Wednesday, November 30, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 15. Morning.)

Is this the way it is to be mother? wailed Rachel when the twins' struggle began in her womb, and many a person presumably has said this to himself when he obtained what he craved: Is this the way it is?

And is it not as if there were two natures struggling within me: have I become ten years older or have I become ten years younger?
It's worth noting that both of Rachel's twins, Jacob and Esau, were eventually born, but that even so the birthright was eventually confounded by Jacob so that he would be preeminent. Perhaps the analogy wasn't meant to extend so far, but it is interesting. The reference to ten years younger or older seems to be his way of expressing his own confoundment, but is it something more?

Perhaps he answers his own question in the next paragraph:
Yet how strange it must be to be a young girl, to enter into life so briskly. I believed that I would be released, that I would be changed, that I would have seen myself in love and by looking in love at her I would see myself saved - then I would have become like her, a bird on a branch, a song of joy in youth. I believed that we would have grown up together, that our life would be happy for us in our union and in its hapiness understandable to others, like a happy person's greeting as he hurries by and throws us a kiss.
To me this actually reads like a conflation of the two natures. As he wonders what it must be like to be a young girl, he is ten years younger (perhaps even more). His point, I think, is that he believed that the engagement would turn him into a person more like his beloved, and if I understand him correctly, that 'her' happiness would then enable them to embark on a lifetime of 'their' happiness and even his happiness. I think Wodehouse somewhere describes it as 'dancing on air,' something very close to Kierkegaard's kiss-blowing fiancee. And I wonder if that is the first time those two authors have ever appeared in the same sentence.

The next paragraph is one I've always liked, having seen it only by itself, although even now I'm not sure how it fits in with the paragraphs preceding it. live a mixture of wisdom and folly and not rightly know which is which. If a jeweler who had become such an expert in genuine precious stones that distinguishing them was his life - if he saw a child who was playing with various stones, genuine and imitation, which the child mixed together, and had equal joy from both kinds - I think the fewler would shudder to see the absolute distinction cancelled; but if he saw the child's happiness, his happy mood in his play, he perhaps would humble himself under it and be fascinated by this appalling sight.
He explains:
Similarly, for the immediate person there is to absolute distinction between the idea that bursts into thought and language, as des the precious stone in its radiance, and the idea in which this is lacking. There is no absolute distinction that makes the one into the most precious of all and the other into nothing, the one into that which defines everything and the other into what cannot even be defined in relation to this.
Interesting that in the last sentence he writes, "If only she does not begin to reflect!" - in other words, 'if only she does not do what I have just done, which is to imagine herself as the other!' By wishing for this, is Quidam here denying her full humanity? Does he simply wish to keep her from the pain that he is too familiar with? This morning's entry is a bit of a puzzler, all the way around.

I'm not sure this helps, but here is a list of contrasts set up in this entry. I'm not sure that they actually fall into such an easy polarization (the relationship between Jacob and Esau characterizes this difficulty), but I think most of them line up.

a year ago / today
her / him
Jacob / Esau
ten years younger / ten years older
imitation / genuine
idea / language
happiness / pain

Monday, November 28, 2005

Good And Bad Reasons For Believing

Recently came across this letter by Richard Dawkins to his daughter Juliet and laughed, really hard. I mean until my head came off. Thanks, Professor Dawkins!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Blog Trail

How bored do you have to be to do this? Since I started my own blog (actually for a month or so before that) I've spent hours hitting the 'Next Blog' button up in the right hand corner of the screen. It's not quite as much fun as it used to be, what with all the advertising sites and erog (erotic blogs) out there, but it's still fun. Okay, the latter have always been fun. Anyway, I recently decided to keep track of the sites I happened upon by chance, one after the other. Here's the resulting list:

ultimate com bet
Slowly Going Bald
O fantástico mundo de Moller
primícias poéticas
Me, Myself and I
A blog a day...
Define Normal
A Bigger Piece Of Sky

What follows is a Brief Commentary.

I struck gold with the first tap, because SPASTIC is a great blog. Dedicated to "the preservation and acknowledgement of the the subjuncitve mood in communication," the author(s) pull(s) out wonderful examples from the likes of 50 Cent and the Marx Brothers. Well written all the way around. Author very fond of the word wont, as in 'the author is very wont to use the word wont'. I will definitely return to this blog.

ultimate com bet seems to be some sort of advertisement for gambling. Or something like that. In any case, I wasn't interested and stayed there about a second, tops. I'm never returning to this blog, if I can help it. If my gambling addiction doesn't get the better of me. Even then it'd be tough.

Slowly Going Bald is another good site, written by a guy in his early twenties embarking on a career as a critic and teacher. His taste in books and literature match up with mine better than most, but then that gap almost always feels infinite. Has a great quote somewhere on his sidebar that I hadn't read before, from John Stuart Mill: "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives." But now we have Al Gore, not to mention about a billion Deanocrats, so who knows? Anyway, I might go back to this blog.

O fantástico mundo de Moller is about some heavy metal band, and written in in Portuguese. I think. The foreign language interested me more than the content, but not enough for me to stay around very long. And I won't go back.

primícias poéticas More Portuguese, but interesting to me because it includes three (and only three) poems written by Octávio Roggiero, the blog's author. I think. I tried to translate these poems but didn't have much success. My heart goes out to anyone writing poetry, and I think it's great that he's just putting it out there himself. There's a chance I'll go back to this site, even though there would be very little point, since I don't understand much Portuguese.

SynthDef is a site that's written almost entirely with little rectangles. I don't understand this language either, and what's more, I frankly can't see how anybody could, since every letter looks exactly the same. I don't think I'll be returning to this site.

A blog a day... is a fairly new blog (started last month) by some guy named Leo at Princeton. That's what the profile says, anyway. It also says he "love to smile, to laugh, to make friends, to cook and to eat." Well, good for him. Perhaps he will consider me a friend, now that I've linked to his site. And that is one fine looking casserole he photographed for the second entry. I might check back with this one, just to see other tasty looking dishes like that.

Wow! Paydirt again. is4031chik has as its description a quotation from Boethius, the Roman philosopher well known to fans of John Kennedy O'Toole's Confederacy of Dunces. "Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired." As if to emphasize the point, today's post is the lyrics for some song I've never heard of. Obviously she's crazy about it. Personally, I think simply posting song lyrics is pretty lame, but there are plenty of other entries that reveal her as a nice young woman starting bible college somewhere in Colorado. She's been keeping this site going since 2002, which I think is longer than any of the others - maybe all together. At the very least, I will check back at this site in three years to see if it's still going. I'm betting it is.

Define Normal is another winner. I think I'll just quote the author, who goes by the moniker "The Red Pants of Justice." Here's what he says: "We should all have a name fit for a superhero and this just happens to be mine. Welcome to my blog. It's the view from where I sit, a twentysomething filmmaker trying to decipher the white noise of everyday life. A bold attempt to make sense of popular culture, current affairs and the crazed underbelly of this strange and bewildering world in which we live. The score so far: Me 0, World 1." Great stuff, TRPoJ! He's only made 3 entries so far, but I'll definitely be back to visit this site.

A Bigger Piece Of Sky is all text, which I think makes for a fairly booring site, and I can't say that the material grabs me rightaway either. I'm not sure what to make of the description right below the title: "You can ride the wheels into the sun, feel the wind upon your face. Or you can laugh into a loaded gun, and you'll likely lose your place." From someone with the initials R.E.K. "Nick Carraway" is originally from Long Island and now hails from Texas, which I guess explains the title. Bigger than Montana, huh? Funny how size is so important to Texans. The native Montanans I know just live it. They don't really need to talk about it.

Well, that was fun. And not one advertisement or porno site in the bunch. And not nearly as many teenagers in Singapore or lonely housewives in Alberta as I've come to expect from previous, undocumented Blog Trails. Hope you join me next time.

Happy Trails, everyone!

The Sacketts

Tell, Orrin, and Tyrell Sackett leave Tennessee, each at his own time and for his own reason, and manage to meet up again in New Mexico to face down the guys in black hats. Great cast, including Sam Elliot, who looks like he took the method approach here to make the film look as authentic as possible, by refusing to bathe during the entire shoot.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

City by the Sea

Saw it for Robert DeNiro and Frances McDormand, who are for the most part pretty good. ALthought the best line went to the coroner, as he arrives at a crime scene near the beginning of the movie: "Give me a break, I had to jerk off twice this morning just to get my heart started!" I'd have liked to have heard Jerry Orbach say it on Law & Order.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Let It Be Me

I bless the day I found you
I want my arms around you
And so I beg you: Let it be me.

Don't take this heaven from one
If you must cling someone
Now and forever, let it be me.

Each time we meet, love
I find complete love
Without your sweet love, what would life be ?

So never leave me lonely
Tell me that you love me only
And say you'll always let it be me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Love Minus Zero/No Limit

My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can't buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall.
Some speak of the future,
My love she speaks softly,
She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.

The cloak and dagger dangles,
Madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.
Statues made of match sticks,
Crumble into one another,
My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.

The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.
The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Petronius (PLM B XXVI)

Nam nihil est, quod non mortalibus afferat usum:
rebus in adversis quae iacuere iuvant.
Sic rate demersa fulvum deponderat aurum,
remorum levitas naufraga membra vehit.
Cum sonuere tubae, iugulo stat divite ferum
barbaricum? tenuis praebia pannus habet.

For there is nothing
that may not serve
the need of mortals,
and in adversity
despised things help us.
So when a ship goes under
bright gold is sure to sink,
while a flimsy oar bears up
the shipwrecked body.
When the trumpets sound,
the savage's knife stands drawn
at the rich man's throat,
and the poor man's rags
offer a talisman of safety.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Passenger

Saw this last night at the Varsity and liked it a lot. Jack Nicholson plays David Locke, who at the beginning of the movie is a reporter in Saharan Africa trying to get an interview with rebels mounting an insurrection in an unnamed country. After failing at this and returning to his hotel he discovers the body of Robinson, a mysterious British expatriot staying in the next room and a dead ringer for Locke himself. Locke doesn't take long to hatch a plan to get out of the rut in which he apparently hasn't found himself, and along the way meets a young girl played by Maria Schneider.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth and Darcy eventually work it out ... again. There's a lot of Pride without much Prejudice, and the whole thing seemed more in the style of one of the Brontes than Austen. This actually worked pretty well, I thought. Kiera Knightly is amazing, as is Rosamund Pike. So's Donald Sutherland, though of course I mean that a little differently. IMDb has an over-the-top panegyric that's worth reading. Now I'm off to see Domino.

Petronius (PLM XXVII)

Primus in orbe deos fecit timor, ardua caelo
fulmina cum caderent discussaque moenia flammis
atque ictus flagraret Athos; mox Phoebus ab orta
lustrata devectus humo, Lunaeque senectus
et reparatus honos; hinc signa effua per orbem
et permutatis disiunctus mensibus annus.
Profecit vitium iamque error iussit inanis
agricolas primos Cereri dare messis honores,
palmitibus plenis Bacchum vincire, Palemque
pastorum gaudere manu; natat obrutus, omni
Neptunus demersus aqua; Pallasque tabernas
vindicat; et voti reus et qui vendidit orbem,
iam sibi quisque deos avido certamine fingit.

First, fear created gods in the world; from high heaven
lightning fell and the walls were torn down with flames,
and Athens, after being struck, burned. Soon Phoebus
sank into the earth, after blazing brightly from
his rising, and the Moon aged and renewed her glory;
from then on the stars were poured out across the universe,
and the year was divided into changing seasons.
The mistake spread, and soon vain superstition
encouraged farmers to give to Ceres the first fruits
of the harvest, to quell Bacchus with fruitful vines,
and for Pales to rejoice in the handwork of the shepherd.
Neptune swims in secret, submerged entirely in water,
Pallas watches over shops, and both he who is bound
by prayer and he who betrays the world for money
now fight eagerly to fashion new gods for themselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


A group of rich Italians head out on a yachting trip to a deserted volcanic island in the Mediterranean. When they are about to leave the island, they find Anna, the main character up to this point, has gone missing. Sandro, Anna's boyfriend, and Claudia, Anna's friend, try without success to find her. While looking for the missing friend, Claudia and Sandro develop an attraction for each other. When they get back to land, they continue the search with no success. Sandro and Claudia proceed to become lovers, and all but forget about the missing Anna.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Intended

Sort of a cross between Heart of Darkness, The Mission, and Indecent Proposal, this Danish Dogme-style isn't a dog at all. In fact, it's pretty good. In 1924, Sarah (Janet McTeer) and Hamish (JJ Feild) travel from England deep in to the jungle to earn their fortune surveying an ivory trading post. Instead of an exotic retreat, the couple encounters an oppressively small community. Despite their best intentions, their presence in the jungle unleashes a downward spiral that ends in greed, murder and madness.

Holding the Mirror Up to Nature

Some shapes cannot be seen in a glass,
those are the ones the heart breaks at.
They will never become valentines
or crucifixes, never. Night clouds
go on insanely as themselves
though metaphors would be prettier;
and when I see them massed at the edge
of the globe, neither weasel nor whale,
as though this world were, after all,
non-representational, I know
a truth that cannot be told, although
I try to tell you, "We are alone,
we know nothing, nothing, we shall die
frightened in our freedom, the one
who survives will change his name
to evade the vengeance for love ..."
Meanwhile the clouds go on clowning
over our heads in the floodlight of
a moon who is known to be Artemis
and Cynthia but sails away anyhow
beyond the serious poets and their
crazy ladies and cloudy histories,
their heroes in whose idiot dreams
the buzzard cirlcles like a clock.

~ Howard Nemerov

Thursday, November 17, 2005


And the caravan is on it's way
I can hear the merry gypsies play
Mama mama look at Emma Rose
She's a-playin with the radio

And the caravan has all my friends
It will stay with me until the end
Gypsy Robin, Sweet Emma Rose
Tell me everything I need to know

Turn up your radio and let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long to hold you tight so I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night I shall reveal you

Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher radio
Turn it up, turn it up, so you know, radio

And the caravan is painted red and white
That means ev'rybody's staying overnight
Barefoot gypsy player round the campfire sing and play
And a woman tells us of her ways

Turn up your radio and let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long to hold you tight so I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night I shall reveal you
Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher, radio
Turn it up, that's enough, so you know it's got soul
Radio, radio turn it up, hum
La, la, la, la...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fighting Elegy

Set in 1935, the films central axis Kiroku (played by Hideki Takahashi, Nikkatsu matinee idol of some 88 features including Suzuki's Life of a Tattooed Man / Irezumi Ichidai between his debut in Kogenji in 1961 until leaving the studios in 1971, and currently a popular TV gameshow host) is one of a horde of surly adolescents who partake in a bit of testosterone-charged rough 'n tumble after the school bell has sounded, fighting under the aegis of the OSMS (Okayama Second Middle School) gang. "A famous group of young men training their bodies", the OSMS take their brawlings with their local rivals to paramilitary levels of hyperbole, lining their school bags with razor blades and carving shurikens out of wood, indulging in lengthy training sessions punching beanbags full of rocks and hitting each other with sticks in the forest.

The OSMS live by a number of tenets, including "A man finds rebellion most satisfying", and "No talking to softies". Unfortunately for Kiroku, who's got the hots for Michiko, the daughter of the owner of the Catholic boarding house where he lives, there's also "No chasing after girls". Kiroku, however, is quite willing to have his sentiments educated at the piano by Michiko in the privacy of the house, but when he is caught strolling through the cherry blossoms hand in hand with his sweetheart by Pickles, the leader of the OSMS, it's obvious that he's going to have to try that little bit harder to regain his face in front of his contemporaries.

As the students of the all-male school environment channel their sexual tensions into acts of aggression, Kiroku's personal diary is peppered with immortal lines such as "Oh Michiko! I don't masturbate, I fight!" Every time he finds himself hot under the collar at the thought of his virginal love interest ("my blood throbs at those white hands!"), with an upward glance to the crucifix on the wall of his Catholic boarding house, it's back out for another bout of backstreet brawling.

However, Shindo's script is more than a broad-edged attack on violence itself, but an absurdist look at the forces that gave rise to fascism in 1930s Japan. When Kiroku's unruly antics get him kicked out of school and he is sent to study in rural Aizu Wakamatsu, he is unimpressed by the "Aizu spirit" of his classmates. Kiroku's catcalls of "Aizu monkeys!" single him out for attention amongst the local school gangs, but he soon emerges top dog, attracting the shadowy figure of real-life dissident writer and "founder of modern Japanese fascism", Ikki Kita in the process.

Kita was a strong advocate of National Socialism and was executed in 1937 for allegedly influencing the young officers who took place in the failed coup known as the "ni ni roku" incident that took place in February 26, 1936 (see our review of Yukio Mishima's Yukoku), in which 1400 soldiers occupied a number of key buildings in the center of Tokyo, and killed the Finance Minster and The Inspector General of Military Education. The goal was to restore direct rule to the Showa Emperor, Hirohito, by removing any corrupting influences from the politicians and capitalists then cluttering up the political process. Suzuki's film ends during the coup, in which a state of martial law has been declared in Tokyo. With the now-unattainable Michiko packed off to a nunnery, Kiroku embarks on a lengthy snowbound train journey to Tokyo to join Kita in the revolution.

courtesy (I hope) of The Midnight Eye

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 12. Midnight.)

The recollection continues, but not without some reflection first:
Everything is asleep; at this hour only the dead emerge from the grave and live their lives over again. And I am not doing even that, for since I am not dead I cannot live my life over again, and if I were dead, I could not relive it either, for, after all, I have never lived.
In the previous entry Quidam identified himself as an old man; here takes it a step further and calls himself a dead man. The words 'I have never lived,' lead me to think that he is perhaps considering his depression. By turning it into a life or death issue, seems to be raising his thoughts it to the level of the absolute. Perhaps this isn't pure hyperbole, at least if it was his beloved who first called him a murderer.
In order to keep my nocturnal pursuits as hidden as possible, I take the precaution of going to bed at nine o'clock. At twelve o'clock I get up again. No one imagines that, not even the sympathetic who have enough sympathy to take exception to my going to bed so early. Was it chance that brought us so close, or what power is pursuing me with her, from whom I am fleeing and yet do not wish to escape. To see her is as horrible as it must be for the sinner to hear the death sentence read aloud, and yet I do not dare to avoid this sight any more than I dare to seek it, which could very well be disturbing to live. If I were convinced that in order to avoid her I had gone a step out of my usual way, in order to avoid her I had stayed away from some place where I am in the habit of going, I believe I would go out of my mind. Only by enduring and suffering, by deferring to every argument against my shattered soul, do I maintain any meaning in my existence. If I were to walk the street, take one step, to look for her, I think I would go out of my mind out of worrying that I had prevented her from helping herself. I dare not do a thing, dare not refrain from doing anything; my situation is like the everlasting torment of the condemned.
The nocturnal pursuits must refer to his stalking trips to the household of his beloved, somethat would probably get him arrested today. In the sentence beginning 'No one imagines that ...' he reveals an awareness of his ridiculousness with the inwrought irony that often seems the like the last refuge of the wretched. But of course Quidam is just beginning. 'Was it chance?' Certainly not, but where he was able to name Possibility in the previous entry, he here seems unable to name what I think could be called Necessity. The rest of the paragraph is particularly opaque, so focused is Quidam here on his shattered, suffering soul.
And today it was our engagement day! She was crossing the street diagonally to the sidewalk, I was on the sidewalk and had the right of way. She could not set her foot on the curb before I had passed; a carriage driving by made it impossible for her to have recourse to the street. If I had wanted to talk to her, the situation was as favorable as possible. But no, not a word, not a sound, not a movement of the lips, not a problematic hint in the eyes, nothing, nothing on my part. Good God, if she were sick with a fever, if this word from me were the glass of cold water she wanted, would I deny it? So I am a brute, then! No, my little lady, no, we have talked together enough! Oh, that I can talk this way about her in my thoughts, her for whose sake I will risk everything if only I understood that it is beneficial to her. But why does she pursue me? I am wrong, it is true, very true - scandalously wrong. But am I not being punished, do I not have a murder on my conscience? have I no rights at all? Will she not be able to understand at all what I am suffering? Is it a loving girl who behaves this way? And why does she look at me that way? Because she believes that it makes an impression on me deep within. So she does believe there is something good about me. And then to want to wound someone who is tortured to death!
More opacity. Here he indicates that is she who pursues him, which seems to contradict the previous paragraph. What makes this difficult to follow is that Quidam seems to be imputing his own extreme thoughts to her ("Is it a loving girl who behaves this way?"; "... she believes that it makes an impression on me deep within."), even as he manages to maintain a degree of chivalry ("... if only I understood taht it is beneficial to her"; "I would go out of my mind out of worrying that I had prevented her from helping herself") in his thoughts about her. But it would seem to be only in his thoughts: "Oh, that I can talk this way about her in my thoughts, her for whose sake I will risk everything if only I understood that it is beneficial to her." Perhaps impotence would explain this. It certainly would be difficult to explain, and there does seem to be something as yet unnamed that would stand between them.
I made the moment last as long as possible. In this kind of encounter there is always a halt, because the one has to wait until the other has passed. I used my advantage to judge how she looked and if possible her state of mind. I had taken out my handkerchief and, just as one quite leisurely holds it out to see what part one wants to use, I stood there impassive as if I did not know her, although I was looking at her and with the exactitutde of despair. but not a word, my whole expression as meaningless as nothing. Yes, just boil inside, for I, too, have warm blood, perhaps only too warm; burst, my heart, and then I shall topple over dead. That is more like it; one can put up with that. Palpitate in the fingertips if you must, beat upon the brain with the blow of terror, but not visibly in the temples, not on the lips, not in the eyes - that I do not want, I do not want that. Why did I get so worked up; why was I compelled to discover my capacity to dissimulate when it serves a good cause!
And what is this 'good cause'?
She was less pale, but perhaps that was due to the fresh air; perhaps she had been walking more. her glance ventured to judge me, but then she dropped her eyes, and she looked almost imploring. A woman's pleas! Who inexcusably put this weapon into her hands, who gives the madman a sword, and how, powerless he is compared with the pleading of the powerless!

When I turned the corner, I had to lean against the building. Now if there were an intimate acquaintance to whom I would say, "So it is," I would be able to look quite calm and collected, but when I turn the corner I am almost fainting, and if this acquaintance were an inquisitive fellow who wanted to spy on me, what then? Then I would become aware of it. for just as Kaspar Hauser could feel metal through countless layers of clothing, so I feel deception and cunning through any covering. What then? Then I would not become faint as I turned the corner, but when I had gone down the street and the inquisitive acquaintance had perceived nothing, then I would find the nearest cross street in order to fall in a heap.
Who is the deceiver here? And is it just to hide his depression here? It rather seems that the skill of dissimulation he developed to protect himself (and others) from his depression has now become for him a habit from which he is unable to desist.
Sleep, my beloved, sleep well! Would to God that she might sleep all her pain away and sleep herself happy and rosy for tomorrow! Do tightrope dancers who are parents have no father love and mother love, have they none when they place their child on that thin rope and walk beneath it in deathly anxiety? If the verdict that I am a murderer has not yet been pronounced, what worse can happen than that she dies, and yet there is no likelihood of that now. Either she is the rarity among girls, and then my procedure contributes something so that she is not disturbed in becoming the outstanding one, a girl whose deification did not begin with death but with grief - or she is, indeed, I would rather not say it, or she has fancied etc., and thereupon she becomes commonsensical etc. - that is , she fancies herself to have become commonsensical etc. - Stop! I have no factual information that justifies me in any conclusion. Therefore, I remain in my misery and hold her in honor. But my understanding, my understanding, it tells me this, indeed, it tells me this in order to insult me, for it certainly was not my wish that she should appear to be less than what she seemed, and neither for her sake nor my own could I wish to be saved in this manner, that is to become the butt of ridicule.
I think that with the etc.s Quidam is here raising innocence above exerience. But this passage is also extremely dense, or I am, because I find it very difficult to follow. I think that here Quidam believes he is helping her attain a certain degree of worldly wisdom that he himself scorns, but then realizes that all these reflections are a house of cards without factual information. He seems skeptical about the true value of his reflections - or at least his motivation - as he realizes also that even what he gains in understanding is used by himself, or some aspect of himself, for tormenting himself ('my understanding ... insult me'). The last sentence is quite beyond me, except perhaps that he estimates the price of experience as too high.
In the last paragraph Quidam claims that however much he'd been aware of his situation, there was no way of knowing the torment he was about to undergo. I wonder what reaction he had in mind for her, after dismissing the commonsensical as kind of worldly naivete, anger as terrible, and amusingly as revolting.
But there is nothing, nothing at all, that can help me with a little information, I impatiently and to no avail throw myself from one side to the other; when one is stretched on the torture rack, it pains all over. She can despise me - good God, that is what I want, that is what I am working for, and yet I shudder at the thought of such lifelong martyrdom. Whether I shall be able to stick it out, whether I shall not utterly despair, I do not know; but I do know, and the power knows who by his very nature shares the most hidden thoughts, he knows that I pulled the cord of the shower bath. Whether it will crush me I do not know. - She can prepare her soul for patience, can take the veil of sorrow with an unscathed conscience - what can I do? Where shall I hide from myself, where is the resting place where the wary one can gather new strength, where is the bed on which I can slumber quietly and recuperate? In the grave? No, Scripture is not true when it says that there is no recollection in the grave, for I shall recollect her. In eternity? Is there time to sleep? In eternity! In what way shall I see her again? Will she come toward me accusingly and condemningly? How terrible! Or will she perhaps have passed the whole thing off as if it were a childish prank? How revolting! And yet not revolting but something worse, for was not her becoming such a one perhaps due to my silence. And I, who feared precisely that a word from me might make her a chatterbox and set her mind at rest in gossip!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dark Eyes

Oh, the gentlemen are talking
and the midnight moon is on the riverside,
They're drinking up and walking
and it is time for me to slide.
I live in another world
where life and death are memorized,
Where the earth is strung with lovers' pearls
and all I see are dark eyes.

A cock is crowing far away
and another soldier's deep in prayer,
Some mother's child has gone astray,
she can't find him anywhere.
But I can hear another drum beating
for the dead that rise,
Whom nature's beast fears
as they come and all I see are dark eyes.

They tell me to be discreet
for all intended purposes,
They tell me revenge is sweet
and from where they stand, I'm sure it is.
But I feel nothing for their game
where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel is heat and flame
and all I see are dark eyes.

Oh, the French girl, she's in paradise
and a drunken man is at the wheel,
Hunger pays a heavy price
to the falling gods of speed and steel.
Oh, time is short and the days are sweet
and passion rules the arrow that flies,
A million faces at my feet
but all I see are dark eyes.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Abandoned Love

I can hear the turning of the key
I've been deceived by the clown inside of me.
I thought that he was righteous but he's vain
Oh, something's a-telling me I wear the ball and chain.

My patron saint is a-fighting with a ghost
He's always off somewhere when I need him most.
The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is a-tellin' me I love ya still.

I come back to the town from the flaming moon
I see you in the streets, I begin to swoon.
I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won't you let me in your room one time 'fore I finally disappear?

Everybody's wearing a disguise
To hide what they've got left behind their eyes.
But me, I can't cover what I am
Wherever the children go I'll follow them.

I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I'm not free.
How long must I suffer such abuse
Won't you let me see you smile one time before I turn you loose?

I've given up the game, I've got to leave,
The pot of gold is only make-believe.
The treasure can't be found by men who search
Whose gods are dead and whose queens are in the church.

We sat in an empty theater and we kissed,
I asked ya please to cross me off-a your list.
My head tells me it's time to make a change
But my heart is telling me I love ya but you're strange.

One more time at midnight, near the wall
Take off your heavy make-up and your shawl.
Won't you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Miss the Missippi

I'm growing tired of these big city nights
tired of the glamour and tired of the sights
In a mad dream I am roaming once more
Back to my home on the old river shore

I am standing weary far away from home
I miss teh missippi and you dear
Nights are dark and dreary everywhere I roam
I miss the Missippi and you

Rollin' this wide world over
Always alone and blue, blue
Nothin seems to cheer me under heaven's dome
Miss the Missippi and you

Memories are bringin' happy days of yore
Missing Missippi and you
Mockingbirds are singin' around the cabin door
Missing the Mississippi and you

Rollin' this wide world over
Always alone and blue, so blue
Longing for my homeland
Muddy water shore

Miss the Mississippi and you

Thursday, November 10, 2005

We Just Disagree

Been away, haven't seen you in a while
How've you been?, have you changed your style?
And do you think that we've grown up differently?
Don't seem the same, seems you've lost your feel for me

So let's leave it alone 'cause we can't see eye-to-eye
There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys
There's only you and me and we just disagree

I'm goin' back to a place that's far away, how 'bout you?
Have you got a place to stay? Why should I care?
When I'm just tryin' to get along, we were friends
But now it's the end of our love song

So let's leave it alone 'cause we can't see eye-to-eye
There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys
There's only you and me and we just disagree

(written by Dave Mason)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

T.V. Talkin' Time

One time in London I'd gone out for a walk,
Past a place called Hyde park where people talk
'Bout all kinds of different gods, they have their point of view
To anyone passing by, that's who they're talking to.

There was someone on a platform talking to the folks
About the T.V. god and all the pain that it invokes.
"It's too bright a light", he said, "For anybody's eyes,
If you've never seen one it's a blessing in disguise."

I moved in closer, got up on my toes,
Two men in front of me were coming to blows
The man was saying something 'bout children when they're young
Being sacrificed to it while lullabies are being sung.

"The news of the day is on all the time,
All the latest gossip, all the latest rhyme,
Your mind is your temple, keep it beautiful and free,
Don't let an egg get laid in it by something you can't see."

"Pray for peace!". he said, you could feel it in the crowd.
My thoughts began to wander. His voice was ringing loud,
"It will destroy your family, your happy home is gone
No one can protect you fro it once you turn it on."

"It will led you into some strange pursuits,
Lead you to the land of forbidden fruits.
It will scramble up your head and drag your brain about,
Sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out."

"It's all been designed", he said, "To make you lose your mind,
And when you go back to find it, there's nothing there to find."
"Everytime you look at it, your situation's worse,
If you feel it grabbing out for you, send for the nurse."

The crowd began to riot and they grabbed hold of the man,
There was pushing, there was shoving and everybody ran.
The T.V. crew was there to film it, they jumped right over me,
Later on that evening, I watched it on T.V..

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 12. Morning.)

My jaw sagged open as I read the first paragraph of the next entry:
A year ago today. It is settled. So they did not make the testing period long for me. Well, I needed that, for I am very exhausted. O possibility, you sinewy, agile athlete, in vain one tries to lift you off the ground in order to take away our strength, for you can be stretched as long an eternity and yet keep your footing; in vain one tries to put you at a distance, for you are one's self. Yes, I know that you will still be the one who some day takes my life, but not this time. Let go of me, you withered hag, whose embrace is revolting to me as was the forest hag's to Roland's squires. Shrivel up to the nothing that you are, lie there like a wind-dried grass snake until once again you come to life and once again become tough and elastic and able to eat away at my soul! At this moment your power is broken. The testing period is over - if only it has not been too short, if only no one hurried her into making a resoultion, if only they made the whole matter difficult enough for her.
Mind-bending prose here, turning Possiblity into the kind of allegorical divinity that C.S. Lewis analyzed so well in his Allegory of Love. What I think is happening here is a re-write of Kierkegaard's own diaries, by which he was able to gain some perspective regarding the anxiety that he felt in the wake of his engagement to Regine. I'm not really familiar enough with SK's journals to say one way or the other, but I can't help but think that he's reaching quite beyond himself (er ... within himself) to uncover the uncomfortable psychological truth about his dilemma through the mask of his pseudonym, Quidam. It reads almost like a parody, with a kind of hyperlyrical power I haven't read since Charles Kinbote escaped from his Zemblan castle in Pale Fire. Okay, so, apart from its lyrical power, what does it actually mean? What sort of test is he undergoing? It's hard to tell, for all the obfuscatory lyricism, but presumably he is waiting for the response to his proposal. And there is more lyricism:
The first kiss - what bliss! A girl with a joyful temperament, happy in her youth! And she is mine. What are all dark thoughts and fancies but a cobweb, and what is depression but a fog that flies before this actuality, a sickness that is headed and is being headed by the sight of htis health, this health that, after all, is mine since it is hers, is my life and my future. Riches she does not have; this I know, I know it very well, nor is it necessary either, bu she can say, is as an apostle said to the paralytic, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you; stnad up, be well!"
With the biblical quotes it is hard to see how he isn't on the verge of some religious revelation, but perhaps for someone brought up in religious tradition all great moments come to seem religious, or at least intensely otherly, as this first kiss does for Quidam here. Depression comes up again here. Is there a cure for the depression other than eros? I wonder. Somewhere in Method in Theology Lonergan (Jesuit theologian) writes of the eros of knowlege, so I wonder if even celibacy is an exclusion.

The last paragraph brings to mind previous mentions of 'the fullness of time":
If yesterday I became ten years older, today I become ten years younger - no, younger than I have ever been,. Is this a crisis? Is this the wavering of decision? Estne adhuc sub judice lis [Is the case perhaps still before the court] Have I really become ten years older, I who was almost an old man - the poor girl, who has to nurse one who is dead; or have I become young as I never was young - what an enviable fate to be able to be as much to a person.
Perhaps I am wrong, but after reading this I marvel at SK's (or at least Quidam's) wisdom in breaking off the engagement.

NBC Tuesday

First of all, yes, I really do like The Biggest Loser, which is the best thing in America's obsession with Weight Loss since Richard Simmons - himself, truly, a saint of our time.

But the show to watch is My Name Is Earl, which illustrates - at least as well as anything else I've seen in pop culture for a long, long time - Kierkegaard's dictum that life must me lived forward.

The premise of the show is that a guy named Earl (played, pretty brilliantly, by Jason Lee), while in recovery from a car accident, decides that he's going to make up for all the injustices he's commited in his life ("I'm talkin' about Karma") by making up a list of said things done wrong and crossing them off one by one. His ability to do this is helped (I gather from the opening sequence) by the fact that he won the lottery just before being hit by a car, and is assisted as well by his sidekick his brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) and the most incredibly hot Catalina (Nadine Velazquez, who was in the soap "Bold and the Beautiful").

Tonight's episode really begins with Earl's announcement that before he can go to some kind of county fair only after crossing off one more bad deed from the past off his list - the time he took free beers from a hole-in-one-golfer at a country club. He finds the golfer easily enough, but in the process of trying to right previous wrongs discovers that life is a little more complicated than he'd thought while dreaming up his list. Which isn't too much of a problem - he's able to cross this item off his list, as well as a few others - but it does mean that has to keep putting off a visit to the fair that his brother Randy had been looking forward to so much. His brother has decided that he actually hasn't been helping Earl enough, so when Earl decides that his own list has become a karma-wrenching obsession in itself (beautifully realized in 'Let me off this bus!' sequence that has magic pixie dust sprinkled all over it), together they are finally able to square the cosmic circle that Earl has been so earnest in pursuing. And then they ride off together in the Trans-Am (or is it a Camaro?) from Smokey and the Bandit. After writing this I now realize that I have captured none of the greatness of this truly awesome show. Watch it next week and see for yourself.

Monday, November 07, 2005

(Journey Through Dark Heat) Where Are You Tonight?

There's a long-distance train rolling through the rain, tears on the letter I write. There's a woman I long to touch and I miss her so much but she's drifting like a satellite. There's a neon light ablaze in this green smoky haze, laughter down on Elizabeth Street And a lonesome bell tone in that valley of stone where she bathed in a stream of pure heat. Her father would emphasize you got to be more than street-wise but he practiced what he preached from the heart. A full-blooded Cherokee, he predicted to me the time and the place that the trouble would start.

There's a babe in the arms of a woman in a rage And a longtime golden-haired stripper onstage And she winds back the clock and she turns back the page Of a book that no one can write. Oh, where are you tonight? The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure, to live it you have to explode. In that last hour of need, we entirely agreed, sacrifice was the code of the road. I left town at dawn, with Marcel and St. John, strong men belittled by doubt. I couldn't tell her what my private thoughts were but she had some way of finding them out. He took dead-center aim but he missed just the same, she was waiting, putting flowers on the shelf. She could feel my despair as I climbed up her hair and discovered her invisible self.

There's a lion in the road, there's a demon escaped, There's a million dreams gone, there's a landscape being raped, As her beauty fades and I watch her undrape, I won't, but then again, maybe I might. Oh, if I could just find you tonight. I fought with my twin, that enemy within, 'til both of us fell by the way. Horseplay and disease is killing me by degrees while the law looks the other way. Your partners in crime hit me up for nickels and dimes, the guy you were lovin' couldn't stay clean. It felt outa place, my foot in his face, but he should-a stayed where his money was green. I bit into the root of forbidden fruit with the juice running down my leg. Then I dealt with your boss, who'd never known about loss and who always was too proud to beg. There's a white diamond gloom on the dark side of this room and a pathway that leads up to the stars. If you don't believe there's a price for this sweet paradise, remind me to show you the scars. There's a new day at dawn and I've finally arrived. If I'm there in the morning, baby, you'll know I've survived. I can't believe it, I can't believe I'm alive, But without you it just doesn't seem right. Oh, where are you tonight?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 11. Morning.)

This is the fourth of the six posts so far that have begun with some version of the words 'A year ago today'. In this post he writes in the next sentence, 'It really is exhausting, almost too much for me to keep my soul at the peak of resolution.,' which is disconcerting for the reader (this reader, anyway), because it seemed rather that he was being drawn into a state of near-panic unwillingly. It's helpful to keep in mind that however much this might appear to be a straight confession from Kierkegaard himself, it was in fact a portrait composed by him. It's worth considering what influence Quidam's Diary may have had on the many unreliable narrators that have followed him in literary history.

In any case, Quidam then launches into an extended metaphor about a woodcutter with an axe:
In the same way a woodcutter swings his ax over his head and this posture multiplies the force many times; with all his might, he sets himself, as it were, in opposition, every muscle quivers in the effort. But just for one moment. Oh, that these moments might be shortened! Oh that I do not make a false step! If in this potentiation in the service of a new reflection turns against me, then I am exhausted, perhaps demolished forever.
It seems to me that there are a number of problems with this analogy. First is the description of the woodcutter's swing; from my own woodcutting experience, it isn't true that 'with all his might, he sets himself ... every muscle quivers in the effort.' It IS true that the posture (at that moment when the upper arms are extended almost directly upward from his shoulders) multiplies the force many times, but to say that this in itself requires great effort is a little misleading. The point is in fact the opposite: the experienced woodcutter will expend as little effort as possible during this stroke, rather letting the weight of the axe head do the work by means of the centrifugal force, thus saving his effort for the presumably large number of logs that need to be split. And while Quidam may wish that the analogous moment is shortened as much as possible, the moment before the axe is brought down on the wood is really quite short. I'm not sure (assuming that they are problems) to what extent Kierkegaard understood them as such (thus emphasizing the unreliability of Quidam).

However easily this might be attributed to Quidam, there are other difficulties which strike me as characteristic of Kierkegaard on the whole. The words potentiation, actuality and reflection, though certainly used elsewhere, here seem especially opaque, perhaps because they are used in the first sentence after the extended metaphor. It doesn't help that in the next sentences he cries out to time itself and the nature of man, and then compares his strength to that of a Greek god. What is certain is that he does, in fact, seem exhausted.

What follows is a description of a meeting with his beloved while visiting a family known to them both. The details are interesting because it isn't a metaphor and the straight narration comes as something of a relief and the psychological tension of the passage is demonstrated in his history of the event. The preceding abstractions have created a kind of narrative vacuum that this account is quickly drawn into. It's also interesting to read here proper names: 'Kronprindsesse Street' and 'Juliane' give us something more, or at least different, to hold on to than 'Quidam,' 'father', and 'beloved.'

However welcome this paragraph may have been, the next seems designed to give us further fits:
Am I, then, not perfidious; is ther enot something calculated in everything I undertake? Good God, if I use my sagacity precisely out of concern for he, what more can I do? The words spoken could now remain a secret between her and me; no one, not a soul could suspect that a moment such as this was used in this way; if it so pleased her, the words spoken could be as null and void as if they were never spoken. The situation was precisely such that it prevented her from saying anything - if in her agitation she might otherwise have uttered a word to someone, a word that she perhaps would bitterly regret.
What perfidy is he referring to in the first sentence? In exactly what way was the moment used? In the next paragraph he writes, "and the coversation began - it had worked out as planned." and yet the propitiousness of the moment seemed to rest entirely in the fact that the entire episode was unplanned.

Certainly some of the difficulty in reading this passage comes from ocean of difference in social mores concerning the relations between elgible young men and women between 1846 (or 17something) and today. A young man and a young woman left alone in a room together wouldn't make for quite so much consternation (or outrage) today as it would have then.

The next paragraph includes a description of Quidam's trip to his beloved's father, with special attention to silence, the crucial moment, and the desire to create just the right impression. "Without art, without guile" to my mind points again towards some idea of authenticity. Interesting that it should come as his mood commands 'the full power of silent passion.' Human behavior is at its best when acted through passion and even mood, rather than thought.

The final paragraph is interesting for the fact that it ends in a question, especially since that question is answered in the first part of that same paragraph. Or it certainly seemed that way when I read it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jim Jones

Come and listen for a moment, lads,
And hear me tell my tale.
How across the sea from England
I was condemned to sail.
Now the jury found me guilty,
Then says the judge, says he,
"Oh, for life, Jim Jones, I'm sending you
Across the stormy sea.
But take a tip before you ship
To join the iron gang.
Don't get too gay in Botany Bay,
Or else you'll surely hang.
Or else you'll surely hang," says he.
"And after that, Jim Jones,
It's high above on the gallows tree
The crows will pick your bones."

And our ship was high upon the sea
Then pirates came along,
But the soldiers on our convict ship
Were full five hundred strong.
For they opened fire and somehow drove
That pirate ship away.
But I'd rather have joined that pirate ship
Than gone to Botany Bay.
With the storms ragin' round us,
And the winds a-blowin' gale,
I'd rather have drowned in misery
Than gone to New South Wales.

Now it's day and night and the irons clang,
And like poor galley slaves
We toil and toil, and when we die
Must fill dishonored graves,
And it's by and by I'll slip my chains,
Well, into the bush I'll go
And I'll join the bravest rankers there,
Jack Donohue and co.
And some dark night, when everything
Is silent in the town
I'll shoot those tyrants one and all,
I'll gun the flogger down.
Oh, I'll give the land a little shock,
Remember what I say,
And they'll yet regret they've sent Jim Jones
In chains to Botany Bay.

Friday, November 04, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 9. Morning.)

Quidam appears to be working himself back into a frenzy this morning:
A year ago today. I count the moments; if only a chance to talk with her is granted to me, the die is cast. I have though the whole thing over anew - her or nothing at all. God in heaven, would that this might turn out happily! To pray about her, I would not dare, except with the boundless reservation that makes me pray not about her but about what is beneficial for me. I have never dared to pray to God about anything in any other way, have never wished to pray in any other way. No doubt a person is closest to God in the shortcut of resignation, but this shortcut is a complete journey around life.
His description of prayer here seems remarkably uncharitable, although it is certainly in keeping with his narrative in the previous entry. His beloved really doesn't exist except as the object of his love, and he doesn't seem to be interested in seeing her in any other way. Is this a purer form of love? Should he try to love her in any other way? Does this help us see the difference between religious and erotic love (assuming there is one)?

The 'shortcut of resignation' brings to mind the 'sidestreet' mentioned by Quidam on January 3. Then it was 'to find peace,' here it is 'closest to God.' Both are characterized as deviations from the main road, and the 'complete journey around life' seems one way of interpreting life in a monastery - though I'm sure there are a number of monks who would disagree with this characterization.
In a certain sense I fear her Yes almost more than her No. Intimate as I am with silence and with dark thoughts, a No suits me better. But a Yes - yes, that is my only wish. After all it does not have to suit the rest of me; to me it will mean that just as I have a dark corner in my soul where I am a lodger in depression, so now joy will also live with me; when I belong to her I shall be able to concentrate my whole soul on making her as happy as it is possible for me.
I think this is meant as a further illustration of the difference between ideality and actuality. Interesting, too, that what he longs for is a complete reversal of his present intention. While he now prays only for his own benefit, he imagines a time in the future when, in his own words,
I ask no more in the world than that my soul might still have one abode where joy is at home, one object upon which I can concentrate in order to make happy and to be made happy.
In the next paragraph he quotes Matthew's Gospel to cast his love in religious terms. At least I think that is what he is doing, however unconsciously. And then:
Of dangers I have no fear, nor of self-sacrifices, either, so far from it that I almost find a joy in the absurd wish that she was unhappy. Truly,the only thing I fear is that she might be far happier without me.
Which brings us to ask (brings me to ask, anyway) again, Does he really love her?
I have, however, almost spied on her surroundings, her life situation.
So come, then, hour of opportunity. I want to speak to her; I do not want to write or to appeal to any third party. It is my belief that a love in all honesty, an inwardness of conviction, a resoluteness of choice give the short word, give the voice itself, an expressiveness, a trustworthiness that to the person involved is more convincing and more satisfying than the result of the deliberations of fathers and friends, who still do not know one. What I want to say can be sort, the shorter the power to fascinate, how uneasy I would be lest I use it, and if I did use it, I would eventually pay most dearly for it. I fear no one as I fear myself. Woe is me if I discovered that there had been a single deceitful word in my mouth, a single word by which I had tried to prevail upon her.
I see here the beginning of the idea of authenticity. Simply put, here he indicates that he wants to be real, perhaps even to get rid of the subjunctive mood in which he feels confined, and he wants to do this by speaking as one individual to another individual. That is why I think he wants to avoid deceit so much. Perhaps this points ahead (I think it comes later) to the Kierkegaard who would claim to be 'mere human honesty'.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 8. Morning.)

Three days away from his diary has evidently given Quidam some time to cool off, for it quickly becomes clear that he is nowhere near the fevered pitch of emotional frenzy that he’d maintained through most of the previous entry. Still, it isn’t all easygoing, and I suspect that there are cultural differences between 1846 (1746?) and now that make it even more difficult.
A year ago today I saw her at her uncle’s, where I was together with her. How secretively I brood over my love, how clandestinely I absorb the nourishment of love. And why so secretively? It certainly is not as if love needed the incitement of any mystification; but it is partly due to my being accustomed to it from an earlier time and even more from the time of preparation for this tentamen rigorosum [rigourous examination] and it is partly due to my thinking that I owe it to her. It is indeed indefensible for a man to misuse the more free association with the opposite sex that our milieu permits, as they say, to make passes.
After briefly noting that he has indeed actually spent time in the young woman’s company, Quidam begins his disquisition on the special joy of secret love. Some of this is the result of personal preference for mystification and some of it is what he feels he owes her as a gentleman.

I don’t have the Lowrie translation with me right now, but I wonder if he has done anything better with ‘make passes’.

The paragraph continues as Quidam disproves of flirtation and informs us that ‘language is in loving connivance with the prolixity of sorrow,’ and that whether she becomes his or not, his ‘judgment remains unchanged.’ His judgment of what? It can’t be to the sentences surrounding this statement, since they both concern the same question. I think it has something to do with his ‘interior being’; his shut-upness and desire to ‘leave nothing, not a trace, in the outer world.’

In the next paragraph he disavows any mystification or cunning in his efforts, and then gives us these extraordinary thoughts:
I do not know if cunning can ever be united with the erotic, but this I do know, that when one is struggling with God and with oneself whether to dare to follow the beckoning of love, whether to dare to reach for the desire that is the eye’s delight and the heart’s craving, then one is protected against this kind of going astray. But this is the reason I am so cautious, cautious to the very last moment – ah, what if there came to my interior being a counterorder that I should not have presumptuously intervened disturbingly there and I should not only have the pain of an unhappy love affair but would also have to make the retreat of repentance. If there were a magic word, if there were a rune that could make her mine, I do not know whether I would have sufficient earnestness with respect to the erotic, sufficient sensitivity, to see how ugly any such expedient is, sufficient strength to reject it, but this I do know, when one is bound as I am, one is not tempted.
A couple of comments. I would have thought that cunning and the erotic would go together well, but maybe I’ve misunderstood what he means by ‘the erotic.’ I was surprised to see him bring up G_d here, as that brings up the religious realm, but perhaps that is his intention. I’m not sure what he means by ‘counterorder’ here. He might be referring to the flirtation and cunning mentioned previously, employed for seducing the young woman into a love affair in an imaginary scenario. But he is bound by love (and perhaps by struggling with God), and therefore isn’t tempted to work by mystification and cunning.

I wonder whether the difference of 150+ years and some pretty heady cultural changes in the nature of relations between young men and women doesn’t get in the way here. SK writes of ‘the more free association with the opposite sex that our milieu permits’ but I wonder just how free that association would compare with your average courtship in 2005, to say nothing of assignations arranged through personal ads in The Stranger.
However, the fullness of time is approaching. For about a whole year now, ever since I realized I was in love with her (for prior to that time I had, of course, seen her), I have secretly and clandestinely been absorbed in this love. I have seen her at parties, seen her in her home; I have followed her path without bgeing observed. In a way the last was my favorite; partly because it satisfied the secrecy of love, partly because it did not make me uneasy with the fear that someone would discover it, which could affront her and prematurely snatch me, irresolute, out of the school of experience. This year, my year of preparation, has its own fascination for me.
This sounds a little creepy. While it might have been less so in Quidam’s time, the very fact that it is clandestine indicates that it isn’t entirely upright behavior. But the emphasis here is on the ‘secrecy of love,’ and certainly he is on to something here. The idea that lovers have some special knowledge, known only to them, is fairly universal, but what I find curious here is that Quidam experiences so much of this by himself. As if the object of his love need not have any of that experience herself.

Following this, Quidam gives another account of his stalking methods, and the cunning with which he’s able to deflect attention to his odd behaviour. He insists that the encounter with his associates couldn’t have had a happier outcome, but I’m not sure that as readers we are supposed to be entirely convinced. I certainly wasn’t. He ends with this sentence, which strikes me as a fairly good description for his purpose with this entry: ‘Oh, what a beautiful time, what fond recollection, what sweet unrest, what a happy sight – when I adorned my hidden life with the magic of love!’.

Next comes his account of a lesson on the subjunctive Quidam learned from his Latin master, which brings to mind Kierkegaard’s comment that he would like to have more indicative power. The sentiment here is opposite; young Quidam admires the multifarious moods expressed by the subjunctive and disdains the indicative mode of waiting as that experienced by a nameless messenger or cabdriver.
And yet it seemed to me that I was almost happier in my hiding place, to come so close to actuality, yet without actually being closer, results in distancing, whereas the distance of concealment draws the object to oneself. What if the whole thing were an illusion? Impossible. Why, then, do I feel happier in the distance of possibility? For the reason I myself have given; anything else is dark imagining.
It seems to me that this has been some pretty dark imagining, what with the near miss in the coffee shop and his clandestine absorption in a love affair that is only subjectively felt. His stated goal at the end of the passage is ‘to imagine everything lovable about her until [he] almost perish[es] from impatience. Doesn’t seem to make for much in the way of happiness, in any century.

It is here, however, that I think there some daylight can be seen between Quidam and Kierkegaard. If K is trying to show an individual struggling towards the religious, and that the religious is in the end ill-suited for the development of eros, then the portrait drawn of this psychological development really is extraordinary. K may well have experienced this self-torture himself, but he may also have become aware of it in the process of writing about it. The article referred to yesterday compares Quidam’s Diary to therapy, and now that comparison is beginning to seem more apt. It will be interesting to see where it all leads.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 5. Midnight.)

I've read somewhere (the Lowrie introduction?) that in Quidam's diary the 5th of each month includes important entries devoted to recollection of events prior to his engagment. This accounts for yet another shift in tone (this one is, of course, less distracting because it is supposedly written down two days later. The tone isn't radically altered within a single paragraph, as it was in the previous entry.

The five paragrahps are even given a title, Quiet Despair.
When Swift became an old man, he was committed to the insane asylum he himself had established when he was young. Here, it is related, he often stood in front of a mirror with the perseverance of a vain and lascivious woman, if not exactly with her thoughts. He looked at himself and said: Poor old man!
I thought this might be Jonathan Swift, the English satirist who authored 'Gulliver's Travels. In the appendix, an earlier version of this passage includes the descriptor 'Englishman', but the Catholic Encyclopedia here indicates a Dean Swift who opened an insane asylum in Dublin in 1745. Jonathan Swift is in fact rumored to have gone mad before he died, and the date of this death is 1745. If anyone can pin this down as a certainty, I would certainly be interested in knowing. Not that it matters a great deal, but this anecdote reminds me a little of Chekov's great story Ward No. 6, in which a psychiatrist is eventually locked up as a patient in the very asylum where he had ministered to patients.

The next three paragraphs resonate somewhat with Kierkegaard's biography; has any scholarship has been done on the correspondence between this passage and sections of the Journal that concern his father?

The scope of the last paragraph expands greatly with the attention to the 'silence of eternity'.
Then the son also became an old man; but just as love devises everything, so longing and loss taught him - not, of course, to wrest any communication from the silence of eternity - but it taught him to imitate his father's voice until the likeness satisfied him. Then he did not lok at himself in the mirror, as did the aged Swift, for the mirror was no more, but in loneliness he comforted himself by listening to his father's voice: Poor child, you are in a quiet despair. For the father was the only one who had understood him, and yet he did not know whether he had understood him; and the father was the only intimate he had had, but their intimacy was of such a nature that it remained the same whether the father was alive or dead.
After reading it again it occurs to me that it is also a meditation on the hereditary nature of original sin. More importantly (at least to the structure of the diary), it offers an explanation for the depression which he has worked so hard to guard against. The depression which led him to break off the engagement. So in this 'single, existing individual,' Quidam, we can see not just one, but two strategies developed in the diary. One is the recollection of his broken engagment; another is a kind of depth psychology that he works out on the 5th of each month. So far, anyway; maybe there's more.

Jeffery Robbins on 19th Century Protestant Thought

I found this paper, From Thinking to Religion: The Opening of Ideality in 19th Century Protestant Thought, helpful in sorting through the question posed so well by Roger Kimball; namely 'What did Kierkegaard want?' It is often noted how much of Kierkegaard's direction came in response to philosophical predecessors such as Hegel, Kant and Schleiermacher, and Robbins does much to show Kierkegaard's development of ideas that began with the latter two. He also pays special attention to Quidam's Diary. The whole article is worth reading, but here's the money paragraph:
"12. In what follows, this paper will trace a narrative of religious becoming that Kierkegaard articulates in his vast and varied work, Stages on Life’s Way. This work is broken up into four sections, each depicting a sphere if existence. Most significant for our present purpose of demonstrating the ‘How’ of religious becoming will be the third section, which Kierkegaard entitles, “Guilty? Not Guilty?” Of this section, the first part of which is designated as 'Quidam’s Diary', Kierkegaard himself writes that it is "the richest of all I have written, but it is difficult to understand" (1988: xvii). Others have assessed its worth differently. For example, Robert Brutal writes that he finds the book "(especially the interminable 'Quidam’s Diary') on the whole rather dull" (1973: viii). While it might be difficult, interminable, and even dull, what Kierkegaard brings to life in this section is a fully textured character who is "in the direction of the religious-that is, tending toward it" (1988: 398). This "tending toward" is a hint provided by Kierkegaard of what might be discerned through an entering into the laborious introspection of this troubled character's thoughts. What this suggests is that what at first glance appears as ceaseless monotony, might in fact be a record of the process of becoming. What the diary shows is the difficulty (as well as the interminability and dullness) of this task of becoming. If the religious becoming were simply a matter of the will, then surely no one would torture oneself as does Quidam. But if the religious becoming is not achieved through willing alone, then the ideality of Quidam's reflections seems not simply the likely, but perhaps the only candidate for any becoming, because as we have already seen, ideality is the condition of our thoughtful existence-meaning, that we cannot get behind, or around, or above appearances to the thing itself; and further, that we are concrete, historical subjects. Insofar as we think, reflect, and recollect, we are housed by language. Therefore, we should make clear what careful attention to Quidam's diary shows us-namely, ideality is not the problem that prevents the inbreaking of the religious, but it is the impasse through which the inbreaking is conditioned."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Petronius (PLM B XXXVIII)

Iam nunc algentes autumnus fecerat umbras
atque hiemem tepidis spectabat Phoebus habenis,
iam platanus iactare comas, iam coeperat uvas
adnumerare suas defecto palmite vitis:
ante oculos stabat quidquid promiserat annus.

Autumn had already brought its cool shadows,
Phoebus was looking toward winter with slackened reins;
already the plane tree had begun shedding leaves
and counting her grapes on withered vines:
All the year had promised was standing before our eyes.

"The Grand Old Man of American Letters"

Isn't that what Walker Percy once predicted for Gore Vidal? In 'Love in the Ruins,' didn't you say? And now we see that day has arrived. You'll also want to go here to read comments by Gore and Rushdie (the grand late-middle-aged-man of Islamic letters) on the necessity of pornography in a Free Society. Note the Kundera riff as well.

COOPER: We now see that House majority leader Tom DeLay has been indicted. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, is under investigation by the SEC. We've seen the debacle around Michael "Brownie" Brown and FEMA. Is this Administration finally collapsing under its own weight?

VIDAL: "Under its own lack of weight" [laughing], I think, is the phrase you are searching for.

COOPER: Sort of the unbearable lightness?

VIDAL: Yes, the unbearable lightness. Or here DeLay--gone tomorrow. Yes, I do believe it is breaking up. And the indictment of DeLay would not have happened had there not been two hurricanes, which dramatized to everybody in the United States that we don't have a government. And to the extent we do have one it is not only corrupt but a menace to other countries, to our liberties, to our Bill of Rights.

COOPER: If, indeed, this Administration is collapsing for lack of weight, what comes after it?

VIDAL: Martial law, that's next. Bush is like a plane of glass. You can see all the worms turning around in his head at any moment. The first giveaway of what's on his mind--or the junta's mind.

COOPER: The junta being...?

VIDAL: Cheney, who runs everything, I suspect. And a few other serious operators. Anyway, I first noticed this was on their mind when Bush finally woke up to the fact that the hurricanes were not going to be good PR for him. And he starts to think friends of his are going to be running in '08. So what's the first thing he does? The first thing on the mind of a dictator? He gets the National Guard away from the governors. The Guard is under the governors, but Bush is always saying, Let's turn it over to the military. This is what's on their mind. Under military control.