Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Philosophy

Three Hours in the Morning

In Talking with Sartre, U.S. professor John Gerassi explores a fascinating range of subjects with the French intellectual, writer, and activist.  At the book’s conclusion, Gerassi writes, “What we must do instead, he said, is commit ourselves over and over again. No act is pure. All acts are choices, which alienate some. No one can live without dirty hands. To be simply opposed is also to be responsible for not being in favor, for not advocating change. To fall back on the proposition that human actions are predetermined is to renounce mankind. No writer can accept the totalitarianism implied by ‘human nature.’ If he writes, he wants to change the world—and himself. Writing is an act. It is commitment.”   Throughout,  I became particularly intrigued by Sartre’s musings and reflections on the writing life…

Projects don’t exclude death—projects are the antithesis of death. That’s an important difference. The project is an act. Writing is an act. My projects right now: the next part of CDR. Then I think I want to write my political testament.  16

I never changed in my being: I am what I am and write. 30

Once one decides to be a writer, one’s conception of life, one’s whole being changes. … travel, experience as many different circumstances as possible. Go into every world. Go see how the pimps live in Constantinople. Why Constantinople? There are pimps right here, around the corner. Because travel, experience, give a richness to the writing. All adventures help, including sexual adventures, love, et cetera….A writer has to choose the false against the true. When you decided to be a writer, you couldn’t make that choice because you wanted a revolution, you worked for a revolution. I was nothing but what I wrote. You had a goal. I was my goal. 34 Read the rest of this entry »

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Ekāgratā

I suddenly had the everlasting conviction that any human being, even though practically devoid of natural faculties, can penetrate to the kingdom of truth reserved for genius, if only he longs for truth and perpetually concentrates all his attention upon its attainment.  … the same conviction led me to persevere for ten years in an effort of concentrated attention that was practically unsupported by any hope of results.

Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul. Every effort adds a little gold to a treasure no power on earth can take away.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God, 64, 107-108

 

simone-weil

Ventures

Friends,

I wanted to pass this brief passage on to you from Hannah Arendt, German philosopher, Jewish immigrant to the USA, author of Eichmann in Jerusalem, from an interview in 1964…

The venture into the public realm seems clear to me. One exposes oneself to the light of the public, as a person. Although I am of the opinion that one must not appear and act in public self-consciously, still I know that in every action the person is expressed as in no other human activity. Read the rest of this entry »

This Is It!

Think about arranging the present as best you can, with serene mind. All else is carried away as by a river…. While we are talking, jealous time has fled. So seize the day, and do not trust the morrow! … Persuade yourself that each new day those dawns will be your last. Then you will receive each unexpected hour with gratitude.

— Horace

The Thread of One’s Anger — Jean-Paul Sartre

I always felt I had to stay in contact with the world, with my world.
Ever since Marx, philosophy must lead to action.
Otherwise it is irrelevant.

So a philosopher does what he has to do,
then sits down at his desk, wherever it is,
and “retakes the thread of his anger,” as Valéry once said.

The distractions don’t matter as long as I could retake the thread of my anger,
angers against this system, against all those who believe that they have a right to be greedy,
who feel they are superior to others,

like the French in Algeria, in Madagascar,
the Americans in Haiti, in Puerto Rico, the whites in black New York,
the Dulleses in Guatemala or Egypt.

Philosophers must be angry, and in this world, stay angry.

–Jean-Paul Sartre
Adapted from John Gerassi, Talking with Sartre

 

 

Priorities

The concern for the other breaches concern for the self. This is what I call holiness. Our humanity consists in being able to recognize this priority of the other.

Emmanuel Levinas, Is It Righteous to Be? Interviews with Emmanuel Levinas, edited by Jill Robbins