Monday, September 12, 2016

Kafka in the morning

As Ruiting lay in bed this morning,, I handed her a book I was reading — some lit-crit essays by Walter Benjamin — so she could read a passage about Kafka (a conversation between Max Brod and Kafka):

‘I remember,’ Brod writes, ‘ a conversation with Kafka which began with present-day Europe and the decline of the human race. “We are nihilistic thoughts, suicidal thoughts that come into God’s head,” Kafka said. This reminded me at first of the Gnostic view of life: God as the evil demiurge, the world as his Fall. “Oh no,” said Kafka, “our world is only a bad mood of God, a bad day of his.” “Then there is hope outside this manifestation of the world that we know.” He smiled. “Oh, plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope – but not for us.”

A suicide talking about a suicide talking about how our world is a sort of cosmic suicidal thought.

At times I certainly can feel that way too -- that our world is a sort of glitch in a broader and better cosmic realm — Yes, the post-Singularity universe will be amazing; yes there are all sorts of potentials for growth, joy and choice in the universe — but fuck it, humanity is just a goddamned piece of shit — we are the minimal generally intelligent system and we are tangled and fucked up in all sorts of social knots and the best we can do is to make one last final gasp of creativity, and on our deathbed as a species, cough out of our dying collective throat some sort of superior mind, some sort of engineered being with less perversity and more creativity and understanding … some sort of mind that doesn’t waste 99% of its energy defeating itself and its kindred by tying bizarre cognitive-emotional knots and suffering from the tension they create ..

And yet, it struck me that Kafka had so beautifully summarized the worthlessness of the human race that it was a self-defeating statement, right? the justification of the human race was, in fact, the exact sort of beauty illustrated in his statement as reported by Benjamin — as the minimum generally intelligent creature, we are the first species on earth (well except maybe some cetacea, who knows) capable of appreciating the poignance and beauty and terror and absurdity of our own limitations, and capable of understanding the glory and wonder of what lies beyond and what may come after us, and what may already exist in parallel with us (or in some sense within us) in different dimensions —

Amen! ...


Ben said...

I am curious if you´ve read anything from John Smythies? He is an neuropsychiatrist and neurophilosopher who works with Ramachandran in San Diego. I think you´d like some of his ideas on consciousness.

Also, you should read the paper by the theoretical physicist Andrei Linde called "Universe, Life, Consciousness":



Mentifex said...

Dr. Ben,

When I read your story about Max Brod and Franz Kafka, it tickles all sorts of associative linkages in my feeble human mind. If I were still the undergraduate I was so many years ago, your blog-post would not resonate in my brain. Back then I barely knew who Kafka was. My best friend John N. and I were riding around with his father, James Richard N. (who induced the Lakeside School Mothers' Club to allocate Rummage Sale money to Gates and Allen for computer time-share) arguing about the German title "Der Besuch der alten Dame" -- a book I think by Kafka. Over the years I learned that Kafka want all his works destroyed, but his friend (Max Brod?) rescued the works of Kafka from destruction. More recently, a few years ago, there was some kind of dispute in Israel over Kafka's legacy, but I forget the details. About ten years ago, I was reading what happened to Walter Benjamin in Paris France after World War Two broke out and the Germans invaded. As I recall, Benjamin wanted to escape across the border from France into Spain, but something interfered, so the great literary critic Walter Benjamin committed suicide. Upshot: your blog-post resonates widely within my curious, lifetime-of-discursive-reading human mind. Bye again, -Arthur

Michael LaTorra said...

There are better dreams than this one, and worse. Many, many are better. Only a few are worse.

"This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago." ~ The Grateful Dead "Box of Rain"

Unknown said...

Victor Frankenstein: "What do you want of me? To suffer? You've done that... I'm sorry I left you. I'm sorry for the cruelty you've endured, that I inflicted upon you.
But... I cannot unmake the past."

Caliban: "I'm not concerned with the past, only the future. Rise and walk with me, creator. I'll show you what I want."

We!Are!the!Sickness said...

"The term autoscopy comes from the Greek words "autos" (self) and "skopeo" (looking at). Autoscopic phenomena are psychic illusory visual experiences defined by the perception of the images of one's own body or one's face within space, either from an internal point of view, as in a mirror or from an external point of view. Autoscopic experiences were first described by the Greek philosopher Aristotele, but it was subsequently admirably described in its ambiguous presentation by Ovid in the third book of its Metamorphoses where the author narrates the myth of Narcissus, a beautiful boy who falls in love with his image reflected in a water source. In the first place he mistakes his own image with another person, but when he suddenly realizes that he is looking at the image of himself, desperate for the hopelessness of his love he is forced to commit suicide."

Frank Hudson said...

Painting a picture of the internal struggles we grapple with as a species, our complex and thoughtful thoughts about humanity’s place in the greater cosmic realm and our post-Singularity future possible have been lively. We understand that we are imperfect but can self-destruct; however we appreciate how beautiful, wonderful and creative we are.

On another philosophical note, trying to untangle the complexities of New York City is not unlike facing the knotty challenges inherent to human existence. Hence, like those self-defeating sentiments, there is need for such services as towing in new york city which would smooth out these knots of life in an urban setting.