félix guattari on writing (1972)

10/06/1972

I’m strapped to this journal. Grunt. Heave. Impression that the ship is going down. The furniture slides, the table legs wobble …

Writing so that I won’t die. Or so that I die otherwise. Sentences breaking up. Panting like for what. […]

You can explain everything away. I explain myself away. But to whom? You know … The question of the other. The other and time. I’m home kind of fucking around. Listening to my own words. Redundancy. Peepee poopoo. Things are so fucking weird! […]

Have to be accountable. Yield to arguments. What I feel like is just fucking around. Publish this diary for example. Say stupid shit. Barf out the fucking-around-o-maniacal schizo flow. Barter whatever for whoever wants to read it. Now that I’m turning into a salable name I can find an editor for sure […] Work the feed-back; write right into the real. But not just the professional readers’ real, “Quinzaine polemical” style. The close, hostile real. People around. Fuck shit up. The stakes greater than the oeuvre or they don’t attain it […]

Just setting up the terms of this project makes me feel better. My breathing is freed up by one notch. Intensities. A literary-desiring machine. […]

When it works I have a ton to spare, I don’t give a shit, I lose it as fast as it comes, and I get more. Active forgetting! What matters is interceding when it doesn’t work, when it spins off course, and the sentences are fucked up, and the words disintegrate, and the spelling is total mayhem. Strange feeling, when I was small, with some words. Their meaning would disappear all of a sudden. Panic. And I have to make a text out of that mess and it has to hold up: that is my fundamental schizo-analytic project. Reconstruct myself in the artifice of the text. Among other things, escape the multiple incessant dependencies on images incarnating the “that’s how it goes!”

Writing for nobody? Impossible. You fumble, you stop. I don’t even take the trouble of expressing myself so that when I reread myself I can understand whatever it was I was trying to say. Gilles will figure it out, he’ll work it through. […]

I tell myself I can’t take the plunge and leave this shit for publication because that would inconvenience Gilles. But really, though? I just need to cross out the passages he’s directly involved in. I’m hiding behind this argument so that I can let myself go again and just fucking float along. Even though when it comes to writing an article, I start over like twenty-five times!!

And this dance of anxiety …

From The Anti-Oedipus Papers, a set of notes and journal entries by Félix Guattari written while he and Gilles Deleuze were busy writing Anti-Oedipus together(1972) .Translated from the French by Stéphane Nadaud.

simone weil – intelligence and grace

simone weil gravity and graceWe know by means of our intelligence that what the intelligence does not comprehend is more real than what it does comprehend.

Faith is the experience that intelligence is enlightened by love.
Only, intelligence has to recognize by the methods proper to it, that is to say by verification and demonstration, the pre-eminence of love. It must not yield unless it knows why, and it must know this quite precisely and clearly. Otherwise its submission is a mistake and that to which it submits itself is something other than supernatural love. For example it may be social influence.

In the intellectual order, the virtue of humility is nothing more nor less than the power of attention.

The wrong humility leads us to believe that we are nothing in so far as we are ourselves—in so far as we are certain particular human beings.
True humility is the knowledge that we are nothing in so far as we are human beings as such, and, more generally, in so far as we are creatures.
The intelligence plays a great part in this. We have to form a conception of the universal.

When we listen to Bach or to a Gregorian melody, all the faculties of the soul become tense and silent in order to apprehend this thing of perfect beauty—each after its own fashion—the intelligence among the rest. It finds nothing in this thing it hears to affirm or deny, but it feeds upon it.
Should not faith be an adherence of this kind?
The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation.

The privileged rôle of the intelligence in real love comes from the fact that it is inherent in the nature of intelligence to become obliterated through the very fact that it is exercised. I can make efforts to discover truths, but when I have them before me they exist and I do not count.

There is nothing nearer to true humility than intelligence. It is impossible to be proud of our intelligence at the moment when we are really exercising it. Moreover, when we do exercise it we are not attached to it, for we know that even if we became an idiot the following instant and remained so for the rest of our life, the truth would continue unchanged.

The mysteries of the Catholic faith are not intended to be believed by all the parts of the soul. The presence of Christ in the host is not a fact of the same kind as the presence of Paul’s soul in Paul’s body (actually both are completely incomprehensible, but not in the same way). The Eucharist should not then be an object of belief for the part of me which apprehends facts. That is where Protestantism is true. But this presence of Christ in the host is not a symbol, for a symbol is the combination of an abstraction and an image, it is something which human intelligence can represent to itself, it is not supernatural. There the Catholics are right, not the Protestants. Only with that part of us which is made for the supernatural should we adhere to these mysteries.

The rôle of the intelligence—that part of us which affirms and denies and formulates opinions—is merely to submit. All that I conceive of as true is less true than those things of which I cannot conceive the truth, but which I love. Saint John of the Cross calls faith a night. With those who have had a Christian education, the lower parts of the soul become attached to these mysteries when they have no right to do so. That is why such people need a purification of which Saint John of the Cross describes the stages. Atheism and incredulity constitute an equivalent of this purification.

The desire to discover something new prevents people from allowing their thoughts to dwell on the transcendent, undemonstrable meaning of what has already been discovered. My total lack of talent which makes such a desire out of the question for me is a great favour I have received. The recognized and accepted lack of intellectual gifts compels the disinterested use of the intelligence.

The object of our search should not be the supernatural, but the world. The supernatural is light itself: if we make an object of it we lower it.

The world is a text with several meanings, and we pass from one meaning to another by a process of work. It must be work in which the body constantly bears a part, as, for example, when we learn the alphabet of a foreign language: this alphabet has to enter into our hand by dint of forming the letters. If this condition is not fulfilled, every change in our way of thinking is illusory.

We have not to choose between opinions. We have to welcome them all but arrange them vertically, placing them on suitable levels.
Thus: chance, destiny, Providence.

Intelligence can never penetrate the mystery, but it, and it alone, can judge of the suitability of the words which express it. For this task it needs to be keener, more discerning, more precise, more exact and more exacting than for any other.

The Greeks believed that only truth was suitable for divine things—not error nor approximations. The divine character of anything made them more exacting with regard to accuracy. (We do precisely the opposite, warped as we are by the habit of propaganda.) It was because they saw geometry as a divine revelation that they invented a rigorous system of demonstration…

In all that has to do with the relations between man and the supernatural we have to seek for a more than mathematical precision; this should be more exact than science.1

We must suppose the rational in the Cartesian sense, that is to say mechanical rule or necessity in its humanly demonstrable form, to be everywhere it is possible to suppose it, in order to bring to light that which lies outside its range.

The use of reason makes things transparent to the mind. We do not, however, see what is transparent. We see that which is opaque through the transparent—the opaque which was hidden when the transparent was not transparent. We see either the dust on the window or the view beyond the window, but never the window itself. Cleaning off the dust only serves to make the view visible. The reason should be employed only to bring us to the true mysteries, the true undemonstrables, which are reality. The uncomprehended hides the incomprehensible and should on this account be eliminated.

Science, today, will either have to seek a source of inspiration higher than itself or perish.
Science only offers three kinds of interest: (1) Technical applications, (2) A game of chess, (3) A road to God. (Attractions are added to the game of chess in the shape of competitions, prizes and medals.)

Pythagoras. Only the mystical conception of geometry could supply the degree of attention necessary for the beginning of such a science. Is it not recognized, moreover, that astronomy issues from astrology and chemistry from alchemy? But we interpret this filiation as an advance, whereas there is a degradation of the attention in it. Transcendental astrology and alchemy are the contemplation of eternal truths in the symbols offered by the stars and the combinations of substances. Astronomy and chemistry are degradations of them. When astrology and alchemy become forms of magic they are still lower degradations of them. Attention only reaches its true dimensions when it is religious.

Galileo. Having as its principle unlimited straight movement and no longer circular movement, modern science could no longer be a bridge towards God.

The philosophical cleansing of the Catholic religion has never been done. In order to do it it would be necessary to be inside and outside.
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1 Here again is one of those contradictions which can only be resolved in the realm of the inexpressible: the mystic life, which only arises from the divine arbitrariness, is nevertheless subject to the most severe rules. Saint John of the Cross was able to give a geometric plan of the journey of the soul towards God. [Editor’s note.]

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Excerpted from Simone Weil‘s Gravity and Grace. First French edition 1947. Translated by Emma Crawford. English language edition 1963. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.

antonio gramsci – history (1916)

Gramsci_colorized_photoGive up to life your every action, your every ounce of faith. Throw all your best energies, sincerely and disinterestedly, into life. Immerse yourselves, living creatures that you are, in the live, pulsing tide of human existence, until you feel at one with it, until it floods through you, and you feel your individual personality as an atom within a body, a vibrating particle within a whole, a violin string which receives and echoes all the symphonies of history; of that history which, in this way, you are helping to create.

In spite of this utter abandonment of the self to the reality which surrounds it, in spite of this attempt to key your individuality into the complex play of universal causes and effects, you may still, suddenly, feel a sense that something is missing; you may become conscious of vague and indefinable needs, those needs which Schopenhauer termed metaphysical.

You are in the world, but you do not know why you are here. You act, but you do not know why. You are conscious of voids in your life; you desire some justification of your being, of your actions; and it seems to you that human reasons alone do not suffice. Tracing the causal links further and further back, you arrive at a point where, to co-ordinate, to regulate the movement, some supreme reason is necessary, some reason which lies beyond what is known and what is knowable. You are just like a man looking at the sky, who, as he moves further and further back through the space while science has mapped out for us, finds ever greater difficulties in his fantastic uncontrolled impulses.

But what can conquer them is the force of life itself; historical activity can annul them. They are simply the products of tradition, the instinctual vestiges of millennia of terror and of ignorance of the reality that surrounds us. Their origin can be traced. To explain them is to overcome them. To make them the object of history is to recognize their emptiness. And then one can return to the active life, and experience more authentically the reality of history. By bringing feeling, as well as fact, within the sphere of history, one can finally recognize that it is in history alone that the explanation of our existence lies. What can be historicized cannot be supernatural in origin, the vestige of some divine revelation. If something still remains inexplicable, that is due only to our cognitive deficiencies, to the still imperfect grasp of our intellect. Recognizing this may make us more humble, more modest, but it will not throw us into the arms of religion.

Our religion becomes, once again, history. Our faith becomes, once again, man, and man’s will and his capacity for action. We feel an enormous, an irresistible, force from our human past.

We recognize the good things it brings us, like the energetic certainty that what has been possible will be possible again; all the more so, in that we have become wise through the experience of others. But we also recognize the bad, like these inorganic vestiges of transcended states of mind. And this is why we inevitably feel ourselves to be in conflict with Catholicism; and this is why we call ourselves modern. Because, though we feel the past fuelling our struggle, it is a past that we have tamed; our servant, not our master; a past which illuminates and does not overshadow us.

Avanti, 29 August 1916
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From Pre-Prison Writings, edited by Richard Bellamy. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, 1994, pp 13-14.

chairman miao at home (2003)

On Thursday I was sent a folder of photographs by Alex Hayn from a time when I didn’t have a camera for several years and so up until now have had no visual record… These are some of them, of an evening at home in Tamboerskloof with my housemate, Meg Wright.

Rose and Narcissus. 2003. Photo: Alexander Hayn

Rose with Narcissus. Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003

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Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003.

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Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003.

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Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003.

 

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Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003.

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Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003.

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Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003.

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Meg, when cell phone screens were still monochrome green. Photo: Alexander Hayn, 2003

julia holter – goddess eyes i (2012)

This track comes from her brilliant 2012 album, Ekstasis, which you can listen to HERE. Video directed by Jose Wolff.

“The first thing that came to mind was an image that gradually deteriorates with visual noise, echoing the sonic noise present in the song. We go from lightness to darkness, away from a structured, fabricated place and into raw territory.” – Jose Wolff – August 2012

simone weil – attention and will

simone weil gravity and graceWe do not have to understand new things, but by dint of patience, effort and method to come to understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.

Stages of belief. The most commonplace truth when it floods the whole soul, is like a revelation.

We have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will.

The will only controls a few movements of a few muscles, and these movements are associated with the idea of the change of position of nearby objects. I can will to put my hand flat on the table. If inner purity, inspiration or truth of thought were necessarily associated with attitudes of this kind, they might be the object of will. As this is not the case, we can only beg for them. To beg for them is to believe that we have a Father in heaven. Or should we cease to desire them? What could be worse? Inner supplication is the only reasonable way, for it avoids stiffening muscles which have nothing to do with the matter. What could be more stupid than to tighten up our muscles and set our jaws about virtue, or poetry, or the solution of a problem? Attention is something quite different.

Pride is a tightening up of this kind. There is a lack of grace (we can give the word its double meaning here) in the proud man. It is the result of a mistake.

Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.

Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.

If we turn our mind towards the good, it is impossible that little by little the whole soul will not be attracted thereto in spite of itself.

Extreme attention is what constitutes the creative faculty in man and the only extreme attention is religious. The amount of creative genius in any period is strictly in proportion to the amount of extreme attention and thus of authentic religion at that period.

The wrong way of seeking. The attention fixed on a problem. Another phenomenon due to horror of the void. We do not want to have lost our labour. The heat of the chase. We must not want to find: as in the case of an excessive devotion, we become dependent on the object of our efforts. We need an outward reward which chance sometimes provides and which we are ready to accept at the price of a deformation of the truth.

It is only effort without desire (not attached to an object) which infallibly contains a reward.

To draw back before the object we are pursuing. Only an indirect method is effective. We do nothing if we have not first drawn back.

By pulling at the bunch, we make all the grapes fall to the ground.

There are some kinds of effort which defeat their own object (example: the soured disposition of certain pious females, false asceticism, certain sorts of self-devotion, etc.). Others are always useful, even if they do not meet with success.

How are we to distinguish between them? Perhaps in this way: some efforts are always accompanied by the (false) negation of our inner wretchedness; with others the attention is continually concentrated on the distance there is between what we are and what we love.

Love is the teacher of gods and men, for no one learns without desiring to learn. Truth is sought not because it is truth but because it is good.

Attention is bound up with desire. Not with the will but with desire—or more exactly, consent.

We liberate energy in ourselves, but it constantly reattaches itself. How are we to liberate it entirely? We have to desire that it should be done in us—to desire it truly—simply to desire it, not to try to accomplish it. For every attempt in that direction is vain and has to be dearly paid for. In such a work all that I call ‘I’ has to be passive. Attention alone—that attention which is so full that the ‘I’ disappears—is required of me. I have to deprive all that I call ‘I’ of the light of my attention and turn it on to that which cannot be conceived.

The capacity to drive a thought away once and for all is the gateway to eternity. The infinite in an instant.

As regards temptations, we must follow the example of the truly chaste woman who, when the seducer speaks to her, makes no answer and pretends not to hear him.

We should be indifferent to good and evil but, when we are indifferent, that is to say when we project the light of our attention equally on both, the good gains the day. This phenomenon comes about automatically. There lies the essential grace. And it is the definition, the criterion of good.

A divine inspiration operates infallibly, irresistibly, if we do not turn away our attention, if we do not refuse it. There is not a choice to be made in its favour, it is enough not to refuse to recognize that it exists.

The attention turned with love towards God (or in a lesser degree, towards anything which is truly beautiful) makes certain things impossible for us. Such is the non-acting action of prayer in the soul. There are ways of behaviour which would veil such attention should they be indulged in and which, reciprocally, this attention puts out of the question.

As soon as we have a point of eternity in the soul, we have nothing more to do but to take care of it, for it will grow of itself like a seed. It is necessary to surround it with an armed guard, waiting in stillness, and to nourish it with the contemplation of numbers, of fixed and exact relationships.
We nourish the changeless which is in the soul by the contemplation of that which is unchanging in the body.

Writing is like giving birth: we cannot help making the supreme effort. But we also act in like fashion. I need have no fear of not making the supreme effort—provided only that I am honest with myself and that I pay attention.

The poet produces the beautiful by fixing his attention on something real. It is the same with the act of love. To know that this man who is hungry and thirsty really exists as much as I do— that is enough, the rest follows of itself.

The authentic and pure values—truth, beauty and goodness— in the activity of a human being are the result of one and the same act, a certain application of the full attention to the object.

Teaching should have no aim but to prepare, by training the attention, for the possibility of such an act. All the other advantages of instruction are without interest.

Studies and faith. Prayer being only attention in its pure form and studies being a form of gymnastics of the attention, each school exercise should be a refraction of spiritual life. There must be method in it. A certain way of doing a Latin prose, a certain way of tackling a problem in geometry (and not just any way) make up a system of gymnastics of the attention calculated to give it a greater aptitude for prayer.

Method for understanding images, symbols, etc. Not to try to interpret them, but to look at them till the light suddenly dawns.

Generally speaking, a method for the exercise of the intelligence, which consists of looking.

Application of this rule for the discrimination between the real and the illusory. In our sense perceptions, if we are not sure of what we see we change our position while looking, and what is real becomes evident. In the inner life, time takes the place of space. With time we are altered, and, if as we change we keep our gaze directed towards the same thing, in the end illusions are scattered and the real becomes visible. This is on condition that the attention be a looking and not an attachment.

When a struggle goes on between the will attached to some obligation and a bad desire, there is a wearing away of the energy attached to good. We have to endure the biting of the desire passively, as we do a suffering which brings home to us our wretchedness, and we have to keep our attention turned towards the good. Then the quality of our energy is raised to a higher degree. We must steal away the energy from our desires by taking away from them their temporal orientation.

Our desires are infinite in their pretensions but limited by the energy from which they proceed. That is why with the help of grace we can become their master and finally destroy them by attrition. As soon as this has been clearly understood, we have virtually conquered them, if we keep our attention in contact with this truth.

Video meliora … In such states, it seems as though we were thinking of the good, and in a sense we are doing so, but we are not thinking of its possibility.

It is incontestable that the void which we grasp with the pincers of contradiction is from on high, for we grasp it the better the more we sharpen our natural faculties of intelligence, will and love. The void which is from below is that into which we fall when we allow our natural faculties to become atrophied.

Experience of the transcendent: this seems contradictory, and yet the transcendent can be known only through contact since our faculties are unable to invent it.

Solitude. Where does its value lie? For in solitude we are in the presence of mere matter (even the sky, the stars, the moon, trees in blossom), things of less value (perhaps) than a human spirit. Its value lies in the greater possibility of attention. If we could be attentive to the same degree in the presence of a human being…

We can only know one thing about God—that he is what we are not. Our wretchedness alone is an image of this. The more we contemplate it, the more we contemplate him.

Sin is nothing else but the failure to recognize human wretchedness. It is unconscious wretchedness and for that very reason guilty wretchedness. The story of Christ is the experimental proof that human wretchedness is irreducible, that it is as great in the absolutely sinless man as in the sinner. But in him who is without sin it is enlightened…

The recognition of human wretchedness is difficult for whoever is rich and powerful because he is almost invincibly led to believe that he is something. It is equally difficult for the man in miserable circumstances because he is almost invincibly led to believe that the rich and powerful man is something.

It is not the fault which constitutes mortal sin, but the degree of light in the soul when the fault, whatever it may be, is accomplished.

Purity is the power to contemplate defilement.

Extreme purity can contemplate both the pure and the impure; impurity can do neither: the pure frightens it, the impure absorbs it. It has to have a mixture.

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Excerpted from Simone Weil‘s Gravity and Grace. First French edition 1947. Translated by Emma Crawford. English language edition 1963. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.