Something About Crocodiles

Sometimes I think of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki's Symphony no. 3, how parts of it are like breathing, like watching a crocodile sink, strangely horizontally through all that water, to the bottom of a river. It is as if there, in the chamber of expanded lungs, there is hope for clarity. It was Napoleon who said that the world is not ruined by the wickedness of the wicked, but by the weakness of the good. This might be true, but I wonder about the meaning of "weakness."
It may be the view that all things are but tools to be used for survival, in the sense that the need to be too strong is impotence. Weakness might also be insecurity, fear and doubt, the struggle to get by, the perceiving and eliminating of threats, self-defense, self-affirmation. This list is composed by one who was in the utilitarian fast lane for a short time, enslaved to the irrational imagination of the 'I' that 'makes it.' I think now that we are composites of others, a sign of their help.
It used to be taught that the purpose of reading was to learn what should be and to become better aware of the illogicality of the world. Learn what is legitimate authority without reverting to reactionism and calling all authority oppressive. Distinguishing between that which has usurped the real thing in order to enslave. At least to know when men are talking rot.
It may have happened that once a child spoke in favour of the uniform during an interview, amusing those present to be narrated this incident time and again later. But the uniform does not cloud out personality; it cleanses it of superficial accoutrements; the uniform is the sign of the values the child wishes to reach: order, harmony.
One may take the tone of an antiquarian conservatist. But it has been noted that it is better to prefer a return to the past over bad improvisation. We are told the return is impossible today because nobody can agree on the "past." As if we agreed on the "future" - and all the mechanisms of insecurity mentioned above are grinding away to make that possible.
Which is not to say that there cannot be a good improvisation; keeping to the nature of the good, which I think has something to do with Hadot's notion of "being with" the universe, not just learning about it through its laws: that way of looking already cold, utilitarian, and strangely reminiscent of idolatry insofar as the tree, river, or statue has been separated out from its surroundings, and paid credence to as a subject-unto-itself. From ancient times, thinkers have sought to release themselves from such tyranny, of the multiplicity of things. Plato writes of God; Aristotle, the Unmoved Mover; all things oriented along a hierarchy pointing to that upper realm, anticipated through right, or good, forms of behaviour.




Aristotle writes, "it is not easy to see how knowing that same Ideal Good will help a weaver or carpenter in the practice of his own craft, or how anybody will be a better physician or general for having contemplated the absolute Idea. In fact it does not appear that the physician studies even health in the abstract; he studies the health of the human being—or rather of some particular human being, for it is individuals that he has to cure." Nic. Eth., 1097a.
As he says, the Ideal Good might not always come from the idea of it, but from the particulars of practice. Indeed, there is no formula for a reason as taught by Aristotle's φρόνησις, and discussed in this earlier post. There are too many situations that call for different principles to be applied in different ways for there to be a formula. This is what we mean by the spontaneity around the principle. Or the texts of Ἅγιος Μάξιμος ὁ Ὁμολογητής where he writes that the world was not created as a fixed, stable reality, but as movement. Beneficial, creative movement that may be simply translated as raison d'être.
In fact, according to Ἅγιος Μάξιμος, Λόγος is movement, a personal relationship, an encounter in love, a translation from joy to joy. So to think of the good improvisation, one might think of this movement, so long as it is discerning. 
That last word may separate the man from the youth. Or the man from the total bohemian. But the bohemian may be better than the man through abstaining from the judgement that maims.
On this latter point, the sameness of speaking and acting good things is an ideal, though there are some cultures that put far more import on keeping one's word in connection with doing the right thing. In any case, it can be learned, if not realised always. This is another deception of this fickle world: judging ideals based on the people who live towards them.
Weakness may be the abstaining from agreeing on ideals. We have all become too soft, it can seem. Art doesn't matter. Education doesn't matter. History doesn't matter. And these are only earthly ideals, to say nothing more abstract. Art requires perseverance, to find the style that answers one. Education is too hard. History is like that person who always points out everyone's faults. And the irrational imagination, rendered immobile by the the manacles of brittle ideas of survival, perceives such things as a threat and seeks to eliminate with the anomalous crocodile teeth it forms. And the protective membrane closes over its eyes until it no longer perceives the clouds.





Brush; brush. Some ideas above inspired by a text by the late J. Meyendorff.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License