Friday, February 20, 2009

Nothing is possible ...

“Such is the scale of the problems, so narrow and so precarious are the paths hitherto trodden, so final the annihilation of tract after immense tract of the past, and so uncertain the bases of our speculations, that even the briefest reconnaissance on the terrain plunges the enquirer into a state of indecision, in which feelings of humble resignation fight for supremacy with moments of the insanest ambition. He knows that the essentials have gone for ever and that all he can do is to scratch the surface. Yet may he not stumble upon some indication, preserved as if by a miracle, which will shed new light upon the whole problem? Nothing is possible: everything, therefore, is possible. The darkness in which we grope our way is too intense for us to hazard any comment on it: we cannot even say that it will last for ever.”

(Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques. Trans. John Russel. p. 247-248)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

wisdom in writing ...

“Similarly, as it seems to me, the wise of Egypt- whether in precise knowledge or by a prompting of nature- indicated the truth where, in their effort towards philosophical statement, they left aside the writing-forms that take in the detail of words and sentences- those characters that represent sounds and convey the propositions of reasoning- and drew pictures instead, engraving in the temple- inscriptions a separate image for every separate item: thus they exhibited the mode in which the Supreme goes forth.

For each manifestation of knowledge and wisdom is a distinct image, an object in itself, an immediate unity, not as aggregate of discursive reasoning and detailed willing. Later from this wisdom in unity there appears, in another form of being, an image, already less compact, which announces the original in an outward stage and seeks the causes by which things are such that the wonder rises how a generated world can be so excellent.

For, one who knows must declare his wonder that this Wisdom, while not itself containing the causes by which Being exists and takes such excellence, yet imparts them to the entities produced in Being's realm. This excellence whose necessity is scarcely or not at all manifest to search, exists, if we could but find it out, before all searching and reasoning.

What I say may be considered in one chief thing, and thence applied to all the particular entities:”

(Plotinus, 5th Ennead, Eighth Tractate, Section 6)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

mystic art ...

"Until writing was invented, man lived in acoustic space: boundless, directionless, horizonless, in the dark of the mind, in the world of emotion, by primordial intuition, by terror. Speech is a social chart of this bog.

The goose quill put an end to talk. It abolished mystery; it gave architecture and towns; it brought roads and armies, bureaucracy. It was the basic metaphor with which the cycle of civilization began, the step from the dark into the light of the mind. The hand that filled the parchment page built a city."

(Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage. p. 48)

"Whence did the wond'rous mystic art arise,
Of painting SPEECH, and speaking to the eyes?
That we by tracing magic lines are taught,
How to embody, and to colour THOUGHT?"

(William Massey)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

convergences ...

“… the art of our era is one of convergences: the intersecting of times, spaces, and forms. This end of a century has also seen a return of times; we now discover what the ancients knew: history is an empty presence, a blank face. The poet and the novelist must restore the human features of this face. It is an undertaking that requires imagination, and moral courage as well. The literature we write doesn’t turn its back on history, though it rejects the simplifications of ideological art and its categorical affirmations and negations. It is not an art of certainties but one of exploration; it is not a poetry that shows the way but one that seeks it. It is an art and poetry sketching the sign that, from the beginning of time, humanity has seen in the sky: a question mark. The hands that trace this sign may be Latin American, but its meaning is universal.”

(Octavio Paz, “A Literature of Convergences.” Convergences: Essays on Art and Literature. Trans. Helen Lane. p. 226)