On the burning in the bosom

29 06 2011

When it is charged with the triviality of what it offers, it assures us, in reply, that the fullness and richness of its meaning lie deep down in its own heart, and that others must feel this too, since with such phrases as the “heart’s natural innocence”, “purity of conscience”, and so on, it supposes it has expressed things that are ultimate and final, to which no one can take exception, and about which nothing further can be required. But the very problem in hand was just that the best must not be left behind hidden away in secret, but be brought out of the depths and set forth in the light of day. It could quite well from the start have spared itself the trouble of bringing forward ultimate and final truths of that sort; they were long since to be found, say, in the Catechism, in popular proverbs, etc. It is an easy matter to grasp such truths in their indefinite and crooked inaccurate form, and in many cases to point out that the mind convinced of them is conscious of the very opposite truths. When it struggles to get itself out of the mental embarrassment thereby produced, it will tumble into further confusion, and possibly burst out with the assertion that in short and in fine the matter is settled, the truth is so and so, and anything else is mere “sophistry” – a password used by plain common sense against cultivated critical reason, like the phrase “visionary dreaming”, by which those ignorant of philosophy sum up its character once for all. Since the man of common sense appeals to his feeling, to an oracle within his breast, he is done with any one who does not agree. He has just to explain that he has no more to say to any one who does not find and feel the same as himself. In other words, he tramples the roots of humanity underfoot. For the nature of humanity is to impel men to agree with one another, and its very existence lies simply in the explicit realisation of a community of conscious life. What is anti-human, the condition of mere animals, consists in keeping within the sphere of feeling pure and simple, and in being able to communicate only by way of feeling-states.

-Hegel, from the Preface of the Phenomenology of Spirit





Bolero

28 06 2011

Qué vanidad imaginar
que puedo darte todo, el amor y la dicha,
itinerarios, música, juguetes.
Es cierto que es así:
todo lo mío te lo doy, es cierto,
pero todo lo mío no te basta
como a mí no me basta que me des
todo lo tuyo.

Por eso no seremos nunca
la pareja perfecta, la tarjeta postal,
si no somos capaces de aceptar
que sólo en la aritmética
el dos nace del uno más el uno.

Por ahí un papelito
que solamente dice:

Siempre fuiste mi espejo,
quiero decir que para verme tenía que mirarte.

-Julio Cortázar

What vanity it is to imagine
that I can give you all, love and hapiness
trips, music, toys.
That certainly is the case:
I give all that I have to you, it’s true,
but all that I have is not enough for you
as it is the case that you giving me everything
is not enough for me.

That’s the reason why we will never be
the perfect couple, the post card,
if we are not capable of accepting
that only in arithmetic
is two born from one plus one.

Over there somewhere is
a paper that says only:

You were always my mirror,
I want to say that in order to see myself
I had to look at you.





Spiritual not religious

27 06 2011

My wife and I recently saw Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. To get right into it, I don’t think this is a religious film. Most religious reviewers would like to see films like this as a religious film since they are starved of any popular phenomena that reflect their own biases. These “religious” biases are also influenced by pietist concerns of the devotio moderna in which any given encounter must be pigeonholed into a “burning in the bosom” for Jesus, or whether or not it edifies. “Contemplation” is a whole other thing. I would argue that God is completely absent from this film, and Malick only employs religious themes only insofar as they are used to articulate a philosophical point of view.

A few words should be said about the mechanics of the film and plot. In terms of the actual filmmaking, I was impressed but not floored by the scope of the first hour of this movie. The opening scenes take us from the house of a family that has just suffered the tragic loss of one of their sons, to the creation of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth. Much of the imagery is grandiose, though I told my wife afterwards that the temptation for me was to see it in the same light as one sees those Imax presentations in museums on the death of the dinosaurs or hurricanes on the bayou. But these episodes never got to the point of kitsch in this film. Perhaps the most effective scenes came after this contemplation of cosmogony, when we see the emergence of a young family living in Waco, Texas, in the 1950’s. Scenes of birth, sleep, and play take the viewer back to his or her own childhood, and are shot with a contemplative care that make these images by far the best of the film.
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Espero curarme de ti – Jaime Sabines

22 06 2011

I hope to cure myself of you in a few days. I should stop smoking you, drinking you, thinking you. It’s possible. By following now the prescriptions of morality. I prescribe for myself time, abstinence, solitude.

 

Does it seem okay that I only love you for a week? It is not a lot, nor a little, it is enough. In a week you can get together all of the love words that have been uttered on the earth and set fire to them. I am going to warm you by that furnace of burnt love. And also silence. Because the best love words are exchanged by two peoples who say nothing to each other.

 

You have to burn as well  that other subversive side language of the lover. (You know how I tell you that I love you when I say: “It’s hot today”, “Could I get some water?”,  “Do you know how to drive?”, “It’s getting dark”… Between peoples, on one side your people and on the other mine, I told you, “It’s getting late”, and you knew that I was really saying, “I love you”).

 

It would take another week to gather all the love of all time. To give it to you. So that you can do with it as you please: save it, caress it, toss it in the garbage. It’s broken, that’s for sure. I only want a week to understand it all. For this is a lot like leaving the mad house only to go to the grave.





The Spirit is an (opposable) thumb

20 06 2011

By the combined functioning of hand, speech organs and brain, not only in each individual but also in society, men became capable of executing more and more complicated operations, and were able to set themselves, and achieve, higher and higher aims. The work of each generation itself became different, more perfect and more diversified. Agriculture was added to hunting and cattle raising; then came spinning, weaving, metalworking, pottery and navigation. Along with trade and industry, art and science finally appeared. Tribes developed into nations and states. Law and politics arose, and with them that fantastic reflection of human things in the human mind – religion. In the face of all these images, which appeared in the first place to be products of the mind and seemed to dominate human societies, the more modest productions of the working hand retreated into the background, the more so since the mind that planned the labour was able, at a very early stage in the development of society (for example, already in the primitive family), to have the labour that had been planned carried out by other hands than its own. All merit for the swift advance of civilisation was ascribed to the mind, to the development and activity of the brain. Men became accustomed to explain their actions as arising out of thought instead of their needs (which in any case are reflected and perceived in the mind); and so in the course of time there emerged that idealistic world outlook which, especially since the fall of the world of antiquity, has dominated men’s minds. It still rules them to such a degree that even the most materialistic natural scientists of the Darwinian school are still unable to form any clear idea of the origin of man, because under this ideological influence they do not recognise the part that has been played therein by labour.

-Fredrich Engels, The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man





On God

15 06 2011

Dios

Siento a Dios que camina tan en mí,
con la tarde y con el mar.
Con él nos vamos juntos. Anochece.
Con él anochecemos, Orfandad…

Pero yo siento a Dios. Y hasta parece
que él me dicta no sé qué buen color.
Como un hospitalario, es bueno y triste;
mustia un dulce desdén de enamorado:
debe dolerle mucho el corazón.

Oh, Dios mío, recién a ti me llego,
hoy que amo tanto en esta tarde; hoy
que en la falsa balanza de unos senos,
mido y lloro una frágil Creación.

Y tú, cuál llorarás tú, enamorado
de tanto enorme seno girador
Yo te consagro Dios, porque amas tanto;
porque jamás sonríes; porque siempre
debe dolerte mucho el corazón.

-Cesar Vallejo

(I feel God walking in me
As with the afternoon and the sea.
With him we all go together. It becomes night.
With him we set. Orphanhood.

But I feel God. And it almost seems that he
Is dictating to me I don’t know what good color.
Like a nurse, he is good but sad;
He gives forth a sweet disdain of a lover:
his heart must ache much.

O my God, I have only recently arrived at you,
Now that I love you so much this evening; today
In the false balance of breasts,
I measure and weep a fragile Creation.

And you, which one will you weep for, love-struck
From such an enormous twirling chest,
I consecrate you God, for you love so greatly;
for you never smile; for your heart
Must always ache much.)





On the devil inside

13 06 2011

Above: A Ukrainian Eastern-rite sedevacantist excommunicates the past two Popes. Damn, I love Youtube.

“You’ve got the devil in you!”

Such a phrase has resonated in my life for almost twelve years now. Such resonance, however, has not always been front in center, or even audible, in my own mind. When I first heard it, I concluded the opposite. That woman must have had the devil in her: the devil in our pluralistic society who shouts down all differences, who affirms people “just as they are”, and who makes them feel comfortable about themselves, no matter how they are living. In other words, there was no way a twenty year old, full of piss and vinegar, was going to listen to some nosy woman riding on that bus in east Oakland in 1999.
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Lou Harrison’s gamelan

10 06 2011

With bonus video of Buddhist scripture sung in Esperanto:





Biutiful

9 06 2011

I have a fascination with the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu, though I don’t uncategorically praise all of them. In fact, I think his films have been going downhill since his first film, Amores Perros, in 2000. I still consider his first to be his best film, with 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006) being of far inferior quality in my opinion. 21 Grams, another story about how an accident changes the lives of people, is at least watchable. Babel is, for lack of a better way of putting it, a preposterous movie, one that collapsed under the weight of its own ambition. The most elementary critique that one could make of Babel is that human beings in real life would never act that way. A couple would never just up and leave their two kids with their undocumented nanny for an unforeseen amount of time. Such undocumented nanny would not risk crossing the border back into Mexico expecting that she could just waltz back over the border with two gringo kids in tow. In my opinion, Babel was a sprawling mess weighed down by its own pretension. I found the movie to be barely watchable.

Thankfully, González Iñárritu’s trajectory as a filmmaker has swung a bit upward with his newest film, Biutiful (2010). Here the Mexican director and producer abandons the many interlocking stories technique to just focus on one story: that of a dying man trying to do the right thing, only to be frustrated by the hands of fate at every turn. As in the other films, there are no satisfying endings, no conclusions that make one unambiguously empathetic with any one character. And, as in Amores Perros and Babel, one of the real stars of the show is the neo-liberal capitalist social order itself: one in which society seems to be falling apart, and it is every man for himself. Even within these situations, González Iñárritu’s films show people trying to search for very traditional things (love, justice, redemption), even in their own distorted and frustrated ways.
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Religion and revolution

8 06 2011

I recently saw a report from the BBC a couple of years ago on a shrine dedicated to St. Lazarus in Cuba. The report brings up again the rumor that many of the people who fought in the revolution were also believers in santeria. That is not surprising, as even in the films of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, one of the fathers of Cuban cinema, one often sees portrayals of popular and African religiosity, as in the montage above from his last film, Guantanamera.
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