Thursday, August 27, 2009

What happens when language prevails over reality

Oscar Giannino's response to the challenge that his approach to life was too philosophical, helped me arrive at a judgment regarding my recent re-reading of some of Samuel Beckett's works, particularly when he said that "the prevalence of language over reality, condemns culture to being merely a descriptive shelf on which the prevalence of Non-being drowns, rather than the instrument for continuous transformation based on the person who wants Being."

With these words Giannino described well my repulsive attraction to Beckett. It is my thanatos urge to wallow in contingency with no reference to transcendence. At least it consists of dismissing my desire, as in the case of Godot, seeing my longing as pointless and absurd, a distraction from really living. I think this is where Camus stands out, he takes transcendence seriously and does not dismiss it as fantasy, he wrestles with meaning. I would love to see, even participate in, a serious discussion on Camus in a setting like the Meeting. Today, I cannot help but think about Camus at the Meeting. To my mind, it would have been a good milieu for him. I think of the fragment, preserved in the book Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, of remarks he made at the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg in 1948, in which he addresses the phenomenon of what he calls "lay pharisaism": "To me a lay pharisee is the person who pretends to believe that Christianity is an easy thing and asks of the Christian, on the basis an external view of Christianity, more than he asks of himself. I believe indeed that the Christian has many obligations but that it is not up to the man who rejects them himself to recall their existence to anyone who has already accepted them. If there is anyone who can ask anything of the Christian, it is the Christian himself. The conclusion is that if I allowed myself at the end of this statement to demand of you certain duties, these could only be duties that it is essential to ask of any man today, whether he is a Christian or not" (Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, pg. 69). In this same set of remarks, he also states that he "shall never start from the presupposition that Christian truth is illusory," even though he could not himself accept it (ibid).

I want Being, that is, what Camus' fellow North African, whose liturgical memorial is tomorrow (his mother's- St. Monica- is today), St. Augustine, called the life that is truly life! This requires passionate engagement. Even more it requires Christ risen from the dead! My dear Camus understood this quite well.

Having utterly failed at coherently tying this in- I love his novel Happy Death. To over think it to the point of risking getting my ass kicked, I think punk rock was an attempt to re-establish the priority of experience.

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