When the laborer woman
Roasts her heart on the tawa
The moon laughs from behind the tree
The father amuses the younger one
Making music with bowl and plate
The older one tinkles the bells
Tied to his waist
And he dances
These songs do not die
nor either the dance in the heart …
The shades of evening
The shades of evening like many before
The pavement are heading for settlements
The lake turns back from offices
thrown out of work
The lake is drinking its thirst
Some city has set off on the road to the village
Throwing off all wages someone is leaving
Someone comes wiping on his dhoti
the blood of weak animals on his goad
The shades of evening like many before
--Lal Singh Dil, trans. Nirupama Dutt here
'I found myself believing, and it is a belief, an act of faith that has stayed with me to this day that putting words on paper is a valid form of action. You know you can throw stones, petrol bombs, molotov cocktails as hard as much as you like at those armoured cars that come in with their big guns, but you're not gonna do much damage. Words can do much, much more than that. Words can get inside those armoured cars. Words can get inside the heads of the people inside those armoured cars, and in a way that is...that is under that basic belief, that act of faith, underlies all my work in theatre.'--Athol Fugard
"Inability to think is not stupidity; it can be found in highly intelligent people, and wickedness is hardly its cause, if only because thoughtlessness as well as stupidity are much more frequent phenomena, is necessary to cause great evil... Hence, in Kantian terms, one would need philosophy, the exercise of reason as the faculty of thought, to prevent evil."
--Hannah Arendt, "Thinking and Moral Considerations: A Lecture," Social Research, no. 38/3 (Fall 1970).
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"I mean that evil is not radical, going to the roots (radix), that is has no depth, and that for this very reason it is so terribly difficult to think about it, since thinking, by definition, wants to reach the roots. Evil is a surface phenomenon, and instead of being radical, it is merely extreme. We resist evil by not being swept away by the surface of things, by stopping ourselves and beginning to think, that is, by reaching another dimension than the horizon of everyday life. In other words, the more superficial someone is, the more likely will he be to yield to evil. An indication of such superficiality is the use of clichés, and Eichmann, ...was a perfect example."
--Hannah Arendt, Correspondence between Grafton and Arendt, (September 19, 1963) draft, Hannah Arendt's Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
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'The beautiful poem is the one which is composed while the attention is kept directed towards inexpressible inspiration, in so far as it is inexpressible.' --Simone Weil, ‘The Impossible’, Gravity and Grace
‘Civilization of the Greeks. No adoration of force. The temporal was only a bridge. Among the states of the soul they did not seek intensity but purity.’
--Simone Weil, ‘Metaxu’, Gravity and Grace
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'[Shapes] have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them, one recognises the principle and passion of organisms.'
Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death. - R.D. Laing (7 Oct 1927 – 23 Aug 1989)
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“The direct effect, and intention, of psychiatric intervention is to turn this young man into a ‘young invalid’: to invalidate his hatred of his father, under the name of treatment. […] Is it possible that this boy did not hate his father because he was ill but was turned into an invalid because his hatred for his father was invalidated? If our wishes, feelings, desires, hopes, fears, perception, imagination, memory, dreams…do not correspond to the law, they are outlawed, and excommunicated. Outlawed and excommunicated, they do not cease to exist.”
— R.D. Laing, The Politics of the Family
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“The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man… Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal… Normal men have killed perhaps a hundred million of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years.”
— R.D. Laing
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“I have been amazed more than once by a description a woman gave me of a world all her own which she had been secretly haunting since early childhood. A world of searching, the elaboration of a knowledge, on the basis of a systematic experimentation with the bodily functions, a passionate and precise interrogation of her erotogeneity. This practice, extraordinarily rich and inventive, in particular as concerns masturbation, is prolonged or accompanied by a production of forms, a veritable aesthetic activity, each stage of rapture inscribing a resonant vision, a composition, something beautiful. Beauty will no longer be forbidden.
I wished that that woman would write and proclaim this unique empire so that other women, other unacknowledged sovereigns, might exclaim: I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst—burst with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up in frames and sold for a stinking fortune. And I, too, said nothing, showed nothing; I didn't open my mouth, I didn't repaint my half of the world. I was ashamed. I was afraid, and I swallowed my shame and my fear. I said to myself: You are mad! What's the meaning of these waves, these floods, these outbursts? Where is the ebullient, infinite woman who, immersed as she was in her naiveté, kept in the dark about herself, led into self-disdain by the great arm of parental-conjugal phallocentrism, hasn't been ashamed of her strength? Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal woman has a ... divine composure), hasn't accused herself of being a monster? Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn't thought she was sick? Well, her shameful sickness is that she resists death, that she makes trouble.
And why don't you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven't written. (And why I didn't write before the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it's reserved for the great—that is, for "great men"; and it's "silly." Besides, you've written a little, but in secret. And it wasn't good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn't go all the way; or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty—so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time.
Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not the imbecilic capitalist machinery, in which publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs; and not yourself. Smug-faced readers, managing editors, and big bosses don't like the true texts of women—female-sexed texts. That kind scares them.”
—extract from The Laugh of the Medusa by Hélène Cixous.
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Look at the birds. Even flying
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.
--Li Young Lee
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Bohuslav Reynek, from The Well at Morning: Selected Poems, 1925-1971, trans. Justin Quinn
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“A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest form of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying — to others and to yourself.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
'Deeply rooted in the mass consciousness, myths are manifest by the expression of this lie. Through the organising of these myths, lie runs the world, a watch-guard over human society. Ancient myths arose out of a collective subconscious creativity, and at their foundation was always some sort of reality. Contemporary myths are characteristically and consciously an organised lie. In them is no naivete. This may sound pessimistic, but it mustneeds be recognised, that lie is mortared into the foundation of the organisation of society. The pure and nakedly unshielded truth can lead to the end of all things, to the ruin of societies and states, -- say the defenders of the pragmaticism of the lie. Politics is to a remarkable degree an art of directing the human masses, i.e. to spout demagoguery, i.e. to spout the lie. This artifice is utilised by myths, which are no chance product of fantasy, and which bear a consciously organising character. Myth is created simultaneously about the object of love and the object of hate, and in it powerful emotions reach great intensity and concreteness. Eros and anti-eros simultaneously evoke a work of enflamed fantasy, that of a created image. The lie, avowedly socially-useful, herein reaches within the myth such unprecedented proportions and so deforms the consciousness, that there arises the question of a radical change of attitude towards truth and the falsehood of lie, -- about the disappearance of the very criterion of truth. In earlier times, lie played a small role in political life. Though in diplomacy they have always resorted to cunning and slyness. With the beginning of the modern period, Machiavellianism came into Europe as a system for the running of states. But all the same, lie does not recognise ultimately the higher principle of life, in its striving towards expansion and might. The change of attitude towards truth was there already with Nietzsche, with Marx, and in pragmatic philosophy. Nietzsche indeed said, that truth is begotten of the will to power. Marx taught, that the consciousness of truth is inseparably bound up with the revolutionary class struggle and there cannot be truth cut off apart from this class struggle. Pragmatic philosophy affirms, that truth is the useful and the fruitional for the process of life. In such manner, truth is entirely made subordinate to the vital process, and its criterion is the increase of the might in life. And in practise it leads to this, that they cease to seek truth, they instead seek power. But for the finding of power, the lie can seem more fruitful than truth. They seek power because they sense themselves perishing in the world, which has gone into a fluid condition, in which there is no longer a firmness of body. I remember, how at a certain international gathering in Germany, shortly before Hitler came to power, there was read a report about the mindsets of German students, and the basic thought of this report was, that the students should cease to seek truth and instead seek power. Thence the extraordinary role of technology in modern life.'-
- Nikolai BERDYAEV, 'THE PARADOX OF THE LIE' (1939)
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Simone Weil, Waiting for God (1951)
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“You run yourself out in a grief with no cure, no time-limit, no measure. It is a knot no one can untie. Why are you so in love with things unbearable?”
— Anne Carson, Electra (via sagmoonn)
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I don't believe in omens or fear
Forebodings. I flee from neither slander
Nor from poison. Death does not exist.
Everyone's immortal. Everything is too.
No point in fearing death at seventeen,
Or seventy. There's only here and now, and light;
Neither death, nor darkness, exists.
We're all already on the seashore;
I'm one of those who'll be hauling in the nets
When a shoal of immortality swims by.
If you live in a house – the house will not fall.
I'll summon any of the centuries,
Then enter one and build a house in it.
That's why your children and your wives
Sit with me at one table, -
The same for ancestor and grandson:
The future is being accomplished now,
If I raise my hand a little,
All five beams of light will stay with you.
Each day I used my collar bones
For shoring up the past, as though with timber,
I measured time with geodetic chains
And marched across it, as though it were the Urals.
I tailored the age to fit me.
We walked to the south, raising dust above the steppe;
The tall weeds fumed; the grasshopper danced,
Touching its antenna to the horse-shoes - and it prophesied,
Threatening me with destruction, like a monk.
I strapped my fate to the saddle;
And even now, in these coming times,
I stand up in the stirrups like a child.
I'm satisfied with deathlessness,
For my blood to flow from age to age.
Yet for a corner whose warmth I could rely on
I'd willingly have given all my life,
Whenever her flying needle
Tugged me, like a thread, around the globe.
(‘Zhizn, Zhizn’. Translated by Virginia Rounding)
We celebrated every moment of our
First meetings, like an epiphany,
Alone in the entire world. You were
More daring, and lighter than a bird’s wing,
On the stairs, like dizziness,
Running down over the step and leading
Through the moist lilac to your domain,
From that side of the mirror’s glass.
When night set in, grace was given
To me, the altar gates
Were opened, and in the darkness
Nakedness shined and slowly bowed,
And, waking up: ‘May you be blessed!’
I said and knew, that my blessing
Was audacious: you slept,
And the lilac reached out from the table to touch
Your lashes with the universe’s blue
And the lashes, touched by the blue,
Were calm, and your hand was warm.
While in the crystal, the rivers pulsed,
The mountains smoked, the seas glimmered,
And you held a crystal sphere
On your palm, and you slept on the throne,
And—righteous God!—you were mine.
You woke up and transfigured
The daily human vocabulary,
And your speech was filled to the throat
With a full-bodied force, and the word ‘thou’
Revealed its new sense and it meant: ruler.
In the world everything was transfigured, even
Simple things—the basin, the jug,—when
Between us stood, as if on watch,
The stratified and solid water.
We were led, not knowing where.
Before us stepped out, as if mirages,
Miraculously built cities,
The mint itself was lying beneath our feet,
And birds were following the same path as us,
And fish were jumping out along the river,
And the sky opened out before our eyes…
When fate followed behind us on the trail,
Like a madman with a razor in his hand.
(‘Pyervye Svidaniya’. Translated by Alex Nemser and Nariman Skakov)
FROM THE MORNING
From the morning I was waiting for you yesterday,
They guessed that you wouldn't come,
Do you remember the weather?
Like a feast day! And I went out without a coat.
Today you came, and they have fixed for us
An especially gloomy day,
And the rain, and the especially late hour,
And the drops are running along the cold branches.
They can't be calmed with a word, nor dried with a cloth…
(‘S Utra Ya Tebya Dozhidalsya’. Translated by Alex Nemser and Nariman Skakov)
A human has a body
Just one, like one alone,
The soul has had enough
Of its continuous frame
With all its ears and eyes
The size of a silver coin
And skin like scarves on scarves,
As if hung on a rack.
It flies out through the cornea
Into the heavenly clearness,
Upon the icy spoke,
Upon the bird-drawn chariot
And listens through the bars
Of its own living prison
To the crack of woods and fields,
To the horn of seven seas.
A bodiless soul is shameful,
Like a body without its garment, -
No reasoning or deed,
No impetus or line.
A riddle without solution:
Who will return again,
From dancing on that stage,
Where nobody is dancing?
And I dream of another
Soul dressed in different clothes:
It burns and runs across
From timidity to hope,
With fire that leaves the earth,
Like spirit without a shadow,
Leaving a bunch of lilac
On the table for remembrance.
Run, child, don't lament
For poor Eurydice,
And chase your copper hoop
With a stick around the world,
While, still hardly audible,
Joyfully and dryly,
In answer to each step
The earth resounds in your ears.
(‘Evridika’. Translated by Alex Nemser and Nariman Skakov)