Walk a Straight Line

[...] 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

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(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.

imomus
: 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.

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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

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