Wednesday 28th September

September 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today’s post will be based around four photographs I took with a disposable camera over the period of the past year. The interest in the photos is primarily what the picture depicts, and although they have ambient interest as objects themselves, I will be analysing them as documents of moments. In some ways, they are each pieces of evidence in a single argument.

Item one: the slipped sign

Image one depicts a slipped sign against the side of a garage, which has revealed a gap in the paint work. This is something I see every day, as it is just by my house. The building is striking, a bold lump of a place, and its colour is somewhat at odds with both its solid form and use, as a car mechanics/garage. In this scene, the paint job has been realised around this sign, when it hung a little higher. The thoughts that ran through my head when I first saw this were:

a) They should have moved the sign when painting, then put it back
b) I feel sorry for them
c) Why don’t they paint the gap now
d) I would never have made such a mistake
e) I might have actually made that exact mistake

There is an odd contrariness to an incomplete job of any kind, but especially in cases such as these, in which care has been taken to choose complimentary colours for the brick and wood work, and the task of painting has been handled professionally, but for this ‘slip’. (Is it sexist of me to sale that this is a very male mistake? Can I be sexist against my own kind?) There is an added interest in the scene, in that the sign, seemingly solid, is made from cardboard: It is a concession to cost in the pursuit of function, which in this case is authority: to intimidate criminals and reassure their victims. It is this combination of attempted authority with cardboard temporariness that puts the sign into a kind of limbo state. The sign has slipped, adding to this feeling, and in its former position it has left a kind of trail of failure, like its own inadequacy is rubbing off on the universe.

There is of course often a fine line between decoration and utility in this market world of ours. Nowadays, to be noticed, one has to stand out. A business needs to have a bold image, which in itself seems to represent the philosophy or vision of the brand. Increasingly it feels as if our cities are being branded as commodities, and designed by businessmen. We hear a lot about “economic progress”, and “international class shopping”, which in a city the size of Nottingham means little more than losing the distinctness of our high street, waving goodbye to all the unique and independent shops. My actual anger and disbelief at the short-sightedness of “progress” is perhaps why I find in these ‘slips’ some kind of spiritual relief.

Item two: a very safe Christmas tree

Here we see a Christmas tree. The tree itself is a real tree (at least they can get that much right), decorated to a kind of accepted minimum of tinsel and baubles, with a star on top. It is surprisingly thrifty, considering how cheap decorations are to buy.

The Germanic tradition of the tree, and indeed our collective image of Christmas as a whole, has mutated over generations; filtered through cinema and advertising. Despite its inherent materialism, it is certainly a time of the year I still cherish dearly, being as I can spend time sitting around, eating cheese and drinking port with my family, trapped in doors by the cold.

Perhaps I am cynical, but this gesture of a tree, given to the public (as it were), in using a collective cultural idyll, can be seen as an incitement of excess. How else can we explain it appearing in early November, along with high-hung flashing snowflakes and dancing snowmen? It is the exploitation of a utopian image in the services of capitalism, of fun without the hangover; spiritual, physical or otherwise. We want to shop, because being in town at this time makes us feel “Chrismassy”…

But there is something tragic about this particular tree. In spite of its disingenuous undertones (at least to me), it is an endearing sight. Perhaps for our safety as much as its own, the tree is behind a protective barrier, which impedes the tree’s pure image, particularly for the non-tall (children and midgets/Santa’s helpers). It certainly gets in the way of the classic image of Christmas with the family, where we don’t tend to imagine ourselves in a state prison, or in East-Berlin in 1980. The coldness of the metal is adorned with an off-cut of tinsel, obviously as an afterthought. But it is in this token gesture of decoration, that the humanity of the scene is recovered. Much like the sign falling to reveal the inadequate paint job, these are occasions when a physical slip also becomes an ideological slip; a slip of the mask. Call this mask “professionalism”, or “utopia”; in both cases it is a facade that attempts to deny some truths at the heart of the act not-so realised.

These failures of the ideal, and of authority are typical, universal, indiscriminate. They exist at the periphery of our daily lives, and are thus unimportant enough to be laughed at for the peculiarity. We laugh at them much like we laugh at an idiot (be the idiot a comic clown, or a real life person), that is, humour as thinly veiled repulsion. We laugh to disassociate ourselves from this ugliness, this “matter out of place” (as I once heard it described), but it is also laughter in recognition of some of our own ugliness: The you that, in a moment of upmost confidence, reveals an undesirable flaw; greed, sloth, pride, and so forth.

Item three: a bare naked sign

But let us not make to fine a point of undesirability. It is the earnestness of these errors in judgement and visual incongruences, above all else, that I like. Such non-reward of good intention often finds itself into a good sit-com, and can be enjoyed like a joke, if seen from the right point of view.

A quote from J.P. Sartre’s Nausea came to mind:

“Objects serve at least to fix the limits of probability. Well, today they no longer fixed anything at all: it seemed that their very existence was being called in question, that they were having the greatest difficulty in passing from one moment to the next… nothing looked real; I felt surrounded by cardboard scenery which could suddenly be removed.”

I like this image of objects having to pass from one moment to the next; of existing as an actual expression of effort. Indeed, our environments seem to be constantly existing without much thought, with consumate ease, until these moments of incongruence, when they are thrown into flux. They become loose, and slip, and somehow become more whilst appearing less. 

In our world of uncertainties, we know we are more likely to die crossing the street than in an aeroplane accident, but such assurances don’t make flying feel any more secure. If anything, it makes us more anxious about crossing the street. How nice to think there are other people who make sure we are safe, and don’t walk into wet pillars or burgal the wrong house.

Item number four: a safe pillar is a fun pillar


Wednesday 21st September

September 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today’s post may not have the structure or balance of a well constructed argument. But sometimes being incoherent is better than forcing facile connections between observations and ideas. After all, this blog is as much a personal attempt at trying to find meaning, as it is a forum for presenting what it is I have learnt.

I find myself increasingly drawn towards the world of Twitter. I have no intention of joining, but the act of reading is itself interesting enough; thinking about the mind of the author. It is a contemporary manifestation of the Speaker’s Corner, and offers a shifting platform for high ideas, emotional outpours, sermons, rants, defensive posturing and politicking. Reading Twitter feeds has the same addictive quality as leafing through trashy celebrity/lifestyle magazines; thoughtfully laid out on supermarket shelves for a quick dip, like a library of the inane. And indeed, like these magazines, I dip in and out of Twitter without investment.

The language of the average Twitter feed, selected at random, rarely improves upon the slapdash approach of someone texting on the tram. I have never been one for sloppy diction, and don’t get me started on apostrophes. I can certainly foresee a future where mankind will communicate via ever more cryptic combinations of ‘Smileys’, ‘Emoticons’ and abbreviations. It will resemble something like George Orwell’s Newspeak, translated into Hieroglyphics, via a QWERTY keyboard.

It is in the sometimes brutal contrast between the intention of the ‘Poster’ (on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever) and the inadequacy of the realisation of their ideas into coherent form that the curious interest arises. We don’t want our overpaid Premiership footballers to be incredibly intelligent and perceptive, as well as grotesquely rich. We want naivety, arrogance, quotable mistakes. It helps us find their flaws and rile at their weightless existences.

And now for a familiar scenario: You are asked the spelling of a word, a fairly simple one you think, and in the process of recalling the letters, doubt mischievously suggests that you add an extra ‘n’, or a ‘t’. You know how to spell the word, on paper at least. You know how to say it and what it means. But this rarely used bridge between the spoken and written is treacherous territory. We almost certainly solve the problem by writing it down, or typing it into our phones. Though our confidence is in pieces, we will go through this same ritual again, next time we are asked.

These situations really do bring home the fragility of language, and the somewhat clumsy relationship between the oral the scribed. (I just tried to look up what the opposite of ‘oral’ was on the internet. Interesting. But not useful for what I am trying to write about.))<>((

Of course, in terms of evolution, a spoken language came first, as a means to express impending danger to our kinsmen. I guess it was a parallel process, but certainly as we were developing more complex communities, so to our brains grew to facilitate the expression of more complex ideas, a process which not only allowed for greater productivity, but also gave us the verbal tools with which to attempt to explain the ‘unexplainable’, and thus, the birth of religion, superstition, philosophy.

To quote Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, “Human beings are constantly observing correlations between events in the world around them and inferring causation from them”. I would like to expand on this, to say that the causation we see is almost certainly borne of our desire to find order in a chaotic existence, which itself is defence against non-existence. The status update (and other penny-for-your-thought internet contrivances), pairs this human need to seek connections with our insistence to exist, and is further complicated by our personal approaches to language, and misunderstandings therein. To tweet is, in effect, publicly (mis)pronouncing our right to be alive.

Children have an inherent desire for order, as much as we adults, and sometimes even more so. But they also embody a kind of celebration of chaos. They revel in nonsense, silliness, much more than we allow ourselves as we grow up. It’s sad to see this quality lost from most of us as we grow older, as it brings a kind of balance to and relief from the boundaries and rules we live by. To butcher Joseph Beuys’ assertion that “everyone (is) an artist”, I would like to propose that every child is an anarchist, and a comedian. Children take particular delight in jokes that lampoon everything they are being taught about the connections between objects, their names and functions (and thus by extension, obedience to social rules). Having fun with the ambiguity of language plays a central role in this, as does recognising occasional losses of coherence, connection.

And now to end abruptly with a Tweet from writer Alain de Botton (!/alaindebotton):
“In relating to children, we experience what it might be like if money and status never came into it.”

A nice thought.

Tuesday 13th September

September 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

Yesterday I took a train from Nottingham to Norwich to visit some friends. I love the whole experience of travelling by rail- perhaps one of the rare occasions when I am able to observe the English countryside. It’s easy to take it for granted, and even complain about the frequency of the rain, but the green rolling fields that characterise this land are truly worth travelling for.

When the mind wanders from the view, to your book, to the interior of the train, a funny, disjointed narrative starts to emerge. I have always found that shared transitional environments, like trains, boats, planes, stations and airports, have fantastically earnest and often spurious rules of engagement. Like a passenger who shares their newspaper supplements with you, or the unspoken, unwritten rules regarding our personal space. Of course there is always the long-legged miscreant who pins your knees to your seat with their oversized pegs, and the packs of women who *snort* laugh the length of the journey in a kind of innocent revelry. But it all adds to the spectacle, and if we really think about it, our annoyance is just veiled curiosity, and perhaps a desire to be in their boots for a moment.

The language of these kind of environments interests me; the signs, the announcements. On trains, the announcer always adopts a kind of circular approach to his/her monologue. Here is a shoddily reconstructed version of one such announcement:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d just like to apologise for the lateness of this service, it is due to a signal being faulty at Market Harborough. A faulty signal at Market Harborough is the reason why this service is running a little late. Again ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to apologise.

Whilst on yesterday’s journey, I decided to write a little poem in homage to these announcements, whilst also celebrating the mind’s wander, and what we see out of the window on the train.

Long journey-
here to there.
Moving trees,
fast track thoughts stray.
Stray thoughts track fast trees
moving there to here-
journey long.

I think one’s ability to enjoy a train journey is in direct proportion to our sense of humour. Trains are potentially stressful environments, being in such close quarters with complete strangers, not to mention a fair amount of camouflaged snot and abandoned chewing gum on the surfaces we touch with our hands, heads, clothes. It takes a leap of faith to enjoy such situations, to indulge in a bit of field research into other people’s daily lives. For me, there is no bigger pleasure than reading the occasional line from the glamour/lifestyle magazine the girl sat in front has in her hands, which tells us to “be our own person” and implores “not to care what other people think”.

An anecdote springs to mind. When I was sixteen, me and my friends were on a packed train coming back from London to Nottingham. We had just seen a friendly match between England and Brazil at Wembley, and were stood in the aisle between seats. We had been broken up as a group, but continued to converse across the train, shouting a little bit, if I must admit, but the whole train was quite loud. After about ten minutes or so, an angry looking cockney skinhead in his forties who was sat at a table seat to our side (obviously with a bit of a headache, or in a mood at least) told us, in certain terms, to “shut the front door”, as it were.

We stood, red cheeked and silent for a good long while, before thinning passenger numbers presented us with two free seats, sat facing said skinhead. As soon as we sat down, this same guy informed us of our terms for survival. It went something like this: “I’m looking forward to a nice, quite train journey, with no bleeding talking, not a word from either of you. I don’t even want to hear a sound. A cough. Do we understand each other?” We nodded submissively. Now me and my friend stewed in our pool of anxiety, communicating our shared fear through sideways glances. We tried to present ourselves as occupied by other thoughts, whilst we concentrated our bodies into small, efficient forms, so as not to aggravate our bully with stray feet; accidentally reminding him that we exist. I started thinking: Wouldn’t this be the worst moment to get sudden cramp in one leg? And then, as if the devil himself had punched me in the thigh, a burning pain surged through me, bringing me screaming to my feet. I looked first to my friend in panic, then across at our tormentor, who looked at me with a glint in his eye. He laughed. “You’re alright you lads. You’re alright.”

In a book I am currently reading, The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves, Ludwig Wittgenstein is credited with having described a sense of humour as being, “not a mood, but a way of looking at the world”. I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed, the term itself,  sense of humour, suggests that observing comedy in the everyday is a faculty perhaps on a par with taste or smell. We can live without it, but life would be miserable. To paraphrase the same book a little, and to end this post, to joke can be in part a defensive manoeuvre, but it is also self-criticism. It is an enjoyment of language, of our own wit, and above all else, a determined stance in not taking the world and its woes too seriously.

Wednesday 7th September

September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Continuing my read of The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves, I was taken by the following quote which looks to explain the physiology of laughter. It derives from an 1860 essay of that name, written by philosopher/biologist/sociologist Herbert Spencer.

“(Spencer wrote that) laughter resulted when a person’s expectation of a momentous event was undermined by the occurrence of an inconsequential event…”

This theory works as an explanation for certain types of humour, for sure, but it also quite accurately describes the pattern of the average human existence, when viewed through the goggles of hindsight; life and other plans and all that. It doesn’t make living every day any funnier though.

Later in the book they speak about laughter as a social activity, and how in the 1950s television executives introduced canned laughter, “in order to re-create the element of audience participation” which had defined the kind of comedy the public were used to (stage-based, live). It was perhaps a necessary device for this first generation of TV watchers, whose frame for comedy was quite different to our own. Even so, we still find it in use today.

The book’s account of the earliest canned-laughter generators is pretty amazing:

“The original machine was a sort of laughter pipe-organ, using a bewildering array of keys and pedals to activate tape loops of giggles, gaffaws, shrieks and chuckles in infinite permutations…”

And here is a clip of one in motion:

The use of canned laughter is perhaps just a small example of how the media, in some ways, dictates our experience of their product, and establishes the ground rules for engagement. Thank god for the internet then, which presents us with such oddities as this; a clip from the long-running American comedy Friends, but without the canned laughter over the top.

I doubt I am courting much controversy in saying that I have always hated Friends. Though oddly enough, I think, in this new, laughless form, it is funnier. It actually reminds me of Curb Your Enthusiasm– a programme I have never been bowled-over by.  Curb Your Enthusiasm never seemed to have the outright realism of programmes it is often compared to, such as The Office, and consequently I never bought into it as an exposition of life’s cringier moments. Nor did its characters have the requisite quirks and charm to compare it to Seinfeld.

The ability to laugh at life has clear evolutionary purposes, perhaps primarily in attracting a mate, signifying as it does a kind of personal mastery over one’s environment. But, as The Naked Jape hastens to confirm, comedians are not cool. They are awkward people who feed off their own inadequacies. And though we as may be laughing at an “aborted fear”, as several theories of comedy put it, our guard has dropped, and with that moment of bareness, we can’t help but see ourselves in the punchline. Maybe that’s why we like to laugh in a group: it is to confirm (without words of our own) our private fears amongst friends, and knowingly revel in the inanity and drudge of a life of inconsequence.

Tuesday 6th December

September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

The problem I have with blogs, is that (as is always the case in any popular medium) bloggers often share information that is so banal, that it doesn’t warrant reading, or else it is so personal that you think “what am I meant to do with that information?”

Well today I am going to possibly do just that, and share some memories that won’t help you be a better person, won’t make you more attractive, or smarter, or anything along those lines. This post may even make you stupider.

Yesterday, me and my partner made an aborted attempt to visit the Nottingham Climbing Centre. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment plans that just aren’t possible in the UK, with weather erratic like ours. (I’m sure that the Latin -as in Latino, not ancient- tendency towards living life vivaciously is mostly down to their warm weather) It rained hard and we stayed in instead. Maybe we should have watched Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger as some kind of recompense. But in the end, we watched Edinburgh Comedy Festival Live via the BBC iPlayer, which turned out to be quite an apposite alternative.

I haven’t been to the Nottingham Climbing Centre since I was at secondary school. It was one of those places, like AMF Bowling, that you got taken to for P.E. in your later years to convince you to stay in school long enough to then fail your exams.

As a middle-class boy (whose parents hadn’t even taught him to ride a bike properly) in a largely working-class school, P.E. was mostly an ordeal. I wasn’t completely unsporty as a young child: I had been in Dance Club at primary school. Though upon arrival at Haywood Comprehensive it didn’t take me long to to realise that I would be on the ‘first to die’ list bullies compiled, no matter how expressive my free-form jazz dance improvisation was. I sometimes think, if I had only been braver, and stuck with it, then I could have been an amazing dancer. Then I remember. I was pretty uncoordinated. And there is nothing more punchable than a tiny, shit dancer.

Thinking about the Climbing Centre brought to mind one particular school trip. We were in year 10 (fourth year), and had pretty much been given the freedom of the centre, with the teachers off drinking in the car park, or something. At some point in the afternoon, a friend of mine had me stand as guard as he and a girl in our year ‘messed about’ in the climbing centre mess room. Now by ‘messing about’ I mean naughty, human mess. In actual fact, the room was probably called the ‘common room’ or ‘social room’, but filtered through my memory of that unseen act, it has become immortalised to me as the ‘mess room’.

Now this typified the scale of my sexual encounters at school. If I wasn’t employed as a lookout, then I was at most an unhappy onlooker. My only experience of nudity was when the P.E. teacher once stood stark-ball-naked for too long after football practice one heady summer afternoon. We weren’t even in the changing rooms. Actually we were. But no one else was. Actually they were.

Watching stand-up Ed Byrne on Edinburgh Comedy Festival Live brought home some home truths with regards to teenage fornication. His brilliant routine consisted of him explaining the various ways in which a particular t-shirt offended him. The top, worn by a thirteen year-old boy, had a slogan which read: “I love pussy like a fat girl love cake”.

His first complaint was grammar-related.

I will now paraphrase complaints 2 and 4:

“Let’s just say for the argument that fat girls do love cake. You’re a 13 year-old boy who claims he loves pussy just as much. Cos here’s the thing. You put cake in front of a fat girl, she’s at least going to know what to do with it. But let’s just say you do love pussy that much. You, who 18 months ago had a favourite Power Ranger… A fat person’s relationship with food is not as simple as pure love. It’s a far more complicated, far more fraught, far more nuanced relationship than simple love. And if that’s the relationship you as a 13 year-old boy have with pussy, you have issues you have not addressed, my young friend. Like sometimes you’ll want pussy, but you’ll deny yourself pussy, or now and again you’ll have pussy then feel really bad about yourself afterwards, or occasionally, you’ll deliberately have too much pussy in order to punish yourself because of complex issues to do with your self esteem. If that’s how you, as a 13 year-old boy, feel about pussy, you’re obviously gay.”

Sexuality as a teenager is such a complex thing. ‘Knowing what to do’ with a girl was a definite source of pride amongst the boys, especially if they were lying (which was obvious). I’m not sure if it gave them kudos amongst their friends, but I wasn’t ever much impressed. If anything, it just compounded the misery of being me, and wanting desperately to grow up and not to worry about these things.

When you reach certain ages of childhood, growing up seems like such an imposition. Then you are hit by changing hormones, or at least a new environment, and with it, changing rules for survival. Suddenly ‘being adult’ is all that concerns you: from encounters in love and getting into grown-up movies at the cinema, to gaining extended freedoms from your parents.

In a book I am reading at the moment, The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves, a quote from comedian Jerry Seinfeld stood out:

“When you’re little, your life is up. Everything you want is up. ‘Wait up! Hold up! Shut up! Mama, clean this up! Let me stay up!’ With parents, of course, it’s just the opposite. Everything is down: ‘Just calm down! Slow down! Come down here! Sit down! Put that down!'”

This interesting idea of up and down, of language reflecting the hierarchy between children and adults, says a lot about the cultural perception of childhood by adults. Though, like a fat person’s relationship to cake (sorry), it is a complex, nuanced thing. We speak of our ‘inner child’ as a good thing, but being ‘childish’ is bad.

This book makes much of the idea that to joke is an act of creative rebellion against the adult world, or at least, against a world in which objects “[sic] … their names and their functions become ossified”; a place with fairly solid social rules. And with that, I end proudly by admitting that I am a professional cartwheeler. Dance Club, I’m doing you proud.

Monday 5th September

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

So this is my first post in this new blog. To paraphrase myself (good start Hugh), this blog is my attempt at bringing together disparate thoughts, observations and bits of research together into some kind of legible form. I have always thought of blogs as being a bit pointless and self-serving, and it is likely that this blog will do little to assuage these doubts. Some days I will only post quotations taken directly from books I am reading, or a photo, or a short paragraph. I don’t want to force it, though if I feel able to write more, I will.

Today’s post is a long one, divided in two. The first thing I wanted to briefly comment on is Binoculars, and I guess by association and similarity, the Telescope. Last night I watched David Attenborough’s ‘Egg Hunt’,  a documentary exploring the rich wildlife of Madagascar.

The programme used new footage alongside sequences taken from a film he made in 1960 on the same island. In both eras, Mr. Attenborough used binoculars to view Lemurs swinging from the uppermost branches of trees. Binoculars are wonderful things.

Though undoubtedly the technology behind them has been refined over 50 years, the essence of the equipment remains the same. They are a celebration of curiosity, and allow enjoyment of the unreachable. They do not have the commodifying ‘capture’ and ‘store’ of a camera, and in that sense are sensitive to the transience of experience, and embody the joy of looking. With Binoculars we must bring our face to an eyepiece to see what is magnified, and in this way, the image we see is internalised, it is in our eye, and our eye only. In these ways the Binocular, and by association the Telescope, are an extension of human curiosity, and therefore the antithesis of the digital camera, an object I detest, and will probably complain about again in another post in the future.

Note to the public: Naturism and Naturalism are different sports.

naturism |ˈnā ch əˌrizəm|, noun

the practice of wearing no clothes in a vacation camp or for other leisure activities; nudism.

Sir David Attenborough is a naturalist.

The second element of today’s post concerns a book I am (slowly) reading, The Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama.

In the section I am currently reading, Fukuyama discusses various philosophical takes on ‘the state of nature’, i.e. the biological/evolutionary precedent for politics. In it he explores the classical views of philosophers Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau alongside contemporary ideas. Here are some quotes I found interesting.

Page 28:
(Rousseau observed) “that human inequality had its origins in the development of metallurgy, agriculture, and, above all, private property.”

Page 29:
(It is a fallacy that) “human beings were primordially individualistic and that they entered into society at a later stage in their development only as a result of a rational calculation that social cooperation was the best way for them to achieve their individual ends… it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history.”

Page 30:
(For our early ancestors) “The state of nature might be characterised as a state of war, since violence was endemic, but the violence was not perpetrated by individuals so much as by tightly bonded social groups… Communal organisation comes to them naturally, though the specific ways they cooperate are shaped by environment, ideas, and culture.”

Page 31: On ‘Reciprocal Altruism’: a trait shared by humans and other animal alike
“In the 1980s, the political scientist Robert Axelrod… demonstrated that a form of morality could evolve spontaneously as rational decision makers interact with one another over time, even though motivated in the first instance by nothing more than self-interest.”

These quotes brought to mind the opening pages of The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Here I will pull out a few quotes which complement the above taken from Fukuyama’s text.

“Putting it negatively, the myth of eternal return states that a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing… If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, French historians would be less proud of Robespierre. But because they deal with something that will not return, the bloody years of the revolution have turned into mere words, theories, and discussions, have become lighter than feathers, frightening no one… (There is a) profound moral perversity [sic] of a world that rests essentially on the non-existence of return, for in this world everything is pardoned in advance and therefore everything is cynically permitted.”

Maybe at some point I will comment on the connections I see between these two books. But this post is already taking too long to finish, so that will be in the future, if it even matters.

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