Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My life has been strange lately; a weird combination of monastic retreat and jubilent extroversion, personal growth and personal loss, total eagerness and crushing ennui. As always, I've tried to keep myself busy in order to distract myself from the losses and solitude, but these things have a habit of catching up to me. Still, I think about the future a lot. It's almost all I think about: the ten million things I want to experience, achieve, and accomplish. It is both my opiate and my stimulant, a wellspring exuberance and a font of melancholy. (It's also potentially a source of all of this pseudo-romantic prose, but that's another matter altogether)

In my latest bout of - nausea? angst? melancholy? - I stumbled across a copy Walter Benjamin's On the Concept of History, which I had meant to read for a while and never really got around to. It's mystical and passionate, even if parts of it are totally opaque to me. His ninth thesis, however, has struck me, and I've included it below.

"A Klee drawing named "Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."
- Walter Benjamin

I think this passage reflects the overall pessimism of the Frankfurt School, and it's hard not to think of negative dialectics and an inescapably grim historical materialism while reading this passage, which are not things I am prepared to totally buy. I also think that sometimes it's hard not to imagine myself/ourselves as being similarly hurtled forward through time by a force so inexorable and violent that it precludespossibility of meaningful change, and you/I/we are left with nothing to do but fixate upon the ruins piling up at our feet at a mounting pace.

It is 12:20 pm, May 19th 2010. It feels like it's about to rain. I am waiting for a train bearing a friend who will be late for a meeting that might not happen. I am working at a job that has been a learning experience, but has been spiritually exhausting. It is a limited tenure, but I have found out that I may be able to extend my contract for another year. Maybe. I need the money. I am beating my wings against the fury of an incoming storm and I am not sure how it will turn out.

Stay tuned.

Substance: Arkhon Infaustus - Orthodoxyn, Watain - Sworn to the Dark and Casus Luciferi, Busta Rhymes - When Disaster Strikes, Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter - The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't be Jammed, Ernest Hemmingway - The Sun Also Rises, Japanther - Rock n' Roll Ice Cream, LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

1 comment:

  1. Although the strategist in my heart is inclined to agree, I don't want the Frankfurt School to be right. It needs a good healthy paint-bombing. One could fly over in a metaphysical aeroplane and drop an optomissile on the complex, and then laugh as one is carried away by the wind - given that the weather conditions are suitable.