Filed under: chronotopes, the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: ancient Greece, Bloch, Greeks
Hope for nothing, die young and you will be free and creative. The Greeks believed that anciently, thousands of years ago. Has anyone believed it since? Probably not. We believe the opposite: long life, accumulation etc., except tragic rock stars and actors who kill themselves with drugs. It’s easy to see how it would be freeing, if your life meant nothing, as it does in the grander scheme. Hope for nothing.
The ancient Greeks hoped for nothing, nothing, nothing, and, in my opinion, that is why they were so free in their creation. The tragedies already said, ‘you’re going to die’. The famous choir of Oedipus said that the best thing is not to be born; and second in quality is, once one is born, to die as soon as possible. That is not hope.
Castoriadis contra Bloch, interviewed in Postscript on Insignificance
from Spurious by Lars Iyer
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: arbejdsglæde, japan, Scandanavia, United States, work
Work happiness = Scandanavia
Death from overwork = Japan
Job hate = United States
We work half our waking lives. Let’s see, where shall I live?
While the English and Danish languages have strong common roots, there are of course many words that exist only in one language and not in the other. And here’s a word that exists only in Danish and not in English: arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” This word also exists in the other Nordic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic) but is not in common use in any other language on the planet.
For instance, where we Scandinavians have arbejdsglæde, the Japanese instead have karoshi, which means “Death from overwork.” And this is no coincidence; there is a word for it in Danish because Danish workplaces have a long-standing tradition of wanting to make their employees happy. To most Danes, a job isn’t just a way to get paid; we fully expect to enjoy ourselves at work.
The U.S. attitude towards work is often quite different. A few years ago I gave a speech in Chicago, and an audience member told me that “Of course I hate my job, that’s why they pay me to do it!” Many Americans hate their jobs and consider this to be perfectly normal. Similarly, many U.S. workplaces do little or nothing to create happiness among employees, sticking to the philosophy that “If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not working hard enough.”
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: doctors, health, Simon Gray, specialization
The elephant’s trunk isn’t the elephant and the elephant isn’t tree-like; these misapprehensions are the pitfalls of specialization. To really know the elephant must be divine, and will require knowing more than one body part. It’s the same with knowing a patient when you’re a doctor. A specialist doctor who has overspecialized will never know the whole person. He may take care of that particular rare thing you have wrong with your elbow or larynx, and he’ll no doubt be able to afford some houses and boats, but he won’t be a better doctor because he won’t know the patient.
How can one trust doctors? They seem to know more and more about their own specialities, less and less about their patients. If they are ear, nose and throat people, then they know the ear, nose and throat of you, but not what these are attached to, you’re not present as a living and ailing organism, you’re there in the bits and pieces he know about, and he’s unlikely? unwilling? unable? to speculate about alternative explanations for your illness, there’s nothing wrong with your ear, nose and throat, so you’d better go to someone who specialized in something else and if you’re lucky you might eventually hit on a man who happens to specialize in whatever is killing you.
The Smoking Diaries, Simon Gray, p45
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge | Tags: aldous huxley, books, george orwell, internet, Neil Postman, reading
The NY LA art book fairs are for makers of zines, comics, posters, prints and art books. There is a genre of art book that is full of pictures and very big text. One of its leading proponents and practitioners is Bruce Mau who did Zine and SMLXL etc. One way of describing this genre of book is that content now has to fight with design for relevance. So, the old orange penguins were a couple years of hard writing work (content) set in type and given an eyecatching cover. The content had clear superiority over the graphics and design of the book. Not with art books, the font and design is much more important with them and oftentimes all but extinguishes the content. At the art book fairs people gather to buy and sell these novelty products. Architects like art books, I guess their education doesn’t emphasize the kind with content: history, fiction, poetry. A young architect once told me he liked books as objects. That’s what an art book is, an object.
I have a degree in literature and an internet addiction. On my recent vacation, I took a book and no computer. It was only five days, so not much of a sacrifice, but the book burned into my brain and heart in a way I haven’t experienced in months and months. I began to write again. Anyway I’m back now wasting time on the internet, flipping around, reading essays and watching movies, and rarely confronting humanity in the way that my travel book helped me to. I guess most of the internet is like an art book – more flash, less content.
Something from Postman:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
Filed under: chronotopes, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: ducks, park, winter
Filed under: chronotopes, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: Barbados, civilization, mexico, Simon Gray, Wish You Were Here
I read the passage below on a beach in Mexico; it was written by the English playwright Simon Gray on a beach in Barbados. I sat observing the beach life around me while reading his descriptions of the beach life he saw.
He writes about civilization – which today seems like an anachronism – and, in his description of school girls on the beach, his yearning for lost civilization is an inspiration.
My Mexican beach is mostly urban and wealthy Mexicans, Americans and Europeans. There are poor Mexicans selling peanut brittle and beads and collecting cans, but really very few of them. They are intruders on the beach in their ethnic clothing and inability to jet in and out and to pay for expensive amenities and refreshment.
On Gray’s beach the school girls are kind and together and happy in a way we don’t see any more in our own crass countries – England and America. Their relative civilization is a welcome intrusion into our fighty, greedy, selfish state.
In Playa, in the mornings, nineish, I wander around the corner from the hotel for a coffee and cuernito, and then walk to Mamita’s beach club before all of the umbrellas are gone, thirty pesos for the chair and thirty for the umbrella for the day and then higher prices for sandwiches and beer, all worth it for the beauty of the Caribbean Sea in front of me, brilliant azur, light, frothy – from what exactly? Bits of coral and gypsum that reflect pure sunlight and blue sky. Science is magic.
At noon a dj starts to play trance and drum and base; in another time and place I will find this annoying but not here – somehow it works with the beer buzz and sea and bikinis. The Mexican club kids show up in the late afternoon and gather in their thongs – men and women – around their curtained lounge beds and bottle service tables. The umbrellas and beach chairs are for the gray hairs in the morning who don’t have hangovers, and the curtained beds for the kids who don’t get up before noon.
I’m sure there are other groups I am not seeing: from the cruise ships docked in Cozumel, travel and tourist professionals, and -. There are groups of twenty something girls in neon hats that say ‘team wedding,’ either from the travel professional group or are they a wedding party? They are like Gray’s school girls: of a unit, for the good of a couple who has decided to marry in a very public way with family and friends at a big, significant, social event. It seems like civilization again.
A girl with a hula hoop and a boyfriend starts to dance just at the edge of the water, gyrating, swaying, moving the plastic disk up and down her lithe body effortlessly, while he sets up the beach cloth and their things. There are flashes of timelessness here on this beach – people responding to an invitation to life where the Caribbean Sea meets an ancient land and dance, drink, love –
Simon Gray’s passage from Wish You Were Here:
This morning a boat arrived, full of schoolgirls on an outing, about thirty of them, between nine and fifteen, I suppose, all wearing traditional brown uniforms, their hair in pigtails, children of a sort I haven’t seen in England since my own childhood. They leapt squealing and laughing off the boat into the water, carrying their shoes and socks in their hands, and scampered on to the beach. A young woman, presumably the teacher, got off last, her skirt hiked up. She splashed after them, calling out instructions which she really didn’t expect them to follow, but at least reminded them that she was there. They poured up the beach and into the changing rooms in the small park, a sort of compound, that also has a café, benches, swings, little shops. A few minutes later they poured out again, into the sea, heads bobbing, screams, shrieks of laughter, splashing each other ducking each other, an absolute rough-house of girls at play but not a swear word to be heard, nothing bad-tempered, ill-natured, brutish about these children, and it struck me with a pang that such a sight and such sounds would be impossible in the England of today, wan will soon be just a folk-memory among the elderly, for what authority would dare to allow thirty children to go on a trip to the beach, to plunge into the sea, with only one teacher to supervise them? indeed, what authority could muster thirty children who would play freely and joyfully, without bawling out obscenities and threats at each other, and at the teacher, probably. When you live in a barbarous country, it’s educative, if painful, to spend a little time in a civilized one, to remember what we once were, to think what’s become of us.
Wish You Were Here, Simon Gray, Granta