Precision




There is so so much in these Diaries of Musil. Every page. And also in Malone Dies (more on that later). I feel like I'm swept up in one of those eddies of convergence that used to be so familiar and are now so rare.

From Musil --

Today I came across Mach's lectures on popular science which proved to me at just the right time that it is still possible to base an existence on the understanding and for that existence still to be deeply significant. In the final analysis I've never doubted this -- but I'm here taking the precaution of reminding myself again.


How often has this happened? Some span of time will hit me wherein all seems desolate, wherein all attempts at understanding seem like rote job training. Just yesterday I felt this. And then, lying in bed this morning, books at my side and a cat purring on my chest things felt entirely different. I suppose I will always love mornings for just this reason -- they begin something.

Musil also says --

The paths of intellect are strange ones. One can say that, in the course of evolution, the intellect has made the greatest progress. But one could also express this as follows: in the course of evolution, intellect has shown the least degree of stability.

Intellectual progress has always simply consisted in correcting, at every stage, the errors that one produced {for oneself} at the previous stage.

and then --

it is the quality of understanding that demonstrates the greatest capacity for giving shape and substance to any human life.
And finally, he writes, in a letter which he has excerpted into his diary --

I'm experiencing the old conflict between brain and the rest of the nervous system, between the pleasure in logical speculation and that more 'lyrical' kind I've practiced in recent times. In my last letter I was still very angry with the understanding -- I'm always moving from one state to the other and will probably continue to do so for some time to come. It's a full year since I wrote a piece of any consequence and when I think back it appears to me like one of those many Sunday afternoons that I used to spend in my shadow-filled room -- reading a sentence from some book or other, then moving to the desk to fetch a sheet of paper or a box of matches, then stopping next to the desk or window and standing for ten, twenty minutes, the object motionless in my hand as I stared out vacantly -- then another sentence, and so on until dusk and supper.


This letter goes on, it is wonderful. It also recalls Malone's description of light and greyness --