07 October, 2006

Panta rhei: a statement

Chris Miller recently complimented Gawain's website for 'searching for something like wisdom — and that’s what I miss most in the blogs of the other very-smart people on the internet.' I couldn't help but feel that he was referring partly to me. Elsewhere, he tried to account for our philosophical differences, referring to my title: 'I don't pursue that kind of experience'. I had often wondered what Chris meant by that, but I think it is clearer now: it is not that I am not religious—for Gawain is as atheist as I am—but that I am (he thinks) not searching for wisdom. Probably he mistakes my assuredness for certainty, and equally probably he takes my historical ruminations as an impersonal lecture or linguistic exercise, with the dissociated poetic sensibility described by Eliot. I would like them to amount to more than that—but perhaps this is wishful thinking. Most of the pieces I've written here are fragments of historical narrative, or tentative articulations of world-view. It is an unreligious world-view, but one that leaves room for wonder. There is so much to delight me in the world, most of it hidden from immediate view, and much of it, I'm sure, because it is hidden from immediate view. The principal challenge for me is scepticism: by which I mean—Yes, but what then? Like Chris, and Gawain, I overcome the sceptical problem by opening myself up to the beautiful; only this action is misinterpreted, for what I find beautiful so rarely correlates with others. Beautiful to me are words and ideas, not images or symphonies. And beautiful to me too is exegesis, the potencies and frailties of the interpretive faculty, as mediates from us everything, as if a text.

Things are changing. This weekend I turn 25, and I've finally decided on a thesis-topic—or rather, a ball-park for one—hence no longer 'desperately seeking', though still, I fear, ultimately 'unmoored'. I'll be writing on Plutarch, a man caught up in wonder, in the challenge of scepticism, and in the beauty of a linguistic or exegetic world-view. This is not the end of the Varieties, but possibly the beginning of the end.

8 comments:

chris miller said...

Yes, I was thinking about Vunex and its links.

Maybe what I enjoy finding in Heaventree (as well in New York Red) is the pain (personal -- fresh -- sore -- bleeding) of an unredeemed world (lacking love and beauty) -- which is a religious experience even if they're not religious people.

But I don't think there's any post -- in my brief career of blogging --, that I've found as thrilling as this one - with its announcement of life-change.

I really loved reading Plutarch (in translation) in my mid-forties and might still be immersed in the classical world if the rest of the world (Asia etc) hadn't called me so insistently.

So I can only hope that this new direction of yours will produce something that will call me back.

Conrad H. Roth said...

Thank you, Chris; your presence is always welcome here. We'll have to see what Plutarch brings; myself I am still unsure.

A Little Thought said...

Conrad, I find your site a constant source of wonder. You combine a boundless curiosity with a wealth of knowledge that I wish I had now, let alone at 25.

And congratulations on the thesis topic!

Conrad H. Roth said...

ALT: It's always a relief to know I have my few comrades with me. I hope I can keep it up.

Gawain said...

if 2 of you loved Plutarch, maybe i should give him a read; i am on Montaigne now, a steep climb for it is in freshly acquired French;

i have suspected this about you for a long time, Conrad, that you are like Einstein and Teller and the lot who find beauty in a mathematical equation or a graceful theoretical solution rather than in clouds or music. another piece of evidence for my theory that there are different heads.

but i love your head, Conrad, and i kiss it, not in an Oscar Wilde manner, but more like something from Sophocles: here is a true friend.

Conrad H. Roth said...

"find beauty in a mathematical equation or a graceful theoretical solution"

Funny you should write this, as I'd just finished telling Richard that art and criticism was a bit like doing theoretical maths to me--apolitical and mostly formalist.

Siganus Sutor said...

This morning, while reading an article written by Umberto Eco and published in The Guardian a couple of years ago, I couldn't but think of a young man of 25 about to start some work of consequence.

In a little book I once wrote, I said that a good thesis is like a pig. You don’t throw anything away, and even after decades you can still re-use it. I am glad I was right.

Mind the pig then, since en chaque homme sommeille un cochon...

Conrad H. Roth said...

Dearest Sutor, your comments always bring a spark to my lips. I am charmed to hear you suggest of my utterly irrelevant work that it might wind up to be 'of consequence'. Umberto Umberto, I suppose, is a man never afraid to re-use his thesis on mediaeval aesthetics in all manner of unlikely contexts.

Advance, Circe...