Walk a Straight Line

Unlimited                           -                       Limited
Many                                  -                       Few
Free                                    -                       Constrained
Uncommitted                     -                       Committed

With a sigh, Knecht shook of this notion. He himself had gone another way, or rather been led, and what counted was to pursue his assigned way straightforwardly and faithfully, not to compare it with the ways of others.

[...] More and more he had to bid farewell to the dream, the feeling and the pleasure of infinite possibilities, of a multiplicity of futures.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 248, 471

The essential thing ‘in heaven and upon earth’ seems, to say it again, to be a protracted obedience in one direction: from out of that there always emerges and has emerged in the long run something for the sake of which it is worthwhile to live on earth, for example virtue, art, music, dance, reason, spirituality - something transfiguring, refined, mad and divine.

[…] all there is or has been on earth of freedom, subtlety, boldness, dance and masterly certainty, whether in thought itself, or in ruling, or in speaking and persuasion, in the arts just as morals, has evolved only by virtue of the ‘tyranny of [...] arbitrary laws’; and in all seriousness, there is no small probability that precisely this is ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ - and not that laisser aller!

Regard any morality from this point of view: it is ‘nature’ in it which teaches hatred of laisser aller, of too great freedom, and which implants the need for limited horizons and immediate tasks - which teaches the narrowing of perspective, and this in a certain sense stupidity, as a condition of life and growth.

‘Though shalt obey someone and for a long time: otherwise thou shalt perish and lose all respect for thyself’ - this seems to me to be nature’s imperative […]

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 188,

[...] although a man is always the same, he does not always understand himself, but often fails to recognize himself until he has acquired some degree of real self-knowledge.

He finds in himself the tendencies to all the various human aspirations and abilities, but the different degrees of these in his individuality do not become clear to him without experience.

Now if he resorts to those pursuits that alone conform to his character, he feels, especially at particular moments and in particular moods, the impulse to the very opposite pursuits that are incompatible with them; and if he wishes to follow the former pursuits undisturbed, the latter must be entirely suppressed.

For, as our physical path on earth is always a line and not a surface, we must in life, if we wish to grasp and possess one thing, renounce and leave aside innumerable others that lie to the right and to the left.

If we cannot decide to do this, but, like children at a fair, snatch at everything that fascinates us in passing, this is the perverted attempt to change the line of our path into a surface. We then run a zigzag path, wander like a will-o'-the-wisp, and arrive at nothing.

Or, to use another comparison, according to Hobbe's doctrine of law, everyone originally has a right to everything, but an exclusive right to nothing;

but he can obtain an exclusive right to individual things by renouncing his right to all the rest, while the others do the same with regard to what was chosen by him. 

It is precisely the same in life, where we can follow some definite pursuit, whether it be of pleasure, honour, wealth, science, art, or virtue, seriously and successfully only when we give up all claims foreign to it, and renounce everything else.

Therefore mere willing and mere ability to do are not enough of themselves, but a man must also know what he wills, and know what he can do. Only thus will he display character, and only then can he achieve anything solid. Until he reaches this, he is still without character, in spite of the natural consistency of the empirical character.  

Although, on the whole, he must remain true to himself and run his course drawn by his daemon, he will not describe a straight line, but a wavering and uneven one.

[...] We must first learn from experience what we will and what we can do; till then we do not know this, are without character, and must often be driven back on to our own path by hard blows from outside.

But if we have finally learnt it, we have then obtained what in the world is called character, the acquired character, which, accordingly, is nothing but the most complete possible knowledge of our own individuality.

It is the abstract, and consequently distinct, knowledge of the unalterable qualities of our own empirical character, and of the measure and direction of our mental and bodily powers, and so of the whole strength and weakness of our own individuality.

This puts us in a position to carry out, deliberately and methodically, the unalterable role of our own person, and to fill up the gaps caused in it by whims or weaknesses, under the guidance of fixed concepts.

[...] In accordance with these, we carry it out as deliberately as though it were one that had been learnt, without ever being led astray by the fleeting influence of the mood or impression of the present moment, without being checked by the bitterness or sweetness of a particular thing we meet with on the way, without wavering, without hesitation, without inconsistencies.

[...] [We] will then often partake of the pleasure of feeling [our] strength, and will rarely experience the pain of being reminded of [our] weaknesses.

[...] For as the whole man is only the phenomenon of his will, nothing can be more absurd than for him, starting from reflection, to want to be something different from what he is; for this is an immediate contradiction of the will itself.

Imitating the qualities of others is much more outrageous than wearing others' clothes, for it is the judgement we ourselves pronounce on our own worthlessness. 

Knowledge of our own mind and of our capabilities of every kind, and of their unalterable limits, is in this respect the surest way to the attainment of the greatest possible contentment with ourselves.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.303-6

(Anonymous): I wonder if there's a Cocker backlash in the wings.

There's a generation who see him as a guy who crops up to comment on stuff although he (himself) hasn't had a hit for years, so he's a kind of half-cocked national treasure (when everyone seems to be a national treasure), possibly compounded with "death-by-Guardian" a ubiquitousness meaning that you tick all the boxes for production assistants and editors, out of proportion with any public fervour.

: Celebrity and backlash are absolutely inextricable, for the reasons we were discussing the other day:  

as soon as you make a clear unequivocal statement (and what is a celeb if not a "cultural statement"?) doubts rush in, and the opposite begins to seem appealing.

Slebs can only avoid this by becoming reclusive, ie silent as mimes. Like the Queen, or David Bowie. (Anyone know what he thought of the death of Michael, the Iraq war, the Obama victory? Of course not; he's a mime.)

milky_eyes: ah, I think bowie avoided this by keeping or try to keep his whole 'thing' ie image, statements, music... increasingly more abstract, or postmodern...
I dont think you ever got a consistent 'straight' statement out of him... I think in his early years, he'd say stuff, but then one gets tired of always having to backtrack and apologize, etc... so one talks more and more in non-committal statements.

but geez, I'd get tired of always 'airing' 'MY" opinion of this or that.... tired pompous situation.

Conversation from Click Opera, see here.

I'm told so many things. I've had someone on the phone trying to tell me what the sixth sense is, and I said, I've got a sixth sense, its a fucking sense of humour!

Everything to me is logical and practical, its in my face, its there. I can't distract from it, because the second I distract from it I do lose my way and I have to stay the way that I am, and thats why I have to be non-effected by anything that I listen to, or hear, or see.

[John Harris]
Interviewed on tnsradio

Amish women adopted quilt styles from the larger society but made them in strong, unprinted colours of their own clothing.

Quilts are emblems of affection. They symbolize a message of warmth. They are an extension of parental affection to the family, the kin group, and to the wider world. Quilts underscore the importance of the transgenerational family.

The patterns, colours, and fabrics are the result of firm boundaries, strong identity, and decisiveness. Inside those boundaries there is warmth and caring. 

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 166

As we get older, the brain’s synapses—the connections between neurons—start to change.

The young brain is very “plastic,” as neuroscientists say: Between birth and about age 5, the brain easily makes new connections. A preschooler’s brain has many more synapses than an adult brain. 

Then comes a kind of tipping point.

Some connections, especially the ones that are used a lot, become longer, stronger and more efficient. But many other connections disappear—they are “pruned.”

[Alison Gopnik]
'For Babies, Life May Be a Trip'

Hillman: The compulsion to innocence. What is it about America? Why this dominant theme going all the way back to out first novels in the eighteenth century - the loss of innocence? It's been written of again and again. That's the major theme of American literature. Why are we a culture that doesn't want to lose its innocence?

Ventura: Doesn't want to lose its virginity. And constantly manufactures new versions of virginity.

Hillman: What is the moral superiority of being innocent? And why are sophistication and culture somehow corruption?

Ventura: It goes back to the Puritans, where any sort of imagination was doubt or deviation and considered the work of Satan.

Hillman: What does puritanism have to do with therapy?

Ventura: I think puritanism is the root of why a lot of people go to therapy. In the sense of, "Why do I go to therapy? I don't know how to be monogamous, I have all these terrible thoughts, I don't know how to live the straight and narrow like I'm supposed to, it's driving me crazy, I go to therapy to -"

Hillman: "- get straightened out."

Ventura: "Yes. So I can live in this confined place that my puritanism tells me I should live in. I should be a good husband and love only my wife, and a good father and sacrifice everything for my kids, and I should go to work and love going to work, and I should go to church on Sunday but not let the Gods and spirits into my daily life where they're too disruptive, and if only I could do that I'd be fine, but I have moods, I have tempers, I have fears, they all get in the way, they throw me off the good path."

Hillman: "And I know I should keep my body under control. But instead I eat too much and I drink too much, and I eat chocolate at night before I go to bed and I really shouldn't be doing that anymore, and I still smoke, and my body is full of appetites and lusts and perversions and peculiarities and -"

Ventura: "- and I want therapy to cure me of all this." In other words: "I want therapy to cure me of having a psyche."

Because that's what puritanism says: "If you do this and that and practice such and so and believe that and this, you won't have to worry about having a psyche. Your psyche won't matter, it won't be a factor."

Hillman: "You won't have to worry about having a body, either."

Ventura: "And anything that intrudes on the 'normal,' the straight and narrow, is evil. Which is an insidious way of saying: the psyche is evil. And if the psyche is trying to put some curves in your 'straight' and widen your 'narrow,' if your imagination is coaxing you, goading you, seducing you, prodding you -"

Hillman: "Yes, my imagination is filled with extraordinary things I shouldn't be doing -"

Ventura: "If your psyche and your body are trying to keep you from living as we, the Puritans, would have you live, then they are evil."

You have this thing in psychology where you're going to therapy to be cured of having a psyche!

[James Hillman & Michael Ventura]
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.200, 201

To close your ears to even the best counter-argument once the decision has been taken: sign of a strong character. Thus an occasional will to stupidity.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 107

Kauffman concludes that as evolution becomes increasingly canalized or constrained, fewer new alternatives are available. 

Because young adaptive systems are malleable - they are more potential than actual - a very different fundamental regime of traits might have been fairly easy to establish early on given the same initial dynamics had the system interacted with different environmental conditions. Over time, however, development and experience produce an increasingly furrowed, differentiated landscape with more and different states than the initial and nearly equiprobable plain that only had a few slight dips in it. 

In time, that is, each of us develops into a more complex, individuated person, but one more set in our ways as well. And once locked in, a particular regime is increasingly resistant to change. 

In other words, the lesson that dynamical systems teach is that the consequences of choices sediment.

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p. 253

What is touching about a child is that it is not yet determined, not yet limited. It still has in itself all the innumerable possibilities that the man has already lost. Primitive peoples — humanity as childlike — are also bearers of these unlimited possibilities.

The contradiction between rational limitation and the irrational profusion of possibilities is romantically eliminated because another equally real but still unlimited reality is played off against limited reality: in opposition to the rationalistic, mechanized state, the childlike people; in opposition to the man already limited by his profession and accomplishments, the child who plays with all possibilities; in opposition to the clear line of the classical, the primitive in its infinity of meanings.

Limited reality is empty, a realized possibility, a decision that has already been made; disenchanted, disillusioned, it has the dull melancholy that a lottery ticket has after the drawing. It is “a calendar whose year has expired.”

Primitive naiveté is the happiest state, but only negatively and not because of a positive content. It is the illusion not yet destroyed, the eternal promise of eternal power, an eternally conserved, because eternally unrealized, possibility.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 69

[...] the phenomenon of remorse is closely linked to the situation of a divided and self-contradictory being.

Remorse occurs when, despite everything, a central tendency survives in the being and reawakens after actions that have violated or denied it, arising from secondary impulses that are not strong enough to completely supplant it.

Guyau speaks in this sense of a morality “that is none other than the unity of the being,” and an immorality that, “on the contrary, is a splitting, an opposition of tendencies that limit one another.”

[...] we have already noted the difficulty, especially in our times, that the principle of being oneself encounters in the vast majority of individuals, given their lack of a basic unity or even of one predominant and constant tendency among a multitude of others.  

[...] in an age of dissolution, it is difficult even for one who possesses a basic internal form to know it and thereby to know “himself,” otherwise than through an experiment.   

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 46, 60

[…] every determination is a negation […]

This comes down to saying that Dasein is blameworthy “just by the simple fact of existing”; existence, both in fact and as a simple project, is in every case determined and finite, hence it necessarily excludes all the infinite possibilities of pure being, which might equally well have been the object of the original choice.

That is why it is “guilty.” Jaspers in particular underlines this point: My guilt lies in the destiny of having chosen (and of not having been able not to choose) only the one direction that corresponds to my real or possible being, and negating all the others.

This is also the source of my responsibility and "debt" toward the infinite and the eternal.

Such an order of ideas could obviously only appeal to a human type who was so off centre with regard to transcendence as to feel that it was external to himself. This makes him incapable of identification with the principle of his own choice and his own freedom before time; and hence, as counterpart, the Sartrean sensation of freedom as something alien to which one is condemned.

Someone who is really free, when he does what he wants, has no "complexes" or soul-searching of this kind, nor does he feel “finalized” and fallen because he thereby excludes other possibilities. He knows that he could have done otherwise, but only a hysteric or neurotic would be driven by such a thought into "existential anguish.”

It is not the fall from a sort of substantialized "totality," but the simple use of the possible. Arising from this idea, one can see the absurdity of speaking of existence as a fault or sin, merely by virtue of being a determined existence. Nothing prevents us from adopting the contrary point of view, for example, that of classical Greece, which sees in limit and form the manifestation of a perfection, a completion, and a kind of reflection of the Absolute.

The human type to whom all these existentialist ideas appeal is characterized by a fractured will and remains so […]

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 92-3

With marriage, sexual intercourse becomes legitimate and men assume full responsibility for “looking after” others. This is expected of middle-aged men, who have developed the endurance and power associated with "sinew” (marpanpa).

Contrastingly, young men cannot settle down, cannot stay in one place. They are believed to lack the persistence and concentration of older men, as most young men admit freely. With pride, they told me, "I can't get married; I'm too much of a traveling man."

The young are viewed as wild, uncontrolled, and somewhat antisocial, but they are also admired. They represent the passions of human nature […] Such passions are not considered evil, but they must be controlled […] The young are only controlled, it seems, by [the] requirements of ceremonial discipline. Otherwise, their lives are full of passionate assertions of autonomy. Men speak freely of the fights, trickery, and exuberance of their youth.

Older men have learned to channel their energy, sexual and otherwise, into social forms, especially ceremony, that sustain their autonomy while assuring the reproduction of a wider relatedness.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.238-9

That boy actors played girls is consistent with As You Like It’s claim that boys and women are emotionally alike.

Vergil’s Mercury says, “Woman is forever various and changeable” (Aen. IV.569–70). Verdi’s duke agrees: “La donna è mobile.” Woman is mobile, changeable, fickle. Boys are moonish, as Rosalind puts it, because their mercurial inconstancy of mind resembles the ever-altering phases of the feminine moon, ruler of women’s lives.

Love dematerializes masculinity [...] Woman, boy, lunatic, lover, poet, fool: Shakespeare unites them emotionally and psychologically. They share the same fantastical quickness and variability. They are in moonlike psychic flux, which becomes manic-depressive instability in the frantic Mercutio.

The Mercurius androgyne has the reckless dash and spontaneity of youth [...] Ariel, the trickster Till Eulenspiegel, and J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (a boy played by an actress), demonstrate the feminizing effects of psychic mutability on males. This reverses the principle I found in Michelangelo, where monumentality masculinizes women.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.207-9

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