n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
La Vie de BohŤme

june 2023
january 2023
december 2022
september 2022
august 2022
july 2022
january 2022
november 2021
october 2021
september 2021
august 2021
july 2021
june 2021
may 2021
april 2021
march 2021
february 2021
january 2021
september 2020
august 2020
july 2020
may 2020
april 2020
march 2020
february 2020
december 2019
october 2019
july 2019
june 2019
may 2019
april 2019
march 2019
february 2019
january 2019
december 2018
november 2018
october 2018
september 2018
august 2018
july 2018
june 2018
may 2018
april 2018
march 2018
february 2018
january 2018
december 2017
november 2017
october 2017
september 2017
august 2017
july 2017
june 2017
march 2017
february 2017
january 2017
november 2016
october 2016
september 2016
august 2016
july 2016
june 2016
may 2016
april 2016
march 2016
february 2016
december 2015
november 2015
october 2015
september 2015
may 2015
march 2015
february 2015
january 2015
december 2014
november 2014
october 2014
september 2014
august 2014
may 2014
april 2014
march 2014
february 2014
*april 2013
*march 2013
*february 2013
*january 2013
*december 2012
*november 2012
*october 2012
*september 2012
*july 2012
*october 2011
*september 2011
*august 2011
*july 2011
*june 2011
*may 2011
april 2011
march 2011
april 2010
march 2010
february 2010
january 2010
december 2009
november 2009
september 2009
june 2009
may 2009
february 2009
january 2009
december 2008
october 2008
september 2008
august 2008
july 2008
june 2008
may 2008
april 2008
january 2008
december 2007
november 2007
october 2007
september 2007
august 2007
july 2007
june 2007
may 2007
april 2007
march 2007
february 2007
january 2007
december 2006
november 2006
october 2006
september 2006
august 2006
july 2006
june 2006
may 2006
april 2006
march 2006
february 2006
january 2006
december 2005
november 2005
october 2005
september 2005
august 2005
july 2005
june 2005
may 2005
april 2005
march 2005
february 2005
january 2005
december 2004
november 2004
october 2004
september 2004
august 2004
july 2004
june 2004
may 2004
april 2004
march 2004
february 2004
january 2004
december 2003
june 2003
april 2003
march 2003
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] []