Indecision

[Redon, as always: The Red Sphinx]


It's funny--I keep opening this "create post" window, typing a few lines of garbage, deleting the whole thing, and then staring at the screen, wondering where the thoughts have gone.

I used to form new little theories of art or thought or life, mostly fluff, but occasionally quite pleasant to contemplate and try and flesh out.

Lately, the only thing I've been thinking of that provides any sort of thrill is what I tend to call the cultivation of detachment. I've had a few fantastic conversations with friends about how so many people are completely unwilling to talk about ambiguous concepts like faith or hope or wonder because they seem spineless and archaic, or perhaps just sentimental and trite.

I have also been interested in genius/greatness, as I always am, and so, at the risk of covering well-trod ground, I'm quoting Nietszche, from Beyond Good and Evil:

Everything that is profound loves the mask: the profoundest things have a hatred even of figure and likeness. Should not the CONTRARY only be the right disguise for the shame of a God to go about in? A question worth asking!—it would be strange if some mystic has not already ventured on the same kind of thing. There are proceedings of such a delicate nature that it is well to overwhelm them with coarseness and make them unrecognizable; there are actions of love and of an extravagant magnanimity after which nothing can be wiser than to take a stick and thrash the witness soundly: one thereby obscures his recollection.

Many a one is able to obscure and abuse his own memory, in order at least to have vengeance on this sole party in the secret: shame is inventive. They are not the worst things of which one is
most ashamed: there is not only deceit behind a mask—there is so much goodness in craft. I could imagine that a man with something costly and fragile to conceal, would roll through life clumsily and rotundly like an old, green, heavily-hooped wine-cask: the refinement of his shame requiring it to be so. A man who has depths in his shame meets his destiny and his delicate decisions upon paths which few ever reach, and with regard to the existence of which his nearest and most intimate friends may be ignorant; his mortal danger conceals itself from their eyes, and equally so his regained security. Such a hidden nature, which instinctively employs speech for silence and concealment, and is inexhaustible in evasion of communication, DESIRES and insists that a mask of himself shall occupy his place in the hearts and heads of his friends; and supposing he does not desire it, his eyes will some day be opened to the fact that there is nevertheless a mask of him there—and that it is well to be so. Every profound spirit needs a mask; nay, more, around every profound spirit there continually grows a mask, owing to the constantly false, that is to say, SUPERFICIAL interpretation of every word he utters, every step he takes, every sign of life he manifests.

(This passage is one of the ones that sticks most firmly in my mind--it is so rooted in myth and seems so personal that i can't help but return to it again and again--my quoting N. is also probably largely due to his presence in Man Without Qualities)

So I guess my essential questions are:

What is the shame?
Does genius arise from detachment?
Does genius require passion?
How do passion and detachment work together?
Are these questions highly individual?
Why do we need to believe in genius and/or greatness?

(Throw in necessary questions to argue the definition of "shame" "detachment," "passion," "individual," and "genius.")

Some additional questions:

Why do I want belief, hope, and wonder to be the greatest things in life?
Why do I wish for more mystery and silence?
Why does part of me equate the above with sentimentality?

And to mitigate the above, I end with this wonderfully snide description of Expressionism, courtesy of Musil:

There was also something known as Expressionism. Nobody could say just what it was, but the word suggests some kind of squeezing-out; constructive visions, perhaps, but inasmuch as the contrast with traditional art revealed them as being destructive, too, we might simply call them structive, which commits one to nothing either way, and a structive outlook sounds pretty good.