The Sleepwalker

«
I can hear
voices in the water
coming up like
smoke brings the wind
I have to take some time
to relocate that house of mine
I think I must lost it
in the river
they see things so
different
to green eyes they give nothing away
do you think now at last
you can tell me
no you won’t
give away
crush snow on my face
feels like
burning
and birds
black face
singing in the tree
if I got myself a gun
then I could shoot
down everyone
maybe I’ve just invented some religion
I saw father
dancing with his daughter
and the music singing softly on the breeze
I can’t see an end
salvation anywhere
think I’ll wait here if he comes
he comes down the river
think I’ll wait here if he comes
he comes down the river
I’ve heard all this before
already I know
a lost soul
I won’t say
anymore
»

Cat Power, “The Sleepwalker”. In “Dear Sir”, 1995.

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‘We are indeed at war’

«
– How do you explain the rise of antiscientific thinking and “alternative facts”?
– To have common facts, you need a common reality. This needs to be instituted in church, classes, decent journalism, peer review. … It is not about posttruth, it is about the fact that large groups of people are living in a different world with different realities, where the climate is not changing.
The second science war has at least freed us of the idea that science and technology can be separated from policy. I have always argued that they can’t be. Science has never been immune to political bias. On issues with huge policy implications, you cannot produce unbiased data. That does not mean you cannot produce good science, but scientists should explicitly state their interests, their values, and what sort of proof will make them change their mind.

– How should scientists wage this new war?
– We will have to regain some of the authority of science. That is the complete opposite from where we started doing science studies. Now, scientists have to win back respect. But the solution is the same: You need to present science as science in action. I agree that’s risky, because we make the uncertainties and controversies explicit.
The Australian public ethics professor Clive Hamilton has proposed another line of defense named “strategic essentialism”—stating that the science is indisputable for strategic reasons. This sounds reasonable, but in the long run we need a more realistic image of scientific knowledge. Also, given the state of the dispute and the current lack of confidence, we can’t just go back and state that climate change is “just a fact.”

– Isn’t it?
– No, science is more complex and messy than to understand how the climate works. It is an illusion of certainty to state that we fully understand it, a remnant of the ideal of science.

– But climate change doubters use the uncertainty strategically, too.
– That is true. But the uncertainty is no legitimate reason to block or postpone policy. And certainly, it is no reason to defund the research. That is the real crime: defunding research which might produce unwelcome results. By the way, calling it “skepticism” is an abuse of the term.
»

Bruno Latour, interviewed by Jop de Vrieze. In Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/bruno-latour-veteran-science-wars-has-new-mission

Há uns dez dias deixei Paris

«
Temporariamente em Worpswede, perto de Bremen,
16 de Julho de 1903

Há uns dez dias deixei Paris, em bastante sofrimento e cansado, e viajei até uma grande planície do Norte, cuja vastidão e tranquilidade e céu há-de dar-me novamente saúde. Mas entrei no meio de uma chuva prolongada que só hoje quer deixar aclarar-se um pouco por cima das terras agitadas pelo vento; e utilizo este primeiro instante de claridade para o cumprimentar, caro Senhor.
Caríssimo Senhor Kappus: deixei por muito tempo uma carta sua sem resposta, não que a tivesse esquecido – pelo contrário: era daquele género de cartas que se relêem quando as encontramos entre outras, e nela reconheci-o a si como se estivesse em grande proximidade.
(…)
Aqui, onde à minha volta está uma poderosa paisagem sobre a qual passam os ventos vindos dos mares, aqui sinto que nenhum indivíduo lhe poderá responder àquelas perguntas e sentimentos que, nas respectivas profundezas, têm uma vida própria; porque também os melhores erram nas palavras quando elas hão-de significar o que há de mais subtil e de quase indizível. Mas, apesar disso, creio que o Senhor não tem de ficar sem solução, se se ativer a coisas que sejam semelhantes a estas em que os meus olhos agora se reconfortam. Se se ativer à natureza, àquilo que nela é simples, àquilo que é pequeno, que quase ninguém vê, e que tão inesperadamente pode tornar-se grande e incomensurável; se tiver este amor ao que é ínfimo e, de modo inteiramente singelo, como um servidor, procurar ganhar a confiança daquilo que parece pobre: então tudo se lhe tornará mais fácil, mais uno e, de algum modo, mais apaziguador, talvez não no plano do entendimento, que recua, surpreso, mas no mais íntimo da sua consciência, do seu estar desperto, do seu saber. É tão jovem, está tão antes de todo o começo, e eu, caro Senhor, gostaria de pedir-lhe, tão bem quanto me é possível, que tivesse paciência face a tudo o que no seu coração está ainda não resolvido, e que tente amar as próprias perguntas, como quartos fechados e como livros escritos numa língua muito distante. Não investigue agora as respostas que não podem ser-lhe dadas, porque não poderia vivê-las. E trata-se de tudo viver. Por ora, viva as perguntas. Talvez depois, sem dar por isso, paulatinamente, num dia distante, venha a viver o trajecto para dentro da resposta. Talvez transporte de facto consigo a possibilidade de construir e de dar forma, enquanto modalidade do viver especialmente ditosa e pura; eduque-se nessa direcção, – mas aceite com grande confiança o que vem até si, e mesmo que isso venha somente da sua vontade, de um qualquer carecimento do seu interior, pois assuma-o e não odeie nada.
(…)
É bom que para começar entre numa profissão que o torna independente e que, em todos os sentidos, o entrega a si próprio. Espere com paciência para saber se a sua vida, na sua máxima interioridade, se sente limitada pela forma exterior dessa profissão. Suponho-a muito difícil e muito exigente, já que está carregada de grandes convenções e quase não deixa espaço para uma concepção pessoal das respectivas tarefas. A sua solidão, porém, mesmo por entre circunstâncias muito desconhecidas, ser-lhe-á amparo e terra pátria, e a partir dela o Senhor encontrará todos os seus caminhos. Todos os meus desejos estão prontos para o acompanhar, e a minha confiança está consigo.

Seu:
Rainer Maria Rilke
»

Rainer Maria Rilke, “Cartas a um jovem poeta”, Lisboa: Antígona, 2016, p. 37-51.

Folhas

«
Alguns sabores do mundo são idênticos aos sabores que existiam há dois mil anos. Aquele aroma especial, um pouco estranho, com que podemos deparar numa maçã de jardim, agrada-me muito. Penso muitas vezes na minha avó materna, nas maçãs do jardim dela que recebíamos no outono, às vezes uma caixa inteira, que ficavam na cave nas semanas seguintes. Sim, o perfume na cave dela, das maçãs e ameixas. Ela interessava-se por tudo o que tivesse que ver com plantas e jardim. O seu filho, o meu pai, partilhava isso com ela. No entanto, quando penso neles assim não sinto qualquer continuidade, são-me estranhos. Parece que comecei uma coisa nova, totalmente diferente, e é esta família. Penso nisto todos os dias, que é agora, que é agora que conta, é nestes anos que tudo o que é importante acontece. A minha vida passada sinto-a cada vez mais distante. Já não estou tão concentrado na minha própria infância. Nos meus tempos de estudante, nos meus vinte anos. Tudo isso está agora longe, bem longe. E posso imaginar como vai ser quando o que existe agora tiver acabado, quando as crianças tiverem saído de casa, o pensamento de que tinha sido então, na minha vida, que tinha acontecido o importante. Porque não o tinha eu apreciado enquanto decorria? Porque, quero crer, eu não sabia. Apenas o que se escoa entre os dedos, aquilo para que não existem palavras ou pensamentos, existe completamente. É o preço da intimidade: uma pessoa não vê. Não sabe que está ali. E logo que passa, então uma pessoa vê.
As folhas vermelho-amareladas que jazem molhadas e escorregadias sobre as pedras entre as casas. As pedras que escurecem quando chove, e clareiam quando secam.
»

Karl Ove Knausgård, “No Outono”, Lisboa: Relógio D’Água, 2016, p. 107-108.

Know thyself

«
If happiness is based on feeling pleasant sensations, then in order to be happier we need to re-engineer our biochemical system. If happiness is based on feeling that life is meaningful, then in order to be happier we need to delude ourselves more effectively, Is there a third alternative?
Both the above views share the assumption that happiness is some sort of subjective feeling (of either pleasure or meaning), and that in order to judge people’s happiness, all we need to do is ask them how they feel. To many of us, that seems logical because the dominant religion of our age is liberalism. Liberalism sanctifies the subjective feeling of individuals. It views these feelings as the supreme source of authority. What is good and what is bad, what is beautiful and what is ugly, what ought to be and what ought not to be, are all determined by what each one of us feels.
(…)
Yet this view is unique to liberalism. Most religions and ideologies throughout history stated that there are objective yardsticks for goodness and beauty, and for how things ought to be. They were suspicious of the feelings and preferences of the ordinary person. At the entrance of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, pilgrims were greeted by the inscription: ‘Know thyself!’ The implications was that the average person is ignorant of his true self, and is therefore likely to be ignorant of true happiness. Freud would probably agree.
(…)
Most religions and philosophies have consequently taken a very different approach to happiness than liberalism does. The Buddhist position is particularly interesting. Buddhism has assigned the question of happiness more importance than perhaps any other human creed. For 2500 years, Buddhists have systematically studied the essence and causes of happiness, which is why there is a growing interest among the scientific community both in their philosophy and their meditation practices.
Buddhism shares the basic insight of the biological approach to happiness, namely that happiness results from processes occurring within one’s body, and not from events in the outside world. However, starting from the same insight, Buddhism reaches very different conclusions.
According to Buddhism, most people identify happiness with pleasant feelings, while identifying suffering with unpleasant feelings. People consequently ascribe immense importance to what they feel, craving to experience more and more pleasures, while avoiding pain. Whatever we do throughout our lives, whether scratching our leg, fidgeting slightly in the chair, or fighting world wars, we are just trying to get pleasant feelings.
The problem, according to Buddhism is that our feelings are no more than fleeting vibrations, changing every moment, like the ocean waves. If five minutes ago I felt joyful and purposeful, now these feelings are gone, and I might feel sad and dejected. So if I want to experience pleasant feelings, I have to constantly chase them, while driving away the unpleasant feelings.
(…)
What is important about obtaining such ephemeral prizes?
(…)
According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is neither the feeling of pain nor of sadness nor even of meaninglessness. Rather, the real root of suffering is this never-ending and pointless pursuit of ephemeral feelings, which causes us to be in a constant state of tension, restlessness and dissatisfaction. Due to this pursuit, the mind is never satisfied. Even when experiencing pleasure it is not content, because it fears this feeling might soon disappear, and craves that this feeling should stay and intensify.
People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them. This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realize how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasizing about what might have been.
(…)
This idea is so alien to modern liberal culture that when Western New Age movements encountered Buddhist insights, they translated them into liberal terms, thereby turning them on their head. New Age cults frequently argue: ‘Happiness does not depend on external conditions. It depends only on what we feel inside. People should stop pursuing external achievements such as wealth and status, and connect instead with their inner feelings.’ Or more succinctly, ‘Happiness begins within.’ This is exactly what biologists argue, but more or less the opposite of what Buddha said.
Buddha agreed with modern biology and New Age movements that happiness is independent of external conditions. Yet his more important and far more profound insight was that true happiness is also independent of our inner feelings. Indeed, the more significance we give our feelings, the more we crave them, and the more we suffer. Buddha’s recommendation was to stop not only the pursuit of external achievements, but also the pursuit of inner feelings.
»

Yuval Noah Harari, “Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind”. London: Vintage, 2014, p. 439-443.

On leaving

«
For most of you, (assuming of course that “most of you” fall within the category which i’m addressing) it isn’t hard to see that social media of all kinds is absolutely entrenched into our daily lives. It is rooted so deeply, that it defines entire conversations, relationships, opportunities and much more. While i promise to make this not a “damn the technology!” sort of speech, i can’t promise that i don’t utter those words at some point or another during my week.
i left Instagram, and while i won’t bore you with the numbers of it all, i do know the numbers by which i was defined for the past few years, and it topped out at 605,000. Followers, a number of people, robots and businesses that “follow” me along on my journeys through sponsored posts, travel experiences, and personal relationships. In my head, i humbled myself as often as i could – not often enough truth told – but still, i drudged on through the cyclical process of, go, photograph, edit, post, observe. i could have a conversation with massive design firms and hear “We love your instagram” and a piece of me felt missing. i’d have random (and nearly always delightful) strangers come up to me to talk of how they loved my work, and a piece of me felt missing. i’d go home to my family where they would ask about my recent expeditions, and where Instagram had taken me, what i was working on, what, what, what, your, your your…
i was missing.
Though i could never have admitted it before, all the “success” drained me of my own ability to deal with the ever-growing problem: self-awareness, or the lack thereof rather. i believe ferociously that my intentions with social media has always been, well, let’s say about 60% good.
i’d write these longwinded, poorly reviewed words of hope and ‘off-the-cuff’ emotions that i was dealing with and slap it underneath a photograph i’d semi liked. This isn’t some cut at the crowds of kind people who followed and heard and really saw themselves in the truth of my work, it’s more an honest review of the darker side of what was going on while so many were clicking “like” and “follow”. While i was showcasing the tip-top, best moments of my life, i was tip-toeing around the shattered remains of my relationships (of all kinds) and pointing the blame at all of them, ever-fearful of stepping on something that may hurt me; honesty.
We have a word for honesty now, it isn’t really honesty, it’s just rebranded. We call it authenticity, or genuineness, and now these are words you can buy on tee-shirts, they come attached to people like me with glazed-over eyes to the reality of their definitions.
(…)
Authentic. If i had to honestly describe myself during the past few years, it would be: self obsessive, delusional, manipulative, cowardly, and oh does that list go on. And just before you reach into your pocket for change to throw at the beggar in the street i seem to sound like, let me tell you, these are not words of self-hate, just honest. They are not reflective of me now, thank God, all the same, we have our growth to go through.
It’s a lesson and i learned.
(…)
Now, 25, and Myspace, Tumblr and Instagram behind me, all things society would think i was ‘good’ at defined me for about 10 years. Some will tell you it’s not about the numbers, but really in this day of first world society, thats what it becomes. Actually, i’ll counter my own statement and say that social media is more about self-glorification. Ouch. Hard thing to hear, really though think about why you do it, why you Snapchat, or Instagram, or Tumblr, or Tinder, or Facebook.
I’d tell people it was about “sharing” and “i like to see what others have to think” and “well it’s fun to…” this and that and every other thing you can think of that would take me away from facing the hard truth of calling it like it is: self-glorification. Now of course, you can have a business from it, but if you’re not on there simply to make money, you’re on there to buy into it or yourself. There’s no other realistic explanation (well there might be, but i don’t know it) for why you would get on and write about or photograph yourself, it’s to see how others react. If you were doing it just for you, then you’d have no earthly reason to share it anywhere.
»

Christian Watson, “On leaving, Part I”. In 1924.US: https://www.1924.us/journal/onleaving

with every song

«
every cell in my body
lined up to you
legs a little open
once again
awaken my senses
head topless
arisen my senses
just that kiss
all there is
»

Björk, “arisen my senses”. In “Utopia”, 2017.

Sur l’essence de la photographie

«
Peu à peu, çà et là, quelques taches apparaissent, pareilles à un balbutiement d’être qui se réveille. Ces fragments se multiplient, se soudent, se complètent, et l’on ne peut s’empêcher de songer devant cette formation, d’abord discontinue, qui procède par bonds et éléments insignifiants, mais qui converge vers une composition reconnaissable, à bien des précipitations qui s’observent dans l’esprit; à des souvenirs qui se précisent; à des certitudes qui tout à coup se cristallisent; à la production de certains vers privilégiés, qui s’établissent, se dégageant brusquement du désordre du langage intérieur.
»

Paul  Valéry. In Mouna Mekouar, “La photographie trompe et montre qu’elle trompe”. artpress 449, 2017, p. VII-VIII.

An inconclusive conclusion

«
I’ve turned my back on the flood of visual material being produced, but I’m struggling desperately in the hope of creating something a little better. In order to do so, I’ve even had to rationalize the art of navigating this world. I tell people I hate professionals, but I know that in the workplace I evaluate people on the basis of their talent alone. I say that I don’t want to talk about animation, but here I am, talking about it all the time. I yell about how it would be better if Japanese anime just disappeared from the face of the earth, and then I turn around and worry about my animator friends who don’t have any work. And after moaning and groaning about too much animation being produced, I right away start discussing new projects. I’m fully aware that in today’s world, to create truly human-oriented works, we have to accept an inhuman daily schedule, and of course I wind up becoming a workaholic.
In spite of all this, if our work is to have any meaning, I believe we must ponder what our next steps should be. (…) Unless we make a real effort to develop a long-term perspective, we’ll be like helpless octopuses trapped in octopus pots.
I believe my dilemma is a yoke similar to what audiences – who yearn to be liberated from their daily lives – must bear. It requires a strong will. So that’s why I believe that the only solution for me is to go back, again and again, to my starting point.
»

Hayao Miyazaki, “Thoughts on Japanese animation”. In “Starting Point: 1979-1996”. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2009, p. 85.

Black Fridays

«
Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction.
(…)
The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care and people who don’t. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, says those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.
Why? Because environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impact on the planet but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the research found, mainly focused on behaviours that had “relatively small benefits”.
I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling any environmental savings a hundredfold. I’ve come to believe that the recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people they’ve gone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts.
None of this means that we should not try to reduce our footprint, but we should be aware of the limits of the exercise. Our behaviour within the system cannot change the outcomes of the system. It is the system itself that needs to change.
(…)
When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the world’s treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers: smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever less relation to general welfare.
Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all are illusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe. The current system, based on private luxury and public squalor, will immiserate us all: under this model, luxury and deprivation are one beast with two heads.
We need a different system, rooted not in economic abstractions but in physical realities, that establish the parameters by which we judge its health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, a world of private sufficiency and public luxury. And we must do it before catastrophe forces our hand.
»

George Monbiot, “Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet”. In The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/22/black-friday-consumption-killing-planet-growth?CMP=fb_gu