That’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird…

“Culture replaces authentic feeling with words. As an example of this, imagine an infant lying in its cradle, and the window is open, and into the room comes something, marvelous, mysterious, glittering, shedding light of many colors, movement, sound, a transformative hierophany of integrated perception and the child is enthralled and then the mother comes into the room and she says to the child, “that’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird,” instantly the complex wave of the angel peacock iridescent trans-formative mystery is collapsed, into the word. All mystery is gone, the child learns this is a bird, this is a bird, and by the time we’re five or six years old all the mystery of reality has been carefully tiled over with words. This is a bird, this is a house, this is the sky, and we seal ourselves in within a linguistic shell of dis-empowered perception.”

Terence McKenna

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Walking & Falling

“I wanted you. And I was looking for you.
But I couldn’t find you.
I wanted you. And I was looking for you all day.
But I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t find you.

You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it,
but you’re always falling.
With each step you fall forward slightly.
And then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you’re falling.
And then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling
at the same time.”

Laurie Anderson

All nature at an instant (thus, not nature anymore)

“It is important to distinguish simultaneity from instantaneousness. I lay no stress on the mere current usage of the two terms. There are two concepts which I want to distinguish, and one I call simultaneity and the other instantaneousness. I hope that the words are judiciously chosen; but it really does not matter so long as I succeed in explaining my meaning. Simultaneity is the property of a group of natural elements which in some sense are components of a duration. A duration can be all nature present as the immediate fact posited by sense-awareness. A duration retains within itself the passage of nature. There are within it antecedents and consequents which are also durations which may be the complete specious presents of quicker consciousnesses. In other words a duration retains temporal thickness. Any concept of all nature as immediately known is always a concept of some duration though it may be enlarged in its temporal thickness beyond the possible specious present of any being known to us as existing within nature. Thus simultaneity is an ultimate factor in nature, immediate
for sense-awareness.

Instantaneousness is a complex logical concept of a procedure in thought by which constructed logical entities are produced for the sake of the simple expression in thought of properties of nature. Instantaneousness is the concept of all nature at an instant, where an instant is conceived as deprived of all temporal extension. For example we conceive of the distribution of matter in space at an instant. This is a very useful concept in science especially in applied mathematics; but it is a very complex idea so far as concerns its connexions with the immediate facts of sense-awareness. There is no such thing as nature at an instant posited by sense-awareness. What sense-awareness delivers over for knowledge is nature through a period. Accordingly nature at an instant, since it is not itself a natural entity, must be defined in terms of genuine natural entities. Unless we do so, our science, which employs the concept of instantaneous nature, must abandon all claim to be founded upon observation.

I will use the term ‘moment’ to mean ‘all nature at an instant.’ A moment, in the sense in which the term is here used, has no temporal extension, and is in this respect to be contrasted with a duration which has such extension. What is directly yielded to our knowledge by sense-awareness is a duration. Accordingly we have now to explain how moments are derived from durations, and also to explain the purpose served by their introduction.

A moment is a limit to which we approach as we confine attention to durations of minimum extension. Natural relations among the ingredients of a duration gain in complexity as we consider durations of increasing temporal extension. Accordingly there is an approach to ideal simplicity as we approach an ideal diminution of extension.”

A. N. Whitehead

My Left Foot

“Suddenly, I wanted desperately to do what my sister was doing. Then without thinking or knowing exactly what I was doing, I reached out and took the stick of chalk out of my sister’ss hand with my left foot.

I do not know why I used my left foot to do this. It is a puzzle to many people as well as to myself, for, although I had displayed a curious interest in my toes at an early age, I had never attempted before this to use either of my feet in any way. They could have been as useless to me as were my hands. That day, however, my left foot, apparently by its own volition, reached out and very impolitely took the chalk out of my sister’s hand.

I held it tightly between my toes, and, acting on an impulse, made a wild sort of scribble with it on the slate. Next moment I stopped, a bit dazed, surprised, looking down at the stick of yellow chalk stuck between my toes, not knowing what to do with it next, hardly knowing how it got there.”

Christy Brown

What are voluntary actions?

“She bent her finger and then straightened it. The mystery was in the instant before it moved, the dividing moment between not moving and moving, when her intention took effect. It was like a wave breaking. If she could only find herself at the crest, she thought, she might find the secret of herself, that part of her that was really in charge. She brought her forefinger closer to her face and stared at it, urging it to move. It remained still because she was pretending… . And when she did crook it finally, the action seemed to start in the finger itself, not in some part of her mind.”

Ian McEwan — Atonement

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘—so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’

Lewis Carroll

Cynicism: The Twilight of False Consciousness

“The discontent in our culture has assumed a new quality: It appears as a universal, diffuse cynicism. The traditional critique of ideology stands at a loss before this cynicism. It does not know what button to push in this cynically keen consciousness to get enlightenment going. Modern cynicism presents itself as that state of consciousness that follows after naive ideologies and their enlightenment. In it, the obvious exhaustion of ideology critique has its real ground. This critique has remained more naive than the consciousness it wanted to expose; in its wellmannered rationality, it did not keep up with the twists and turns of modern consciousness to a cunning multiple realism. The formal sequence of false consciousness up to now—lies, errors, ideology—is incomplete; the current mentality requires the addition of a fourth structure: the phenomenon of cynicism. To speak of cynicism means trying to enter the old building of ideology critique through a new entrance.

(…) It is the stance of people who realize that the times of naivete are gone.

Psychologically, present-day cynics can be understood as borderline melancholies, who can keep their symptoms of depression under control and can remain more or less able to work. Indeed, this is the essential point in modern cynicism: the ability of its bearers to work—in spite of anything that might happen, and especially, after anything that might happen. The key social positions in boards, parliaments, commissions, executive councils, publishing companies, practices, faculties, and lawyers’ and editors’ offices have long since become a part of this diffuse cynicism. A certain chic bitterness provides an undertone to its activity. For cynics are not dumb, and every now and then they certainly see the nothingness to which everything leads. Their psychic (seelisch) apparatus has become elastic enough to incorporate as a survival factor a permanent doubt about their own activities. They know what they are doing, but they do it because, in the short run, the force of circumstances and the instinct for self-preservation are speaking the same language, and they are telling them that it has to be so. Others would do it anyway, perhaps worse. Thus, the new, integrated cynicism even has the understandable feeling about itself of being a victim and of making sacrifices. Behind the capable, collaborative, hard facade, it covers up a mass of offensive unhappiness and the need to cry. In this, there is something of the mourning for a “lost innocence,” of the mourning for better knowledge, against which all action and labor are directed.

Thus, we come to our first definition: Cynicism is enlightened false consciousness. It is that modernized, unhappy consciousness,3 on which enlightenment has labored both successfully and in vain. It has learned its lessons in enlightenment, but it has not, and probably was not able to, put them into practice. Well-off and miserable at the same time, this consciousness no longer feels affected by any critique of ideology; its falseness is already reflexively buffered.

“Enlightened false consciousness”: To choose such a formulation seems to be a blow against the tradition of enlightenment. The sentence itself is cynicism in a crystalline state. Nonetheless, it claims an objective (sachlich) validity; its content and its necessity are developed in the present essay. Logically it is a paradox, for how could enlightened consciousness still be false? This is precisely the issue here.”

Peter Sloterdijk

The Aesthetics of Silence

“O silêncio é a extensão mais extrema dessa relutância em comunicar, essa ambivalência em fazer contato com o público que é uma motivação principal da arte moderna […] pelo silêncio ele [o artista] liberta a si mesmo da escravidão servil ao mundo, que aparece como patrão, cliente, consumidor, antagonista, árbitro e desvirtuador de seu trabalho.”

Susan Sontag

The Force which wastes and that which does not waste

“And because she believes herself the strongest, she is altogether absorbed in self-adoration. Her energy comes from her pride. Her moral force is only the confidence which her material force inspires in her. And this means that in this respect she is living on reserves without means of replenishment. Even before England had commenced to blockade her coasts she had blockaded herself morally, in isolating herself from every ideal capable of giving her new life. (…)

So she will see her forces waste and her courage at the same time. But the energy of our soldiers is drawn from something which does not waste, from an ideal of justice and freedom. Time has no hold on us. To the force which feeds only on its own brutality we are opposing that which seeks outside and above itself a principle of life and renovation. Whilst the one is gradually spending itself, the other is continually remaking itself. The one is already wavering, the other abides unshaken. Have no fear, our force will slay theirs. (…)

A day came when Germany had to choose between a rigid and ready-made system of unification, mechanically superposed from without, and the unity which comes from within by a natural effort of life. At the same time the choice was offered her between an administrative mechanism, into which she would merely have to fit herself—a complete order, doubtless, but poverty-stricken, like everything else that is artificial—and that richer and more flexible order which the wills of men, when freely associated, evolve of themselves. How would she choose?”

Henri Bergson

Life and Correspondence of David Hume

“The law, which was the business I designed to follow, appeared nauseous to me, and I could think of no other way of pushing my fortune in the world, but that of a scholar and philosopher. I was infinitely happy in this course of life for some months. (…)

Upon examination of these, I found a certain boldness of temper growing in me, which was not inclined to submit to any authority in these subjects, but led me to seek out some new medium, by which truth might be established. (…)

I found that the moral philosophy transmitted to us by antiquity laboured under the same inconvenience that has been found in their natural philosophy, of being entirely hypothetical, and depending more upon invention than experience: every one consulted his fancy in erecting schemes of virtue and of happiness, without regarding human nature, upon which every moral conclusion must depend.”

John Hill Burton, “Life and Correspondence of David Hume”