An Untimely Meditation

January 1, 2011

Nietzsche’s essay on the value of history is a sermon preached directly to my heart. I gorge on its sixty pages with a desperate hunger for ascesis. The scholarship of this reading becomes a spiritual exercise that indicts me and my hypertrophied virtues of so-called scholarship. Perhaps through this knowledge of how my life relates to the search for knowledge, I can upset the scales once again in favour of life.

I am a model of the prematurely grey-bearded youth, made soft and pliable by appreciating and doubting every point of view, hating little, loving less, overdosed on self-aware irony, homeless, melancholic, passive, stunted, withered by immersion in work, paralysed by an excess of historicality. I am detached from tradition and community, religious or familial or artistic or intentional, set apart and privileged yet dangerously unsettled by my cosmopolitan wandering. Life and action have become subordinated to a search for knowledge of otherness, “the repulsive spectacle of a blind rage for collecting, a restless raking together of everything that has ever existed.” Given the depth of my appetite and the infinitude of the archive, this quest has produced a disorganised mound of texts and notes and lists, a muddle of ink and pixels peppered with my decaying leavings. Now a nauseated husk loiters over a laptop and flits between documents. How dismal, to be bewildered by my own array of projects. To collapse under the weight of unfinished library excursions. How I hate those rows of unread books. How I hate my weakness before their glare. How I loathe this fucking brain parasite and the degenerate creature it has made of me.

This single-minded pursuit has strengthened only the most self-serving of instincts. It has overpowered what is true in my life, blindly mutilated it to the brink of irreversible destruction. It has produced a detachment akin to sociopathy. I am too often captivated, too easily paralysed, too far disconnected. I have nothing of my own, only the scraps I have picked up from the past yet don’t dare to claim or arrange. I lack a signature.

I must reinstate the priority of life. I must take this leech and use it for medicine. I must reassert myself upon my objects of study. My work must instruct and invigorate. I must reground my desire and will, reorient my activity, restore the coherence and vitality of my own experiences. I must reconnect inside and outside. I must accept forgetting, even seek to forget, to know how and when, what to keep and lose, how to scab and heal. I must confront my inheritance. I must draw a horizon and inhabit it fully, learn to accept its limits, its groundedness and continuity, to treasure the world it demarcates. I must recognise and choose those I love and act in their favour. I must implant new habits and instincts. I must relearn proportion and measure. I must reforge myself, intensify my plastic power. I must engender life.

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