An English In Kentucky


















Thursday May 23rd 2019Tim Candler9


    Sartre has an essay in which he talks about libraries being like graveyards, each book a tombstone. Nor, in my view are libraries places were people should be permitted to twist and shout, drink cocktails or use cell phones, indeed anyone engaging in such behavior should be subjected to heavy fines, and at the same time I see no reason to outlaw such behavior in actual graveyards, places were the dead should be celebrated in their magnificence, passions, vices, flaws and all. More likely Sartre didn't really mean all books were corpses in the sense of dead and gone, rather he meant books were glimpses of a moment in past time. Some of Plato's students had a similar point, Plato's books and his lectures were all very wise and stuff but greater insight into what Plato was about could be better gained from real-time discussion with him. In one way you could think of it as the distinction between impersonal and personal. In another way you can think of someone like Sartre rereading one of his own books, discovering that his thinking had changed in the months since he'd written the book and wishing he could start the whole book again, instead of having to look at it gathering dust on the shelf. Then there's book like Wind in the Willows, which as a political statement pretty much supports the opinion pages of something like National Review or Breitbart, both of which incidentally, and I know this might be emotionally difficult, are occasional must reads for a snowflake in good standing, otherwise we just become like humorless lumpen icebergs who tut-tut whenever anyone so much as blows his or her nose in a library, and something like a cell phone ringing in the theology section calls for Pistols at Dawn. I guess too, intolerance, or always being right, has an algorithmic relationship with humility and in there somewhere is a varying quantity of fear sourced from the ego which soon enough clashes with balance and reasonableness, and suddenly it's all too late, you have a tantrum, it's a combinational explosion, in mathematics a term for far too many inputs into a system causing it to flounder badly, and you start running around in the library like a mental patient.



    All of which is a very rambling way of thinking about, let's risk ridicule and call it Vital Energy. It's a fascinating area, naturally enough it's an -ism, and has nothing to do with Sports Drinks. Vitalism is the idea of a distinction between living things and not living things. Goes back a bit, became involved with the soul, twisted around, got itself entwined in religious and political doctrines, animals have souls but only people have immortal souls, and then Vitalism got itself engaged in science, it proposed that non living things couldn't produce the sorts of things that living things could produce such as  Urea. Then in the 19th Century a man produced Urea from inorganic compounds. Generally if you live in libraries and devote yourself to the Biology section you're inclined to dismiss Vitalism as voodoo nut-job tombstones, but if you're a scientist who might be writing a book you refer to it as a superseded Biological theory. Vitalism can also be found in what's called Emergentism, which is the idea that out of organic systems because of their incredible complexity, unpredictable and extraordinary things can emerge such as awareness. The argument against Emergentism is that unpredictable and extraordinary things emerging from complex systems have nothing to do with a Vital anything and to believe they do is a sort of intellectual tranquilizer, a 'verbal sedative' and is just a feeble excuse for not actually thinking things through in a rigorous and disciplined manner. And yet, down where things are very, very small, physics is endeavoring to come up with an experiment that will point them in the direction of an answer to the question of what happens to gravity and mass at the quantum level. Meanwhile, amongst the unruly and ill disciplined Vital Energy can be seen all over the place. So I guess in terms of definition the word Vital Energy would include ideas such as time catching up with a person, over-writing their rule over moments upon earth, and the little bits left over clinging on, getting bigger and smaller in the memory of others, subject to flows of longing, hope, wishes and that chaotic tapestry of purpose in an ever moving blurry flux where  nothing really ever stays the same.


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