On art and life


[Serafini via Giornale Nuovo]

What do I really know about that pairing? what unites them, what stands between them, what influences them? I've been reading Axel's Castle slowly -- very slowly. I haven't even read much of it -- a mere 80+ pages, but despite my seeming lack of interest, I am jotting down notes to every page.

Wilson quotes William Pater -- his conclusion to 'The Renaissance'

To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes or fashions has more and more become the fashion of modern thought ... The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood or passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us -- for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen by the finest senses?'

What makes us notice this and not that? What drives noticing, experience, the pull of desire and craving? What determines the aesthetic choices and, furthermore, what follows the basic noticing? If there is a consequent/contingent creativity, is it determined by the original? Is there a general hierarchy of perception? Is it foolish to seek something like that (a folly we have committed and continue to commit?)

Related -- something has been bothering me for a few weeks -- the problem of delusion. I first started worrying about this when I was reading Powers' Echo Maker. I was wondering about delusions (which I was thinking of as fragmentary figments -- accepted misbeliefs, the creator's responsibility) and I was wondering how (if?) they were different from these neurological anomalies -- the synesthetic man who was also color blind -- he saw numbers as colors, but couldn't see red or green -- thus when he saw the numbers which were synesthetized with red and green, he had no visual cue and could only see the pure red -- the pure green. He called them martian colors for they were entirely unlike any blues, purples, or oranges he had ever seen. They occurred in his mind without ever having been experienced. What is this like?

We can be tricked by experience, by our interpretation of experience, by the influence of a different interpretation of the same, shared experience. What do my interpretations tell me about me? What does the divide tell me -- the triple divide -- my experience -- my mental gymnastics -- my statement. What happens during the process from perception to thought to communication? How much is lost? What is added? What do the choices tell me?

In Wilson's section on Valéry , I found this:

The mind of Leonardo in itself is something immeasurably greater than any of its manifestations in particular fields of activity -- painting, writing, engineering or strategy. Action cramps and impoverishes the mind. For by itself the mind is able to deal with an infinite number of possibilities -- it is not constrained by the limitations of a field. And consequently the method, the theory, of doing anything is more interesting than the thing done.

This is M. Teste paraphrased from Valéry's 'The Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci.' I'm naturally put off by the extremity of his point, but there is merit -- there's something very foreign, and thus very compelling, about the inactive mind (not inert but non-acting) -- the array of possible prior to any actual. There are no ties, no tethers, no obligations, no determinations.

Wilson says that Valéry sought to explore this lofty world -- unknown to us as we are not all mind, but rather a crude mixture -- he sought to press to dualism -- the divide between 'the absolute laws of the mind and the limiting experiences of life, opposites impossible to dissociate from one another.'