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La Vie de BohŤme

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Of Scorpions and Centaurs and Syncopation

You know November happened.  I do too.  But for me it was more lost than most months, at least when it comes to writing.  At least when it comes to writing, here.  Because November was four poems of my own.  An application to a kind of legitimacy.  A reckoning, a reopening, a rowr.  Have you heard of the Impostor Syndrome?  Maya Angelou suffers.

November was a night tour.  November was three dozen cherry tomato halves tumbling in a blue bowl, kissing through thyme.  November was a broken bird and a hematite cowboy.  November was Massimo at Panificio Roscioli with Moira.  My first pecan pie.  My first time in Venice with ghosts.

***

Anyway and in the meantime.  Terry Eagleton's The Meaning Of Life is in my bathroom, has been in my bathroom for years now.*  I am about halfway through it.  Have been about halfway through it for years now.

Today I decided to start reading from the end.  Tell me the answer already Terry.  Tell me the ending.  Tell me how I should begin.

This is some of what he said:

Take, as an image of the good life, a jazz group.  A jazz group which is improvising obviously differs from a symphony orchestra, since to a large extent each member is free to express herself as she likes.  But she does so with a receptive sensitivity to the self-expressive performances of the other musicians.  The complex harmony they fashion comes not from playing from a collective score, but from the free musical expression of each member acting as the basis for the free expression of the others.  As each player grows more musically eloquent, the others draw inspiration from this and are spurred to greater heights.  There is no conflict here between freedom and the 'good of the whole', yet the image is the reverse of totalitarian.  Though each performer contributes to 'the greater good of the whole', she does so not by some grim-lipped self-sacrifice but simply by expressing herself.  There is self-realization, but only through a loss of self in the music as a whole.  There is achievement, but it is not a question of self-aggrandizing success.  Instead, the achievement – the music itself – acts as a medium of relationship among the performers.  There is pleasure to be reaped from this artistry, and – since there is a free fulfilment or realization of powers – there is also happiness in the sense of flourishing.  Because this flourishing is reciprocal, we can even speak, remotely and analogically, of a kind of love.  One could do worse, surely, than propose such a situation as the meaning of life – both in the sense that it is what makes life meaningful, and – more controversially – in the sense that when we act in this way, we realize our natures at their finest.

Is jazz, then, the meaning of life?  Not exactly.  The goal would be to construct this kind of community on a wider scale, which is a problem of politics.  It is, to be sure, a utopian aspiration, but it is none the worse for that.  The point of such aspirations is to indicate a direction, however lamentably we are bound to fall short of the goal.  What we need is a form of life which is completely pointless, just as the jazz performance is pointless.  Rather than serve some utilitarian purpose or earnest metaphysical end, it is a delight in itself.  It needs no justification beyond its own existence.  In this sense, the meaning of life is interestingly close to meaninglessness.  Religious believers who find this version of the meaning of life a little too laid-back for comfort should remind themselves that God, too, is his own end, ground, origin, reason, and self-delight, and that only by living this way can human beings be said to share in his life.  Believers sometimes speak as though a key difference between themselves and non-believers is that for them, the meaning and purpose of life lie outside it.  But this is not quite true even for believers.  For classical theology, God transcends the world, but figures as a depth within it.  As Wittgenstein remarks somewhere: if there is such a thing as eternal life, it must be here and now.  It is the present moment which is an image of eternity, not an infinite succession of such moments.


***

In this sense, the meaning of life is interestingly close to meaninglessness.

In this sense, the meaning of life is interestingly close to art.

***

...the music itself – acts as a medium of relationship among the performers.

With a little more than a month to go before San Miguel, I wonder if a jazz group is like a workshop of poets.

There is pleasure to be reaped from this artistry, and – since there is a free fulfilment or realization of powers – there is also happiness in the sense of flourishing.

I hope so.

***

* For the record, the other books in this little library (these days anyway) include: a first edition copy of Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much (ah yes, thank you, Kabes, for that and for You Know You're a Workaholic When...); The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity (courtesy of Carlotta, however the hell she is doing); Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything; Rilke's Lettere a un giovane poeta (because I wanted to see what it felt like in Italian); How to Meet Interesting Men (written by a woman, which is not so surprising unfortunately, but in 1991, which is surprising, wtf?); Natalie Angier's Woman; a collection of Dilbert in Italian (#44 in La Repubblica's I Grandi Classici del Fumetto); and finally, three Dummies books on, respectively, Opera, Art History, and Meditation.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[lunedž 30 novembre 2015 ore 12:06:12] []

Four Poems for Friday

Be Drunk by Charles Baudelaire.

The List of Famous Hats by James Tate.

Information by David Ignatow.

Bath by Amy Lowell.  (This one I like least.  But what is life without some things you like less than others?  What's loving without not-so-much?)


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[venerdž 13 novembre 2015 ore 08:57:12] []