Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Psycho(analy)tic Aphorisms . . .

“I think therefore I am.”

-René Descartes

“I must come to the place where that (id) was.

-Sigmund Freud

“I think where I am not, therefore I am where I think not.

-Jaques Lacan

“I is another.”

-Arthur Rimbaud

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Spirit of the Letter . . .

“The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”

(2 Corinthians 3:6)

“Of course, as it is said, the letter killeth while the spirit giveth life. We can’t help but agree, having had to pay homage elsewhere to a noble victim of the error of seeking the spirit in the letter; but we should like to know, also, how the spirit could live without the letter. Even so, the claims of the spirit would remain unassailable if the letter had not in fact shown us that it can produce all the effects of truth in man without involving the spirit at all.”

(Jacques Lacan, “The Insistence of the Letter in the Unconscious”)

Friday, January 26, 2007

On Translation as Such . . .

“Where the most thorough possible interpretation occurs, where our sensibility appropriates its object while, in this appropriation, guarding, quickening that object’s autonomous life, the process is one of ‘original repetition.’ We re-enact, in the bounds of our own secondary but momentarily heightened, educated consciousness, the creation by the artist. We retrace, both in the image of a man drawing and of one following an uncertain path, the coming into form of the poem.”

“‘Interpretation’ as that which gives language life beyond the moment and place of immediate utterance or transcription, is what I am concerned with. . . . Through engagement of his own identity, a critic becomes un interpète – a life-giving performer . . . . Interprète / interpreter are commonly used to mean translator.”

“In short, the existence of art and literature, the reality of felt history in a community, depend on a never-ending, though very often unconscious, act of internal translation. It is no overstatement to say that we possess civilization because we have learnt to translate out of time.”

“Any model of communication is at the same time a model of trans-lation . . . . The element of privacy in language makes possible a crucial, though little understood, linguistic function. Its importance relates a study of translation to a theory of language as such. Obviously, we speak to communicate. But also to conceal, to leave unspoken. . . . In short: inside or between languages, human communication equals translation. A study of translation is a study of language.”

(George Steiner, After Babel)

After Babble . . .

“Do languages wane, do their powers of shaping response atrophy? Are there linguistic reflexes which have slowed and lost vital exactitude? The danger in putting the question this way is obvious: to think of the life and death of language in organic, temporal terms may be an animist fiction . . . . In certain civilizations there come epochs in which syntax stiffens, in which the available resources of live perception and restatement wither. Words seem to go dead under the weight of sanctified usage; the frequence and sclerotic force of clichés, of unexamined similes, of worn tropes increases. Instead of acting as a living membrane, grammar and vocabulary become a barrier to new feeling. A civilization is imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches, or matches only at certain ritual, arbitrary points, the changing landscape of facts.”

(George Steiner, After Babel)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Dream is a Dream is a Dream . . .

“Though this be true, I must nevertheless here consider that I am a man, and that, consequently, I am in the habit of sleeping, and representing to myself in dreams those same things, or even sometimes others less probable, which the insane think are presented to them in their waking moments. . . . I cannot forget that, at other times I have been deceived in sleep by similar illusions; and, attentively considering those cases, I perceive so clearly that there exist no certain marks by which the state of waking can ever be distinguished from sleep, that I feel greatly astonished; and in amazement I almost persuade myself that I am now dreaming.”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

“The interesting and allied problem, as to what is meant when some of the content of a dream is described in the dream itself as ‘dreamt’ – the enigma of the ‘dream within a dream’ – has been solved . . . . The intention is, once again, to detract from the importance of what is ‘dreamt’ in the dream, to rob it of its reality. What is dreamt in a dream after waking from the ‘dream within a dream’ is what the dream-wish seeks to put in the place of an obliterated reality. It is safe to suppose, therefore, that what has been ‘dreamt’ in the dream is a representation of the reality, the true recollection, while the continuation of the dream, on the contrary, merely represents what the dreamer wishes. To include something in a ‘dream within a dream’ is thus equivalent to wishing that the thing described as a dream had never happened.”

(Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. James Strachey)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Meditations (A La Carte)

Copyright © 2004 Marco Alexandre de Oliveira

Meditation VI . . .

“And, in the first place, it cannot be doubted that in each of the dictates of nature there is some truth: for by nature, considered in general, I now understand nothing more than God himself, or the order and disposition established by God in created things; and by my nature in particular I understand the assemblage of all that God has given me.”

“I ought no longer to fear that falsity may be met with in what is daily presented to me by the senses. And I ought to reject all the doubts of those bygone days, as hyperbolical and ridiculous, especially the general uncertainty respecting sleep, which I could not distinguish from the waking state: for I now find a very marked difference between the two states, in respect that our memory can never connect our dreams with each other and with the course of life, in the way it is in the habit of doing with events that occur when we are awake. And, in truth, if some one, when I am awake, appeared to me all of a sudden and as suddenly disappeared, as do the images I see in sleep, so that I could not observe either whence he came or whither he went, I should not without reason esteem it either a specter or phantom formed in my brain, rather than a real man. But when I perceive objects with regard to which I can distinctly determine both the place whence they come, and that in which they are, and the time at which they appear to me, and when, without interruption, I can connect the perception I have of them with the whole of the other parts of my life, I am perfectly sure that what I thus perceive occurs while I am awake and not during sleep. And I ought not in the least degree to doubt of the truth of these presentations, if, after having called together all my senses, my memory, and my understanding for the purpose of examining them, no deliverance is given by any one of these faculties which is repugnant to that of any other: for since God is no deceiver, it necessarily follows that I am not herein deceived. But because the necessities of action frequently oblige us to come to a determination before we have had leisure for so careful an examination, it must be confessed that the life of man is frequently obnoxious to error with respect to individual objects; and we must, in conclusion, ac. knowledge the weakness of our nature.”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

Meditation V . . .

“Will it be said that perhaps I am dreaming (an objection I lately myself raised), or that all the thoughts of which I am now conscious have no more truth than the reveries of my dreams? But although, in truth, I should be dreaming, the rule still holds that all which is clearly presented to my intellect is indisputably true.”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

Meditation IV . . .

“It further occurs to me that we must not consider only one creature apart from the others, if we wish to determine the perfection of the works of Deity, but generally all his creatures together; for the same object that might perhaps, with some show of reason, be deemed highly imperfect if it were alone in the world, may for all that be the most perfect possible, considered as forming part of the whole universe . . . . I may occupy a place in the relation of a part to the great whole of his creatures.”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

Meditation III . . .

“I will now close my eyes, I will stop my ears, I will turn away my senses from their objects, I will even efface from my consciousness all the images of corporeal things; or at least, because this can hardly be accomplished, I will consider them as empty and false; and thus, holding converse only with myself, and closely examining my nature, I will endeavor to obtain by degrees a more intimate and familiar knowledge of myself. I am a thinking ( conscious ) thing, that is, a being who doubts, affirms, denies, knows a few objects, and is ignorant of many,-- [who loves, hates], wills, refuses, who imagines likewise, and perceives; for, as I before remarked, although the things which I perceive or imagine are perhaps nothing at all apart from me [and in themselves], I am nevertheless assured that those modes of consciousness which I call perceptions and imaginations, in as far only as they are modes of consciousness, exist in me.”

“But perhaps I am something more than I suppose myself to be, and it may be that all those perfections which I attribute to God, in some way exist potentially in me, although they do not yet show themselves, and are not reduced to act. Indeed, I am already conscious that my knowledge is being increased [and perfected] by degrees; and I see nothing to prevent it from thus gradually increasing to infinity, nor any reason why, after such increase and perfection, I should not be able thereby to acquire all the other perfections of the Divine nature; nor, in fine, why the power I possess of acquiring those perfections, if it really now exist in me, should not be sufficient to produce the ideas of them.”

“And I ask, from whom could I, in that case, derive my existence? Perhaps from myself, or from my parents, or from some other causes less perfect than God; for anything more perfect, or even equal to God, cannot be thought or imagined.

But if I [were independent of every other existence, and] were myself the author of my being, I should doubt of nothing, I should desire nothing, and, in fine, no perfection would be awanting to me; for I should have bestowed upon myself every perfection of which I possess the idea, and I should thus be God.”

“And, in truth, it is not to be wondered at that God, at my creation, implanted this idea in me, that it might serve, as it were, for the mark of the workman impressed on his work; and it is not also necessary that the mark should be something different from the work itself; but considering only that God is my creator, it is highly probable that he in some way fashioned me after his own image and likeness, and that I perceive this likeness, in which is contained the idea of God, by the same faculty by which I apprehend myself . . . . And the whole force of the argument of which I have here availed myself to establish the existence of God, consists in this, that I perceive I could not possibly be of such a nature as I am, and yet have in my mind the idea of a God, if God did not in reality exist--this same God, I say, whose idea is in my mind . . . .”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

Meditation II . . .

“I suppose, accordingly, that all the things which I see are false (fictitious); I believe that none of those objects which my fallacious memory represents ever existed; I suppose that I possess no senses; I believe that body, figure, extension, motion, and place are merely fictions of my mind. What is there, then, that can be esteemed true? Perhaps this only, that there is absolutely nothing certain.”

“But I had the persuasion that there was absolutely nothing in the world, that there was no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies; was I not, therefore, at the same time, persuaded that I did not exist? Far from it; I assuredly existed, since I was persuaded. But there is I know not what being, who is possessed at once of the highest power and the deepest cunning, who is constantly employing all his ingenuity in deceiving me. Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition (pronunciatum) I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind.

“Thinking is another attribute of the soul; and here I discover what properly belongs to myself. This alone is inseparable from me. I am--I exist: this is certain; but how often? As often as I think; for perhaps it would even happen, if I should wholly cease to think, that I should at the same time altogether cease to be. I now admit nothing that is not necessarily true. I am therefore, precisely speaking, only a thinking thing, that is, a mind (mens sive animus), understanding, or reason, terms whose signification was before unknown to me. I am, however, a real thing, and really existent; but what thing? The answer was, a thinking thing.”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

Meditation I . . .

“Several years have now elapsed since I first became aware that I had accepted, even from my youth, many false opinions for true, and that consequently what I afterward based on such principles was highly doubtful; and from that time I was convinced of the necessity of undertaking once in my life to rid myself of all the opinions I had adopted, and of commencing anew the work of building from the foundation . . . but, as the removal from below of the foundation necessarily involves the downfall of the whole edifice, I will at once approach the criticism of the principles on which all my former beliefs rested.”

“But this undertaking is arduous, and a certain indolence insensibly leads me back to my ordinary course of life; and just as the captive, who, perchance, was enjoying in his dreams an imaginary liberty, when he begins to suspect that it is but a vision, dreads awakening, and conspires with the agreeable illusions that the deception may be prolonged; so I, of my own accord, fall back into the train of my former beliefs, and fear to arouse myself from my slumber, lest the time of laborious wakefulness that would succeed this quiet rest, in place of bringing any light of day, should prove inadequate to dispel the darkness that will arise from the difficulties that have now been raised.”

(René Descartes, Meditations. Trans. John Veitch)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

¡Oh, la Poesía!

“¿Qué es eso? -preguntó.

-Señor, es un poeta.

El rey tenía cisnes en el estanque, canarios, gorriones, censotes en la pajarera: un poeta era algo nuevo y extraño.

-Dejadle aquí.

Y el poeta:

-Señor, no he comido.

Y el rey:

-Habla y comerás.


-Señor, ha tiempo que yo canto el verbo del porvenir. He tendido mis alas al huracán; he nacido en el tiempo de la aurora; busco la raza escogida que debe esperar con el himno en la boca y la lira en la mano, la salida del gran sol. He abandonado la inspiración de la ciudad malsana, la alcoba llena de perfumes, la musa de carne que llena el alma de pequeñez y el rostro de polvos de arroz. He roto el arpa adulona de las cuerdas débiles, contra las copas de Bohemia y las jarras donde espumea el vino que embriaga sin dar fortaleza; he arrojado el manto que me hacía parecer histrión, o mujer, y he vestido de modo salvaje y espléndido: mi harapo es de púrpura. He ido a la selva, donde he quedado vigoroso y ahíto de leche fecunda y licor de nueva vida; y en la ribera del mar áspero, sacudiendo la cabeza bajo la fuerte y negra tempestad, como un ángel soberbio, o como un semidiós olímpico, he ensayado el yambo dando al olvido el madrigal.

He acariciado a la gran naturaleza, y he buscado al calor del ideal, el verso que está en el astro en el fondo del cielo, y el que está en la perla en lo profundo del océano. ¡He querido ser pujante! Porque viene el tiempo de las grandes revoluciones, con un Mesías todo luz, todo agitación y potencia, y es preciso recibir su espíritu con el poema que sea arco triunfal, de estrofas de acero, de estrofas de oro, de estrofas de amor.

¡Señor, el arte no está en los fríos envoltorios de mármol, ni en los cuadros lamidos, ni en el excelente señor Ohnet! ¡Señor! El arte no viste pantalones, ni habla en burgués, ni pone los puntos en todas las íes. Él es augusto, tiene mantos de oro o de llamas, o anda desnudo, y amasa la greda con fiebre, y pinta con luz, y es opulento, y da golpes de ala como las águilas, o zarpazos como los leones. Señor, entre un Apolo y un ganso, preferid el Apolo, aunque el uno sea de tierra cocida y el otro de marfil.

¡Oh, la Poesía!”

(Ruben Darío, “El Rey Burgués”)

Monday, January 15, 2007

"The Child is Father of the Man"

Celso Daniel Garcia de Oliveira

“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”

(William Wordsworth)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

"Should auld [1] acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be [2] your pint-stowp [3]!
And surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa [4] hae [5] run about the braes [6],
and pou’d [7] the gowans [8] fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony [9] a weary fit [10],
sin’ [11] auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d [12] in the burn [13],
frae [14] morning sun till dine [15] ;
But seas between us braid [16] hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere [17] !
And gies [18] a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught [19],
for auld lang syne.


(Robert Burns, Songs from Robert Burns)

[1] old

[2] buy

[3] cup

[4] two

[5] have

[6] hills

[7] pulled

[8] daisies

[9] many

[10] foot

[11] since

[12] paddled

[13] stream

[14] from

[15] dinner

[16] broad

[17] friend

[18] give

[19] good-will-draught