Unreal Nature

April 20, 2015

Not Yet Entropic Fragments

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… the filter it places between perceptual objectivity and critical subjectivity, one may find the distance created has opened up vertigo-inducing vistas that routine inattention or fear normally hide from sight.

Final post from Gerhard Richter: Doubt and Belief in Painting by Robert Storr (2003):

… From the beginning, then, Richter’s strategy has been one of what he calls “evasive action.” Using ready-made imagery to avoid ready-made artistic identities, he has invited association with movements and tendencies while at the same time distanced himself from them by rephrasing the tropes he has appropriated and insisting on the plurality of his affinities.

Richter’s statements and paintings assert the arbitrariness of pictures as representations of their ostensible subjects as well as our capacity for using images to conjure things that transcend our quotidian experience. Pure seeing is therefore an unreliable index of things as they are, although heightened scrutiny can, on occasion, partially reveal obscured dimensions of reality. But, at the same time, the same compulsion to render reality out of the materials at hand may offer insights about realms that escape our ordinary understanding. Sense data are, by this measure, always illusory; but the senses, in their speculative production of images, do allow us to project intuitions onto reality. We cannot be sure of anything we look at with the naked eye any more than we can be sure that the edited version of a thing reconstituted by art captures its essence; but we an learn about the limitations of our knowledge by repeated attempts at grasping the ungraspable. This holds true equally for commonplace objects within our reach as for remote phenomena — for the faces of those closest to us and the facts of history or the stars.

… it is impossible to account for Richter’s achievement if we take the critical conceit of “the death of the author” literally. Richter is the author of his images, and those images are informed by the time and circumstances in which they were made. They are not integers in a conceptual equation, but pictures of objective and subjective worlds that defy definitive depiction.

Richter is acutely aware of the insurmountable discrepancy between what can be seen and what can be shown, what can be imagined and what can be represented: “Of course I constantly despair at my own incapacity, at the impossibility of ever accomplishing anything, of painting a valid, true picture or even of knowing what such a thing ought to look like. But then I always have the hope that, if I persevere, it might one day happen. And the hope is nurtured every time something appears, a scattered, partial, initial hint of something which reminds me of what I long for, or which conveys a hint of it — although often enough I have been fooled by a momentary glimpse that then vanishes, leaving behind only the usual thing. I have no motif, only motivation.”

Richter’s identity is manifest throughout his work, not so much as a character in his own story (though there is a story worth telling) or as an individual seeking self-expression (though he conveys and elicits complex emotions) but as a force field whose powerful, shifting, and precariously balanced centrifugal and centripetal forces have proven capable of holding together the dispersing but not yet entropic fragments of modern experience and consciousness. The psychology of his art in all its extremes and contradictions is “impersonal” only in the sense that it is not limited to his private preoccupations but expands to encompass those of anyone who accepts that his or her reality — if he or she pays attention to all that it contains — is as plural, as unsettling, and as wondrous as Richter’s.

… the basic loss of bearings toward which all his paintings point may barely show itself at all, except as a constant subliminal tremor that subtly warps vision and casts an estranging light on the mundane and the marvelous. Once accustomed to this effect, and to the filter it places between perceptual objectivity and critical subjectivity, one may find the distance created has opened up vertigo-inducing vistas that routine inattention or fear normally hide from sight.

My most recent previous post from Storr’s book is here.




April 19, 2015

To Save One’s Little Self

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Down there … roars the risk of a work in which one has to disappear. Down there, in the space of the work, everything is lost and perhaps the work too is lost.

This is from the essay ‘Diary and Story’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003):

… No one has to be more sincere than the diarist, and sincerity is that transparency that allows him not to cast a shadow on the contained existence of each day to which he limits the task of writing. One has to be superficial to preserve sincerity, a great virtue that also requires courage. Profundity has its comforts. At least, profundity demands the resolution not to hold oneself to the oath that ties us to ourselves and to others by means of some truth.

… nothing can be more different from the daily reckoning than the anxious progression [in story as opposed to diary], without roads and without boundaries, that the pursuit of what has taken place requires, but which, through the fact of having taken place, tears the fabric of events. For whoever encounters chance, like the one who “really” meets an image, the image, chance opens onto his life an unperceived gap where he must renounce habitual language and the calm light of day to keep himself under the fascination of another day and in relation to the measure of another language.

… [in story] feelings turn toward their center of gravity, their true place, which they wholly occupy by banishing the movement of the hours, by dissipating the world and, with the world, the ability to live them: far from being attenuated one by one in an equilibrium that would make them bearable, they fall together toward the space of the narrative, a space that is also that of passion and night, where they cannot be reached or surpassed or betrayed or forgotten.

… The interest of the diary is its insignificance. [ … ] Charles du Bos, with the simplicity unique to him: “The diary in the beginning represented for me the supreme recourse to escape total despair confronting the act of writing,” and also: “The curious thing in my case is how little I have the feeling of living when my diary accumulates only its deposit.” But that a writer as pure as Virgina Woolf, that an artist as passionate to create a work that retains only transparency, the luminous aureole and light contours of things, felt obliged to come back to herself in a journal of chatter in which the “I” pours itself out and consoles itself, that is significant and troubling. Here, the diary seems very like a safeguard against the danger of writing. Down there, in The Waves, roars the risk of a work in which one has to disappear. Down there, in the space of the work, everything is lost and perhaps the work too is lost. The diary is the anchor that scrapes against the bottom of the day-to-day and clings to the roughness of vanity. In like manner, Van Gogh has his letters, and a brother to whom to write them.

… one writes [a diary] to save writing, to save one’s life by writing, to save one’s little self (the revenges one takes on others, the nastiness one distills) or to save one’s great self by giving it scope, and then one writes in order not to be lost in the poverty of the days, or, like Virginia Woolf, like Delacroix, in order not to be lost in this ordeal that is art, that is in the limitless demand of art.

… One writes to save the days, but one entrusts one’s salvation to writing, which changes the days. One writes to save oneself from sterility, but one becomes Amiel who, returning to the fourteen thousand pages in which his life has been dissolved, recognizes in them what ruined him “artistically and scientifically” by “a busy laziness and a phantom of intellectual activity.”




April 18, 2015

The Insides of Our Bodies

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… the insides of our bodies today are chemically more akin to the external environment of the early Earth, in which life originated, than they are like our present oxygen-rich world.

This is from Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution by Lynn Margulis (1998):

… The origin of cells from scummy chemicals may have occurred once or many times. In any case, the first cells in our lineage were membrane-bounded RNA- and DNA-based, self-maintaining protein systems. In details of cell structure and metabolic behavior they very much resembled us. Their material constituents continuously exchanged themselves with the external environment. They vented waste as they acquired food and energy. Their patterns persisted as they replenished their innards with chemicals taken from the surroundings. Indeed, metabolizing ancient bacteria were so effective at remaking themselves when threatened with disintegration and thermodynamic demise that the insides of our bodies today are chemically more akin to the external environment of the early Earth, in which life originated, than they are like our present oxygen-rich world.

My most recent previous post from Margulis’s book is here.




April 17, 2015

The Dissolving Power

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… They had been defined before their existence, named and given shape in the puff of air that we call a word.

This is from the title essay in The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley (1994, 1964):

… Archaeology is the science of man’s evening, not of his midday triumphs. I have spoken of my visit to a flame-wreathed marsh [city dump] at nightfall. All in it had been substance, matter, trailing wires and old sandwich wrappings, broken toys and iron bedsteads. Yet there was nothing present that science could not reduce into its elements, nothing that was not the product of the urban world whose far-off towers had risen gleaming in the dusk beyond the marsh. There on the city dump had lain the shabby debris of life: the waxen fragment of an old record that had stolen a human heart, wilted flowers among smashed beer cans, the castaway knife of a murderer, along with a broken tablespoon. It was all a maze of invisible, floating connections, and would be until the last man perished.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] These forlorn materials had all been subjected to the dissolving power of the human mind. They had been wrenched from deep veins of rock, boiled in great crucibles, and carried miles from their origins. They had assumed shapes that, though material enough, had existed first as blueprints in the profound darkness of a living brain. They had been defined before their existence, named and given shape in the puff of air that we call a word. That word had been evoked in a skull box which, with all its contained powers and lurking paradoxes, has arisen in ways we an only dimly retrace.

[ … ]

… We are more dangerous than we seem and more potent in our ability to materialize the unexpected that is drawn from our own minds. “Force maketh Nature more violent in the Returne,” Francis Bacon had once written. In the end, this is her primary quality. Her creature man partakes of that essence, and it is well that he consider it in contemplation and not always in action. To the unexpected nature of the universe man owes his being.




April 16, 2015

Human Choice

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… If it’s mind control, there’s going to be somebody editing your mind control. Editing is an ongoing profession.

This is from the interview with Tom Rolfe found in Selected Takes: Film Editors On Editing by Vincent LoBrutto (1991):

[ … ]

How does an editor learn to listen to the material?

There’s a sensitivity gauge somewhere, it depends on what you are sensitive to. If you give a picture like The Accused to a woman to cut, you’ll find not a different picture, but you will see a different substance or texture to it overall. It’s a sensitivity to the editor’s life experience and values. It’s going to be different.

How intuitive is editing?

It’s totally intuitive to me, I cut that way. I’m sometimes sorry that I’ve done something radically wrong, and I have to go back and correct it, because like a house of cards, once the first choice is wrong, everything else is wrong. You go back and build the old foundation again.

How many years do you think it takes to become a good editor?

I don’t know yet. I’m still learning because I’ll change my mind tomorrow about something. To learn the mechanics is nothing; to have the confidence to do what you feel is right and just cut, that takes a few years. You go through the stage of “What if I’m wrong?” and that’s a big fear for somebody when you’re dealing with an audience of millions. It’s when you become confident enough to accept who you are, that’s how long it takes you to become an editor.

Have you ever made the decision not to cut?

Yes. It’s much more important to learn what not to cut. That’s the hardest thing for any young editor starting out; it was for me.

Why is that?

You’re drawing a salary, man, do something, cut, make edits. You learn that the scene is playing, you don’t have to justify your existence by making a cut; it works. It happened more when I was beginning; now I’m much colder about looking at things than I was then.

[ … ]

Where do you think the art of film editing is heading?

I can’t see it being different than it is now. It has always been a matter of making choices, and there will always be the human choice. If it’s an action piece, it will be dictated by one set of reasoning. If it’s a matter of philosophy, it will be dictated by another set of reasons. It’s just a matter of making choices, and I don’t think the electronic wizard has been invented that will make those choices for you. There will always be editing. [ … ] There’s still going to be someone saying, “This will be better if you do it that way.” If it’s mind control, there’s going to be somebody editing your mind control. Editing is an ongoing profession.




April 15, 2015

In and Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… (the body’s insanity and desire, all that is most fragile and alive, most deeply shameful) …

This is from the essay ‘I Robbed the woods: Notes on Cindy Sherman’ by Sara Stridsberg found in Cindy Sherman: Untitled Horrors (2013):

Is it possible to describe a person without destroying her? Without confinement, capture or betrayal? Isn’t it descriptions that alienate us from one another, make us shun, despise, defile, kill?

… Writing in a literary way perhaps means trying to find a language beyond descriptions, find words that twist their way out of the alphabet, lose their value, scatter … like children … like clouds … in the sky.

… One night, just before the snow falls over Stockholm, I dream I am holding one of those big art books of Cindy Sherman’s photographs in my arms, like a large, awkward, recalcitrant child. Between the covers there are worms and massacred bodies crawling among vomit and earth from graves, and through the covers of the book I can feel something squirming, something alive, a snake or an evil doll attempting to twist out of the sides.


… The first time I read the Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek I felt as though the book I was carrying around with me had a life of its own, as if I had some live, predatory animal in my handbag.

… “I do think that the seeds of full-scale war can always be found in peace-time civilization,” writes Sarah Kane. The threat that is always there, like a constant pressure somewhere near your cochlea, a deafening roar, like an undercurrent, a dark river, a secret, violent underside to the world.

… To me, Sherman’s pictures are like eroticism: that vestige of the animal in us, the desperation, aggression, that strange and wonderful thread of insanity and violence that runs through the life of a human being and seems absurd in our ordered, rational world. And maybe it is precisely that wound which Sherman likes to prod. The fact that this uncontrollable element within us (the body’s insanity and desire, all that is most fragile and alive, most deeply shameful) is also represented everywhere in our culture, though in distorted form, reproduced drearily and interminably, in strictly checked, well-produced images, in the intensely choreographed violations of pornography, in the coldness of the fashion world.

[ … ]

… When I was twelve, in 1984, some plastic bags were discovered by the highway not far from the place where I grew up. One of them was found to contain the lower part of someone’s trunk, half a torso. In the other there were two thigh parts that had been cut off. And the ground beside the bags was scattered with garbage, empty milk cartons, toilet paper, dog’s mess, and an old porn magazine. A few weeks later, more bags were found a short distance away. They contained a breast, two arms, and two lower legs. No head, no face, no sexual organs. It was said she had been killed by a butcher, or an architect, or a forensic expert, no weapon, no clues. All they had was the absence of something, something inhuman.

[ … ]

… There is a long history of attempts to capture the essence and character of woman. If her character were to be described, once and for all, then her future and her fate would be sealed. Julia Kristeva describes woman as some kind of cultural outsider. In ancient Greece, marriage constituted a refuge of sorts for woman, a sanctuary. Without marriage she lacked protection and a homeland, without a husband she had neither a state nor any rights. For a long time, woman was also a stranger within culture, someone standing outside, outside words and power, and if she ever made her presence felt in art it was not with an easel, and paintbrushes in her hand, but as the image: an oddly depicted, naked animal.


[line break added to make this easier to read online] Since then, thousands and thousands of years of revolutions, transformations, wars, kings, princesses, and political utopias have passed. In this part of the world, soil became town, poverty became prosperity, prosperity became raw consumption. The old hunger for food turned into a hunger for commodities. And if man endures — as I think of him now, he is standing there unmoving and unchanged, untouched by time, like a statue — then woman changes, floating in and out of a succession of varying ideas about her: permanently new, always other, in and out of new costumes and creations.

Cindy Sherman is an Orlando, with a rapier, a crinoline, and a leather jacket, moving through time and letting herself be sullied by it, and her disguise constantly conceals another disguise. A girl who beneath her girl costume conceals an ape, which under its ape costume conceals a big white bird that suddenly flies away. Out of history, out of the mirrors.


[all photos (above) are by Cindy Sherman]

My most recent previous Sherman post is here.




April 14, 2015

The Opposite of Cultural Inbreeding

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:57 am

… it is the mongrel litter thrown by the fertile misalliance of high and low.

This is from the title essay by Robert Storr found in Disparities & Deformations: Our Grotesque (2004):

… the ruin of perfection is the origin of vital hybridities, mutation, and cross-fertilization — the source of hitherto unseen combinations of familiar forms.

… To be Goyesque — like being Kafkaesque — is to be grotesque in an especially disconcerting way that rattles right-mindedness by spinning those who cannot decide whether to laugh of howl into a state the nineteenth-century German writer Jean Paul described as “soul dizziness.”

Ordinarily this does not happen at the sight of people or things that are strange or ugly. We might be repulsed, or we might be fascinated, look away, or sneak a peek, but curiosity about damage and deformity rarely touches the nerve that triggers doubts about who and where we are. To be grotesque, something must be in conflict with something else yet indivisible from it. To result in “soul dizziness,” that conflict must in some fashion already exist within the mind of the beholder such that the confusion stems not only from the anomaly to which we bear witness in the world, but the anomaly that is revealed within us. Humanism, that much abused idea, enters into the equation to the extent that the dualities of which we are composed — the parts that don’t match and the gaps between them — are made more rather than less apparent by our awareness of the misalignment or distortion of other parts of reality or of unrealities given substance by artists.

[ … ]

” … The laughter of children is like the blossoming of a flower. It is the joy of receiving, the joy of breathing, the joy of confiding, the joy of contemplating, of living, of growing up. It is like the joy of a plant. And so, generally speaking, its manifestation is rather the smile, something analogous to the wagging tail in a dog or the purring of cats. And yet, do not forget that if the laughter of children may, after all is said and done, be distinguished from the outward signs of animal contentment, the reason is that this laughter is not entirely devoid of ambition, and that is as it should be, in mini-men or in other words Satans of early growth.” [Baudelaire]

[ … ]

… And so we enter the marshy territory of connoisseurship. What is good taste in bad taste? Who are we to trust when picking mushrooms on polluted ground? Certainly not people who rigidly stand guard outside or nervously circle the perimeter. Nor should we have much confidence in those who briefly step over it only to retreat to safety where they can describe their adventures to those more timid. We must rely instead on people who know their way around. There are as many of these, and as few, as there are experts in old masters; sometimes they are one and the same. Furthermore, we must trust their assurance that like all new flavors, especially strong ones, the grotesque is an acquired taste. If it is bitter, then savor it but do not swallow too quickly. If you do, and it does not kill you — though with potent mushrooms a certain nausea frequently accompanies invigorating hallucinations — then you are fine, and the only problem is whether to do it again.

Am I being flippant? Only if readers are persuaded that enjoyment and playfulness are separate from understanding, the former being ephemeral and unserious, the latter being preoccupied with solemn verities, or at least with habitually keeping a straight face for dramatic emphasis, except when making fun of your adversaries. And have I neglected to mention in this connection that while caricature is usually directed at others, grotesquery often begins at home — in visions of the self as other, or the self reflected in the trick mirror of others? In the second circumstance the distinction between laughing at and laughing with the subject of a joke is lost when the two implode into one.

… Where mutual mistrust or contempt among social groups holds the upper hand, the grotesque is a weapon; but where reciprocal curiosity prevails it may also be a solvent that subtly breaks down the distinctions that keep separate enclaves apart.

… it is the mongrel litter thrown by the fertile misalliance of high and low. The opposite of cultural inbreeding, such miscegenation may threaten the purity of bloodlines but it makes for hardier stock. The grotesque is hybridity without constraint, hybridity par excellence. Insofar as modernism always contained elements of the grotesque, it is not, as its enemies or modernism’s fair-weather friends thought, because modernism was a degenerate art, but rather because it is by virtue of such impurities and mutations, a perpetually regenerate art.

My previous post from Storr’s book is here.




April 13, 2015

Looking Both Ways

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

” … the better we know tradition — i.e. ourselves — and the more responsibly we deal with it, the better things we shall make similar, and the better things we shall make different.”

Continuing through Gerhard Richter: Doubt and Belief in Painting by Robert Storr (2003):

… For critics or observers of the scene still convinced that modern art is a sequence of ruptures, each one more radical than the last, Richter’s landscapes may seem at best a kind of fence-sitting between the old and the new, and at worst an intellectually adroit and technically masterful form of backsliding. However, these paintings are no more a throwback to lapsed aesthetic conventions than they are an ironical recapitulation and then dismantling of them. The Janus-like position Richter occupies, recognizes that those who work fully in the present always enter history in medias res. Looking both ways from such a position affords us a clearer perspective on the continuities and discontinuities of artistic practice than those available to anyone craning his or her neck to see the present from a vantage point in the hypothetical future or the reconstructed past. Richter’s unwillingness to sacrifice tradition to the new is therefore based on an appreciation of the uses tradition retains and those it acquires in the here-and-now, rather than on a desire to emulate or hold onto a former understanding of it.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Furthermore, his refusal to turn his back definitively on tradition is explicitly qualified by the knowledge that what has been done in one time cannot be repeated in another. On the contrary, as Richter made plain in notes to himself in 1983, the aesthetic proximity of the past stands as a challenge to living artists to respond on their own terms: “Traditional, supposedly old works of art are not old but contemporary. So long as we ‘have’ them, in the broadest sense of the word, they will never be outworn: neither are we setting something of equal stature alongside them, nor shall we match or surpass their quality. Their permanent presence compels us to produce something different, which is neither better nor worse, but which has to be different because we painted the Isenheim Altar yesterday. … This is not to say that it would be pointless to produce something similar to traditional work. But the better we know tradition — i.e. ourselves — and the more responsibly we deal with it, the better things we shall make similar, and the better things we shall make different.”

Isenheim Altarpiece [image from Wikipedia]

My most recent previous post from Storr’s book is here.




April 12, 2015

The Brother, The Enemy

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

“… I could … write a melody of two voices … capable of responding to each other, of completing each other, of fighting each other and of holding each other, at each instant and in each point of the series, in the liveliest and most intimate relationship of exchange and opposition.”

This is from the essay ‘H.H.’ found in The Book to Come by Maurice Blanchot (1959; 2003). The first paragraph given is a single sentence. Take a deep breath before diving into it:

… The relationship he forms between literature and himself, between each of his books and the serious crises of his life; the need to write that is linked in him to the anxiety not to sink down, victim of his divided mind; the effort he makes to welcome anomaly and neurosis and to understand it as a normal state in an abnormal time; the psychoanalytic therapy to which he submits and which gives birth to one of his finest novels; that freedom that nonetheless does not free him, but that he would like to deepen by replacing psychoanalysis with meditation, Jung with yoga exercises, and then trying to situate himself in relation with the great interpreters of Taoism, and despite that, despite this wisdom to which he feels allied, the despair that seizes him and that makes him write in 1926 with tremendous literary passion one of the key novels of his time, Steppenwolf, in which Expressionism would recognize one of its masterpieces; all that — this linking of literature with a vital quest, the recourse to psychoanalysis, the call of India and China, even the magical and, at least once, expressionist violence that his art could attain — all this should have made his work a representative body of modern literature.

[ … ]

he tells himself that if he thinks apart from everyone else, that proves that there is in him a dangerous discord, for which he will someday have to pay. And, in fact, one day, when circumstances are aggravated, something in him breaks; it is this 1916 crisis that will bring him to psychoanalysis and will painfully but powerfully transform him, in his mind and in his art.

This crisis, though a sort of second spiritual birth, is in fact only a secondary one. The most serious event of his inner life occurs when he is fourteen, the day when he turns away from the Maulbronn seminary and when he also tries to run away from the family fate, from the rigor of pious disciplines, from the ministerial future in which he was supposed to follow his father and his grandfather. For two days he hides in the forest and almost dies of cold; a gamekeeper finds him and brings him back. How surprised his pious family is. They entrust him to a sort of exorcist who thinks he is possessed but fails to deliver him from his demon, which, according to Hesse, was nothing but the wicked poetic spirit.

One would be tempted to evoke André Gide, also divided by contradictions in ancestry and tendency. But everything is quite different. Hesse’s rupture is more painful and more involuntary. What happens to him, that obligation to free himself, is like an incomprehensible unhappiness he will need many years to master and understand. He is not a triumphant rebel. He is linked to what he rejects just as much as he is to the spirit of independence. Not much would be necessary for him, in becoming a poet, to become a gentle, bucolic poet happy with finding in vague romantic effusion the forgetfulness of his difficulties. And this is indeed what is manifested during the first part of his life; only the dreaming part is expressed, forgetful and at peace with himself, the one that establishes his fame with Peter Camenzind. In the history of rebellious adolescents, [this] is peculiar to him. Having succeeded in freeing himself violently in order to make himself a poet, far from giving expression to this rebellion or to the violence of his conflicts, he on the contrary does everything he can to lose sight of them and to reach, through his art, an ideal reconciliation of which Romanticism — for which he has only too many leanings — provides him with obliging examples.

1905 portrait of Hesse by Ernst Würtenberger [image from Wikipedia]

Moving on to Hesse’s second, later ‘crisis’:

Hesse accepts the discipline of psychoanalysis while at roughly the same time Rilke and Kafka reject it, although, to overcome their problems, both of them had also considered this method. Rilke fears waking up cured, and cured of poetry: simplified excessively. For Hesse, things never become simpler. On the contrary, he only becomes aware of his complex division, of the necessity he feels of contradicting himself and not renouncing his contradictions. He always wants unity. As a young man, it is a vague unity, of semblance and unconsciousness, that he sought in nature by closing his eyes to himself. Now he sees that this happy unity was built only of his ignorance. During the years that follow, great years of material and moral ordeal (he broke all ties, lived alone in Montagnola in conditions of painful destitution, often having nothing except chestnuts gathered in the forest for a meal), what he wants to attain, to hear and make heard, is the double melody, the fluctuation between two poles, the come-and-go between the pillars of the two principles of the world.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] “If I were a musician, I could without difficulty write a melody of two voices, that would consist of two lines, in two sequences of sounds and notes, capable of responding to each other, of completing each other, of fighting each other and of holding each other, at each instant and in each point of the series, in the liveliest and most intimate relationship of exchange and opposition. And whoever knew how to read the notes could read my double melody, see and hear in each sound the counter-sound, the brother, the enemy, the antipode. Well, this double voice, this eternal movement of antithesis — that is what I want to express with my words, but I try in vain, I do not succeed.”




April 11, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… Our classifications blind us to the wildness of natural organization by supplying conceptual boxes to fit our preconceived ideas.

This is from Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution by Lynn Margulis (1998):

… Names of live beings seem harmless enough. So do groupings. Yet the superficially boring practice of naming and grouping has profoundly affected my scientific life. Faulty taxonomics misleads with the subtlety of unstated assumptions or religious beliefs. That symbiogenesis collides directly with common, cherished presumptions is one reason its acceptance has been delayed.

Taxonomy is the science of identifying, naming, and classifying organisms. Names and classification schemes organize great quantities of information. Taxonomies, like maps, bring into relief selected distinguishing features. However, in the phrase popularized by the English-American philosopher-anthropologist Gregory Bateson, “The map is not the territory.” Nor is the name the organism. The history of any organism is often depicted on a family tree. Family trees usually are grown from the ground up: a single trunk branches off into many separate lineages, each branch diverging from common ancestors. But symbiosis shows us that such trees are idealized representations of the past. In reality the tree of life often grows in on itself.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Species come together, fuse, and make new beings, who start again. Biologists call the coming together of branches — whether blood vessels, roots, or fungal threads — anastomosis. Anastomosis, branches forming nets, is a wonderfully onomatopoetic word. One can hear the fusing. The tree of life is a twisted, tangled, pulsing entity with roots and branches meeting underground and in midair to form eccentric new fruits and hybrids. Anastomosis, although less frequent, is as important as branching. Symbiosis, like sex, brings previously evolved beings together into new partnerships. Like sex, too, some symbioses are protracted unions with stable, prolific futures. Others quickly dissolve. The interaction of each generation of genetically continuous beings calls into question any picture-book tree of life.

[image from Wikipedia]

[ … ]

… Any taxonomic scheme has problems. We tend to label and dismiss anything once we assign it a category. Our classifications blind us to the wildness of natural organization by supplying conceptual boxes to fit our preconceived ideas. … We can group life into three or five or a million categories, but life itself will elude us.

My previous post from Margulis’s book is here.




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