Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Those dying generations

Sailing to Byzantium is one of my key texts as probably has been clear from the multiple and constant references I have made during these years. I can't wait to have humanity to get out of nature and give up our natural forms and assume something better and more complete and more beautiful instead. As we now are we are not whole, not coherent.

And in the meanwhile we are all part of dying generations, briefly in each others' arms if that lucky. It is good for a person to lose his/her perspective for a while to regain it again perhaps slightly wiser, slightly gentler, having been taught a lesson about the ways of this world.

So, the tide has probably turned but this will be shortly seen.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A short note on Bloomsbury

I suppose they are now rather unfashionable, seen as lukewarm liberals at best and not certainly any fighters against oppression, and undeniably being rather a snobbish and incestuous ingroup. This said, and admitted, and despite many flaws and failings they were brilliant and even radical in their own way and did unflinchingly inflict strong blows against established ways, personal is political. I would never dismiss them easily or otherwise.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On seeing happy young people in the past and present

When young myself I often kept surreptiously looking at happy young people being myself desperately unhappy and unable to connect. I could not reach at the world, at my own experience, and, most importantly, at other people. A horrible failure and impotence of courage and character. So, I kept seeing happy young people and idealizing and misjudging them to a degree, not understanding their own incomplete happiness often interrupted by their mistakes, weaknesses and occasions of bad luck.

Then it happened that finally I too became rather happy while being still youngish and I understood better lifes, and their imperfections including my own, and did connect with the world, experience, with amazing people justly loved by me. The issue seemed quite resolved then and I did not have time or inclination to rehearse the old regrets. Strangely enough though this fall I have restarted seeing happy young people and have felt that decades old pain again for no visible reason but, one supposes, due to certain unhappinesses of the present that manifest through these old traumas. Flashbacks in other words. I wonder even even therapy would be needed but it would seem rather pointless to analyze and grieve for the life my early 20's self so unhappily missed and wasted. Life is indeed a strange and slippery thing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

And if I should not have lost my way?

As I wrote earlier life regrets come in slow long intervals, reflecting undoubtedly the low tides of current life and raising to the surface old hurts, old failures. My youth was dominated by emotional trauma and lack of social courage and understanding. I fled to books and thinking, and there are worse hiding places, and partially through reading and thinking I did achieve a healing and I did return to the land of the living, to the world of acting and feeling, of touching and being touched. I started living, grievously late, yes, but I did start and still do despite the horrendously late beginning.

But deep old wounds never seem to heal completely and the past has a way of returning in bad times and moments taking the shape of regrets and obsessive analysis of what did go wrong and how much of my best years I really did lose, and how much even in these better times I have lost as the recovery has never been complete and I have never been completely free of my old inadequacies. It is curious how strong this reflex can be and how clearly I can both see the complete fruitlessness of going over these long past issues and nevertheless be unable not to do it.

So then, once again the awful, cul-de-sac of a question: if I should not have lost my away after a series of basically unrelated blows at various crucial stages of my development? How much less pain, how much more happiness and love? A stupid, pointless question.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The radiance of John Keats

I have now at hand one of the great treasures of the English literary tradition, the letters of Keats. His poetry touches me only at places, but in his short career he did touch perfection and one is left wondering as one always will be with him: what incredible brilliance there could have been if only some more years, not to think of decades of production? It's a bitter thought of loss.

But then there is his shining person; his marvellous, intelligent, joyful, loving and gentle, sharp and ironic letters. Not much at all in the whole majestic genre of letter writing in English to compare with this blinding young flame. As always with Keats as with Sorley I'm thinking of myself in the same early age: clumsy, insecure, fearful, blindly fleeing life and experience with not a trace of wisdom or compassion - a hideous emotional cripple. But illuminated at least by light even if at one remove, and gaining at least some grace and some wisdom with age having been led among others by these youths.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The words I did not say, the steps I did not take

This certain kind of feeling comes in immense slow waves, very slow, lazily reaching to the shore. And so, one is now here again leading me back to the thoughts I've already thought, the regrets I've already felt. And, yes, there is the old retort to counter it, of being not so much more deceived this way, for that other, never taken, would have also led to questions like this, there would still be words not said, steps not taken, touches not felt.

But at this moment, once again, it is a very cold comfort to know this, for that one unique time was already enough of deception, selfdeception, cowardice to last a lifetime. As it evidently will do.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The vast intelligence of Mary Ann Evans

Allegedly it has been said that if there is no God, George Eliot will do... I'm even more than usually inclined to be sympathetic to this view reading the extraordinary biographical study of her by Philip Davis. The sentiment of the anecdote is obviously ironic but not only ironic. She was much involved with the absence of God (as an empirical reality contained in the universe) and brought a scary, scary intelligence and wisdom to the task of constructing a viable alternative world view to (protestant) Christianity.

I have several times remarked earlier on this blog that one of the reasons I find George Eliot to be such a profound writer and influence is that in some way I mirror her background - coming from nonconformist protestant background (though one already turned to liberalism and pluralism unlike her far more rigid context). I find her concerns fundamental, but certainly not only because they are shared concerns but because they really are fundamental to our civilization that has lost so much of it's heart during the awful 20th century. We are hollow now, hedonistic, materialistic, and, yes, immoral.

The scale of her thought and human sympathy and unsentimental clearsightedness is terrifying. If one compares her analysis of religion with, say, Richard Dawkins, it is to compare a clever 13 year old schoolboy who has freshly discovered logic and empirism to a several lifetimes worth of knowlegde and merciless, hard reflection. The brittle quality of thinkers like Dawkins or Lord Russell is put to cruelly sharp focus against such vast reach and depth - and human feeling. Though at least Bertrand Russell did largely know what he was talking about.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Frederick the Narrow

Frederick the Great has been among the historical figures that I have been profoundly uninterested in. I believe one of the core reasons for that has actually been reading Grimberg's Världshistoria (in Finnish translation) at an impressionable age - and that was very pro-Maria Theresa. In mature retrospect she is hardly much more inviting figure. Hard to think of any pre-modern autocratic or semi-autocratic monarch who would have been. In any case Frederick's curious mixture (mostly) bad art and philosophy and rather Hitlerian gambling in warfare have not seemed very interesting.

Now reading Tim Blanning's excellent biography he emerges as marginally more sympathetic. I have been dimly aware of the main facets of his life, but had not for example realized just how dismally sadistic his father was and awful his youth in the shadow of that abuse. In that sense even bad art and philosophy seem more fresh than expected. And he can be amusing in his cynicism and disregard of pieties (and the pieties of that disgusting age richly did deserve cynicism and disregard). His surprisingly open homosexuality - or homoeroticism - at least was a kind of a protest too.

But such rigidity and narrowmindedness in the heart of it all. I guess no monarch of that age could have escaped absurd and baseless haughtiness and sheer blindness to any decency and humanity (the whole ghastly era led the priviledged away from such values). And with his awful upbringing Frederick could surely not have escaped the inevitable concequences - thus many of his strengthts became disastrous failings. Speaking of the human being, that is, as a monarch he was not much worse than most.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Three cheers for Morgan Forster

I'm now re-reading Wendy Moffat's suberb life of Forster and noticed having read it rather cursorily the first time. I think I was reading modern day attitudes and journeys back into the past and saw the text through 21st century "Gay Icon" lenses. Being rather vary with group identities and loyalties Forster's attitudes seemed partially distancing and foreshadowing some unpleasant tendencies in the modern age - and some still do, like his suspicion of women and letting escape from his otherwise sharp vision their awful middle class shackles of respectability and "purity".

But his was a deadly serious moral pursuit, just the thing expected of us, of taking responsibility for our own beings and thinking hard and straight (puns unintended) about our bodies and souls and their various placements and the moral implications of those placements, those actions and impulses and their relations to the ever imperfect, cruel and unjust general society. In his seemingly timid and gentle person there was a lion's heart fighting unflinchingly terrible injustices around and terrible insufficiencies inside. A fighter's life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Not the more deceived - on de Sade

I have never really looked into de Sade but I expected to reluctantly like and respect him. Not so it seems though - there are his madly irreverent early letters that really are charming and funny but his adult character is not exceedingly pleasant. Of course his actions are mostly nothing to object to if between consenting adults but concent in his 18th century context is really dubious and no matter how rotten the society, he largely accepted it apart from some ideals largely then practiced in breach and in theory. And sexual fantasies are in any case usually best left unattempted in real life - they easily become ridiculous and/or unpleasant or worse. His certainly did.

His thinking was better and in some respects refreshing (as against the disgusting cant of this, one of the more horrible eras) but even there he resided much in his own solipsist unreality (though creating some rather effective pornography in the process). So I suppose he too was deceived and betrayed but surely not nearly us much as his paid partners, those much truer victims of that cruel, sadistic age.