to complete both partners.

The theme of orgasm survived during Romanticism and Homoeroticism. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), "a translator of extraordinary range and versatility", in FRAGMENT: Supposed to be an Epithalamium of Francis Ravaillac and Charlotte Cordé, wrote phrase "No life can equal such a death.", that has been seen as a metaphor for orgasm, and that was preceded by a rhythmic urgency of the previous lines "Suck on, suck on, I glow, I glow!", alluding explicitly to fellatio. For Shelley, orgasm was "the almost involuntary consequences of a state of abandonment in the society of a person of surpassing attractions." Edward Ellerker Williams, the last love of Shelley's life, was remembered by the poet in "The Boat on the Serchio", which is seen as probably "the grandest portrayal of orgasm in literature":

The Serchio, twisting forth
Between the marble barriers which it clove
At Ripafratta, leads through the dread chasm
The wave that died the death which lovers love,
Living in what it sought; as if this spasm
Had not yet passed, the toppling mountains cling,
But the clear stream in full enthusiasm
Pours itself on the plain....

Again, Shelley, in this poem, related death to orgasm when he writes "death which lovers love". Curiously, in French literature, the term la petite mort (the little death) is a famous euphemism for orgasm; it is the representation of man who forgets himself and the world during orgasm. Jorge Luis Borges, in the same vision, wrote in one of the several footnotes of "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" that one of the churches of Tlön claims Platonically that "All men, in the vertiginous moment of coitus, are the same man. All men who repeat a line from Shakespeare are William Shakespeare." Shakespeare himself was a knowledgeable of this idea: lines "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes" and "I will die bravely, like a smug bridegroom", said respectively by Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and by King Lear in the homonymous play, are interpreted as an option to die in a woman's lap to experience a sexual orgasm. Sigmund Freud with his psychoanalytic projects, in "The Ego and the Id" (1923), speculates that sexual satisfaction by orgasm make Eros ("life instinct") exhausted and leaves the field open to Thanatos ("death instinct"), in other words, with orgasm Eros fulfills its mission and gives way to Thanatos. Other modern authors have chosen to represent the orgasm without metaphors. In novel Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), by D.H.Lawrence, we can find an explicit narrative of a sexual act between a couple: "As he began to move, in the sudden helpless orgasm there awoke in her strange thrills rippling inside her...