Monday, November 05, 2007

Resignation

For the individual, life is made easier through capitulation to the collective with which he identifies. He is spared the cognition of his impotence; within the circle of their own company, the few become many. It is this act - not unfocussed thinking - which is resignation. [...]

In contrast, the uncompromisingly critical thinker, who neither superscribes his conscience nor permits himself to be terrorized into action, is in truth the one who does not give up. Furthermore, thinking is not the spiritual reproduction of that which already exists. As long as thinking is not interrupted it has a firm grasp upon possibility. Its insatiable quality, the resistance against petty satiety, rejects the foolish wisdom of resignation.

- From 'Resignation' by Theodor Adorno. Also collected in The Culture Industry.

****

I love that phrase: "terrorized into action" and also the sentence that follows.

Feeling a bit low these days. My head is full of gloomy thoughts. May be it is just seasonal. I was watching Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage yesterday. I had seen the film version before, this time I saw the five hour TV version. There are some essential monologues and pivotal scenes which are missing from the theatrical version which makes it mandatory. I didn't feel the same about Fanny and Alexander. TV version is preferable but not irreplacable.

I was also reading August Strindberg's play The Dance of Death dealing with the same subject but which is even gloomier than Bergman though it is somewhat salvaged by the grotesque humour. This is basically an Actors' play. I would have loved to see Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren play Edgar and Alice on stage, which they did a few years ago in New York.

***

For some Misanthropy, Scandinavian style, an extract from a brief essay by Strindberg titled "I":

What are other people to me? What do I know of their ability to see, to divine, to judge? They can lie and make mistakes, which is exactly what they do, since they are my natural enemies, just as I am theirs: we are all enemies, rivals for the air we breathe, for the pasture-land we graze, for the female we impregnate, for the honour we scorn.

Other people! I detest them as they hate me!

I have passed life's meridian, and when I cast a glance behind me I frequently see myself as the hunter, but even more frequently as the rabbit, since I was brought up in the religion of the rabbits. When I was young I believed that I laboured for others, I was always ready to blame myself and admit that others were right, while no one made any effort on my behalf and the universe yielded nothing to me. I had deposited bits of my self now here, now there, in God's bosom, in my frieds's souls, in my wives', in my children's; and they all went their way, each bearing their own piece and leaving nothing behind for me of their own impoverished selves.

Morally I had become bankrupt but, on the point of making off with myself, I collected the rags of my soul together and forged a skeleton of iron, which I coated with fireclay. And in the furnace of suffering and disappointment I burned my image so that it became hard as a rock.

And my nearest and dearest, the one who lit the pyre, who pilfered my children's bread, who threw me into prison, cried out: 'He doesn't love those closest to him, he writes without sympathy (for us), he hates people!'

Agreed! I hate with the sound and robust hatred of the strong, whose eye is sharpened by hatred, while in their impotent rage the weak are blinded by stagnation of the blood. I may be enraged, but I don't see red where something is green; I may be furious, but I can distinguish friend from foe.

***

Adorno, Bergman, Strindberg... sufficient gloom for the day!

6 comments:

KUBLA KHAN said...

A happy man, wrote Chekov is one who does not know if it is winter or summer.Feeling gloomy as you write, is a mood that doesnot outlast, moods don't last.
nice extracts, especially from Adorno. each Adorno sentence is a quote.
btw.....have you watched Berlin Alexanderplatz? I have been gifted with the 15 hour version by the mysterious alpha2omega. have not watched it yet, though.......

antonia said...

how about some Cioran in addition, just for good measure. oh and Berlin Alexanderplatz, this cheers one up too. Great book though. i think you should just blame it on the weather or the dalightsavings. it is always good to blame things on the weather. hope you feel better soon.

Alok said...

No, I haven't seen it but always wanted to. I tried to read the original novel by Doblin on which it is based awhile back but couldn't get very far. It is said to be very "Joycean"... The dvd I thought was still to be released. Will check if it is available.

I don't understand everything what Adorno writes but even then you can't but admire the penetrating intelligence that is behind every sentence of his.

Alok said...

Antonia: Of Cioran I know only the titles of his books and essays... really wonderful. "The temptation to exist" is my favourite

there is an essay on him by Susan Sontag which is also very good. I was a little afraid of all the gloom but may be I should pick him up one of these days.

antonia said...

alok, read cioran today. Fight fire with fire :)

adhyayan said...

your gloom days are far placed.. so nothing to worry