Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Henrik Ibsen

This here wildly bearded fellow is Henrik Ibsen, whose name I'd heard many a time without complete recognition. Now I've just finished reading about him, and about his major plays. His characters are already having an effect on me. The Wild Duck is about a home, a family, that continues its existence by ignoring all the secrets and problems it hides below its daily distraction. A man takes it upon himself to shed the light of frank truth into the home, and this ultimately destroys the family. One character, a doctor who helped the family maintain its lies, apparently, before the truth-seeker came to town--I really shouldn't be writing about this without having read it, but momentum drives me onward--says this:

"Deprive the average human being of his life-lie, and you rob him of his happiness.”

Many similar proclamations have been made, especially around the turn of the century--philosophers, psychologists, writers, characters. And yet, they would say, to expose the life-lie is our regrettable duty.

Somehow this line, this notion of the duty to disillusion ourselves, to draw things out of shadowy fantasy, is breaking my little heart this afternoon. It is a little heart, mine. It sits on one edge of history's crater, and gapes, childishly.

Because I can't figure which end is up, which door is disillusionment. If being here were like being a child playing in a box. How to exit the box. Language, a useful tool, is utterly confusing as a compass. Which way of speaking about life isn't a fabrication? Don't words always represent life? A representation isn't the thing itself. And what is a thing other than a entity so named because of its participation in a system of being?

There are two moments when I really feel truth: in the moment of epiphany, and in the moment that so often accompanies epiphany, which is really the original meaning of epiphany--manifestation: when I become aware of myself as present, as a being here. When an object is manifested as not-objective, but as present. It feels like truth. My lamp in front of me, disclosing its being to me.

But I am a child, using the toys of other children to act out the world, inside my box.

Language causes to flow over me fluctuating waves of euphoria and humility.

Subject verb verb phrase prep phrase participial phrase as d/o prep phrase conjunction noun.


Ryan Hofer said...

The idea that one must fight the lie seems exhausting. Transcending the lie...seems efficacious.

"Depression says I can't, happiness says I don't have to"

To publish this comment I must enter the word "squest".

Justin said...

"Transcending" implies some sort of enlightenment, or disillusionment. Or it could mean "ignoring." The first is begging the question, and the second I ... don't have the guts for.


Ryan Hofer said...

I think you're trying to make too much of transcendence, like if it's not what you want then you won't have it. It could be as simple as using words to make sentences, without stopping to analyze the meaning and history of each one. You can be aware of it without being thrown off by it. I bet you see students doing weird things in class all the time, but you couldn't teach the class if you constantly called them out on their body language and wandering attention spans. So I guess I mean becoming more aware seems efficacious, whereas focusing on fighting each individual problem, or lie, would exhaust me.


Justin said...

Well, I was responding to the idea of needing to disillusion ourselves. I think you'll agree there are many "illusions" that many of us live under. In the post, I suppose I was lamenting the fact that in disillusioning ourselves, we may be merely reillusioning ourselves. Or: that's the problem with this way of talking about life-- as though the truth of it lay in language.

I'm with you, I think. I think the truth of life is found in presence. There are degrees of rhetorical usefulness in different ways of conceptualizing and describing life, but they are always one step removed from life, and therefore one step decayed. Am I making sense?

Ryan Hofer said...

I think you're fashioning some sense there. Yeah, down with the illusion. The crazy thing is that when illusion dissipates I'm left with my creative self, which can be great and empowering. At the same time I'm drawing from all this other stuff around me, drawing the epistemic breath from energy we all share. Somewhere in this rubber band ball, for me, is the notion of a private language I use for myself. Is it possible to have a private language?

Also, do you think that this decay can be dovetailed with sin / original sin / knowing good and evil / describing what is good and evil?

Justin said...

Ryan, when I first read your last response, I wasn't sure what to say. It seemed somewhat conclusive. As I'm avoiding editing my paper, I'll respond now: I like the way you put it, about your creative self and the epistemic energy around us, in those first four sentences.

As far as a "private language": I've always felt that there was some kind of pre-communicative conceptualizing that went on within me. Some kind of organization of abstraction. I've always thought of it language above and below the water, and I am only vividly conscious of that which goes on above the water's surface. "Language," though, implies communication, and I don't believe that I communicate with myself. I just interpret. An internal hermeneutic. Conceptions in the blood.

As to the last statement, about original sin: I've tried many times to make sense of that symbol, eating from the tree of good and evil, and I like the connection you make: By eating from the tree, we started the decay of the human mind, away from presence.

Ryan Hofer said...