Wednesday, 30 April 2008


What happens to love when pleasure is removed? This is a straightforward question without being simple, because the majority sharehold we all take in love—in our being in love, I mean—is our own dignity. None of us wants to believe that our love for another human being is only a sort of puffed-up and habitual hedonism. We like to think on the contrary that our love is selfless; self-sacrificing; dedicated. Anhedonia puts those beliefs about oneself to the test. What we want to believe is that our own pleasure is vindicated by being predicated on the pleasure of the other. What anhedonia teaches us is the hollowness of this fiction. If we feel no pleasure ourself, we find it almost impossible to care one way or another about the pleasure of our partner. The truth of the matter is that the pleasure of the other is necessarily predicated on our own ecstasy.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008


Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Does Shakespeare mean exactly what he says here? It's hard to credit it: because minutes, we know, are cumulative in a way that waves on a shore are not (or the waves would eventually close over Ben Nevis). Or to put it another way, does Shakespeare mean, in a sloppy sense, 'the waves appear to keep coming and coming, and that's just what time is like'? Or is he being more precise? As it might be: 'you may think the tide comes in and goes out again, because that's what it has always done; but a tide is coming soon that will never recede ...' Or, more cannily still: 'minutes appear to march inexorably on, but I know a deeper truth: in fact time is a rocking, not a progression: times throws itself in upon us, and then it withdraws again.'

Monday, 28 April 2008

On human beings

On being asked for a one-line definition of human beings, the philosopher said: 'we are the animals that hide our heads in our heads.'

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Bay poem

Our innovators need facilitators.
Wavelines in the broad bay like flaws in glass.
The myth of the scientist.
The myth of religious beliefs.
The water swallows the light whole.

Saturday, 26 April 2008


The cry of water is the cry of the stones and pebbles in the stream--furred, like tongues, with miss; wet, like tongues; bulging like tongues.

Friday, 25 April 2008


What is prophesy but a kind of delibrate confusion? What does a prophet do but confuse tonight with today?

Thursday, 24 April 2008


To change one thing is to change everything; but not straight away ...

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The swimmers

The swimmers reach for heil hitlers with alternate arms whilst simultaneously shaking their heads in ironic counter-indication. 'There is nothing fascistic' (they are tacitly saying) 'about these sculpted trapezoids of muscular strength--about these buzzcuts, this discipline, these tight black shorts. Nothing violent about this ceaseless karate-chopping at the subdued and defeated water.'

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Sea poem

The skiff
on the horizon

incisor biting
the sky.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Milky Way

The most notable feature of the Milky Way, as it appears in our skies, is how unmilky it looks: striking, really, that it's so rarely commented upon. The Dusty Way more like; or if dust is rarely quite as granular as this spread of stars, The Sandy Way. The Shining Ants of Heaven. The Swarm of Light.

Sunday, 20 April 2008


The somatic baseline: air--water--food--rest.
The mental baseline: stimulation--love--meaning--dreams.

Saturday, 19 April 2008


We sing before we can talk;
We play before we must work;
Yet we cry before we laugh.
Why the primacy of tears?

Friday, 18 April 2008

Day's eye

This common trope of the sun as an eye: how strange it is. An eye without pupil, an unseeing eye -- a cataracted eye -- an eye without a head. An eye on fire.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


It is one of the most persistent and widely-believed errors of human life that violence simplifies situations. In fact, of course,the reverse is almost always the case: violence complexifies, sometimes monstrously. But we cling to the former belief, the lie of the Gordian knot, because we crave simplicity and we find the prospect of violence exciting and libidinous. It takes courage to see things truly.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Second childhood

When the very old lose their wits we talk of them entering a second childhood; but nobody talks about infants as experiencing 'their first senility'.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


We are inundated, flooded with Time. Someone has left the Time tap running; or a great rift has opened in space and time has flooded and continues to flood in.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Some light

It's a bright sunday morning. Some light (sunlight) is filling my window. It does not feel invasive when the light comes into the room, and presses itself cleanly, like a screenprint, trapezoidally across desk and woodfloor. Sunlight (some light) is the beauty of the sun's day.

I wonder about the metaphor of light: 'spiritual illumination'. Does this entail a spirirual heat as well? Spiritual radiation? A spiritual spectrum tucked into the plain white light? Spiritual sunburn?

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Every day

The truest of words, voiced by David Milch and Ted Mann's Deadwood Calamity Jane: "Everyday takes figuring out all over again how to fucking live. "

Friday, 11 April 2008


The essence of suicide is impatience (After all: you want to die? You will die, I assure you. All you need do is wait.) But insofar as suicide is the purest form of depression--depression compressed to its logical extreme, as it were--then clearly depression is a function of impatience too. This is too little understood. The cure for the blues? Patience.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Ideas which never find words

Schopenhauer, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason [p. 154]: “Indeed, there are ideas which never find words, and alas these are the best.”

But how does he know that these are the best? By definition he doesn't. But he can't write "...and alas I suspect that these are the best", because this would be a comment upon his own suspicions--about himself and his desires--rather than an observation about certain ideas. Of course, in the whereof-we-cannot-speak game, there are only our own projections, desires, yearnings, which is no good for Schop's purposes. Insufficient.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Vietnam War

In Postmodernism Jameson talks about the Vietnam conflict: 'this first terrible postmodernist war cannot be told in any of the traditional paradigms of war novel or movie--indeed, the breakdown of any shared narrative paradigms is, along with the breakdown of any shared language through which a veteran might convey such experience ... may be said to open up the place of a whole new reflexivity' [pp.44-45].

Would Jameson talk about the war this way, I wonder, if the USA had won it? (Strawman whispers: "But then it would have fitted the narrative paradigm of colonial conquest and oppression!"; so, in what way does the war not fit the paradigm of postcolonial resistance?)

There's a danger that 'America' has so interpenetrated the discourse, and indeed ideology, of 'success' that the mere fact that American here lost construes this war as unusually terrible, disjunctive and therefore as a uniquely postmodern conflict.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Self control

Self control is the Danegelt paid to fear.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Knowledge is possession

Benjamin, in his Trauerspiel essay, argues that philosophy 'ought to be conceived as the representation of truth, not as a guide for the acquisition of knowledge.' Truth for Benjamin is unarguable; knowledge, on the other hand, precisely arguable, dependent on the consciousness that apprehends it. 'Knowledge is possession,' he says. Its very object if determined by the fact that it must be taken possession of--even if in a transcendental sense--in the consciousness.'

But possession can be inflected a number of ways. An object that we possess exclusively (a jewel, say) would be a poor model for 'knowledge'; and when we consider objects that we possess individually-in-common we stumble into the briarpatch of copyright. Can knowledge be copyrighted, in an attempt to transform collective apprehension into a single, unitary scientific truth.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Yell poem

As the forceps seized my head
and the doctor drew,
as a dentist pulls a molar,
my white head through
the neck
of its tight pullover
and out onto the bed
limbs blooded and face blue,
I thought: it can't be true!
This carcass-wreck,
This giddying glimpse through
To the moment when all's over.
And full-throatedly I said:
No! Give me something else instead!
And if those words came out askew
That's sometimes simply what words do.
You plan a speech, you voice a yell.

Saturday, 5 April 2008


The progress of art, broadly speaking (very broadly) has been away from Gesamkunstwerk towards separated, specialised modes of aesthetic production. Something similar is true of religion: from an all-embracing account of the entire cosmos to a series of specialist discourses.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Days poem

[for James Lovegrove]
"An Indo-European word for a deity 'that,' as M L West notes, 'left representatives in nearly all branches of the Indo-European family' is *deiwos, based on the root *diw/dyu (the bright sky or daylight) and designating a sky god." [Wendy Doniger]

The Indo-European scholars say
That deus and days are the same word:
Brilliantly, clearly so.

Though this casts no illumination on
The fact that, for some readers, moon is mine
Obscurely if truly so.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The technological uncanny

The technological uncanny can only be pushed so far: a telephone line to the land of the dead? A ghost rocket? A spectral iPod? The apparation of the laptop?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Herrings and onions

‘How like Herrings and onions our vices are the morning after we have committed them/ & even lawful pleasures like the smell of a dinner-room when you have gone out & re-entered it, after dinner’ wrote Coleridge in his Notebooks [p.71]. And how ironic that he chooses, to symbolise vice, two of the healthiest imaginable foods!

How might we update? ‘‘How like cigarettes our vices are the morning after we have committed them…’ for even smokers dislike the fug of old tobacco in carpets and curtains; except that cigarettes are not a metaphor for vice, but actually a vice.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Evening poem

Cars parked testudo formation.
No people on the concrete bank.
The river's liquid conveyer belt rolls
flotsam along exactly as fast as the wind.

Roverbank poplars like rolled-up umbrellas;
like cigars if the setting sun is trying to light one.
If the grain does, or will, or cannot die.
If it refuse to. If evening