simone weil – detachment

simone weil gravity and graceAffliction in itself is not enough for the attainment of total detachment. Unconsoled affliction is necessary. There must be no consolation—no apparent consolation. Ineffable consolation then comes down.

To forgive debts. To accept the past without asking for future compensation. To stop time at the present instant. This is also the acceptance of death.

‘He emptied himself of his divinity.’ To empty ourselves of the world. To take the form of a slave. To reduce ourselves to the point we occupy in space and time—that is to say, to nothing.

To  strip ourselves of the imaginary royalty of the world.

Absolute solitude. Then we possess the truth of the world.

Two ways of renouncing material possessions:
To give them up with a view to some spiritual advantage.
To conceive of them and feel them as conducive to spiritual well-being (for example: hunger, fatigue and humiliation cloud the mind and hinder meditation) and yet to renounce them.
Only the second kind of renunciation means nakedness of spirit.

Furthermore, material goods would scarcely be dangerous if they were seen in isolation and not bound up with spiritual advantage.

We must give up everything which is not grace and not even desire grace.

The extinction of desire (Buddhism)—or detachment—or amor fati—or desire for the absolute good—these all amount to the same: to empty desire, finality of all content, to desire in the void, to desire without any wishes.

To detach our desire from all good things and to wait. Experience proves that this waiting is satisfied. It is then we touch the absolute good.

Always, beyond the particular object whatever it may be, we have to fix our will on the void—to will the void. For the good which we can neither picture nor define is a void for us. But this void is fuller than all fullnesses.

If we get as far as this we shall come through all right, for God fills the void. It has nothing to do with an intellectual process in the present-day sense. The intelligence has nothing to discover, it has only to clear the ground. It is only good for servile tasks.

The good seems to us as a nothingness, since there is no thing that is good. But this nothingness is not unreal. Compared with it, everything in existence is unreal.

We  must  leave  on  one  side  the  beliefs  which  fill  up  voids  and sweeten  what  is  bitter. The belief  in  immortality. The  belief  in the utility of sin: etiampeccata. The belief in the providential ordering  of  events—in  short  the  ‘consolations’  which  are  ordinarily sought in religion.

To love God through and across the destruction of Troy and of Carthage—and with no consolation. Love is not consolation, it is light.

The reality of the world is the result of our attachment. It is the reality of the self which we transfer into things. It has nothing to do with independent reality. That is only perceptible through total detachment. Should only one thread remain, there is still attachment.

Affliction which forces us to attach ourselves to the most wretched objects exposes in all its misery the true character of attachment. In this way the necessity for detachment is made more obvious.

Attachment is a manufacturer of illusions and whoever wants reality ought to be detached.

As soon as we know that something is real we can no longer be attached to it.

Attachment is no more nor less than an insufficiency in our sense of reality. We are attached to the possession of a thing because we think that if we cease to possess it, it will cease to exist. A great many people do not feel with their whole soul that there is all the difference in the world between the destruction of a town and their own irremediable exile from that town.

Human misery would be intolerable if it were not diluted in time. We have to prevent it from being diluted in order that it should be intolerable.

‘And when they had had their fill of tears’ (Iliad).—This is another way of making the worst suffering bearable.

We must not weep so that we may not be comforted.*

All suffering which does not detach us is wasted suffering. Nothing is more frightful, a desolate coldness, a warped soul (Ovid. Slaves in Plautus).

Never to think of a thing or being we love but have not actually before our eyes without reflecting that perhaps this thing has been destroyed, or this person is dead.

May our sense of reality not be dissolved by this thought but made more intense.

Each time that we say ‘Thy will be done’ we should have in mind all possible misfortunes added together.

Two ways of killing ourselves: suicide or detachment.

To kill by our thought everything we love: the only way to die. Only what we love, however (‘He who hateth not his father and mother . . .’ but: ‘Love your enemies . . .’).

Not to desire that what we love should be immortal. We should neither desire the immortality nor the death of any human being, whoever he may be, with whom we have to do.

The miser deprives himself of his treasure because of his desire for it. If we can let our whole good rest with something hidden in the ground, why not with God?

But when God has become as full of significance as the treasure is for the miser, we have to tell ourselves insistently that he does not exist. We must experience the fact that we love him, even if he does not exist.

It is he who, through the operation of the dark night, withdraws himself in order not to be loved like the treasure is by the miser.

Electra weeping for the dead Orestes. If we love God while thinking that he does not exist, he will manifest his existence.

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* Yet Jesus Christ said: ‘Blessed are they that mourn’. But here Simone Weil is only condemning the tears wrung from us by the loss of temporal goods— tears which man sheds over himself.  [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.

on self-protection

dunceWhen I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder.
Everything moved me.
A dog following a stranger. That made me feel so much.
A calendar that showed the wrong month. I could have cried over it.
I did.
Where the smoke from the chimney ended.
How an overturned bottle rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less.
Every day I felt less.
Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.

— Jonathan Safran Foer, from Everything is Illuminated

Thanks to Lex for sharing this.

erik bünger’s schizophonia

I watched two incredible films tonightSchizophonia and The Third Man, courtesy of Anette Hoffmann and the Archive & Public Culture Platform at UCT, with the kind permission of musician, composer and performance artist, Erik Bünger, who made the films.

In each film, Bünger both analyses and plays with the uncanny, magical potency of sound as recorded medium. Everything he does is underpinned by formidable quantities of research, a fondness for outrageously rhizomatic linkages and a wicked sense of humour. Definitely my new art crush of the month! ;)

Here’s a video of Bünger giving a lecture/performance which utilises much of the material presented in the standalone film, Schizophonia. This was recorded at MEDEA, Malmo University, in March 2011, as part of the K3 courses “Music in the Digital Media Landscape” and “Illustrating with Music”.

I really WISH I could find more of The Third Man to share here –  it was tremendously entertaining, and, even off on its most questionable, occult-paranoid tangents, bizarrely pertinent to so much of the stuff about performance, recording and playback of music that I’ve been posting and thinking about in the past few years; even down to an hilarious discussion of the “entraining” (his word) power of The Sound Of Music (my post this afternoon prefigured this too, eerily!).

Anyway, you can watch the lecture:

And here’s a bio:

The Swedish artist, composer, musician and writer Erik Bünger (1976) works with re-contextualising existing media in performances, installations and web projects. In ‘Gospels’, sections of Hollywood interviews are removed from their original contexts, interacting to form a new, seemingly coherent whole. Yet these pre-existing works frequently conflict; Bünger explores the disjunction between replaying and experiencing in his ‘Lecture on Schizophonia’. This simultaneously analytical and performative work highlights the relationship between sound and perceived reality, using popular references and familiar footage including Barak Obama and Woody Allen. Similar tensions are exposed in ‘God Moves on the Water’, in which two songs about the sinking of the Titanic are combined to form a third narrative. In ‘The Third Man’, the negative power of music is explored. Displacing and recombining familiar material, Bünger challenges the separation between authentic and simulated experiences.

Bünger may have followed a traditional education in composition at the Stockholm Royal College of Music, but he is hardly a run-of-the-mill composer. His works have increasingly come to approach contemporary conceptual art, but his combination of sound and visual is also linked to literary storytelling. In his performances, installations and web projects, different timelines are superposed, past worlds and present understandings. The most important thing about Bünger’s work is not the art or literature context but the transformation that takes place in the specific works. What may seem trivial and inconsequential suddenly becomes the stuff of dreams. He is attracted to moments when recorded sound and image bridge a space between absolutes, between death and life and between gods and humankind. –

This info comes from http://expo.argosarts.org/

hmv

Francis Barraud – “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph”(1898)

barthes on the other-ache

 

Painting by Francine van Hove

Painting by Francine van Hove

compassion/compassion

The subject experiences a sentiment of violent compassion with regard to the loved object each time he sees, feels, or knows the loved object is unhappy or in danger, for whatever reason external to the amorous relations itself.

1. “Supposing that we experienced the other as he experiences himself — which Schopenhauer calls compassion and which might more accurately be called a union within suffering, a unity of suffering — we should hate the other when he himself, like Pascal, finds himself hateful.” If the other suffers from hallucinations, if he fears going mad, I should myself hallucinate, myself go mad. Now, whatever the power of love, this does not occur: I am moved, anguished, for it is horrible to see those one loves suffering, but at the same time I remain dry, watertight. My identification is imperfect: I am a Mother (the other causes me concern), but an insufficient Mother; I bestir myself too much, in proportion to the profound reserve in which, actually, I remain. For at the same time that I “sincerely” identify myself with the other’s misery, what I read in this misery is that it occurs without me, and that by being miserable by himself, the other abandons me: if he suffers without me being the cause of his suffering, it is because I don’t count for him: his suffering annuls me insofar as it constitutes him outside of myself.

2. Whereupon, a reversal: since the other suffers without me, why suffer in his place? His misery bears him far away from me, I can only exhaust myself running after him, without ever hoping to be able to catch up, to coincide with him. So let us become a little detached, let us undertake the apprenticeship of a certain distance. Let the repressed word appear which rises to the lips of every subject, once he survives another death: Let us live!

3. So I shall suffer with the other, but without pressure, without losing myself. Such behaviour, at once very affective and very controlled, very amorous and very civilised, can be given a name: delicacy; in a sense it is the “healthy” (artistic) form of compassion. (Ate is the goddess of madness, but Plato speaks of Ate’s delicacy: her foot is winged, it touches lightly.)

~ Roland Barthes, from A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments pp. 57-58