Flutter



Miranda Lehman

This morning was a morning of unexpected beauty. The sun was an incredible, radiant red, washing the sky in pinks and oranges. The trees and bare fields stood stark against those flaming colors, silhouettes of cold and quiet.

As I drove, I crossed paths with a ribbon of blackbirds, stretching for nearly a mile before I diverged from their course and lost them. They reminded me of one of my favorite lines:

There was an aviary in my heart but without any owls or eagles.

Fittingly, that’s from Dylan Thomas’ “The Crumbs of One Man’s Year.” I often feel an aviary in my heart, though I believe a veritable parliament of owls has taken up residence as well.

My two favorite ‘crumbs’ from that story are here:

I was walking, one afternoon in August, along a riverbank, thinking the same thoughts that I always think when I walk along a riverbank in August. As I was walking, I was thinking – now it is August and I am walking along a riverbank. I do not think I was thinking anything else. I should have been thinking of what I should have been doing, but I was thinking only of what I was doing then and it was all right: it was good, and ordinary, and slow, and idle, and old, and sure … There were trees blowing, standing still, growing, knowing, whose names I never knew. (Once, indeed, with a friend I wrote a poem beginning, ‘All trees are oaks, except fir-trees.’) There were birds being busy, or sleep-flying, in the sky. (The poem had continued: ‘All birds are robins, except crows, or rooks.’) Nature was doing what it was doing, and thinking just that. And I was walking and thinking that I was walking, and for August it was not such a cold day. And then I saw, drifting along the water. A piece of paper, and I thought: Something wonderful may be written on this paper. I was alone on the gooseberry earth, or alone for two green miles, and a message drifted towards me on that tabby-colored water that ran through the middle of the cow-patched, mooing fields. It was a message from multitudinous nowhere to my solitary self. I put out my stick and caught the piece of paper and held it close to the river-bank. It was a page torn from a very old periodical. That I could see. I leant over and read, through the water, the message on the rippling page. I made out, with difficulty, only one sentence: it commemorated the fact that, over a hundred years ago, a man in Worcester had, for a bet, eaten, at one sitting, fifty-two pounds of plums.


It was a shooting green spring morning, nimble and crocus, with all the young women treading on naked flower-stalks, the metropolitan sward, swinging their milk-pail handbags, gentle, fickle, inviting, accessible, forgiving each robustly abandoned gesture of salutation before it was made or imagined, assenting, as they reveled demurely towards the manicure salon or the typewriting office, to all the ardent unspoken endearments of shaggy strangers and the winks and pipes of clovenfooted sandwichmen. The sun thrilled, the buses gamboled, policemen and daffodils bowed in the breeze that tasted if buttermilk. Delicate carousel plashed and babbled from the public-houses which were not yet open. I felt like a young god. Removed my collar-studs and opened my shirt. I tossed back my hair. There was an aviary in my heart, but without any owls or eagles. My cheeks were cherried warm, I smelt, I thought, of sea-pinks. To the sound of madrigals sung by slim sopranos in waterfalled valleys where I was the only tenor, I leapt on to a bus. The bus was full. Carefree, open-collared, my eyes alight, my veins full of the spring as a dancer’s shoes should be full of champagne, I stood, in love and at ease and always young, on the packed lower deck. And a man of exactly my own age -- or perhaps he was a little older -- got up and offered me his seat. He said, in a respectful voice, as though to an old justice of the peace, ‘Please, won’t you take my seat?’ and then he added – ‘Sir.’


I’ve been anxious lately, feeling the weight of responsibility and an overwhelming tendency to apathy. I hope it passes with the year. I hope the year passes with little to remark upon. Last year’s finale was glittery, hollow, and not a little frightening. This year’s will be quiet and inevitable, and that’s all.

Flutter



Miranda Lehman

This morning was a morning of unexpected beauty. The sun was an incredible, radiant red, washing the sky in pinks and oranges. The trees and bare fields stood stark against those flaming colors, silhouettes of cold and quiet.

As I drove, I crossed paths with a ribbon of blackbirds, stretching for nearly a mile before I diverged from their course and lost them. They reminded me of one of my favorite lines:

There was an aviary in my heart but without any owls or eagles.

Fittingly, that’s from Dylan Thomas’ “The Crumbs of One Man’s Year.” I often feel an aviary in my heart, though I believe a veritable parliament of owls has taken up residence as well.

My two favorite ‘crumbs’ from that story are here:

I was walking, one afternoon in August, along a riverbank, thinking the same thoughts that I always think when I walk along a riverbank in August. As I was walking, I was thinking – now it is August and I am walking along a riverbank. I do not think I was thinking anything else. I should have been thinking of what I should have been doing, but I was thinking only of what I was doing then and it was all right: it was good, and ordinary, and slow, and idle, and old, and sure … There were trees blowing, standing still, growing, knowing, whose names I never knew. (Once, indeed, with a friend I wrote a poem beginning, ‘All trees are oaks, except fir-trees.’) There were birds being busy, or sleep-flying, in the sky. (The poem had continued: ‘All birds are robins, except crows, or rooks.’) Nature was doing what it was doing, and thinking just that. And I was walking and thinking that I was walking, and for August it was not such a cold day. And then I saw, drifting along the water. A piece of paper, and I thought: Something wonderful may be written on this paper. I was alone on the gooseberry earth, or alone for two green miles, and a message drifted towards me on that tabby-colored water that ran through the middle of the cow-patched, mooing fields. It was a message from multitudinous nowhere to my solitary self. I put out my stick and caught the piece of paper and held it close to the river-bank. It was a page torn from a very old periodical. That I could see. I leant over and read, through the water, the message on the rippling page. I made out, with difficulty, only one sentence: it commemorated the fact that, over a hundred years ago, a man in Worcester had, for a bet, eaten, at one sitting, fifty-two pounds of plums.


It was a shooting green spring morning, nimble and crocus, with all the young women treading on naked flower-stalks, the metropolitan sward, swinging their milk-pail handbags, gentle, fickle, inviting, accessible, forgiving each robustly abandoned gesture of salutation before it was made or imagined, assenting, as they reveled demurely towards the manicure salon or the typewriting office, to all the ardent unspoken endearments of shaggy strangers and the winks and pipes of clovenfooted sandwichmen. The sun thrilled, the buses gamboled, policemen and daffodils bowed in the breeze that tasted if buttermilk. Delicate carousel plashed and babbled from the public-houses which were not yet open. I felt like a young god. Removed my collar-studs and opened my shirt. I tossed back my hair. There was an aviary in my heart, but without any owls or eagles. My cheeks were cherried warm, I smelt, I thought, of sea-pinks. To the sound of madrigals sung by slim sopranos in waterfalled valleys where I was the only tenor, I leapt on to a bus. The bus was full. Carefree, open-collared, my eyes alight, my veins full of the spring as a dancer’s shoes should be full of champagne, I stood, in love and at ease and always young, on the packed lower deck. And a man of exactly my own age -- or perhaps he was a little older -- got up and offered me his seat. He said, in a respectful voice, as though to an old justice of the peace, ‘Please, won’t you take my seat?’ and then he added – ‘Sir.’


I’ve been anxious lately, feeling the weight of responsibility and an overwhelming tendency to apathy. I hope it passes with the year. I hope the year passes with little to remark upon. Last year’s finale was glittery, hollow, and not a little frightening. This year’s will be quiet and inevitable, and that’s all.

In Praise of Sloth

http://slought.org/content/11367/



Also from the most recent issue of Cabinet, an event which has unfortunately passed us by before I even knew it existed.

"In Defense of Sloth: An Eclectic and Entertaining Series of Presentations About that Most Philosophical of Vices"

There are a series of downloadable audio files which I plan on making my way through this evening. I'm especially interested in this one:

2:15-3:15 Presentations by Brian Dillon and Jean-Michel Rabaté Followed by Q and A
Brian Dillon's presentation, "The English Malady," will examine the historical relationship between hypochandria, sloth, and general lassitude, showing that, paradoxically, sloth can also serve as a form of time-management: a way of clearing one's schedule for real work, as the cases of James Boswell, Charles Darwin, and Florence Nightingale attest. Jean-Michel Rabaté's presentation, "In Praise of Indolence: Beckett and Belacqua," examines Beckett's early identification with Belacqua, a character in Dante's Purgatorio. His famous indolence leads him to question the very machinery of purgatory, hence salvation. His name echoes in Beckett's texts as a reminder that, at times, illumination comes to those who know how to "sit and remain quiet."

In Praise of Sloth

http://slought.org/content/11367/



Also from the most recent issue of Cabinet, an event which has unfortunately passed us by before I even knew it existed.

"In Defense of Sloth: An Eclectic and Entertaining Series of Presentations About that Most Philosophical of Vices"

There are a series of downloadable audio files which I plan on making my way through this evening. I'm especially interested in this one:

2:15-3:15 Presentations by Brian Dillon and Jean-Michel Rabaté Followed by Q and A
Brian Dillon's presentation, "The English Malady," will examine the historical relationship between hypochandria, sloth, and general lassitude, showing that, paradoxically, sloth can also serve as a form of time-management: a way of clearing one's schedule for real work, as the cases of James Boswell, Charles Darwin, and Florence Nightingale attest. Jean-Michel Rabaté's presentation, "In Praise of Indolence: Beckett and Belacqua," examines Beckett's early identification with Belacqua, a character in Dante's Purgatorio. His famous indolence leads him to question the very machinery of purgatory, hence salvation. His name echoes in Beckett's texts as a reminder that, at times, illumination comes to those who know how to "sit and remain quiet."

On Eating Hydrogen and Breathing Sulfur

(Two posts! One Day! Scroll Down!)

(scan from Cabinet Magazine, click to enlarge)

Pyrodictium:

For a while, it held the record as the highest-temperature organism at 113 degrees Celsius. It eats hydrogen and breathes sulfur.

I was reading through the latest issue of Cabinet Magazine yesterday and came across a very interesting article called “Figuring Life” by Margaret Wertheim. In it, she describes her interview with Dr. Norman Pace, “a leader in the new field of molecular mapping of evolutionary relationships.” I found their conversation fascinating, especially the description of the changes that have affected Darwin’s Tree of Life, the tree I learned of in grade school and carry around as a mental model today. We are now classifying life based on the sort of chemistry that the organism does, and the previously animal/plant-centric tree has been usurped by a teeming cloud of microscopic eukarya, bacteria, and my new favorite organisms: archaea.

Every time I start to get my mind working on scientific topics, I get a funny, light-headed feeling that reminds me of the way you feel when you’re standing on the edge of a tall precipice and looking down at the interminable drop below. I feel like Hans Castorp in Magic Mountain when he contemplates his Homo Dei in its infinity of perfect cellular processes. But it feels SO important to be glancing in the direction of science, especially with regards to biological, chemical, and physical processes. Process is the important part. When I was studying Whitehead, the last few classes were spent reading excerpts out of various texts on the philosophy of biology. The majority were by an author whose name escapes me (had a J in it…) and were excellent for opening my eyes to the philosophical ramifications of minute, microscopic processes.

I think of Leibniz’s description of the most perfect garden which, at every level, contains such variety and perfection of life that the image takes on fractal-like proportions. Or of Whitehead’s more sterile modeling of the processes and change of the universe, in the attempt to discover the patterns and principles of the way life operates. I wish I had more scientific knowledge because I mostly feel amateurish when I try to pursue a train of thinking that launches from some interesting scientific reading (whenever I read about knot theory and string theory for example) and falls flat in the realm of philosophy because I’m currently incapable of translating a scientific problem into a philosophical problem without losing something, or everything that is vital.

The light-headed feeling that I get makes me think that however difficult it is, this is a very important exercise to continue trying.

On Eating Hydrogen and Breathing Sulfur

(Two posts! One Day! Scroll Down!)

(scan from Cabinet Magazine, click to enlarge)

Pyrodictium:

For a while, it held the record as the highest-temperature organism at 113 degrees Celsius. It eats hydrogen and breathes sulfur.

I was reading through the latest issue of Cabinet Magazine yesterday and came across a very interesting article called “Figuring Life” by Margaret Wertheim. In it, she describes her interview with Dr. Norman Pace, “a leader in the new field of molecular mapping of evolutionary relationships.” I found their conversation fascinating, especially the description of the changes that have affected Darwin’s Tree of Life, the tree I learned of in grade school and carry around as a mental model today. We are now classifying life based on the sort of chemistry that the organism does, and the previously animal/plant-centric tree has been usurped by a teeming cloud of microscopic eukarya, bacteria, and my new favorite organisms: archaea.

Every time I start to get my mind working on scientific topics, I get a funny, light-headed feeling that reminds me of the way you feel when you’re standing on the edge of a tall precipice and looking down at the interminable drop below. I feel like Hans Castorp in Magic Mountain when he contemplates his Homo Dei in its infinity of perfect cellular processes. But it feels SO important to be glancing in the direction of science, especially with regards to biological, chemical, and physical processes. Process is the important part. When I was studying Whitehead, the last few classes were spent reading excerpts out of various texts on the philosophy of biology. The majority were by an author whose name escapes me (had a J in it…) and were excellent for opening my eyes to the philosophical ramifications of minute, microscopic processes.

I think of Leibniz’s description of the most perfect garden which, at every level, contains such variety and perfection of life that the image takes on fractal-like proportions. Or of Whitehead’s more sterile modeling of the processes and change of the universe, in the attempt to discover the patterns and principles of the way life operates. I wish I had more scientific knowledge because I mostly feel amateurish when I try to pursue a train of thinking that launches from some interesting scientific reading (whenever I read about knot theory and string theory for example) and falls flat in the realm of philosophy because I’m currently incapable of translating a scientific problem into a philosophical problem without losing something, or everything that is vital.

The light-headed feeling that I get makes me think that however difficult it is, this is a very important exercise to continue trying.

Memorious

Miranda Lehman


I have long kept a reading journal, a place where I can record passages or phrases that have struck me as particularly thought-provoking, beautiful, or even comic. I also use these journals to jot down my thoughts on a text and to make a note of any follow up I intend on doing. I love being able to rewrite the passages that were able to arrest my attention and my aesthetic interest—in doing so I underline their importance in my mind and render even more indelible the impression they have left on my thoughts.

The copying out process may seem tedious or unnecessary, but to me it’s like tracing the lineaments of some beloved figure. It allows me to appreciate and to come closer to what I have read and found to have much merit. The works which have had the greatest influence on me are, unsurprisingly, the ones which appear most often in my writings and references: Villette, Magic Mountain, the Man Without Qualities, Recherche du temps Perdu, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. I might even put Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar and Borges’ stories “The Library of Babel” and “Ireneo Funes, The Memorious” in the list, simply because they presented such new and important thoughts/ways of thinking to me.

I’ve recently finished re-reading Villette (for probably the tenth time), and despite the familiarity of the passages marked by well-folded upper corners, I read new phrases, saw new glimmers of emotion, and found new passages to love and transcribe.

And in catalepsy and a dead trance I studiously held the quick of my nature.

But all this was nothing. I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered up in earth and turf, deep out of their influence; for could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection.

No mockery in the world ever sounds so hollow to me as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.

Her eyes were the eyes of one who can remember – one whose childhood does not fade like a dream, nor whose youth vanish like a sunbeam. She would not take life loosely and incoherently, in parts, and let one season slip as she entered on another; she would retain and
add, often review from the commencement, and so grow in harmony and consistency as she grew in years.


‘But solitude is sadness.’
‘Yes, it is sadness. Life, however, has worse than that. Deeper than melancholy lies heart-break.’

Beautiful words which encapsulate more emotion than is healthy for me. I found myself weeping at the end of the story, as is usual. Lucy Snowe is a character who breaks your heart: the “quick” of her nature isn’t cold, inoffensive, pale, sober, or quiet or any of the epithets so often thrown at her. She will appear that way, but she will feel with the strength of a Vashti, of a summer storm, of a maelstrom, and she will feel loss as painfully as any less-restrained character, but she will suffer that pain in solitude.

Memorious

Miranda Lehman


I have long kept a reading journal, a place where I can record passages or phrases that have struck me as particularly thought-provoking, beautiful, or even comic. I also use these journals to jot down my thoughts on a text and to make a note of any follow up I intend on doing. I love being able to rewrite the passages that were able to arrest my attention and my aesthetic interest—in doing so I underline their importance in my mind and render even more indelible the impression they have left on my thoughts.

The copying out process may seem tedious or unnecessary, but to me it’s like tracing the lineaments of some beloved figure. It allows me to appreciate and to come closer to what I have read and found to have much merit. The works which have had the greatest influence on me are, unsurprisingly, the ones which appear most often in my writings and references: Villette, Magic Mountain, the Man Without Qualities, Recherche du temps Perdu, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. I might even put Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar and Borges’ stories “The Library of Babel” and “Ireneo Funes, The Memorious” in the list, simply because they presented such new and important thoughts/ways of thinking to me.

I’ve recently finished re-reading Villette (for probably the tenth time), and despite the familiarity of the passages marked by well-folded upper corners, I read new phrases, saw new glimmers of emotion, and found new passages to love and transcribe.

And in catalepsy and a dead trance I studiously held the quick of my nature.

But all this was nothing. I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered up in earth and turf, deep out of their influence; for could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection.

No mockery in the world ever sounds so hollow to me as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.

Her eyes were the eyes of one who can remember – one whose childhood does not fade like a dream, nor whose youth vanish like a sunbeam. She would not take life loosely and incoherently, in parts, and let one season slip as she entered on another; she would retain and
add, often review from the commencement, and so grow in harmony and consistency as she grew in years.


‘But solitude is sadness.’
‘Yes, it is sadness. Life, however, has worse than that. Deeper than melancholy lies heart-break.’

Beautiful words which encapsulate more emotion than is healthy for me. I found myself weeping at the end of the story, as is usual. Lucy Snowe is a character who breaks your heart: the “quick” of her nature isn’t cold, inoffensive, pale, sober, or quiet or any of the epithets so often thrown at her. She will appear that way, but she will feel with the strength of a Vashti, of a summer storm, of a maelstrom, and she will feel loss as painfully as any less-restrained character, but she will suffer that pain in solitude.

More from Beirut

(I believe these legs/feet belong to VV and Hotel from The Kills, but I'm not sure...)

I have a proper post in the works, but until then, I give you these liner notes from Flying Club Cup:

The balloon is ready, I’ve tethered it to the balcony with a knot no sailor could invent. Ignore the gathering crowd below. Plebeians! Maybe if we look closely we will find our mothers waving handkerchiefs, and our fathers scowling. If we see any children we’ll throw them candy but don’t tell them why we’re up here, floating above Belleville in a hot air balloon. If they knew, they’d never want to sleep in their own beds again.

Remember how we met? Barefoot on the beach (the hem of your dress was starched white with salt). I was flying a beautiful kite. Yours was ragged and obviously self made. After a few failed attempts you threw your kite on the sand and stomped on it. I wondered if it was your first kite. Kite making, you assured me, was not your specialty. But we are too old for kites. Let us toast the Flying Club Cup, our health, a quick painless death, and helium.

I’m going to sleep so well tonight
Breathe in, deeply now, okay do you feel it?
Don’t worry, we’re finally here.

More from Beirut

(I believe these legs/feet belong to VV and Hotel from The Kills, but I'm not sure...)

I have a proper post in the works, but until then, I give you these liner notes from Flying Club Cup:

The balloon is ready, I’ve tethered it to the balcony with a knot no sailor could invent. Ignore the gathering crowd below. Plebeians! Maybe if we look closely we will find our mothers waving handkerchiefs, and our fathers scowling. If we see any children we’ll throw them candy but don’t tell them why we’re up here, floating above Belleville in a hot air balloon. If they knew, they’d never want to sleep in their own beds again.

Remember how we met? Barefoot on the beach (the hem of your dress was starched white with salt). I was flying a beautiful kite. Yours was ragged and obviously self made. After a few failed attempts you threw your kite on the sand and stomped on it. I wondered if it was your first kite. Kite making, you assured me, was not your specialty. But we are too old for kites. Let us toast the Flying Club Cup, our health, a quick painless death, and helium.

I’m going to sleep so well tonight
Breathe in, deeply now, okay do you feel it?
Don’t worry, we’re finally here.

Crush

I'm late to the party, but I've fallen hard and fast:

Crush

I'm late to the party, but I've fallen hard and fast:

Progress?

Gradiva

I felt I was getting on – not lying the stagnant prey of mould and rust, but polishing my faculties and whetting them to a keen edge with constant use.”

Words from Lucy Snowe; I’m reading Villette again, partly because two friends I’ve recommended it to are now reading it, and partly because I seem to need to revisit it once a year.

I submitted my applications last Wednesday, and other than rounding up the last few pieces I can consider them finished.The hard part begins now. I ended up applying to Phil programs at UPenn, Princeton, UMD College Park, U Southern Cali,and Stanford…all very good schools, and all very daunting to think of now that I know someone has my sheaf of papers, reviewing, judging, and summing up.

The papers were quite a task too. Of course I procrastinated for way too long, especially with the writing sample. I was revising a paper I wrote for a preceptorial at SJC, on Leibniz’s concept of apperception. The paper I originally wrote was, of course, too short, too expository, too totally uninvolved with research, and basically too “St. John’s.” With some help on the revisions and re-formatting I finally finished the paper, though there wasn’t too much pride in the final product. So the main worry hinges on the fact that the paper I’ve prepared and provided is a thoughtful exposition of a difficult concept in Leibniz’s later writings on the monad, where the desired paper would be a thoughtful essay describing research into the concept of apperception and an argument stating this or that in conclusion. There’s nothing else I can do but hope that my writing speaks for my quality of thought and analysis, and that the cover page I included convinces any readers that the SJC essay is just as important and valuable as the basic research paper.

In other news, Thanksgiving was a wonderful holiday, complete with a veritable 4-day feast and a lot of family togetherness. I unfortunately caught some no-fun sinus/head cold thing which is now lingering into this week.

I haven’t been reading too much lately, but on my nightstand are the latest issue of Cabinet magazine, Leopardi’s poems, Villette, and the recently-finished Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The latter was a thrilling read; I started the book on a Friday morning and had torn through all ~500 pages by Sunday evening. In the style of Eco, Marquez, and even Ann Radcliffe, it was sordid, amusing and very surprising. Any book about books automatically has my attention, and if it manages to be clever, authentic, and say some things of its own.

As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.

It was a book that I sunk into, immersing myself in the cadence of image, word and experience. It’s a melodramatic book in many ways, very much in stride with the Gothic tradition, and not quite as erudite as Eco’s novels, but it’s a fun read for a gloomy weekend.

Progress?

Gradiva

I felt I was getting on – not lying the stagnant prey of mould and rust, but polishing my faculties and whetting them to a keen edge with constant use.”

Words from Lucy Snowe; I’m reading Villette again, partly because two friends I’ve recommended it to are now reading it, and partly because I seem to need to revisit it once a year.

I submitted my applications last Wednesday, and other than rounding up the last few pieces I can consider them finished.The hard part begins now. I ended up applying to Phil programs at UPenn, Princeton, UMD College Park, U Southern Cali,and Stanford…all very good schools, and all very daunting to think of now that I know someone has my sheaf of papers, reviewing, judging, and summing up.

The papers were quite a task too. Of course I procrastinated for way too long, especially with the writing sample. I was revising a paper I wrote for a preceptorial at SJC, on Leibniz’s concept of apperception. The paper I originally wrote was, of course, too short, too expository, too totally uninvolved with research, and basically too “St. John’s.” With some help on the revisions and re-formatting I finally finished the paper, though there wasn’t too much pride in the final product. So the main worry hinges on the fact that the paper I’ve prepared and provided is a thoughtful exposition of a difficult concept in Leibniz’s later writings on the monad, where the desired paper would be a thoughtful essay describing research into the concept of apperception and an argument stating this or that in conclusion. There’s nothing else I can do but hope that my writing speaks for my quality of thought and analysis, and that the cover page I included convinces any readers that the SJC essay is just as important and valuable as the basic research paper.

In other news, Thanksgiving was a wonderful holiday, complete with a veritable 4-day feast and a lot of family togetherness. I unfortunately caught some no-fun sinus/head cold thing which is now lingering into this week.

I haven’t been reading too much lately, but on my nightstand are the latest issue of Cabinet magazine, Leopardi’s poems, Villette, and the recently-finished Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The latter was a thrilling read; I started the book on a Friday morning and had torn through all ~500 pages by Sunday evening. In the style of Eco, Marquez, and even Ann Radcliffe, it was sordid, amusing and very surprising. Any book about books automatically has my attention, and if it manages to be clever, authentic, and say some things of its own.

As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot.

It was a book that I sunk into, immersing myself in the cadence of image, word and experience. It’s a melodramatic book in many ways, very much in stride with the Gothic tradition, and not quite as erudite as Eco’s novels, but it’s a fun read for a gloomy weekend.

Winter's Sounds

Laura Gibson: "The Longest Day"

It's the clarity of air that I love. Night walking, hearing the leaves crunch under my feet while my eyes are turned upwards to the stars. We can see so many stars at night, a veritable wash of light across the midnight blue sky. There's a hush while the wind curls around leaves and bare branches, passing past me and sending a shiver across my skin.

Or maybe it's the silence that I love best, a silence so deep that it's tangible. As if time had stopped to hold its breath.

I love the coming of winter, everything becomes slow, steady, stark. I love hiding with a song, a book, and some warmth.

Both of the songs in this post have broken my heart. They have also sent it soaring. I hope you enjoy them.



Iron & Wine: Upwards Over the Mountain

Winter's Sounds

Laura Gibson: "The Longest Day"

It's the clarity of air that I love. Night walking, hearing the leaves crunch under my feet while my eyes are turned upwards to the stars. We can see so many stars at night, a veritable wash of light across the midnight blue sky. There's a hush while the wind curls around leaves and bare branches, passing past me and sending a shiver across my skin.

Or maybe it's the silence that I love best, a silence so deep that it's tangible. As if time had stopped to hold its breath.

I love the coming of winter, everything becomes slow, steady, stark. I love hiding with a song, a book, and some warmth.

Both of the songs in this post have broken my heart. They have also sent it soaring. I hope you enjoy them.



Iron & Wine: Upwards Over the Mountain

Wish

[Nathan Altman - Portrait of Anna Akhmatova]


So Monday and Tuesday were the all-important visit to SJC. I was invited to come up on Monday evening to attend dinner with the undergraduates, and then a freshman seminar which happened to be on Book X of the Republic. Tuesday included sitting in on a Freshman Lab and a Freshman Math class (the Math covered Book IV in Euclid, Props 11-15). The visit culminated with my interview with the Instruction Committee.

Setting the formulaic details aside, those two days were much more dynamic and stressful than I had expected them to be. I found myself confronting the hollowness of my current decisions and lifestyle, and my memories of a town I fell in love with and an academic program that means very much to me.

During my interview, which was really more of a conversation, I was asked to talk about what sort of things I am interested in. Normally this wouldn’t be daunting at all, but that’s because I normally operate with an over-excited sense of self-worth and vanity. The difference was that Tuesday’s conversation was between me and a group of people for whom I have the highest regard and respect. I found myself struggling to be articulate, searching for words, examples, descriptions, anything to help me stabilize the ideas I was trying, and failing to explain. I was trying to talk about processes and becomings, of creativity and imitation. I spoke of moments and tried, horribly, to describe what it’s like to be in a pure timeless moment and then the effort involved in recapturing it once it has passed. I referenced everyone, Christopher Isherwood, Virginia Woolf, A.N. Whitehead, M. Proust, Leibniz and Aristotle. And I felt, the whole time, as if I were grasping at straws. I was asked to talk about the effect my studies on Leibniz had on my studies on Whitehead, and could barely even remember Leibniz.

I think the most disappointing thing was that I had retained so little of what I read and loved. I knew I needed this time off (the last year and a half) from studying, but it was not spent in an academic life-of-the-mind way I guess, and everything just sort of dissipated. I have so many notebooks full of notes, and so much marginalia, but if I can’t remember it, what good is all of that work?

We raised some very important questions in the conversation, especially the question of what it means to even talk about “process,” “reality,” and “art.” Those are St. John’s questions and even though it humbled me to sit there and remember how little I knew and how little I was sure of, I recognized that feeling as a positive feeling and my frustration as something born of vanity. But what about the questions I’ll face when starting my PhD? the technical, precise questions that I have always been so clueless with. I still haven’t written my personal statement because I’m still unsure as to what I want to do. I know that I don’t have to know now what I will be writing about in 5 years, but I want to at least know my area of interest.

The overwhelming feeling I walked away with yesterday was of immaturity. I guess that at the bottom of all the insecurity and worry, I’m really just afraid of being too young, too untutored, too instinctual with the way I approach ideas and books. I’m sure that these things can and should be used in my favor, but I can’t help but feel a frisson of fear when I think of what I’m attempting to do. It’s almost as if I’m a schoolchild again, craving the praise of my teachers and my parents, elated with good marks and perfect scores, but so focused on the praise that others might hand me that I forget to think for myself.

I’m just really tired of being in this in-between stage. Not finished with school but not in school. Working jobs that do nothing but deplete my energy, time, and vitality. Moving too often and leaving friends behind each time. I’m tired of not having someone to share my ideas and thoughts and all of the other quotidian events with.

Aside from all of this woe-is-me stuff that the events of Monday and Tuesday prompted, the visit was enjoyable and quite thought-provoking. I met up with quite a few Annapolis friends, visited the library where this blog began, and enjoyed some delicious food in my favorite restaurants there. I got home Tuesday night with just enough energy to hug my pup and cats, have a glass of red wine, and put Amelie in the DVD player.

I was offered the chance to teach at St. John's for the Spring semester yesterday, so I guess all of my worries were without real cause. I'll be co-leading a graduate seminar on Philosophy and Theology, which means the Old Testament, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, and Kierkegaard.

Hooray!

Wish

[Nathan Altman - Portrait of Anna Akhmatova]


So Monday and Tuesday were the all-important visit to SJC. I was invited to come up on Monday evening to attend dinner with the undergraduates, and then a freshman seminar which happened to be on Book X of the Republic. Tuesday included sitting in on a Freshman Lab and a Freshman Math class (the Math covered Book IV in Euclid, Props 11-15). The visit culminated with my interview with the Instruction Committee.

Setting the formulaic details aside, those two days were much more dynamic and stressful than I had expected them to be. I found myself confronting the hollowness of my current decisions and lifestyle, and my memories of a town I fell in love with and an academic program that means very much to me.

During my interview, which was really more of a conversation, I was asked to talk about what sort of things I am interested in. Normally this wouldn’t be daunting at all, but that’s because I normally operate with an over-excited sense of self-worth and vanity. The difference was that Tuesday’s conversation was between me and a group of people for whom I have the highest regard and respect. I found myself struggling to be articulate, searching for words, examples, descriptions, anything to help me stabilize the ideas I was trying, and failing to explain. I was trying to talk about processes and becomings, of creativity and imitation. I spoke of moments and tried, horribly, to describe what it’s like to be in a pure timeless moment and then the effort involved in recapturing it once it has passed. I referenced everyone, Christopher Isherwood, Virginia Woolf, A.N. Whitehead, M. Proust, Leibniz and Aristotle. And I felt, the whole time, as if I were grasping at straws. I was asked to talk about the effect my studies on Leibniz had on my studies on Whitehead, and could barely even remember Leibniz.

I think the most disappointing thing was that I had retained so little of what I read and loved. I knew I needed this time off (the last year and a half) from studying, but it was not spent in an academic life-of-the-mind way I guess, and everything just sort of dissipated. I have so many notebooks full of notes, and so much marginalia, but if I can’t remember it, what good is all of that work?

We raised some very important questions in the conversation, especially the question of what it means to even talk about “process,” “reality,” and “art.” Those are St. John’s questions and even though it humbled me to sit there and remember how little I knew and how little I was sure of, I recognized that feeling as a positive feeling and my frustration as something born of vanity. But what about the questions I’ll face when starting my PhD? the technical, precise questions that I have always been so clueless with. I still haven’t written my personal statement because I’m still unsure as to what I want to do. I know that I don’t have to know now what I will be writing about in 5 years, but I want to at least know my area of interest.

The overwhelming feeling I walked away with yesterday was of immaturity. I guess that at the bottom of all the insecurity and worry, I’m really just afraid of being too young, too untutored, too instinctual with the way I approach ideas and books. I’m sure that these things can and should be used in my favor, but I can’t help but feel a frisson of fear when I think of what I’m attempting to do. It’s almost as if I’m a schoolchild again, craving the praise of my teachers and my parents, elated with good marks and perfect scores, but so focused on the praise that others might hand me that I forget to think for myself.

I’m just really tired of being in this in-between stage. Not finished with school but not in school. Working jobs that do nothing but deplete my energy, time, and vitality. Moving too often and leaving friends behind each time. I’m tired of not having someone to share my ideas and thoughts and all of the other quotidian events with.

Aside from all of this woe-is-me stuff that the events of Monday and Tuesday prompted, the visit was enjoyable and quite thought-provoking. I met up with quite a few Annapolis friends, visited the library where this blog began, and enjoyed some delicious food in my favorite restaurants there. I got home Tuesday night with just enough energy to hug my pup and cats, have a glass of red wine, and put Amelie in the DVD player.

I was offered the chance to teach at St. John's for the Spring semester yesterday, so I guess all of my worries were without real cause. I'll be co-leading a graduate seminar on Philosophy and Theology, which means the Old Testament, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, and Kierkegaard.

Hooray!

News!

Watteau's Embarkation to the Isle of Cythaera

I'm in the middle of graduate school applications at the moment, trying to coordinate the last few details before I finish uploading documents, checking boxes, and clicking the big "SUBMIT" button. While contacting the individuals who have been so kind as to write letters of recommendation for me, I received a staggering offer which I'm happy to share with you.

I've been invited to apply for a visiting tutor position at St. John's College, something that makes me feel so fortunate and excited and bewildered. Since graduating from the college last May, I have intended to get myself a PhD and then get back to the campus, hopefully as a member of their wonderful faculty. I thought that this process would take, at best, seven years. Now I find myself scrambling to compose the position application materials as well as my graduate school materials, and have to keep wondering how this happened.

I've just finished drafting the statement that's required, something I found to be quite formidable: A statement that presents in detail the current state of your intellectual life, telling us what questions most interest you (these may or may not be related to your scholarly research); the statement should tell us also how your intellectual interests might intersect with the St. John's Program, what you might contribute, and what you might gain, as well as what kind of teaching suits you, and what kind of learning you plan to undertake.

So now that I've written this out can go back to being superstitious and wondering how my fortune is going to change. I have this newly discovered problem of believeing way too much in luck. My string of dull, impoverished months were attributed to bad luck; a fortuitous job offer is mere fortune; my ability to get into grad school is going to also be at the whim of luck. If I find myself stuck behind a school bus on the way to work: bad luck; the book I just checked for on the library website has been rented in the last hour: bad luck.
It's getting ridiculous! Especially since I seem to lean to the pessimistic side of superstitiousness, expecting something bad to happen merely because I seem to have had something nice happen.

I suppose I think of Villette and Lucy Snowe's comment about Graham and Paulina:

Some real lives do--for some certain days or years--actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people (to the wicked it never comes), its sweet effect is never wholly lost. Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of death, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud.

I do believe there are some human beings so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their lot, and no tempestuous blackness overcasts their journey. And often, these are not pampered, selfish beings, but Nature's elect, harmonious and benign; men and women mild with charity, kind agents of God's kind attributes.

And I identify myself more with her other example:

But it is not so for all. What then? His will be done, as done it surely will be, whether we humble ourselves to resignation or not. The impulse of creation forwards it; the strength of powers, seen and unseen, has its fulfilment in charge. Proof of a life to come must be given. In fire and in blood, if needful, must that proof be written. In fire and in blood do we trace the record throughout nature. In fire and in blood does it cross our own experience. Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence. Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins; look upward, march onward. Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendly company. Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us: equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner.

I just feel like those "fortunate souls" probably don't go around thinking about their own fortune...that they must somehow remain oblivious to the gilded nature of their lives, and that my own hyper-conciousness must ruin any chance at unadulterated good fortune.

Either way, I cannot wait to re-read Villette once the weather turns cold. I'm in dire need of tempestuous emotion and suppressed passion.

News!

Watteau's Embarkation to the Isle of Cythaera

I'm in the middle of graduate school applications at the moment, trying to coordinate the last few details before I finish uploading documents, checking boxes, and clicking the big "SUBMIT" button. While contacting the individuals who have been so kind as to write letters of recommendation for me, I received a staggering offer which I'm happy to share with you.

I've been invited to apply for a visiting tutor position at St. John's College, something that makes me feel so fortunate and excited and bewildered. Since graduating from the college last May, I have intended to get myself a PhD and then get back to the campus, hopefully as a member of their wonderful faculty. I thought that this process would take, at best, seven years. Now I find myself scrambling to compose the position application materials as well as my graduate school materials, and have to keep wondering how this happened.

I've just finished drafting the statement that's required, something I found to be quite formidable: A statement that presents in detail the current state of your intellectual life, telling us what questions most interest you (these may or may not be related to your scholarly research); the statement should tell us also how your intellectual interests might intersect with the St. John's Program, what you might contribute, and what you might gain, as well as what kind of teaching suits you, and what kind of learning you plan to undertake.

So now that I've written this out can go back to being superstitious and wondering how my fortune is going to change. I have this newly discovered problem of believeing way too much in luck. My string of dull, impoverished months were attributed to bad luck; a fortuitous job offer is mere fortune; my ability to get into grad school is going to also be at the whim of luck. If I find myself stuck behind a school bus on the way to work: bad luck; the book I just checked for on the library website has been rented in the last hour: bad luck.
It's getting ridiculous! Especially since I seem to lean to the pessimistic side of superstitiousness, expecting something bad to happen merely because I seem to have had something nice happen.

I suppose I think of Villette and Lucy Snowe's comment about Graham and Paulina:

Some real lives do--for some certain days or years--actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people (to the wicked it never comes), its sweet effect is never wholly lost. Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of death, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud.

I do believe there are some human beings so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their lot, and no tempestuous blackness overcasts their journey. And often, these are not pampered, selfish beings, but Nature's elect, harmonious and benign; men and women mild with charity, kind agents of God's kind attributes.

And I identify myself more with her other example:

But it is not so for all. What then? His will be done, as done it surely will be, whether we humble ourselves to resignation or not. The impulse of creation forwards it; the strength of powers, seen and unseen, has its fulfilment in charge. Proof of a life to come must be given. In fire and in blood, if needful, must that proof be written. In fire and in blood do we trace the record throughout nature. In fire and in blood does it cross our own experience. Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence. Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins; look upward, march onward. Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendly company. Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us: equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner.

I just feel like those "fortunate souls" probably don't go around thinking about their own fortune...that they must somehow remain oblivious to the gilded nature of their lives, and that my own hyper-conciousness must ruin any chance at unadulterated good fortune.

Either way, I cannot wait to re-read Villette once the weather turns cold. I'm in dire need of tempestuous emotion and suppressed passion.

Dark Terrain

[here]

She could feel that each year took something away from her and added something to her and that she was slowly changing with them; yet none of them stood out distinct from the others. Her sense of self was now vague and fluid, and when she probed her own being all she could discover was the shifting of veiled, indefinite forms, as if she were touching something that stirred under a blanket, without being able to identify it. Gradually it became more and more as though she were living under a woolen blanket herself, or under a bell-shaped cover made of thin horn which was becoming more and more opaque.

That’s from Musil’s story “The Temptation of Quiet Veronica,” another lush, intricate and very secretive story that I’m working on unraveling. Both this story and “The Perfecting of a Love” are so entirely internal that I find myself sinking into the rhythmic tick-tock of someone else’s mind and thoughts, and unable to keep the “reader-like” distance needed to understand what’s being said and why.

She dreaded him as obscurely as she dreaded all things alien to her, an aversion without the sharp edge of hatred, merely as if he were a distant country beyond the frontier where one’s own land merges softly and mournfully with the sky. But since that time she had realized that all happiness had gone out of her life because something made her feel abhorrence of all that was not herself; and whereas formerly she had felt like someone who does not know the inner meaning of her own actions, now it seemed to her that she had merely forgotten that meaning and might perhaps begin to remember it.
When I stop and let the little things that have accumulated in my life just fall away, I often feel this incredible surge of unknown, as if there are oceans of darkness within, some sort of vast emotional terrain that is a cross between labyrinth and maelstrom. These stories tap into that; Musil articulates those folds of impenetrable darkness that lurk within everyone. His women are ponderous and complicated.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I’d like to re-work one of these two stories into a more dramatic format, either film or stage. I don’t know how it would work yet, but I think it would be a very interesting exercise. I’m planning on re-reading Strindberg’s play Miss Julie because I think it would be a good model for the dramatization of internal conflict and development.

Dark Terrain

[here]

She could feel that each year took something away from her and added something to her and that she was slowly changing with them; yet none of them stood out distinct from the others. Her sense of self was now vague and fluid, and when she probed her own being all she could discover was the shifting of veiled, indefinite forms, as if she were touching something that stirred under a blanket, without being able to identify it. Gradually it became more and more as though she were living under a woolen blanket herself, or under a bell-shaped cover made of thin horn which was becoming more and more opaque.

That’s from Musil’s story “The Temptation of Quiet Veronica,” another lush, intricate and very secretive story that I’m working on unraveling. Both this story and “The Perfecting of a Love” are so entirely internal that I find myself sinking into the rhythmic tick-tock of someone else’s mind and thoughts, and unable to keep the “reader-like” distance needed to understand what’s being said and why.

She dreaded him as obscurely as she dreaded all things alien to her, an aversion without the sharp edge of hatred, merely as if he were a distant country beyond the frontier where one’s own land merges softly and mournfully with the sky. But since that time she had realized that all happiness had gone out of her life because something made her feel abhorrence of all that was not herself; and whereas formerly she had felt like someone who does not know the inner meaning of her own actions, now it seemed to her that she had merely forgotten that meaning and might perhaps begin to remember it.
When I stop and let the little things that have accumulated in my life just fall away, I often feel this incredible surge of unknown, as if there are oceans of darkness within, some sort of vast emotional terrain that is a cross between labyrinth and maelstrom. These stories tap into that; Musil articulates those folds of impenetrable darkness that lurk within everyone. His women are ponderous and complicated.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I’d like to re-work one of these two stories into a more dramatic format, either film or stage. I don’t know how it would work yet, but I think it would be a very interesting exercise. I’m planning on re-reading Strindberg’s play Miss Julie because I think it would be a good model for the dramatization of internal conflict and development.

The Deluge

(editorial image from jedroot.com)



Maybe.

I wrote a post below and it felt rusty, so now I'm going to write more. I may even stop thinking so much about how it's received or whether or not I make sense, and just start writing to get some thoughts out of my head for once.

For example!

I want to write about Robert Musil's story "The Perfecting of a Love" and about the image of the house and those two paragraphs at the very beginning which I read 3 times, marvelling each time at the beauty of the image and the words.

I want to write about what it feels like to have a head stuffed full of wool, and what it's like to be frightened of losing something you never really had for certain.

I want to write about the green grass on the other side of that damned fence.

I want to write about the void that's left behind when enthusiasm vanishes. What it's like for life to go from sparkling and rich and engaging to flat and dull and sort of like a waiting room.
I read over some of my posts and sit stunned at how well I articulated those problems that are still in my head, but currently all gummed up and obscure. I also yearn for days like
this one:
And I suppose the only way to get back there is to start pushing myself forward.

The Deluge

(editorial image from jedroot.com)



Maybe.

I wrote a post below and it felt rusty, so now I'm going to write more. I may even stop thinking so much about how it's received or whether or not I make sense, and just start writing to get some thoughts out of my head for once.

For example!

I want to write about Robert Musil's story "The Perfecting of a Love" and about the image of the house and those two paragraphs at the very beginning which I read 3 times, marvelling each time at the beauty of the image and the words.

I want to write about what it feels like to have a head stuffed full of wool, and what it's like to be frightened of losing something you never really had for certain.

I want to write about the green grass on the other side of that damned fence.

I want to write about the void that's left behind when enthusiasm vanishes. What it's like for life to go from sparkling and rich and engaging to flat and dull and sort of like a waiting room.
I read over some of my posts and sit stunned at how well I articulated those problems that are still in my head, but currently all gummed up and obscure. I also yearn for days like
this one:
And I suppose the only way to get back there is to start pushing myself forward.

Voyeurism

[Redon (from Moma website)]

It was quite some time ago that I scribbled down the notes which became what will follow, but it is only recently that I've felt any inclination to do the process and work of thinking through a thought, expanding it and letting it bloom. These past few months have been filled with nothing and with everything, and it's hard to tell what will come next.

At the end of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Marcello and the crazy party trip out onto the beach and find a sea monster. It's a giant ray which has washed up on the shore, its belly pale and fading. Two "eyes" stare up from death and Marcello states "It insists on looking."

The entire movie is a mess of voyeurism: the miracle children who are exploited and exploit the fanaticism of and rabid curiosity of the people who come to see them speak to the Virgin Mary; the paparazzi squealing around on their vespas; Marcello tossing feathers on some poor girl while a crowd of disenchanted somebodies watch.

It's an obsession with experience, and moreso with having an audience while we're experiencing something. We want someone to watch while we live. Beauty, talent, charm, and intelligence have no worth without their audience, and so we see Anita Ekberg dancing, laughing, submerged in a fountain and beautiful. We see Maddalenna and another man together while she listens to Marcello proclaim his love for her from behind a wall. For every action there is an audience, and the audience is integral in the action's existence. The film is about people acting for an audience, and about that audience dictating what is acted.

Steiner, Marcello's intellectual friend, says at one point:

We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached....detached.

He also kills his two small children and then commits suicide while his wife is away. When she returns, she is of course met by the paparazzi as they climb over one another in the attempt to capture her reaction on film.

What is the heart of the problem here? Are we watching and watched so often and so continuously that we forget what it feels like to be inside a moment? Have we forgotten what it feels like to wholly occupy a moment of time?

Fellini seems to present us with two options: Steiner's ideal which is impossible and inhuman, or Marcello's reality which is hollow, cheaply varnished, and existentially crushing.

Voyeurism

[Redon (from Moma website)]

It was quite some time ago that I scribbled down the notes which became what will follow, but it is only recently that I've felt any inclination to do the process and work of thinking through a thought, expanding it and letting it bloom. These past few months have been filled with nothing and with everything, and it's hard to tell what will come next.

At the end of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Marcello and the crazy party trip out onto the beach and find a sea monster. It's a giant ray which has washed up on the shore, its belly pale and fading. Two "eyes" stare up from death and Marcello states "It insists on looking."

The entire movie is a mess of voyeurism: the miracle children who are exploited and exploit the fanaticism of and rabid curiosity of the people who come to see them speak to the Virgin Mary; the paparazzi squealing around on their vespas; Marcello tossing feathers on some poor girl while a crowd of disenchanted somebodies watch.

It's an obsession with experience, and moreso with having an audience while we're experiencing something. We want someone to watch while we live. Beauty, talent, charm, and intelligence have no worth without their audience, and so we see Anita Ekberg dancing, laughing, submerged in a fountain and beautiful. We see Maddalenna and another man together while she listens to Marcello proclaim his love for her from behind a wall. For every action there is an audience, and the audience is integral in the action's existence. The film is about people acting for an audience, and about that audience dictating what is acted.

Steiner, Marcello's intellectual friend, says at one point:

We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached....detached.

He also kills his two small children and then commits suicide while his wife is away. When she returns, she is of course met by the paparazzi as they climb over one another in the attempt to capture her reaction on film.

What is the heart of the problem here? Are we watching and watched so often and so continuously that we forget what it feels like to be inside a moment? Have we forgotten what it feels like to wholly occupy a moment of time?

Fellini seems to present us with two options: Steiner's ideal which is impossible and inhuman, or Marcello's reality which is hollow, cheaply varnished, and existentially crushing.

I found it!

Completely random, but I've been looking for this clip ever since I saw it at the Dylan exhibit at the Pierpont Morgan last winter.

I'm going through a Dylan phase again...


I found it!

Completely random, but I've been looking for this clip ever since I saw it at the Dylan exhibit at the Pierpont Morgan last winter.

I'm going through a Dylan phase again...


The Fullness of Time

[Vermeer's Woman Holding a Balance ]

I've been thinking about memory again, probably because I'm now living in the house I grew up in, walking familiar staircases, tracing remembered paths, and trying to find the best way of living in a familiar world which has, naturally, become foreign.

I also had a conversation with a new friend which started me thinking about memory and the moment of understanding. We had been speaking about the point of total undertsanding which occurs when the mind has finally grasped the essence of something, and how that point, that moment, is immune to any sort of direct analysis. The mind has knowledge of the moment's occurence, but not of the moment itself. The moments of knowledge, rare as they are, seem to be like an intersection: of then and now, of before and after, of this and that. It's a necessary intersection, serving to define a boundary, but it is in itself unknowable.

If we imagine the point of understanding as a true Euclidian point, then it may become clearer. (Forgive me if my Euclid is rusty).

Euclid's first definition: "The point is that which has no part"

It is a unit, indivisible and without measure.

But the line, defined by Euclid as "a breadthless length" is divisible and can be analysed.

So reapplied to the moment of understanding, I was thinking that the moment of understanding is like Euclid's point-- an indivisible and a total unit. The mind cannot know that moment, although it may know the effects of the understanding. So if the moment is Euclid's point, the mental activity of the mind in trying to analyse the effects and ramification of having understood something is like the divisible line stretching from point to point.

That model out of the way, I was then wondering about the power of memory, which seems like the primary mental agent in trying to recognize the moment of understanding which had been experienced. Memory must be our only way of working backward from the present (wherein I attempt to analyse what was understood) to the past "fullness of time" (wherein the understanding took place).

And so Proust, in his grand volumes, is essentially circling around and trying to attain those moments of understanding which he experienced throughout his lifetime. He understands the mind's inability to recognize much more than the existence of the moment when it has happened, and that it takes many years, and many successive experienced moments to finally be able to understand how one has become the woman or man of today.

There are additional questions, for example, if what I have been working out has any truth to it, is it true only for personal understandings, ie understandings of one's private life, or does it also apply and work for understandings of a more professional nature, like the slave boy's moment of recollection in the Meno. (That example may add an additional question regarding recollection and whether one can recall something they have no memory of having understood). Also, how does one's perception of time affect this issue, and how does this process, if it occurs, influence the construction of identity?

There's so much to think about, and I feel a bit silly for being so happy that I'm just thinking about it again. It has been so very long since Proust, memory, time, identity, and A.N. Whitehead were careening about in my head that I feel almost content to let them stir about for a while.

The Fullness of Time

[Vermeer's Woman Holding a Balance ]

I've been thinking about memory again, probably because I'm now living in the house I grew up in, walking familiar staircases, tracing remembered paths, and trying to find the best way of living in a familiar world which has, naturally, become foreign.

I also had a conversation with a new friend which started me thinking about memory and the moment of understanding. We had been speaking about the point of total undertsanding which occurs when the mind has finally grasped the essence of something, and how that point, that moment, is immune to any sort of direct analysis. The mind has knowledge of the moment's occurence, but not of the moment itself. The moments of knowledge, rare as they are, seem to be like an intersection: of then and now, of before and after, of this and that. It's a necessary intersection, serving to define a boundary, but it is in itself unknowable.

If we imagine the point of understanding as a true Euclidian point, then it may become clearer. (Forgive me if my Euclid is rusty).

Euclid's first definition: "The point is that which has no part"

It is a unit, indivisible and without measure.

But the line, defined by Euclid as "a breadthless length" is divisible and can be analysed.

So reapplied to the moment of understanding, I was thinking that the moment of understanding is like Euclid's point-- an indivisible and a total unit. The mind cannot know that moment, although it may know the effects of the understanding. So if the moment is Euclid's point, the mental activity of the mind in trying to analyse the effects and ramification of having understood something is like the divisible line stretching from point to point.

That model out of the way, I was then wondering about the power of memory, which seems like the primary mental agent in trying to recognize the moment of understanding which had been experienced. Memory must be our only way of working backward from the present (wherein I attempt to analyse what was understood) to the past "fullness of time" (wherein the understanding took place).

And so Proust, in his grand volumes, is essentially circling around and trying to attain those moments of understanding which he experienced throughout his lifetime. He understands the mind's inability to recognize much more than the existence of the moment when it has happened, and that it takes many years, and many successive experienced moments to finally be able to understand how one has become the woman or man of today.

There are additional questions, for example, if what I have been working out has any truth to it, is it true only for personal understandings, ie understandings of one's private life, or does it also apply and work for understandings of a more professional nature, like the slave boy's moment of recollection in the Meno. (That example may add an additional question regarding recollection and whether one can recall something they have no memory of having understood). Also, how does one's perception of time affect this issue, and how does this process, if it occurs, influence the construction of identity?

There's so much to think about, and I feel a bit silly for being so happy that I'm just thinking about it again. It has been so very long since Proust, memory, time, identity, and A.N. Whitehead were careening about in my head that I feel almost content to let them stir about for a while.

Anomalous

A new image from Miranda Lehmann


I haven't vanished, but I have been busy/lazy.
I'm moving next week to Maryland, then things should smooth themselves out.

I'm re-reading A.S. Byatt's Frederica Potter series right now, mainly because they're good books to trot around on trains, subway cars, road trips, and the beach. I've been quite tangled up with practical concerns lately, like storage units, moving help, job searching and CVs, a wedding, a graduation party, and sleep.

I remember feeling mild repulsion during my first reading of Babble Tower, and it wasn't until this second and recent read-through that I began to ask myself why. The heroine is also a woman who continually tries to control her life, to mold its shape and to direct it, only to discover just how little control she has at all.

The subject matter irritates me, and like the proverbial grain of sand in the oyster, it has iridescent results. So reading this book, and after a conversation with a new friend who is uncannily capable of untangling my head and all of its snarls, and conversations with an old friend who has taught me much about independence and more recently about desire, I began thinking about control and the attempts I've made to direct my life.

I often find myself foolishy treating my life as if it were a scene which I had directorial authority over. I choose the props in my life, worry over the costumes, recite my lines, and then step out on to a stage with fellow actors who always fail to remember the lines I thought up for them. It's a farce and the only thing I've learned is to let the perpetually-observing/judging side of me slink to the wings and watch the daily failure sardonically. Basically, I have learned to play the critic in my life, and never the lead role.

I started this blog mid-way through my time at St. John's, when I was placing personal concerns on the shelf and focusing, blissfully, on my mind and what it was capable of when conversing with other minds and with other texts. I had stopped doing the hyper-control thing and was finally living, albeit in a very cloistered environment. It felt effortless and entirely organic, the activity of the mind.

When I left for NY, I thought that I would turn to living, in the raw, in-the-moment sense of the word. I would live in the world that was on television and in the minds of most, not in my familiar world of ideas and theories and fiction. Instead, I grew further and further from what I knew (reading, thinking, writing, talking, thinking) and began to "stage" life and not live it. I'm stuck there now, with scenes out of a life I don't want and an incredible desire to go back to the way things were.

I met some amazing people while here in NY, and I will carry them with me, along with our shared experiences. But I want to leave a lot behind me when I go. I want to leave the superficiality and the "stage-designing," I want to leave the quickness and the abrasiveness. I want my swiftness to judge and critiscize to diminish. I want to leave the sleepless nights and the constant hum of noise, the take out meals, the meals eaten at my desk.

I'm again asking myself what it means for me to live -- and I'm finally realizing that there isn't one answer.

Anomalous

A new image from Miranda Lehmann


I haven't vanished, but I have been busy/lazy.
I'm moving next week to Maryland, then things should smooth themselves out.

I'm re-reading A.S. Byatt's Frederica Potter series right now, mainly because they're good books to trot around on trains, subway cars, road trips, and the beach. I've been quite tangled up with practical concerns lately, like storage units, moving help, job searching and CVs, a wedding, a graduation party, and sleep.

I remember feeling mild repulsion during my first reading of Babble Tower, and it wasn't until this second and recent read-through that I began to ask myself why. The heroine is also a woman who continually tries to control her life, to mold its shape and to direct it, only to discover just how little control she has at all.

The subject matter irritates me, and like the proverbial grain of sand in the oyster, it has iridescent results. So reading this book, and after a conversation with a new friend who is uncannily capable of untangling my head and all of its snarls, and conversations with an old friend who has taught me much about independence and more recently about desire, I began thinking about control and the attempts I've made to direct my life.

I often find myself foolishy treating my life as if it were a scene which I had directorial authority over. I choose the props in my life, worry over the costumes, recite my lines, and then step out on to a stage with fellow actors who always fail to remember the lines I thought up for them. It's a farce and the only thing I've learned is to let the perpetually-observing/judging side of me slink to the wings and watch the daily failure sardonically. Basically, I have learned to play the critic in my life, and never the lead role.

I started this blog mid-way through my time at St. John's, when I was placing personal concerns on the shelf and focusing, blissfully, on my mind and what it was capable of when conversing with other minds and with other texts. I had stopped doing the hyper-control thing and was finally living, albeit in a very cloistered environment. It felt effortless and entirely organic, the activity of the mind.

When I left for NY, I thought that I would turn to living, in the raw, in-the-moment sense of the word. I would live in the world that was on television and in the minds of most, not in my familiar world of ideas and theories and fiction. Instead, I grew further and further from what I knew (reading, thinking, writing, talking, thinking) and began to "stage" life and not live it. I'm stuck there now, with scenes out of a life I don't want and an incredible desire to go back to the way things were.

I met some amazing people while here in NY, and I will carry them with me, along with our shared experiences. But I want to leave a lot behind me when I go. I want to leave the superficiality and the "stage-designing," I want to leave the quickness and the abrasiveness. I want my swiftness to judge and critiscize to diminish. I want to leave the sleepless nights and the constant hum of noise, the take out meals, the meals eaten at my desk.

I'm again asking myself what it means for me to live -- and I'm finally realizing that there isn't one answer.

A Lament

A Euclidian proof (image found here)

With much wailing and gnashing of the teeth, I have begun re-learning basic mathematics for the GRE. This is not fun. I've always known my lack of natural abilities when it comes to math, but this experience has been utterly humbling so far.

At SJC I felt very comfortable during our Math and Natural Sciences segment; Euclid was attainable and then beautiful, Lobachevsky was challenging and then mysterious and thought-provoking. But these basic quantitative problems are just mind-numbingly tedious to me.

The worst ones are those awful: "On Monday there are 10 red jellybeans in a jar and 52 green jellybeans; on Tuesday there are 43 red and 40 green. If Jane ate 60% of the red jellybeans on Monday and Tom ate 20% of the total amount of jellybeans on Tuesday, how many jellybeans come in a 10 lb bag?"

(Of course, the above question is an exaggeration, but thats the amount of sense most of them make to me).

So I spend about 30 mins on 2 problems, find myself with a headache, then speed through 14 pages of antonyms and analogies, just for kicks. (Speaking of which, why can I never remember the meaning of abrogate?)

If it weren't for Proust, this would be an insufferable few weeks to get through, but he continues to astound me, expecially in the last 100 pages or so that I've read. There are some truly interesting ideas on the role of the artist, the vocation of art, and the lifelong aesthetic development of an individual. I'm trying to work through what he says, so I can better understand what I think about it, so for now, a beautiful passage from him:

For I should have to execute the successive parts of my work in a succession of different materials; what would be suitable for mornings beside the sea or afternoons in Venice would be quite wrong if I wanted to depict those evenings in Rivebelle when, in the dining-room that opened onto the garden, the heat began to resolve into fragments and sink back into the ground, while a sunset glimmer still illumined the roses on the walls of the restaurant and the last water-colours of the day were still visible in the sky--this would be a new and distinct material, of a transparency and a sonority that were special, compact, cool after warmth, rose-pink.