Thursday, November 25, 2010

Notes on the Fortieth Anniversary of Mishima's Suicide

It’s difficult not to feel somewhat overwhelmed with ambivalence regarding Mishima: a gifted writer and a sensitive thinker as well as a fascist and an imperialist trapped by nostalgia for a Japan long extinct. I want to adore him like Saint Sebastian, and I want to cut off the head of the snake who dared insult the Dragon Lady. In Mishima we find the conflicted duality of postwar Japanese culture and identity—a bifurcation I stumbled along for two years, never quite finding my footing. Rest in peace, Mishima, and goddamn you to hell.

Related article: Il y a 40 ans, Yukio Mishima se donnait la mort

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In vino veritas

In a year of Thursdays, today remains the greatest Thursday of all. Today is not only World Philosophy Day but also the day on which the Beaujolais nouveau is released. I continue the endless and thankless editing of my dissertation, effectively avoiding finishing the two or three sections of chapter five--I refuse to count how many--that still need words and work. I spent five days last week in Eugene, Oregon, attending the Radical Philosophy Association conference, where I had smart conversations about Benjamin and Blanchot with people who had better educations than I had. I held my own and even offered insight into these two thinkers to people who had written them off as too difficult and opaque. When I was a child, I was taught that the universe was made of atoms and molecules and elements, but now every scientist affirms that what we see is merely a scrim over the dark and invisible universe that does not exist. I think language is like that. Hence, it's difficult to write words that don't or can't say what I mean about something not there in the first place. Having written that, I have already written 183 pages, without finishing the text or even beginning to put my bibliography together. My two-page table of contents mesmerizes me daily: I could stare at its simplicity and form for hours, having never before written anything requiring such a detailed table of contents. For the past week, I've been repeatedly listening to Hildegard von Bingen's The Origin of Fire and Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3. While trying not to weep or to come undone from mourning, I edit my dissertation about words that only reveal their essential absence in the absent universe on a Thursday filled with words (and love!) of wisdom and wine.