'Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.'
 
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PostSubject: One Essay.   Sun Oct 28, 2012 4:37 pm

I am expanding and combining the two essays previously posted, until they are done, I will post this shorter one:




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I admire nothing as much as I admire that old Socratic nobility, which treats the supreme truths and objects of knowledge with myth and poetry, that so acutely intellectual taste which reserves its very gaiety, excess, and liberality for precisely the gravest matters: in life just as much as in philosophy I strive for such nobility and reservation. Let this be known: we can atone for the sin of death by living well, but there can be no atonement in even death for the sin of having lived poorly. The great human being possesses in its depths a recondite logic by which it unites all the petty, shameful, or sublime things about itself. Where, in the common soul, all experiences or passions that are alien to the habitual character of one's life are either forgotten or cast away as inimical, the great nature is continually enlarged by this recondite logic- by its philosophy, and as though it were building a shell about itself, it contains more and more diverse feelings and amasses the rich store of its experience until it becomes inviolable, until its actions and very feelings are induced only by the tensions and laws within itself. Because artists cleave some mere portrait of the life of the passions from the heart of the great deeds and sacrifices testified to by history, men have generally viewed them as empoisoners of life, have looked upon their works as if they cheapened life: the scorn with which they have been treated has been gradually internalized, has voiced itself within them as a profound shame and self-contempt. But finally this shame has itself learned how to philosophize: it has its wisdom, namely that these great deeds and sacrifices were themselves made only to reveal a portrait of the life of the passions, and that an act, too, is only a verse and a remembrance. No great man has ever suffered on account of the deeds, responsibilities, and sacrifices he made: such sacrifices only become comprehensible to the nature capable of taking joy in them and refuse to offer themselves as obligations and weights.



Yet, the suffering of great men has remained a favorite subject for poets and philosophers. What then, does this suffering truly consist in? Plotinus maintained that the intrinsic impulse of freedom is a turning inward, an epistrophe. All great men know of this obscure impulse which compels them to turn their gaze inward, it is the first contraction of the daemonic and the beginning of all moral vision. That impulse must confront something which is quite hostile to it- bodily existence, with its arbitrariness and its multiplicity, with its finitude and death. When this impulse vanquishes existence, triumphs over it, and introduces order into the chaos of this universe, that is genius- philosophical, artistic, and political genius. From that triumph there arises upon the earth Alexanders, Napoleons, true philosophers, and artists like Scriabin, people who sacrifice their lives in the name of a moral universe that has been disclosed to them, a universe bent in accordance to the needs and to the nature of the human being. In fact, this moral suffering is the very mystery of all life: it is the expression of that relation which multiplicity bears to unity, which time bears to eternity, which hope bears to love, which Eros bears to truth, which freedom bears to necessity: it is the great secret, the "furor uterinus" and womb of the world, the very awe which Plato deemed the beginning of all philosophy, which can at first announce itself by only silent intimations for it has not yet been expanded into the active and participatory daemonism which is capable of integrating the passive disorder and turmoil of the contracted, epistrophic selfhood for it has not yet been expanded into the mens heroica of Bruno, or the striving for the impossible in Goethe's terms; into Nietzsche's dancing star, into Rimbaud's voice of the mad sea, which pierces the infant breast, too soft, too human. Yet, it is not a mere problem for theologians and academics to solve, it is not a mere thought for philosophers to vex themselves in contemplating, but rather the chief experience in the life of any genuine human being. The man who desires freedom must then learn one thing: freedom is not the path to happiness, it is not the path to joy. Quite the contrary. Freedom leads to the profoundest suffering, moral suffering. The suffering of one's own will, which flounders in its own excess to taste existence. Can you exchange your slavery for freedom, if freedom means unhappiness and suffering? Because that is the first moral question, the introduction to the "moral world order," to cast that old formulation in a new light. To be moral, in the only manner in which this word can have any meaning, one must first be overcome with that Plotinian epistrophe. Freedom then, cannot be won: it is an act of will, the consummate act of the will. It cannot be given, cannot be won, cannot be stolen: it must be willed: from this act of will everything else follows: philosophical and artistic genius, courage, self-sacrifice, ideals, depth, conscience, guilt, the whole host of man's virtues. Thus, in ancient Greece, when a slave showed signs that he had begun to think on his own, assert his own ideals, and had learned what the concept freedom entails, that it does not mean happiness but rather profound "moral" anguish, and had made this act of will and embraced freedom nonetheless, his master let him go: he was no longer a slave, but a man.



The poet must learn to view all things from the perspective of their finality; he must set himself at those native waters before which all things grow pale and into which all beauty empties itself; he must etherealize the world. The moral suffering inherent in the concept of freedom, grasped from the perspective of an ultra-moral consciousness, that is to say, from the perspective of that suffering's futility and finality, is named by the great poets the tragic pathos. With regard to the hero of classical Greek tragedy, his destruction is emanated from within himself in accordance to his own fatal flaw, whereas Hamlet represents a modern tragic figure; his destruction is brought upon him by outside forces which, due to his own fatal flaw, he is unable to correctly cope with. The Greek tragic figure cannot correctly externalize his will, the modern tragic figure cannot correctly internalize his experience. These two forms of tragedy, perhaps not coincidentally, correspond to the two forms of our modern narrative insofar as the laws of each of them can be more effectively followed in one or the other. The great novels are great reflections on life; the great films are great reflections on lives. The novel works toward its consummation through the resolution of internal conflicts in the plot, whereas the film must work through internal conflicts within interactions of characters in order to fully portray one of them, in order to illuminate a personality with the same alienated majesty in which some unknown figure emerges from a photograph which, in distinction to a painting, holds to Adorno's comment and appears always crushed under the weight of time. Yet, to internalize the will and to externalize experience, to successfully draw the will inward, and to re-create the world in the image of that will; in this the dissolution of the tragic pathos consists, and philosophy finds its birth.

 

___________
A sik þau trûðu


Nisus ait, "Dine hunc ardorem mentibus addunt,
Euryale, an sua cuique deus fit dira cupido?"

Have the gods set this ruling passion in my heart,
or does each man's furious passion become his god?
- Virgil.


It is not opium which makes me work but its absence, and in order for me to feel its absence it must
from time to time be present.-- Antonin Artaud
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