Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The World As Will

The World as Will and Representation is the title of a famous philosophical work by Schopenhauer which Nietzsche actually cites in The Birth of Tragedy and then there's Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. “The will to power” is also a concept used by Nietzsche.  Besides being Shakespeare’s first name, Will is also a common American name, something that’s a little more than John and less than Joe or Ernest. You imagine guys named Will possessing newspaper routes that they run before school, though many of them might go on to be lawyers or doctors rather than becoming playwrights who deal with immortal themes. Then there is the matter of representation. Shakespeare is thought of as the playwright who probably most fulsomely represented the reality of history and particularly being, with Hamlet being one of the great ontological essays and The Merchant of Venice exemplifying Kant’s deontology in its pursuit of the question of whether it is wrong or right for Shylock to exact his “pound of flesh.” Representation of the world, of course, also poses the question of mimesis. Is visible reality a fair estimate of the nature of things. Not according to Plato who saw puny man as unable to see the writing on the wall.

Monday, June 24, 2019


The structure of Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman, Elton John’s biopic, which the singer himself played a role in producing, is that of a recollection as told to fellow patients at a rehab. It’s not a tremendously inventive conceit, but useful if you’re trying to create a hagiography—which is what the film unabashedly is. Here's an example of the kind of homily Rocketman is rife with: "you've got to kill the person you were...in order to become the person you want to be." Landing in the circle of chairs, John (Taron Egerton), in one of his outlandish costumes, is the alien come to earth. In case you didn't guess, the idea is that he’s always been different and hence misunderstood by the father (Steven Mackintosh) who never wanted him, by his selfish mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and by his lover (Richard Madden), who uses him. It’s as much a lopsided picture as it is a recipe for addiction. One might conclude that the very narrative of the film is alcoholic. However, we do learn as the film rolls its final credits that John has 28 years of sobriety and is now in a same sex marriage where he’s the proud father of two boys.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Pornosophy: Bovarysme

Is the romantic agony all just a big mistake, even a perversion? That which doesn’t exist and is prone to imaginative fancy always trumps over the tedium of the known product. The confabulation that makes for romance derives precisely from the empty space in which the chrysalis of possibility becomes a festering wound. Put another way romance is a genre which like say horror participates in certain conventions. The artifice is made up of a series of unending obstacles that in the case of say Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde, finally result in the suitor never being able to experience the potential banality of his or her much sought after object. Hannah Arendt’s famed “banality of evil” now becomes "the banality of familiarity." Sure there are those who spend their lives enduring agonies of separation or grief at the loss of a prized and idealized individual, but the mass of men lead lives of alternately desperate or comforting routine. Romance is nice as an art form, but has nothing to do with relationships. If you’re a romantic you aren’t going to fare well greeting the same person at the dinner table or even in bed at the end of the evening. Madame Bovary is an example of a fictional character who couldn’t take everyday life. Would you want to be a Madame Bovary who spends her life disappointed with everything she has and only longs for those things that elude her? Essentially Flaubert’s character is a pain in the ass. Even if you consider yourself romantically inclined you’d probably do well to run like hell from a woman or man who displayed Emma Bovary's traits. You have to be patient if you're living with someone who's felled by romanticism and wait for the fever (or agony) to pass.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pornosophy: Are Monogamy and Polyamory Compatible?

Are polyamory and monogamy compatible lifestyles? Generally, one pities the monogamous individual as a poor soul locked into a dependent and often loveless relationship with a partner whose role is that of the gaoler. There are, of course, exceptions in the case of those rare couples who’re actually in love and require only each other’s presence to live happy and contented existences. But even such passionate attachments must admit of the occasional animal urge. A farmer generally tends to his own property, but occasionally he or she will plow an adjacent field. However, what of the free spirit, the polyamorous personality who’s constantly setting sail for different ports? To extend the metaphor perhaps his or her vessel requires repairs, gets laid over and has to anchor in a harbor for an extended period of time. Suddenly the insouciant free spirit finds him or herself living a totally different lifestyle as his or her ship is becalmed. Years of jumping from bed to bed, a kind of sexual form of couch surfing, have left a distinct imprint on the neurogenic pathways of the brain. Yet suddenly the itinerant lothario or coquette starts to enjoy the pleasures of familiarity. The constant curiosity and attraction to everything in sight is still there along with a countervailing enjoyment of continuity. The satisfaction can be unique for philanderers whose pleasures ordinarily derive from variety. Their ship may still set sail, but now it’s like a cruise liner which offers a predictable itinerary.

N.B.: read Francis Levy's short story, "Pet Buddha"in Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Varieties of Relgious Experience

Houses of worship tend to be populated by old people. They’re filled with young people too in evangelical religions. However, if you go into your local house of worship you're more likely to find many people who have crossed the halfway mark. That may be one of the reasons they're termed sanctuaries since they offer a respite from the exigenies of fate. Faith over fear is one of the mantras you're likely to hear in this regard. But where how does belief actually figure in? In the age of scientific disenchantment many rationalistic people don’t take belief in God seriously. So what does adherence to religion comprise in modern society? Certainly, it involves congregation, but also the practicing of ethical principles that tend to place emphasis on charitable acts, which don’t involve satiating the demands of the self. If you help others, the thinking goes, then you're getting a temporary reprieve from appetites that are rarely if ever satisfied. Desire is but the beginning of suffering goes the Buddhist koan. The covenant many worshippers experience is less with God than the principles which have emanated from varying spiritual traditions. The Varieties of Religious Experience is the title of a famous tome by William James. Religion is for those who want to avoid going to hell runs a well-known homily of the recovery movement—an offshoot of religion that is not specifically religious—spiritualism is for those who have been there. 

N.B.: read Francis Levy's short story, "Pet Buddha"in Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

To Serve Man

A farmer once countered the remark that pigs were smart by saying, “not that smart.” But who's to say that pigs don’t know what’s coming and that pigs aren't capable of experiencing Heidegger’s authenticity by sharpening their awareness of death. There have been numerous reports depicting the anxiety displayed by animals in abattoirs. Consciousness in animals may be different from humans but the differences are basically qualitative. So if we are against the slaughter of humans, why allow it in animals? Jonathan Swift, of course, provided one of the great satiric ripostes in A Modest Proposal, where he proposed solving Ireland’s famine problems by eating succulent children. The past few centuries have seen so many bloodbaths amongst them the Holocaust that Swift’s brand of satire still tests the limits. The Donner Party is purported to be an exemplification of cannibalism. Vultures eat human flesh, but there seems to be a real taboo against humans imbibing their own kind, even in emergencies. You're hard put to find any recipes that employ human body parts. Titus Andronicus features the famous scene when Tamora’s children are served to her in a pie, but if you go on line you're not going to find any recipes for that piece of pastry. Several years ago a New York City police officer was indicted for selecting subjects for prospective dishes, some of whom turned out to be pretty nice looking ones, at that. “To Serve Man” was the title of a famous Twilight Zone in which the seemingly peaceful title of an alien manifesto belies the fact that it's a cookbook. But it’s the rare meat eater who has developed a taste for their own kind.

N.B.: read Francis Levy's short story, "Pet Buddha"in Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Seven Ages of Man Speech (revised version)

Petra (photo Berthold Werner)
If you've attained a certain level of affluence, you're probably going to travel when you retire. There are whole industries geared to people with free time and a few dollars in their pockets. Many Ivy League universities lend their imprimatur to travel often to exotic climes. It used to be that the African safari was considered adventurous. Now as you can see there’s a waiting line to get to the top of Everest (which has sadly resulted in a number of deaths). Where only scientifically equipped ice cutters attempted the Arctic and Antarctic, both have become popular destinations. Luxury ships with fully equipped gyms troll the Antarctic allowing  insouciant travelers magnificent views while they work out. For a while even diplomatically challenged destinations like Teheran and Pyongyang were on the lists of potential get-aways, with one German company even planning a luxury hotel outfitted with a golf course to cater to the tourist trade in North Korea. People do Petra, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall. They brave terrorism in Egypt to see the Pyramids, though there are few in this demographic who deign to do a corny backyard site like Niagara Falls. In between the tourism are the procedures, the fusions of the fourth and fifth vertebrae, the dropped foot from sciatica, the prostectomies, the stents that all go with the territory. Old age amongst a certain class is like running an obstacle course with some aged voyagers almost killing themselves in trying to outdo each other in their insatiable search for exotic spots. No sooner do you return from the game park then you’re getting that hip or knee replacement and the surgeries all have to be scheduled to fit the traveI. It’s not a bad way to wind things up and if Shakespeare had been around he might have rewritten the famed “Seven Ages” speech from As You Like It to read: “Last scene of all that ends this restless itinerary is the childish need to see as many sites as possible and find a property with every amenity, Angkor What?