Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Franz Sez

I can understand the hesitation of my generation, indeed it is no longer mere hesitation; it is the thousandth forgetting of a dream dreamt a thousand times and forgotten a thousand times; and who can damn us merely for forgetting for the thousandth time?
~ Investigations of a Dog

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

angels sang out in immaculate chorus
down from the heavens descended...
Good and Evil and everything in between, finally decided, once and for all.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Deus Caritas Est

"The tendency to avoid the word eros, together with the new vision of love expressed through the word agape, clearly point to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love. In the critique of Christianity which began with the Enlightenment and grew progressively more radical, this new element was seen as something thoroughly negative. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice. Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely-held perception: doesn't the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesn't she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator's gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (April 5, Midnight. “A Possibility”)

"Langebro has its name from its legnth; that is, as a bridge it is long but is not much as a roadway, as one easily finds out by passing over it. Then when one is standing on the other side in Christianshavn, it in turn seems that the bridge must nevertheless be long as a roadway, because one is far, very far away from Copenhagen."

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (April 2 through April 5, Morning)

Just when I thought that we’d turned a corner in our understanding of the diary, the first several entries for April turn out to be among the most difficult yet. And in fact, April 2, after the ritual mention of ‘A year ago today’ seems for Quidam to be a kind of reckoning point. The scene is set in the first paragraph from the morning entry:
It was either the first or the second of this month that I decided to check on where we were. I arranged an occasion and posed a situational question to give her the chance to express her feelings. What happens? In the most candid way of the world, indeed, with an unbecoming intensity bordering on bad temper, she declares that she does not care for me at all, that she had accepted me out of sympathy and could not at all understand what I wanted with her.
It’s hard to know what to make of this, given his midnight stalking, his trip to the countryside, and his constant efforts at deceiving her with regard to the most difficult aspect of his personality. Maybe ‘protecting’ is a more suitable description than ‘deceiving’, but whatever it is it can be described as psychologically convoluted in the extreme. I think this is what gives him the patience to wait and see whether she “is in earnest or not.”

It would be helpful to work out the chronology of all the significant days and events in their engagement, because I’m still not sure about the order in which some of these things took place.

The beginning of the April 2 midnight entry does not bode well: “What if she actually became insane!” He follows this question by first stating again his plan to “exit as a scoundrel”, and then explores two different ways in which a “feminine psychology” can become insane. One is a “sudden change”, and another is a “secret passion”, and since he considers the second route is a more likely possibility, he also expands upon this eventuality with his own reflections on the power of reflection and the feminine mind. Basically, I think, it amounts to the idea that a little girl can’t drive a rig that big, and she will naturally prefer to drive the cute little sports car Daddy gave her for her sixteenth birthday. Or something like that. Comparing the two of them in terms of the capacity for reflection, Quidam writes:
“I myself have suffered enough under this and still suffer; one can suck poison out of another person and oneself die – in order to divest another person of reflection one can become all too reflective.”
There are also further reflections on the relationship between the comic and the tragic, leading to one of those precise statements that seems like a break in a storm.
I suppose it would be one of the most terrible collisions, perhaps the most horrible, if one wre to imagine that concern for a person made it necessary for an apostle to talk in ambiguous terms and in a light chatty tone about the truth of Christianity.
Apparently a light, chatty tone isn’t the problem with his beloved, for he once again refers to a murder she placed on his conscience. I think it would be helpful to work out the chronology of the major days and events in their relationship, as I’m still not sure when exactly this charge of murder was made. I thought it was when he broke off the engagement, but the sentence here seems to indicate that it was made some time during their engagement. Or perhaps he’s treating her outbursts as a prelude to that final charge.

In the April 5th morning entry, Quidam states that
“today I received the declaration and the last will and testament witnessed to and confirmed by – my little confirmand, for this is precisely the impression she makes on me, such a little miss.”
And yet at the end of the entry he writes, “She must know, of course, that she has just as much power as I, and a person who has the power does not act that way.”

Does she have as much power? It’s hard to say, since all we have is Quidam’s version, but even according to his account it doesn’t make sense. His references to her relatively feeble femininity, naming her ‘little miss,’ and his own refusal to be crushed by anything except ‘the religious’ would seem to indicate that he does not believe she does has much power as him. Or so it seems to me. And it still isn’t clear to me what sort of resolution Quidam was looking for at the end of last month. It certainly wasn’t her last will and testament.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Franz Sez

Hold fast to the diary from today on! Write regularly! Don’t surrender! Even if no salvation should come, I want to be worthy of it at every moment.

~ February 25, 1912

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Season of Phantasmal Peace

Then all the nations of birds lifted together
the huge net of the shadows of this earth
in multitudinous dialects, twittering tongues,
stitching and crossing it. They lifted up
the shadows of long pines down trackless slopes,
the shadows of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
the shadow of a frail plant on a city sill --
the net rising soundless at night, the birds' cries soundless, until
there was no longer dusk, or season, decline, or weather,
only this passage of phantasmal light
that not the narrowest shadow dared to sever.
And men could not see, looking up, what the wild geese drew,
what the ospreys trailed behind them in the silvery ropes
that flashed in the icy sunlight; they could not hear
battalions of starlings waging peaceful cries,
bearing the net higher, covering this world
like the vines of an orchard, or a mother drawing
the trembling gauze over the trembling eyes
of a child fluttering to sleep;
it was the light
that you will see at evening on the side of a hill
in yellow October, and no one hearing knew
what change had brought into the raven's cawing,
the killdeer's screech, the ember-circling chough
such an immense, soundless, and high concern
for the fields and cities where the birds belong,
except it was their seasonal passing, Love,
made seasonless, or, from the high privilege of their birth,
something brighter than pity for the wingless ones
below them who shared dark holes in windows and in houses,
and higher they lifted the net with soundless voices
above all change, betrayals of falling suns,
and this season lasted one moment, like the pause
between dusk and darkness, between fury and peace,
but, for such as our earth is now, it lasted long.

~ Derek Walcott

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Red Pants of Justice on Cartoon Censorship

Mr. Red Pants (or is it Mr. Justice?) is back and blogging at 'Define Normal'. Here's an interesting excerpt from his commentary on cartoon content:
... mischevous animators suffused the great cartoons of yesteryear with risque in-jokes. These little acts of sabotage were usually no more than a game, to see how far they could go without being discovered, but just ocasionally the intention was more malicious. There is a scene in Disney's 'The Rescuers' in which two of the main characters walk past an old shop window, behind which, for two frames, is a cutout from ...
Well, you'll just have to go to the site and finish reading it there. Thanks, RPoJ!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

Basically a very fine remake of Flashdance.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Glimpses of the Devil

Scary. The doctor of the road less traveled takes a road far less traveled still. Not long after being baptized as a Christian, Dr. M. Scott Peck decided to undertake the exorcism of a young mother after reaching the conclusion that her condition was beyond the treatment of standard psychotherapy. This decision was made partly because of the machinations and intrigues of Malachi Martin, and partly (as he himself admits) because of his own arrogance. My difficulty with the book has less to do with the question of whether demons exists or whether they can inhabit human souls and more to do with what seemed to me the upside down nature of his search. Evil just isn't that hard to find. I'm not convinced there's necessarily a difference between a woman who practices self-mutilation because she is a borderline personality and a woman who practices self-mutilation because she is a borderline personality and is also possessed.

Whether we speak of 'demons' in a purely psychological sense of the word or whether we think in terms of the demonic, there is nothing so inherently faithless about modern medicine that it can't be applied towards suffering wherever it is encountered. Nor is there anything so inherently unscientific about belief that it can't be practiced with good faith and patience in established methods of treatment. Which perhaps includes exorcisms. What bothered me was a mixture of traditions that sometimes bordered on puerile. To his credit, Peck is forthcoming about his own failings in the two exorcisms he performed. He can't see all of them: at one point he relies on his patient to supply her own diagnosis, but only after he has prompted her with the leading question, "have you ever thought you were possessed?" So much of the proceedings seemed to depend on the feelings of either the exorcist or the exorcisee that it is difficult to determine what was actually accomplished and what might have been shunted aside because of time constraints, personal power dynamics, or some other factor that had nothing to do with the problem at hand. At times the proceedings seemed to become an excercise in badly organized group psychology. The second exorcism, especially, degenerated into a bit of a circus in which all sense of authority was lost. Peck claims this was a good thing and underscores the importance of a well assembled team. Just how well the entire project was thought through is open to debate, but then that's why he published the book.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


A movie based on a Nabokov novel and directed by Fassbinder strikes me as one of the stranger collaborations possible for either of the two. Nabokov is the writer, who, more than perhaps any other artist ever, considered any art worthy of the name the solitary endeavor of an isolated genius. Fassbinder's method, dictatorial as it may have been, is collaborative in the extreme, and it's hard to see how he would have accomplished anything without creating an environment charged with power dynamics that were often quite simply destructive. Despair works surprisingly well, although its exceedingly slow pace probably won't work for most viewers. Despair's place in Nabokov's oeuvre isn't as well fixed as Lolita, or even a Russian masterpiece such as The Gift, but it is (in my opinion) a very good novel that harbingers certain aspects of Lolita, such as the allure of solipsism, split personality, and murder. Not to mention loneliness and, of course, despair. The film's place in Fassbinder's total output isn't very well fixed, either. It has the odd distinction (with 1982's Querelle) of having been filmed in English, the script having been written by Tom Stoppard. The acting by Dirk Bogarde and some of the regulars from Fassbinder's troupe all do a fine job, and the sets are wonderfully lush. Visually the film fits right in with others made during this period, such as The Stationmaster's Wife. Which is to say it looks very good indeed: shots of water dripping on eggshells, images doubled in a pane of etched glass, and the repetition of the action in a gangster movie within the movie as the plot reaches its climax all make for a complex creation in which the anxiety and distress (and definitely the boredom) can be felt even when the story becomes hard to follow. I think it's worth following.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Karl Adam on subjective doubt

"The Church's claim to the truth is so deeply set in the hard granite of historical facts and of logical consistency, and is so intimately bound-up with the ultimate and profoundest requirements of conscience, with its reverence before that which is holy and divine, that it can stand fast and prevail over any possible inquiry, whether past, present or future. Moreover the Catholic cannot become the prey of any merely subjective doubt, resting upon false presuppositions or erroneous deductions, so long as he does not proudly and arrogantly exclude that light of grace which is refused to no man of good will.

This light will always be clear and strong enough to reveal the sources of any misunderstanding and to prevent him sinking into invincible error (error invincibilis). The Catholic is therefore generally protected from that radical attitude which deliberately detaches a man inwardly from the professed faith of Catholic Christianity and, reveling in a purely negative criticism, embarks upon research about Christ and the Church as though neither existed. On the other hand the Church does not compel the Catholic to shut his eyes to the religious problems which arise, nor conviction of conscience. Even though the judgment of his conscience be objectively false and even though it be not in its genesis ethically irreproachable, yet he is bound to follow conscience and conscience alone."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (March 5 through March 15)

Quidam begins the March diary entries by curiously mentioning that there is "no new symptom." I don't believe he's mentioned anything about symptoms before, and it's hard to see how it can refer to the previous entry about their meeting at Hauser Square. That meeting at the end of February provokes no small amount of activity on the part of Quidam, both mental and physical, and his efforts towards the middle of the month to determine whether that meeting was arranged by chance or by his beloved lead to what can only be described as high comedy.

First are some frantic reflections on human friendship in the March 7th midnight entry:
What is all this for? Why do I do it? Because I cannot do otherwise. I do it fo rthe sake of the idea, for the sake of meaning for I cannot live without an idea; I cannot bear that my life should have no meaning at all. The nothing I am doing still does provide a little meaning. Any attempt to forget, to begin all over again, to clink glasses with a friend and drink dus with a congenial person is impossible for me, although I well realize taht my life would then be regarded as having deep meaning...

Only a relationship with God is the true idealizing friendship, for the thought of God penetrates to the point of seperating mind and thoughts and does not arrive at an understanding through chatter.
So much for human fellowship.

There follows another entry (March 9. Morning) in which he proclaims yet again, "No new symptom."

Then the mania truly begins. His beloved fails to show up at that meeting in Hauser Square, and Quidam has to wonder if that first one wasn't accidental after all. But of course he has "declared perpetual warfare on the power we call chance," and he isn't about to take this lying down. He overhears somewhere that her father is driving out to the country and suspects that it is to visit her. Why would she be forty miles out in the country? "Suppose she insists on being offended, wants it to be in the open, wants to despair and to have a distinctive form of desperation." How can this be done any better, exept by travelling out into the middle of nowhere? Quidam makes a decision:"But I must go out there; I must see what he want out there. Alas, I do not dare to ask anyone about anything, not for anything."

The result of Quidam's torturous reflections and bold decision-making begs to be quoted in full. March 17, midnight:
False alarm. Right now I have driven a hundred miles in sixteen hours, I have been nearly dead wiwth anxiety and impatience - and for nothing. My life has been endangered in a ludicrous way - and for nothing. A clumsy lout of a mail coach driver falls asleep and the horses along with him. In a fury, I jump from the carriage and hit the fellow without taking into consideration that he was a giant compared with me. But what one will not do in such a mood! And then they praise the mail-coach service, and the special coach service! It is misearble. If Richard III would give his kingdom for a horse, I believe I would have given half my fortune for a team of runners. The coach driver threw me to the ground. It was no use to walk, I had to apologize, give him a bg tip - and we drove on. The whole thing is a private matter. Ther is a farm to rent, and a man in Jylland has a son who wants to rent it. The father is an old friend of her father, and he is out there now to obtain some information about the terms. How can a brain stand all this! This is a higher and tougher sea than is known in the Atlantic Ocean, for the swell swings between nothing and the most dreadful of all.
Higher-larious. The idea that the religious and the comical metaphysically coalesce in events plotted and carried out by all-too-willing buffoons has no better illustration than this. With this entry it seems to me impossible that their could be any confusion of Kierkegaard with Quidam, except of course in the bare outline of the story. I also wonder how much he came to resent Regine in the years following their break, as descriptions such as these, in their indictment of Q's obsessions, would seem to me to go a long ways towards exculpating her of everthing except the bad luck of meeting him. I'd also note that the business with the coach driver is strongly reminiscent of his story of the policeman and the passerby on the February 20 midnight entry. Quidam is painfully suffering under his own sense of the comic. He is becoming the butt of his own joke.

No wonder that on the 20th he writes, "whether in the spiritual sense this is growing weather and the beautiful flower is sprouting in secret or whether stormy weather is brewing, I do not know; I do not even dare to investigate lest I do it prematurely and thereby disturm."

All this is curiously interrupted by another reflection on the 5th of the month, this time in an accounting of Solomon's Dream. In Quidam's version,
He dreams-he dreams that David is an ungodly man, rejected by God, that the royal majesty is God's anger with him, that he must wear the purple as a punishment, taht he is condemned to rule, condemned to listen to the people's approval, while the righteousness of the Lord secretly and hiddenly passes judgement upon the guilty one. And the dream intimates that God is not the God of the godly but of the ungodly, and aht to be singled out by God one has to be an ungodly person, and the horor of the dream is this contradiction.
Solomon then awakens from the dream and then rises to see his father, David, lying on the ground, crushed in spirit.
Horror seized him when he thought of what it means to be God's chosen one. He suspected that the saint's intimacy with God, the uprightness of the pure and faultless man before God, was not the explanation, but that secret guilt was teh secret that explained everything.
He goes on to describe Solomon's condition later in life, and I think it's fair to say that this is largely intended as an example of the aesthetic mode, and for all the wisdom he is able to dole out to others he is "like the invalid who cannot carry his own body," and he is unable to save himself.

How well this explicates the passage from 1 Kings is debatable, but of course it certainly does resonate with the other 5th-of-the-month entries, particularly the unspoken dialogue between father and son in "Quiet Despair". How well it resonates with the action described in the other entries for the month of March ... well, I just don't see the connection.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I Am a Sex Addict

I don't mean I'm a sex addict. I'm a movie addict. And the movie I happened to see tonight was called I Am a Sex Addict. Director and actor Caveh Zahedi does for sexual encounters with prostitutes what he did for psilocybe mushrooms in I Was Possessed by God. Namely, play that old 'is it reality or is it fantasy' card. Actually, the earlier movie is based on an entirely different premise, namely that old "I'm going to take 5 grams of hallucinogenic drugs and capture it on film for all posterity" card. Anyway, Sex Addict includes mercifully few sex scenes, and I'm willing to bet those were fantasies. Or were they? I think they were. But I could be wrong. They looked pretty real. And the actresses were actual porn stars, evidently. Except for the home movies - those people were his real family and friends. I think. I could be wrong about that, too. Maybe they were actors, and the porn stars were real people. Of course porn stars are real people too. Wow, it's so confusing. But exhilerating. So ... real ...

Soy Cuba

I thought this would be a thriller about Castro's decision to change agricultural exports from sugar cane and tobacco to soy beans. Boy was I mistaken! It was still pretty exciting though, with lots of action packed scenes involving assasinations of bald bullies, creepy American tourists, and bombs dropped on a poor farmer and his family. All accompanied by a combination of Soviet military band music and mambo songs of love. So go see it. Just don't expect to see anything to do with soy beans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Loving Søren

I discovered this novel at my local library while looking for secondary material on Kierkegaard. It's by Caroline Coleman O'Neill and was published just this last year. Here's the first couple of paragraphs:
Regina Olsen perched on a red sofa in the Rordams' Chinese-style drawing room, adrift amid a sea of glamorous ladies. The scent of beeswax rose from the veneered floor, mingling with the aroma of coffee bubbling forth from the inflamed samovar. Soft flakes of spring snow whispered against teh leaded windowpanes, pressing toward the sea green damask curtains. The long twisted tusk of a narwhal lay on a squidshell table. Beside it, a silver bird took flight, its mother-of-pearl feathers glistening in the snowlight that draped through the windows.

"It is so very hard to find good help these days," the widow Rordam said. "Everyone who presents himself is so very unsuitable." Encased in black, the widow sat in a regal chair of red silk. A smile hovered on the corners of her once beautiful lips. The three other young ladies nodded.

Regina hoped the widow's maid wasn't listening in at the keyhole. She fingered the edge of her gown, wishing she had chosen a different one. Although it was May, she had worn a winter white dress, unconsciously echoing the colors of the snow-laden sky. The whiteness of the dress and its intricate ivory stitchwork highlighted the darkness of her hair and eyes and echoed the pale luminescence of her moonlight colored skin. At home, the dress had seemed beautiful in its simplicity, but here in the Rordams' large drawing room on the outskirts of Copenhagen, beside the mourning taffeta of the widow and the brightly colored dresses of the three other young women, Regina's dress seemed dull.
I'm not too sure about that 'inflamed samovar,' but pretty good so far, I think.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Karl Adam on Suffering

As I’ve mentioned before, I find it helpful to read Karl Adam alongside all this Kierkegaard. His Spirit of Catholicsm is a wonderful korrektiv for the Great Dane, never more so than in this paragraph on the conflict between the claims of personality and those of community, and the suffering that naturally results thereof.
Furthermore the special character of Catholicism gives rise to a conflict between the claims of personality and those of the community. The Church is primarily a community, it is that unity of redemption-needing mankind which is established in the person of the Incarnate God. But she is at the very same time a community of persons. The Church shows herself to be the living Body of Christ only in so far as she realizes herself in living persons. Both these things, therefore, both community and personality, are of the substance of the Church, and neither can subsist without the other. From out of the community of faith and of love the personality draws its new life. And the new-born personality in its turn gives the community the best that it has, the awakening and enkindling power of its faith and of its love, and thereby gives the community fruitfulness and growth. But a community implies a common life, and therefore there must be a definite norm for the community, a creed and a law. And the individual must willingly accept this norm, in dogma, morals, law and worship. Here is the point where conflict is possible. Individualities are too rich and too variously made—being each a unique historical creation, each the result of a separate and special word of God—to be able to adapt themselves always and everywhere, fully and without friction, to the organism of the community. There are bound to be interior difficulties and obstacles, and the process calls for self-sacrifice and devoted self-denying love. And the richer a personality is, the more does it suffer from the community, especially from that average level of life and its requirements which go necessarily with a common organization. It is true that the community richly repays whatever the personality sacrifices to it. The community exercises an educative force, for it compels the individual to love and sacrifice, to humility and simplicity. The community deepens our personalities, for it enlarges them by all that goodness which we show to our brethren and they to us. And- -its highest excellence—the community is the Body of Christ, the true sphere of all the truth and grace of Jesus. But however precious the community is, there remain sacrifice, and self-denial, and self-subordination and suffering with the members of Christ. For "if any member suffer, all the members suffer with it."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Quidam and I

It really is astonishing. Here are a few indicative passages:
And yet I have language, I have her, I have the human race, I have every external evidence against me, I have nothing to plead in self-defense. (February 2 Midnight)

She has seen me overwhelmed by the power of the religious, but she does not have an eye for the religious. (February 7 Midnight)

Be still, then. It is a matter of being as insignificant as possible. (February 7 Midnight)

... even though all religious moroseness and severity are foreign to my nature, and especially with regard to her, whose presence makes me as gentle as possible. (February 28 Morning)

If only something might happen ... (February 13 Midnight)

No wonder I did not understand it, I who from earliest youth have lived in the continual contradiction between seeming to be talented in comparison with the particular individual and secretly being convinced that I was good for nothing. (February 13 Midnight)

I am free and independent, unemployed, the servant of no man, of no other woman, of no conditions of life. I lie along the shore in my boat and wonder whether some phenomenon will show up out there. (February 13 Midnight)

A year ago today... (February 28 Morning)

A few days ago there was a man who said of us that we were a proper young engaged couple [or something like that]. Obviously, we are that indeed: she by virtue of her seventeen years and I by virtue of the arificial leg I use ... to me I am just another Captain Gribskopf.(February 20 Midnight) Except I'm not fooling anybody.

Courage and perseverance! I shall reach the religious with her ... (February 28 Morning)

I am so uneasy, almost to the point of madness ... (February 28 Morning)

I have declared perpetual warfare on the power we call chance, in order, if possible, to do away with it - which does not need force of arms but particularly memeory, a memory that is just as niggling as chance itself. (February 28 Midnight)
Of course in these days of Drs. Phil, Laura and Drew, deception of Q's kind is a little more difficult, as we are all so well attuned to psychological subterfuge. Or I'm not bold enough for it. Or maybe I'm just not capable of it. Or maybe I'm kidding myself.

This has been a silly entry all my own. Now I want to go to sleep. (February 2 Midnight)

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (February)

The pace picks up over at Korrektiv. Just a bit.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gene Siskel Film Center

Went to see In My Country here while I'm visiting the Windy City and found it a pretty decent moviegoing experience all the way around. The austere, whitewashed walls and the $5 beers on sale in the lobby give it the feel of a gallery. The theatres themselves are nice - stadium style sitting, but with such touches as wooden armrests that make it a real art house cinema. Film is taken seriously here, as you might guess by their use of the word film at every opportunity. Okay, that's nitpicking, and the fact of the matter is that there are a number of good movies playing here ('films', whatever...) all the time. Looking forward to seeing a Mikio Naruse film later this weekend. There: I've been sucked in already.

Country of My Skull

Because of you, this land no longer lies between us but within. It breathes becalmed, after being wounded in its wondrous throat. In the cradle of my skull it sings, it ignites my tongue. Five thousand stories are scorched on your skin... I am changed forever... Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me...

Still, Juliette Binoche is so beautiful. So beautiful. So beautiful... It's worth watching just to see her dance with Samuel Jackson.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 26. Midnight.)

Alas, if it were possible, if it were possible! My God, every one of my nerves is probing, as it were, out in existence, they are feeling their way to see whether there would be some indication that we still might turn out to be suitable for each other, that until then I would have maintained the strength to keep my soul and my love at the peak of desire per tot discrimina. . .
The rest of the day's entry is much in the same vein, and it must be admitted that for Quidam it really isn't all that hysterical. A little overwrought, maybe, but I'm not sure he could be anything but. In a way, this is almost too easy to dismiss, but the strain to which I've become better attuned to as I read the diary is the degree to which Quidam is obviously suffering. This might be because when I read Kierkegaard I always have not just Percy but Auden in the background. Maybe even the foreground. Anyway, Auden has a nice essay on Kierkegaard and suffering in which he wrote,
Kierkegaard's polemic, and all his writings are polemical, moves simultaneously in two directions: outwardly against the bourgeois Protestantism of the Denmark of his time, and inwardly against his suffering. To the former he says, "You imagine that you are all Christians and contented because you have forgotten that each of you is an existing individual. When you remember that, you will be forced to realize that you are pagans and in despair." To himself he says, "As long as your suffering makes you defiant or despairing, as long as you identify your suffering with yourself as an existing individual, and are defiantly or despairingly the exception, you are not a Christian."
With that in mind, a sentence such as the following becomes much more interesting.
What a tremendous reward for all my misery! If the whole thing were to be but a day, if my wedding day and the day of my death were to be the same, what overpayment for all my toil and trouble, for what I, regarding the matter from a comic angle, have given up outwardly and what I, tragically suffering, call the overtime work of a prisoner! Ineffable bliss!
Maybe it's because we live in an age of narcissism, but a phrase like "I, tragically suffering" jumps off the page at me as an alert to beware of someone who cares a bit much - too much, or even much at the expense of others - of his own feelings. A certain amount of confidence is required to lay claim to 'tragic suffering', and I think it's only fair to not take language of this currency at face value. But it's also important to take the phrase that precedes it ("I, regarding the matter from a comic angle...") to get a better idea of what is intended here. Taken together, I think the passage illustrates Auden's point pretty well. And perhaps another that the poet made elsewhere (I think in an essay on Don Quixote), that to be a Christian is to understand one's self as an essentially comic figure. I think it's an appreciation of the comedic value of his own condition that leads him to write "Ineffable bliss!". Although I'm not convinced that for Kierkegaard it wasn't actually bliss of a more effable variety, or that there isn't a trace of bitterness in his appreciation of irony.

It's also interesting that the bleakness of the predicament (getting married and dying on the same day) is imagined (by an invented character, at that), and that the dialectical method he applies to comic and tragic sensibiliies seems to be spun out as much from his anxiety over that imaginary scenario as knowledge of his beloved. This is why it's good to keep in mind that this is Quidam rather than Kierkegaard, even if they do eventually converge. If it's just Quidam, he's obviously a mess. If it's Kierkegaard writing Quidam, he's at least a mess that understands himself as a mess.

And Quidam isn't entirely a mess; in the next paragraph he's able to write of his "deplorable bias, which has a sense only for the possiblities of unhappiness. . ."

Here's a sentence I don't understand:
Should I be afraid of confessing an unhappy love [Kjarlighed], should I change myself and my opinion of her because she changed toward me?
Are we to understand that she haschanged? Or is this change part of an imagined scenario? Is the Kjarlighed for her, or is it for his own method of inclosing reserve, the reward he mentions in a previous entry?

I like the last paragraph especially:

But for myself and for both of us, I still wish again my most blessed wish, which is beyond all measure and passes all understanding. Sleep well, my beloved, sleep well; stay with me in my dreams, stay with the lonely solitary, you heavenly perhaps with your ineffable bliss. And then to rest:

To bed, to bed who a beloved has
Who has none must also to bed.

Chesterton's Famous Sentence

Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society, has done some scholarly sleuthing on the source of Chesterton's famous sentence, 'When a Man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.'
One of Chesterton’s most famous quotations. Except he didn’t say it. Which is wonderful. Because Chesterton was so often accused of misquoting others. It is the supreme irony that he should be so famously misquoted.
Read all about it in On the Square, the blog for First Things, by following the link above.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 25. Morning.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (January 20. Midnight.)

What exactly does Quidam mean by a third party? Perhaps he simply means an objective perspective, or someone to act as an intermediary, or referee, for the relationship. Marriage counseling was not so available in 1850, much less 1750, as it is in 2005.
If a third party did think about my love relationship, or someone else – for when all is said and done I am perhaps the only one who thinks about it and am not even a second party on the subject. But that, after all, is what I want and what I am fighting for.
I’m not sure what Quidam/Kierkegaard means by this, but what follows makes perfect sense for the narrator:
Yet it is alarming to think this way in the stillness of the night. All existence thereby becomes somewhat askew, somewhat turned around, and thereby somewhat weird.
What I think Q/K is writing about here is the spookiness that exists on the brink of solipsism. I say ‘brink’ because within the solipsistic state it can feel as if one is always approaching the edge of being itself, while the reality may well be that one is already in a kind of free fall. Or maybe the opposite, as if one were wandering around desert flats in complete darkness, without so much as a ditch to fall into. That’s my stab at what he means by ‘weird’, anyway.

Referring to the third party again, he writes:
A third party, be it a stage hairdresser, a silk, wool, and linen merchant, a young girl at a finishing school, to say nothing of the gentleman who write short stories and novels – a third party wold be informed at once.
And now the term is a little more clear to me. I’m reminded of a passage in Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos, in which he asks how it is that a person can can remain a stranger to himself his entire life, and yet someone else can size him up in a matter of seconds. I think this observation came by way of Kierkegaard, if not Quidam. Perhaps we should keep track of all the different ways Percy’s work resonates with passages in Stages.
And a Bible passage is nevertheless always something, but one word from her, a comment she did not know she made about the tea, that is little. Yet it is indeed possible that a secret lay therein – it is just possible. Who but me understands this? But I do, after all, have a support in myself, for who would ever dream that I could be such as I am. Ergo - yes, it is correct, absolutely correct: it is possible. It is possible that she was just as skilled in reflection as I am. Indeed, if my honor and my pride, my depression, did not put the thumbscrews on me, I would hardly feel the force of this syllogism.
This is a difficult passage, but it’s also fairly representative. Something drawn from daily life, contemplation of possibility, heated ravings with special attention to himself and a kind of super rational thought process that seems most likely to turn up even more heated ravings.

I do think I have a better idea of what Quidam wants. His beloved should be just as reflective as he is, and perhaps he will he only go through with the marriage if she is. Otherwise he, or she, or both of them would then be unhappy. Even miserable. And a miserable marriage is hell.

The last paragraph is also telling for the attention to his relationship with God, and how sharply this is contrasted with his relationship to erotic love.
When I read in the poets the speeches of lovers, I smiled because I could not understand that such a relationship could occupy them so much. The eternal, a relationship with God, a relationship to the idea – this stirred my soul, but I could not grasp something so immediate. Now – well, now I am suffering, I am doing penance, even if I am not suffering in a purely erotic way.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Well, the suits at New Line finally got around to getting this one out on DVD, with what looks like some prodding from the Criterion Collection. I thought it was the greatest thing since farkleberry pie when it first came out in 1993, but I have to admit that my enthusiasm had cooled somewhat when I watched it last week. I still think it's a good movie, and David Thewliss' performance as Johnny strikes me as extraordinary as I first thought, but I'm just not convinced that the whole thing hangs together quite as well as I first believed. The character of Sebastian seems to me a bit of a cardboard cut out, and even the very solid performance by Claire Skinner at the end seems sort of tacked on. Still, the dialogue throughout much of the picture is as sharp as ever, including the mesmerizing exchange between Johnny and Brian, the night watchman. For some reason I took this pretty personally when I first watched it twelve years ago, and even now I find myself perusing the Church fathers to figure out exactly which Christian heresy Johnny is championing at the end:
Shall I tell you what I believe?
You don’t believe in anything.
Oh I do, Brian.
Yeah? What do you believe?
Do you think the amoeba ever dreamed it would evolve into the frog? Of course it didn’t. And when that first frog shimmied out of the water and employed its vocal cords to attract a mate or to retire a predator, do you think that frog ever imagined that that incipient croak would ever evolve into all the languages of the world, into all the literature of the world? Of course it fucking didn’t. And just as that froggie could never possibly have conceived of Shakespeare, so we can never possible imagine our destiny.
I know what my destiny is.
Yeah, but what you’re experiencing, as far as I can gather with all these manifestations of, ah, regression and precognition and transmigratory astral fucking chatterings is just the equivalent of that first, primeval grunt. Because evolution isn’t over. Man isn’t the be-all and fucking end-all…
You don’t believe in God.
Of course I believe in God. You see the thing is, Brian, that God is a hateful God. Must be, because if that God is good, why is there evil in the world? Why is there pain, and hate, and greed, and war? It doesn’t make sense. But if God is a nasty bastard, then you can say, why is there good in the world? Why is there is there love, and hope, and joy? Well, let’s face it: good exists in order to be fucked up by evil. The very existence of good enables evil to flourish. Therefore, God is bad. It doesn’t matter how many past or future existences you have, because they’re all going to be riddled with grief, and anguish, and sickness, and death. You see Brian, God doesn’t love you. God despises you. So there’s no hope, and mankind is just a component of the device by which the devil creates itself. You with me? You see, what I’m saying, basically, is you can’t make an omlette without cracking a few eggs, and humanity is just a cracked egg. And the omlette … stinks.
Shocking, to be sure, but it fits in perfectly with much of the nihilism that lurks within so much of the world we live and work in every day. Not to mention the terrifying ferocity of Thewliss's performance.