Friday, January 07, 2005

The Garden State soundtrack has become a fixture in the coffeeshops of Ithaca. I often hear it at Gimme! and they seem to have it on continuous repeat here at Juna's on the Commons. Is this true everywhere? Saw The Life Aquatic last night and thought it a gorgeous trainwreck, kind of similar to I [Heart] Huckabees. What a great soundtrack, though—Portugeuse Bowie! I may have to pick that up.

Fallen, as it were, back into Heidegger today—trying to better crystalize the pastoral strain in his thought. One of his more important verbs is tarrying [verweilen], a state somewhat similar to the Stimmung of disinterestedness Kant saw as key to aesthetic judgment. When we tarry with something we are concerned solely with "how it looks"—that is, its surface facticity, its Being-in-the-world with emphasis on in-the-world, with us. Tarrying is associated with comfort and recreation (he gives us the Greek for these on page 138 of Being and Time) and opposed to "the world of work": it is made possible by care (Sorge) set free as circumpsection (Umsicht) or looking. The key passage is on page 172, right after the striking phrase "the lust of the eyes" (Augenlust?):
Being-in-the-world is proximally absorbed in the world of concern. This concern is guided by circumspection, which discovers the ready-to-hand and preserves it as thus discovered. Whenever we have something to contribute or perform, circumspection gives us the route for proceeding with it, the means of carrying it out, the right opportunity, the appropriate moment. Concern may come to rest in the sense of one's interrupting the performance and taking a rest, or it can do so by getting it finished. In rest, concern does not disappear; circumspection, however, becomes free and is no longer bound to the world of work. When we take a rest, care subsides into circumspection which has been set free. In the world of work, circumspective discovering has de-severing as the character of its Being. When circumspection has been set free, there is no longer anything ready-to-hand which we must concern ourselves with bringing close [the ready-to-hand is the world of equipment and productive activity]. But, as essentially de-severant, this circumspection provides itself with new possibilities of de-severing. this means that it tends away from what is most closely ready-to-hand, and into a far and alien world. Care becomes concern with the possibilities of seing the "world" merely as it looks while one tarries and takes a rest. Dasein seeks what is far away simply in order to bring it close to itself in the way it looks. Dasein lets itself be carried along [mitnehmen] solely by the looks of the world; in this kind of Being, it concerns itself with becoming rid of itself as Being-in-the-world and rid of its Being alongside that which, in the closest everyday manner, is ready-to-hand.
That's basically phenomenology: tarrying becomes the mode or mood in which bracketing can take place. This is what Heidegger elsewhere calls "the arduous path of appearance" that was so important to George Oppen ("That they are there!"). It's arduous because taking a rest from the everyday world of production is actually a kind of sacrifice, akin to the sacrifice made by those who keep the Jewish shabbat: it takes you out of the world, it instills difference. The progress of difference from primordial authenticity to hospitality for the stranger is the progress of the twentieth century, in my opinion, though it's suffered many setbacks. The shift from Heidegger to Levinas mimics the shift from modernism to postmodernism, if we conceive of the latter as an ethical project (which most people don't). Hm. My mind insists on patterns and resemblances that are probably naive; I'm probably redescribing the described here. Well, it's only a dissertation: a contribution to knowledge, to my knowledge, which is bound to make me a better teacher at least. Anything truly new there is just a happy accident. I've always suspected that however much I enjoy scholarship, it's poetry where I'll make my mark or fail to. Language is smarter than I am, after all, and poetry puts that hierarchy in its proper place, whereas in criticism I'm trying to master language and success is measured by the margin of my failure. What saves the project is in fact the happiness of accident, or just plain fun. It's fun to put your thoughts in order, whatever Mussolini might say. It's fun to discover that you have them: again, "That they are there!" Yip.

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