Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Some Aphorisms from a manuscript I'm calling "Box of Darts"

A Defeated People

The humanities faculty at American universities constitute a defeated people.


One day, when you’re still a kid but not for much longer, you realize that you live where you do and attend school where you do for the sole reason that this was where your parents happen to be making their living. If they had different jobs, you might never have met your best friend, nor all your little enemies; everything could’ve been completely different—and so, consequently, could you. Pull too hard on that thread, and what unravels is the illusion of necessity, a sheltering bubble that had made it all seem ordained and important.

History Rhymes

Note the parallel between these two fifty-year periods: between the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BCE and the start of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BCE (49 years), and between the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the end of the Babylonian Captivity in 538 BCE (48 years).

Oxymoron: the Educated Consumer.
Picking out which of the limes in the grocer’s basket is the greenest, the ripest, the worthiest, you finish off the thousands of man-hours that went into making them all identical. Agribusiness has taken the three tasks of planting, harvest, and distribution and added a fourth, namely the struggle to erase every difference between the specimens. It has done so precisely because mass-market produce is aimed at a faceless public of interchangeable consumers, who have forgotten both the variety of nature and the possibility of living a unique life: and you need to pretend that one of the limes is perceptibly better than the others, because those limes in the basket are eerily reminiscent of the milling crowd in the store, and—to the degree that what passes for individuality these days is a kind of hoax we play on ourselves—that greenest, ripest lime is you.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx has a desperate need not to be understood.  Oedipus comes along and solves the riddle, and suddenly there is someone who understands her; she promptly kills herself. Others need to be understood and die for lack of it; she needs to mystify and dies when she’s understood. The Sphinx is a composite beast, “a winged girl-faced lion,” and hearing the riddle one might expect it to be about a composite animal, too: “There is on earth a being two-footed, four-footed, and three-footed that has one name; and, of all creatures that move upon earth and in the heavens and in the sea, it alone changes its form. But when it goes propped on most feet, then is the swiftness in its limbs the weakest.” But it is not a composite animal; it is the human. and why don’t the Greeks notice that “it, alone, changes its form” is untrue, as tadpoles turn to frogs and caterpillars to butterflies?

Bion and Shakespeare

When Bion free associates to Shakespeare’s “Golden girls and boys all must / Like chimney-sweepers, come to dust,” it’s an unconscious allusion to the origins of psychoanalysis in Anna O.’s talking cure, which she called “chimney sweeping.” Which is also a sort of sexual reaming-out. I wonder what sexual jokes and locutions men have invented in three hundred years of reaming out chimneys, rifles, and cannons with ramrods.


Silence is Time pleading its lovesuit to Eternity.