Reinterpretation


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Complete                    -                      Incomplete
State                            -                      Process


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[...] according to Nietzsche, to reinterpret events is to rearrange effects and therefore generate new things. Our “text” is being composed as we read it, and our readings are new parts of it that will give rise to further ones in the future.

Even the reinterpretation of existing formulas adds to the world, especially since Nietzsche often thinks of interpretation as “the introduction of meaning - not ‘explanation’ (in most cases a new interpretation over an old interpretation that has become incomprehensible, that is now itself only a sign).”

To introduce new interpretations, therefore, it is necessary to reinterpret old ones. Our text, even though it will someday come to an end, is still and forever incomplete. 

[…] in Nietzsche’s own view, reinterpretation is the most powerful theoretical and practical instrument. It is the literal analogue of “the hammer” with which he proposes to do philosophy in the Preface to The Twilight of the Idols: part tuning fork to sound out hollow idols, part instrument of their destruction, and part sculptor’s mallet to fashion new states out of the forms as well as the materials of the old.

Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 91


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We are very much the creation of the stories we tell ourselves.

... just turn around any of the major psychological stories you tell about your own life.
Read them backwards. You picked your wife because she was very different from (or very much like) your mother. This is an old saw in psychology. But suppose your soul gained practice with your mother for the life later lived with your wife.

Or suppose a person conceives of her childhood illness (that kept her bedridden and out of touch during crucial socializing years) to have been early practice at the work she does now, like writing in solitude or inventing electronic devices or becoming a therapist. She had to be isolated for those years in order to follow her seed.

This way of seeing removes the burden from those early years as having been a mistake and yourself a victim of handicaps or cruelties; instead, it's all the acorn in the mirror, the soul endlessly repeating in different guises the fundamental pattern of your karma.

[James Hillman]
with Michael Ventura
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.27, 68, 69

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These coincidences amaze her. Never does she feel so thoroughly suffused with beauty as when the nostalgia for her past love blends with the surprises of her new love.

The intrusion of the previous boyfriend into the story she is currently living is to her mind not some secret infidelity; it adds further to her fondness for the man walking beside her now.

[Milan Kundera]
Ignorance, p.80



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People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void, of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it.

The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.

[Milan Kundera]
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting


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All messages and parts of messages are like phrases or segments of equations which a mathematician puts in brackets. Outside the brackets there may always be a qualifier or multiplier which will alter the whole tenor of the phrase. Moreover, these qualifiers can always be added, even years later.

In the realm of communication, the events of the past constitute a chain of old horseshoes so that the meaning of that chain can be changed and is continually being changed.

What exists today are only messages about the past which we call memories, and these messages can always be framed and modulated from moment to moment.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Group Dynamics of Schizophrenia'), p.232-3


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Personal memories are more like mental reconstructions where the original details are contorted, at least to some degree, by who we are today.

Recalling a memory, in fact, appears to be a collaborative effort of different parts of our brains. It also seems to be strengthened and modified each time it’s retrieved.

Scientists have a term for this – reconsolidation. And they’ve found that a memory is not only a reflection of the original event, but also a product of each time you call it up.

So memories, it turns out, aren’t fixed; they’re dynamic, reshaped by our current emotions and beliefs.

And that’s not a bad thing. As Fernyhough posits, the purpose of memory is about adapting and looking into the future as much as into the past.



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