The Underground Lady [Page Thirty]

As some grow older, they simply refuse to act.  They feel that somehow their petrification will slow down the world, and thereby delay the inevitable.  But far from retarding progress, or blunting the perception of their own aging, their stasis makes the world appear to them as if it were racing ahead even faster, and they end by sinking into misery.  This is really just another example of the modern tendecy toward paralysis, and it helps no one.

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Of all the philosophers, it is Spinoza who warms me the most as I grow older.  More than any other, he represents the thaw after the long chill of the Middle Ages. 

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Our motives are no mystery.  We make them seem that way to escape responsibility.

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We are always scared of death when we first begin to become ill—it may even be that this is a biologically triggered response, a precognition of the danger we will soon find ourselves in.  But, when we do not die, and we do not return immediately to wellness either—when we find ourselves left in that in-between state we call chronic illness—then we abandon ourselves to the slow disintegrative processes  of our body in decline.  It is only once we have reached this prolonged stage that we resign ourselves to our sickness, to being one of the sick.  Before that, we struggle against the label.

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We mark off the days in our head when we are sick, but never on the calendar—it’s rotten luck.

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I understand from biographies that Franklin Roosevelt never gave up the search after a cure for his lameness.  He even opened a spa for children stricken by polio as he’d been, where they could go and “take the waters” under his watchful example.  He died there.  Of course, the commentators are wrong—he had given up on finding a real way to walk again.  What they see as a denial of his condition, I see as a real striving centered on one aspect of his sickness.  I have awful neuropathy in my feet at times, a condition for which there is no real curative.  But that doesn’t prevent me from always looking for warmer socks.  And the condition doesn’t keep me from walking miles in bookshops and libraries and old graveyards, my favorite haunts.  It is only recently that I have begun to entertain the notion that it is the pain itself that spurs on my peripateticism.

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Americans, like Europeans, don’t want to see that what they have in their government today is not simple corruption, but rather full fledged gangsterism.  In Europe, this began in earnest with the drive to organize all economies around the European Central Bank.  In America it began, as so much does there, with nostalgia: the hazy “looking back” of the Reagan years, which provided cover for the official criminals.

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Sickness is a profound teacher—profound, yet cranky.

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Somewhere in Eliot it says:

“Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still.”

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Declination in a people happens slowly.  One hardly notices.

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Don’t believe in those who would emphasize only the high moral significance of a scientific discovery.  The discovery of the benzene ring, for instance, has led to all sorts of mischief.

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History has a way of coughing up its secrets when we least expect it.  I woudn’t be surprised if a third, complete “song” of Blake’s, a companion to Innocence and Experience, were discovered wedged between the floorboards in an old English barn.  Perhaps the Book of Contriteness?

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All of written discourse is a symphony in a sense—disjointed, discordant, but whole.  There are even writers who are still busy reworking the introit.  Zizek is an example.

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War makes more machines, although it seldom makes them better.   Long periods of warfare tend to erode a society’s ability to produce improved technology—it just tends to encourage the production of more, and all of the same type.  This is why in contemporary times, the wealthy nations have struck a pact, that wars will be kept relatively short, and local, thus spurring on the right kind of technological industry.  Here is the ingenuity of capital about which critics, even some Marxists, are always busy bragging.

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There is no simulacrum.  Everything is phantasm.

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Beckett stands in opposition to the otherwise perfect rule: sparseness precludes the baroque.  His work is both stripped clean and deeply convoluted.

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Obsession takes root behind one’s back.  But eventually, it begins to take shape right in front of oneself, like a monster that one brings into being, a process over which one has no control, an involuntary heaving up of darkness.  Of course, by then, it is too late.

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The Underground Lady says:  Bringing one’s obsessions to awareness is a dangerous art.  One could sooner conjure demons safely.

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