知音

It has been so hot that even the street cats and dogs languishing wherever they were able. One can feel, through weather, that one is pushed through to another level of existence. Weather will have its way. Not so long ago, it was the holiday of Prophet Elijah, and the heat seemed to come with a moral warning: that old narrative conveys the importance of not becoming enslaved to anything - even lifestyle, as well as the reminder to learn to discern truth from artifice. According to Gadamer, this may be difficult in the case of modern art, where the line between a real work of art and ruse is fluid; we may not know whether the charm of a work is a mere trick or artistic richness.
But as the heat pounded down, I finished Truth and Method, and explained it over lunch to a friend who said offhandedly, "It always comes down to whether a person wants to understand, or not." That's a good summary of the book - in the words of someone who hadn't spent a month reading it. I think it was worth reading, though the extent to which the book comes off as a desperate apology made me depressed about academia. It is becoming clearer why the academy attracts a certain kind of (i.e. singular) thinker. Also, I see how the rare but possible postgrad freedom to choose one's own literature may become the end of said person's career. Gadamer points out that today truth plays second fiddle to methodology.
The appendix to the book contained many nuggets of the kind that convince one that Gadamer could be listened to forever, as he supplies ever new anecdotes and illustrations (in fact, it amazed me how little this work repeated ideas from his other works that I'd read). In the appendix, taking inspiration from J.S. Mills, he explains that increased reliable meteorological data and management would lead to new problems in other areas - like that of influencing the weather, and the consequent socio-economic factors to consider. This reminded me of the notion of feedback I first read about in connection with the white algae caused by overfarming seaweed.
The word feedback, if I have understood correctly, was first coined in the 19th century, to describe the mechanical process of electronic circuits. Surely the use of this word - taken from technology - to now describe, also, biological processes is further support of the argument in Truth and Method that the "theory of science" privileges immanent logic and the considers the application of (mechanical?) research results sufficient to social practice. Social practice is more complex (and emotional) than purposive rationality. The world is not a machine though some want it to be - even if it were, it would not be one we could see all the parts of at any given time. But scientismists would disagree.




A popular antidote to the language of scientism is the language of poetry. Gadamer proposes it, but so do Heidegger, Hadot, Kenneth Burke. Indeed, when I took my break today away from reading, I turned to the muses, albeit in song form, in a Taiwanese film Love in Disguise, which ostensibly promotes traditional Chinese music - and is based on that beautiful tale of the 知音 friendship between Bo Ya (a qin player) and uneducated Ziqi, who was able to discern the themes Bo Ya would play upon his instrument.
The characters 知音 come from this story and stand for a friend who is deeply appreciative of one's talents; a soul mate. But the characters individually mean know/perceive/comprehend and sound. While music - which makes sounds that can be received and appreciated so deeply - is not quite poetry, it does reach that level of purity in that, as per Gadamer, hearing is more important than seeing (one can look away, but not hear away). Gadamer writes that he who is addressed must hear whether he wants to or not.
Of course, not everyone can hear: it is possible to be deaf, in which case, one is never addressed in this way. Science, Gadamer writes, when abstracted from the linguistic nature of our experience of the world, attempts to become certain about entities by methodically organizing its knowledge of the world and condemning as heresy that knowledge that does not allow such certainty. To be willfully deaf in this way is to be faced, consequently, with biological feedback.
It comes down to whether we perceive it or not. There is the short version of existence that is selfish and controlling (fake copies that like to multiply though unworthy), and the longer, cyclical version, moving from text to person throughout the ages as something worth repeating, like the story of Ziqi.
It is like the circular effect of Theocritus' epigram X: ῾Υμῖν τοῦτο θεαὶ κεχαρισμένον ἐννέα πάσαις τὤγαλμα Ξενοκλῆς θῆκε τὸ μαρμάρινον, μουσικός: οὐχ ἑτέρως τις ἐρεῖ. σοφίῃ δ᾽ ἐπὶ τῇδε αἶνον ἔχων Μουσέων οὐκ ἐπιλανθάνεται. The Reverend J. Banks translates it as: To you this marble statue Muses nine! Xenocles placed; the harmonist whose skill No men denies: owning your aid divine, He by your aid is unforgotten still. To not be forgotten is to sing the praises of something greater than oneself and to hear what is beautiful. This is the legend of 知音 and the lesson of how to be a good friend.



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