Friday, 28 April 2017

Deep Calls to Deep in the Roar of Your Waterfalls

Standing at the rail overlooking the waterfall I tried to hear and see it and at the same time feel the dampness of the wooden rail. Is it obvious that this is possible or is it a user illusion? Might we not be skipping from one input to the other smoothly. Still although we are having an animated conversation in a crowded room our ears will twitch if our name is mentioned. There was global attention all along apparently.

Then if I look at a specific part of the waterfall, I notice the recurring pattern of the casting of spray. This seems to occur within the experience and is not a layer of abstraction. Everything is unified in flowing time and we can no more stop it and separate out its elements that stop the waterfall. As a natural event this continuous crash has a symbolic suggestive value which inclines towards the sublime.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Surveillance at Gormenghast

Not only had he carefully selected the rooms which he felt it would be worth his while watching from time to time either for the mere amusement of eavesdropping for its own sake -or for the furtherance of his own designs.

His methods of disguising the holes which might so easily have been detected if badly positioned, were varied and ingenious, as for example in the chamber of the ancient Barquentine. Master of Ritual. This room, filthy as a fox's earth, had upon its right-hand wall a blistered portrait in oils of a rider on a piebald horse, and the young man had not only cut a couple of holes in the canvas immediately beneath the frame where its shadow lay like a long black ruler, but he had cut away the rider's buttons, the pupils of his eyes as well as those of the horse's. These circular openings at their various heights and latitudes afforded him alternative views of the room according to where Barquentine chose to propel his miserable body on that dreaded crutch of his. The horse's eye, the most frequently used of the apertures, offered a magnificent view of a mattress on the floor on which Barquentine spent most of his leisure moments, knotting and re-knotting his beard, or sending up clouds of dust every time he raised and let fall his only leg, a withered one at that, in bouts of irritation. In the chimney itself, and immediately behind the holes,a complicated series
of wires and mirrors reflected the occupants of the de-privatized rooms and sent them down the black funnel, mirror glancing to mirror, and carrying the secrets of each action that fell within their deadly orbit - passing them from one to another, until at the base a constellation of glass provided the young man with constant entertainment and information.

In the darkness he would turn his eyes, for instance, from Craggmire, the acrobat, who crossing his apartment upon his hands might frequently be seen tossing from the sole of one foot to the sole of the other a small pig in a green nightdress -would turn his eyes from this diversion to the next mirror which might disclose the Poet, tearing at a loaf of bread with his small mouth, his long wedge of a head tilted at an angle, and flushed with the exertion, for he could not use both hands -one being engaged in writing; while his eyes (so completely out of focus that they looked as though they'd never get in again) were more spirit than anything corporeal.

But from the young man's point of view there were bigger fish than these - which were, with the exception of Barquentine, no more than the shrimps of Gormenghast - and he turned to mirrors more deadly, more thrilling: mirrors that reflected the daughter of the Groans herself - the strange raven-haired Fuchsia and her mother, the Countess, her shoulders thronged with birds.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Literary Oddity: Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros

Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros was read by the Inklings on quiet nights when none of the participants had any of their own work to read to the club and there was no particular pressing matter to discuss. The crack was: how much could be read before the audience laughed. Here is an example from Chap. IV:

WHEN on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life.

Sir John’s visits began now to be numerous at Dilworth Castle, each visit serving further to strengthen the link of relationship, and bury, in the heaving breast of seeking solace, the dull delight of the weary past. As the weeks wore on, he reckoned them only as days, when comparing their loving length with those of the bleak years he tried to enjoy alone, before taking such steps—yes, serious steps—as those fancied by the would-be bachelor.

At first he was careless and indifferent to the flowery harangues of mothers who paid him periodical visits, with their daughters, of apology, and firmly retained the obstinate qualities of an autocratic ruler, until softened in the presence of one he found he was learning to steadily love. He believed now that the chief stripes, viz.—observation, inclination, advancement and accomplishment, in the well-spun web of matrimony, must harmonise with the groundwork of happiness, without which our lives are not worth an unstamped coin.

Is this purple? Nay, the grape crushed by the grateful feet of Umbrian peasants on a fine autumnal morning is merely the diaphanous transparency of a sky of bewildering clarity. I in my occluded state of consciousness adumbrate the ineluctable modality of the risible.

Wikipedia entry: Amanda McKitrick Ros

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A History of Tom's Cheating from Aylwin by Theodore Watts-Dunton

This exclamation, however, aroused my ire against Tom; and as I always looked upon him as my special paid henchman, who, in return for such services as supplying me with tiny boxing-gloves, and fishing-tackle, and bait, during my hale days, and tame rabbits now that I was a cripple, mostly contrived to possess himself of my pocket-money, I had no hesitation in exclaiming,

'Why, Tom, you know you're drunk, you silly old fool!'

At this Tom turned his mournful and reproachful gaze upon me, and began to weep anew. Then he turned and addressed the sea, uplifting his hand in oratorical fashion:—

'Here's a young gentleman as I've been more than a father to—yes, more than a father to—for when did his own father ever give him a ferret-eyed rabbit, a real ferret-eyed rabbit thoroughbred?'

'Why, I gave you one of my five-shilling pieces for it,' said I; 'and the rabbit was in a consumption and died in three weeks.'

But Tom still addressed the sea.

'When did his own father give him,' said he, 'the longest thigh-bone that the sea ever washed out of Raxton churchyard?'

'Why, I gave you two of my five-shilling pieces for that,' said I, 'and next day you went and borrowed the bone, and sold it over again to Dr. Munro for a quart of beer.'

'When did his own father give him a beautiful skull for a money-box, and make an oak lid to it, and keep it for him because his mother wouldn't have it in the house?'

'Ah, but where's the money that was in it, Tom? Where's the money?' said I, flourishing one of my crutches, for I was worked up to a state of high excitement when I recalled my own wrongs and Tom's frauds, and I forgot his relationship to the little girl. 'Where are the bright new half-crowns that were in the money-box when I left it with you—the half-crowns that got changed into pennies, Tom? Where are they? What's the use of having a skull for a money-box if it's got no money in it? That's what I want to know, Tom!'

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Fathers and Children by Ivan Turgenev

To see things clearly you must get yourself out the way. That was Matthew Arnold’s dictum but those great writers and artists who have affected us deeply and permeated our aesthetic sensibility are in the vedic phrase the eye of the eye. In Fathers and Children (Constance Garnett’s trans.) we see what we have been trained to see and that is something we have to admit before our natural guile or critical intelligence subverts the author’s leadingi. We notice then that Turgenev’s own soft hearted love of the rising generation and Bazarov his ‘favourite child’ can rebut materialist ideology by following with a lyrical passage. Nikolai the father of Arkady represents this aspect of Turgenev:

In vain, then, had he spent whole days sometimes in the winter at Petersburg over the newest books; in vain had he listened to the talk of the young men; in vain had he rejoiced when he succeeded in putting in his word too in their heated discussions. 'My brother says we are right,' he thought, 'and apart from all vanity, I do think myself that they are further from the truth than we are, though at the same time I feel there is something behind them we have not got, some superiority over us.... Is it youth? No; not only youth. Doesn't their superiority consist in there being fewer traces of the slave owner in them than in us?'

This regret is balanced immediately by the evocation of a beautiful evening:

'But to renounce poetry?' he thought again; 'to have no feeling for art, for nature ...'
And he looked round, as though trying to understand how it was possible to have no feeling for nature. It was already evening; the sun was hidden behind a small copse of aspens which lay a quarter of a mile from the garden; its shadow stretched indefinitely across the still fields. A peasant on a white nag went at a trot along the dark, narrow path close beside the copse; his whole figure was clearly visible even to the patch on his shoulder, in spite of his being in the shade; the horse's hoofs flew along bravely. The sun's rays from the farther side fell full on the copse, and piercing through its thickets, threw such a warm light on the aspen trunks that they looked like pines, and their leaves were almost a dark blue, while above them rose a pale blue sky, faintly tinged by the glow of sunset. The swallows flew high; the wind had quite died away, belated bees hummed slowly and drowsily among the lilac blossom; a swarm of midges hung like a cloud over a solitary branch which stood out against the sky. 

He can also cast a cold eye on the progressive:

The town of X—— to which our friends set off was in the jurisdiction of a governor who was a young man, and at once a progressive and a despot, as often happens with Russians.
The woman question gets a mention:
Bazarov scowled. There was nothing repulsive in the little plain person of the emancipated woman; but the expression of her face produced a disagreeable effect on the spectator. One felt impelled to ask her, 'What's the matter; are you hungry? Or bored? Or shy? What are you in a fidget about?' Both she and Sitnikov had always the same uneasy air. She was extremely unconstrained, and at the same time awkward; she obviously regarded herself as a good-natured, simple creature, and all the while, whatever she did, it always struck one that it was not just what she wanted to do; everything with her seemed, as children say, done on purpose, that's to say, not simply, not naturally.

Arkady gets a glimpse of the cruelty that is not too far away from the behaviourism that Bazarov espouses. They are about to quarrel; enacting an anticipation of of class war:
Fighting?' put in Bazarov. 'Well? Here, on the hay, in these idyllic surroundings, far from the world and the eyes of men, it wouldn't matter. But you'd be no match for me. I'll have you by the throat in a minute.'

Bazarov spread out his long, cruel fingers.... Arkady turned round and prepared, as though in jest, to resist.... But his friend's face struck him as so vindictive—there was such menace in grim earnest in the smile that distorted his lips, and in his glittering eyes, that he felt instinctively afraid.

Madame Anna the aristocrat and Bazarov the Nihilist are hobbled by their cool rationalism and unable to move towards ordinary human happiness. Ideology and prudence are a non combustible mix. Some people are pursued by happiness but they manage to keep ahead of it.

At many points in this novel I was moved but did not feel that I was being cozened into emotion. Being a father you have to stay where you are and let your child come to you. Bazarov was coming back, doctoring in the district, helping his father out and then well ...

Friday, 21 April 2017


Shaving with a genuine antique, a Wilkinson’s straight razor from 1893, is a very pleasant way to do experimental archaeology with an added smug factor of 9.5 because those plastic gadgets that are the usual tools for this task are not recyclable. They go straight to landfill and their minute but cumulatively significant energy is lost for ever and well, they are expensive. My razor in its original case cost me 6 Pounds sterling. Can you even buy a 4 blade refill for that? There was a couple of spots of surface rust on the blade and it needed bevel setting, honing and stropping. Warranted real German hollow grind is stamped on it. A real singing razor. A gruff 5 day crop is swished away without tiresome clogging and skidding with manly sound effects. A one pass shave taking 5 minutes is quite adequate but I generally take a second.

I read that in America 2 billion disposable razors per year end up in landfill. Do the world wide sums. I’m greener than Kermit.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

William Law on Reason

God Almighty has entrusted us with the use of reason, and we use it to the disorder and corruption of our nature. We reason ourselves into all kinds of folly and misery, and make our lives the sport of foolish and extravagant passions; seeking after imaginary happiness in all kinds of shapes, creating to ourselves a thousand wants, amusing our hearts with false hopes and fears, using the world worse than irrational animals, envying, vexing, and tormenting one another with restless passions, and unreasonable contentions.
(from A Serious Call pub.1729)

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Loyalty Oath

Reading the usual blogs that someone such as myself with an interest in literature and philosophy would read I feel as though I had somehow got on the wrong bus and was delivered to a re-education camp. Like a travelling symptom the 'paranoid style' which afflicted conservatives has jumped to the other side of the American divide. Perfectly legal immigrants such as Amod Lele feel that they might be lifted and find themselves back in, OMG, in Canada.
disengaged Buddhism

Amod make it a nine-fold path. Add 'get real or 'get a grip'. Declaring yourself anti-Trump is becoming the liberal version of a loyalty oath.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A Song from John Ford's The Broken Heart

O, no more, no more, too late
Sighs are spent; the burning tapers
Of a life as chaste as fate,
Pure as are unwritten papers,
Are burnt out: no heat, no light
Now remains; ’t is ever night.
Love is dead; let lovers’ eyes,
Lock’d in endless dreams,
Th’ extremes of all extremes,
Ope no more, for now Love dies,
Now Love dies, — implying
Love’s martyrs must be ever, ever dying.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Bergsonian Meditation

Experience the present as though it were being remembered.

Is that dissociative or is it trying to do what we are already doing? The latter is a blocking regress or a trying to try. It initiates an automatic pause or poise and that is a good thing for the mental carousel.

That is what I would call a special meditation as against a general practice like mantra/japa. It might be considered an experimental reconfiguration.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Hedda Gabler, Hair Puller, Mean Girl

I watched on youtube Hedda Gabler with Ingrid Bergman, Ralph Richardson and Michael Redgrave. Bergman acted with high Strindbergian, Nordic devil woman twitching. Richardson as Judge Brack was a fine insinuating seducer,Redgrave a perfect bemused scholar, and Trevor Howard a fair Lovborg. I also looked at briefly Janet Suzman (B.B.C. play)who adopts a malign sweetness.

“Her hair is not particularly abundant” says Ibsen in his stage directions. Of Mrs. Elvsted he directs "Her hair is remarkably light, almost flaxen, and unusually abundant and wavy”.

She is remembered by Hedda as that girl with the irritating hair. Mrs. Elvsted also has a memory:

Yes, but you were in the class above me. Oh, how dreadfully afraid of you I was then!
Afraid of me?
Yes, dreadfully. For when we met on the stairs you used always to pull my hair.
Did I, really?
Yes, and once you said you would burn it off my head.

The startling thing is that the timid Mrs.Elvsted has left her husband, an up country official to be the muse and sponsor of the alcoholic genius Lovborg while Hedda a maenad manque is terrified of scandal.

[Clenches his hands.] Oh, why did you not carry out your threat? Why did you not shoot me down?
Because I have such a dread of scandal.
Yes, Hedda, you are a coward at heart.
A terrible coward. [Changing her tone.] But it was a lucky thing for you. And now you have found ample consolation at the Elvsteds'.
I know what Thea has confided to you.
As a woman without much of an inner life she fills the void with the confidences of others, Lovborg’s and Elvsted’s. Knowledge is power and that is what she wants but somehow her plans go awry and Brack is too cunning for her. Too cunning for himself in fact for instead of playing his trump he ought to have held back and Hedda would out of boredom agreed to the triangular set up. Because she’s worth it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope

Here is a man who is about to be denounced as a beast:
As he thought of it, and as that visit up-stairs prolonged itself, he almost thought it would be best for him to be round with her! We all know what a husband means when he resolves to be round with his wife.

Louis Trevalyan is Mr.Right in this case and Mrs. Right nee Emily Rowley daughter of the Governor of the Mandarin Islands, Sir Marmaduke. She is a proud creature, unwilling to be corrected and as a colonial perhaps unaware of the nuances of proper stiffness with any males. Colonel Osborne an old friend of her father and the same age as him is regarded by Trevalyan as being overly familiar with his wife. He is a jealous man and conscious of the great benefits he has conferred through his generous taking up of a dowryless wife and her sister. There is no doubt that the Colonel likes to hover about pretty married women and has been the cause of rifts.

Trollope can be acute and the analysis of polite marriage requires his anguished ironies. Will he forbear to talk to the reader, well hardly, for my citation shows that he already has. Will there be fox-hunting? I like it when there's fox-hunting. Someone will come a cropper, I feel it in my water. The edition I've just begun is in the Oxford Classics series, a beautiful format 6x3.75 inches, virtually the golden section with a dust cover for 1Euro.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Understanding, Intuition and Adhiropa/Apavada (adhyaropa/apavada)

It might well be insisted that you either understand or you don’t, there is no liminal condition. Understanding is a success verb. When you understand you’re there, you’ve got it. That is the rigorist view and it has its place in the Q.E.D. world of Euclidean demonstration. What of the more hazy world of philosophy, politics and economics in which understanding is vague and can be said to dawn where there is a gradation of let us call it nous factor from one to five, i.e. from god like clarity to ‘sit down O’Toole you’re wasting the time of the class’.

Sometimes understanding is at the tip of your mind, it’s dawning; the night of inconscience is giving way to the bulking shadows of cows and trees. Philosophy of a certain sort has this gradualism of understanding. Even the hyper-smart philosophers of the Partially Examined Podcast speak of the initial recoil from the counter intuitive theories of Bergson
P.E.L. on Bergson
to a later feeling that there was a profound point that required time to develop.

The First Rule of the Podcast is: Only talk about the set text. That is a limitation for the discussion of difficult Bergsonian concepts of intuition, image, duration etc. The text in question was an essay Introduction to Metaphysics first published in 1903 and included in the book The Creative Mind.

In an essay on philosophical intuition, in the same book, he discusses the difficulty of attaining the intuition of Berkeley. What was his sense of the wholeness of things, that unbroken continuity, that plenum. and not merely the elements lain side by side which we get in any account of his thought? Bergson in the attempt to draw us into his own intuitions of the real used analogies and metaphors which highlights his idea that the image is next to the intuition. An analogy is, so to speak, an active image and can function as a portal to the central intuition. Here I think is the key to deep understanding and how it might relate to Coleridge and the adhiropa/apavada of Advaita is something I will have discern through the fog of inconscience. Later.