Saturday, May 22, 2010

pieces of orson

This is what contemporary philosophy is like:

Say the great Orson Welles just died and a lot of odd necrophilic actors and directors have access to his corpse. One group cuts off a finger; one gets his head; others, respectively, get his organs, feet, etc.

Then they all argue and compete about who Has Orson. "But we have his head that he thought with!", "But I have his finger that he directed with!", "But us, over here, we have his liver for crying out loud!!" You get the idea.

But isn't it true that none of them Has Orson? Orson is dead. His life is gone. Only his corpse remains, and these lunatics are all running around with pieces of that corpse, saying that their piece is the right piece. And all the while, the pieces rot.

Substitute philosophy for Orson Welles, and contemporary "philosophers" for the necrophilic thespians (I can't decide whether this or "theatrical necrophiles" sounds better), and you have the state of contemporary philosophy.

Every one of them thinks (or believes? or knows?) they have the philosophers' stone, but they're all dealing in cement dust.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oh much-lamented O.

The things about O. that I liked most were so simple. I don't think I was truly ever "in love" with her (whatever that means), and our relationship was as far as can be from romantic. It was almost more like a friendship between two males. But she stimulated me a great deal because her ways were so charming. And I don't know whether I am in denial, or whether I truly don't know what it is that I did to make her cut me off so successfully, so circumspectly.

These simple things often present themselves to me in the form of memories. She was a central figure of two of the most important years of my life thusfar, and these were nearly a decade ago now. I remember one night she, her sister, and I were riding around Conyers. A storm was brewing, and O. said (what we never did) we ought to "get some Sprites and sit in the car watching the thunderstorm." Not everyone would appreciate the genius of this. I mean, Sprite. Not just any soft drink, not any illicit substance -- Sprite.

And she introduced me to so much new music. It wasn't so much new artists, but a different kind of listenability, as it were, that she showed me via a few artists.

And there was the time we rode to my first college's theater to see that wretched play. She drove so fast. I don't think I've ever known anyone drive so fast, not even among notoriously fast drivers. She was dyslexic, so she couldn't take directions like left and right worth a damn, which was hilarious to me.

And one night, on the "Main" street of an historic district of a nearby city, she and I, and L. and D. had a fabulous dinner for O.'s birthday. It is one of the most significant moments of my life, one of the few times I have ever truly lived in the moment. There was nothing about this event which should have made it more significant than a thousand other moments, but memory presents it as significant. Not formatively significant: significant the way a work of art is significant the first time you really understand it.

And yet, this person who I would have traded ten run-of-the-mill friends for, at some point found me miserably disagreeable to be around. And maybe she was right. Indeed, the time when our contact began to wane was one of the most miserable periods of my life, and a time when she seemed to be changing rapidly. Who knows? Perhaps who I am now and who she is now would not harmonize at all; maybe (I'd never considered it till the beginning of this paragraph) she is a totally different person, alien to the person I knew Back When. Nonetheless our brief friendship represents a classic specimen of one of those dreaded "Things I Would Do Differently Now If I Could Go Back..."

And as I sit here reflecting, I remember other occasions. I remember once when I went out with her and R. and he made me so fucking angry about something or other and she was laughing hysterically about it, and then how that occasion made me think about, and horribly miss -- more than I ever had before or have since -- Someone Else, who at that time I loved more than anyone. As for O., my point here is simply that it baffles me that someone I knew for so short a time and who I never really knew terribly well -- and who evidently now regards me as some sort of human vermin -- could have had such an impact. The memories are few, but they have the odd advantage -- suspiciously unlike a thousand other occasions with dozens of other people -- of being memorable.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

ars gratia artis

While in the past I had no great interest in aesthetics or the philosophy of art (that's right! they are two different subjects!), of late it has been of great interest. In the past, when my main haunt was ontology, my appreciation of beauty could really go only as far as calology, which studies the beautiful, not qua beauty, but as a transcendental of being (the transcendentals of being, i.e., are the One, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful); in this case, beauty is simply one of many revelations of ipsum esse. The closest, back then, that I came to an appreciation of ars gratia artis was reading Oscar Wilde. This led to a pursuit, in fiction, that led ultimately to my beloved Dashiell Hammett, whose artistry pleases me infinitely.

But some newer experiences have opened me up to a whole new range of appreciation and philosophy of art, and below is a list of these influences. Right now I simply list them; perhaps at a later date I'll make some annotations. I make here no distinction between literature and film.

An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis

"The Waste Land" by T. S. Eliot

The Arts of the Beautiful by Etienne Gilson

Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino

Citizen Kane by Orson Welles

I should also say that the entire corpus of film noir is pivotal as well. I first began watching noir films because of their underlying Weltanschauung, but they soon led me to a way of viewing art qua art -- and, of course, film especially -- which I hadn't anticipated. Color looks different, the whole world looks different, once you've resurfaced from an immersion in the realm of noir.