… the human being has inevitably, a futuristic constitution; that is to say, he lives primarily in the future and for the future…. man is a being of two aspects: on the one hand, he is what he really is; on the other, he has ideas of himself which coincide more or less with his authentic reality. Evidently, our ideas, preferences, desires cannot annul our true being, but they can complicate and modify it. The ancient and the modern are both concerned about the future but the former submits the future to a past regime, whereas we grant more autonomy to the future, to the new as such. This antagonism, not in being, but in preferring, justifies us qualifying the modern as a futurist and the ancient as an archaiser…. Already at the end of the XIVth Century stress was beginning to be laid on modernity, precisely in those questions which most keenly interested the period, and one hears, for example, of devotio moderna, a kind of vanguard of “mystical theology.”

– José Ortega y Gasset. Revolt of the Masses. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993: 173.

You cross Europe, the continents, airplanes, faxes, telephones, courier to the four corners of the world…. One cannot sell the same merchandise all the time. One must invent, read, imagine. Because without that, they are not content; they say that you are taking them for fools. Or even declining. You know, Marie, she has nothing more to say. Fit for the trash can.

Insomuch as things go smoothly, there is a hostess (I see her, that’s her, I’m sure) or an assistant who comes to take you to the airport in a taxi. A half-hour at the hotel to refresh yourself. Sometimes it’s been a ten-hour nonstop flight, eh? A cocktail and dinner, then the conference and a drink. Or perhaps a cocktail and the conference, then the dinner. Everywhere the same, in all the cities of the world. Sometimes they are apprehensive, sometimes enthusiastic, or a little wicked. Sometimes, also, a real friend. You are always smiling, Marie, even if you are sweetly telling sinister stories in your talk…. It’s a small world, gestures of the hand, a brief sadness, the suitcases pass through the security checks. Hi, you’re Keiko? Thanks for coming to fetch me. Is Keiko a little stream of cultural capital, she too? Evidently…. The taxi speeds along like a missile through the highways and interchanges. A stream of capital. We arrive; I am going to have my half-hour. The room is on the 58th floor and everything works.

In the shower Marie remembers that their teacher explained to them that as for capital, it’s not only that time is money, but that money is time as well. It’s the good stream that arrives the quickest. An excellent stream arrives scarcely having left. On radio and on television they call that real time, or live time. But the best feeling is to anticipate the arrival of the stream, its ‘realization,’ before it arrives. That’s the currency of credit. That’s stockpiled time, for dispensing before real time. One gains time, one borrows it. You must buy a word processor. It’s incredible, the time one gains. But what about writing? You write more quickly, the page formats, notes, corrections, you see?

Poor Maris, you’ll never get rich, you love scribbling on your paper, too bad. You are a little, sluggish stream. You will be submerged by faster little streams of expeditious culture…. true streams are subterranean; they flow slowly beneath the earth, they make sheets of water and springs. One doesn’t know where they are going to exit. And their speed is unknown. How would I like to be a subterranean pocket of black water, cold and immobile.

– Excerpt from “Marie in Japan” by Jean-François Lyotard  (translated by David Palumbo-Liu) in Palumbo-Liu, David, and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (eds.). Streams of Cultural Capital: Transnational Cultural Studies. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1997, pp. 47-49.

“… Colouring the world is always a means of denying it (and perhaps one should at this point begin an inquiry into the use of colour in the cinema). Deprived of all substance, driven back into colour, disembodied through the very glamour of the ‘images’, the Orient is ready for the spiriting away which the film [The Lost Continent] has in store for it. … our studio anthropologists will have no trouble postulating an Orient which is exotic in form, while being in reality profoundly similar to the Occident, at least the Occident of spiritualist thought. Orientals have religions of their own? Never mind, these variations matter very little compared to the basic unity of idealism. . . . “It is this same ‘all things are alike’ which is hinted at by our ethnographers: East and West, it is all the same, they are only different in hue, their essential core is identical. . . . If we are concerned with fishermen, it is not at all the type of fishing which I shown; but rather, drowned in a garish sunset and eternalized, a romantic essence of the fisherman, presented not as a workman dependent by his technique and his gains on a definite society, but rather as the theme of an eternal condition, in which man is far away and exposed to the perils of the sea, and woman weeping and praying at home. . . . All told, exoticism here shows well its fundamental justification, which is to deny any identification by History. By appending to Eastern realities a few positive signs which mean ‘native’, one reliably immunizes them against any responsible content. A little ‘situating’, as superficial as possible, supplies the necessary alibi and exempts one from accounting for the situation in depth. Faced with anything foreign, the Established Order knows only two types of behaviour, which are both mutilating: either to acknowledge it as a Punch and Judy show, or to defuse it as a pure reflection of the West. In any case, the main thing is to deprive it of its history. We see therefore that the ‘beautiful pictures’ of The Lost Continent cannot be innocent …. ”

From “The Lost Continent” in Roland Barthes, Mythologies [US ed. 1972], pp. 94-96.

Making Good Speed

Making Good Speed. Everyone tells us to deal with things quickly, but they also tell us to hold back – not to be impetuous, nor yet to wait too long. A missile linked with a sucking-fish can demonstrate this for you: the fish is slow, but arrows fly fast when they leave the shooter’s hand.

– From Andrea Alciato’s Livret des Emblemes (1536) in the French Emblems at Glasgow Collection

The media are the privileged instruments of the Union. They alone are able to control the social chaos of American panhumanity; they are the guarantors of a certain civic cohesion, and thus of civl security itself. Inversely … American democracy will make no real efforts to integrate its ethnic minorities, its factions, into a constant civilization, into a truly community-oriented way of life. For segregation is what sanctions the system’s hegemony of the media, on which rests the nature of the American State’s authority.

Paul Virilio, “Essay on Dromology” in Speed and Politics, pp. 107-108.

… the World is not a total present, like a circle in space — but a manifest Spiral or infinite Helix in time & motion — proved by Geology”

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Entry 27 August 1823, Notebook 20 (British Library Add. ms. 47517) cited in H. J. Jackson, “‘Turning and Turning’: Coleridge on Our Knowledge of the External World” PMLA, Vol. 101, No. 5. (Oct., 1986), pp. 851.

… One must have loved religion and art like mother and nurse — otherwise one cannot grow wise. But one must be able to see beyond them, outgrow them; if one remains under their spell, one does not understand them. You must likewise be on familiar terms with history and with playing the cautious game with the scales “on one hand — on the other hand”. Turn back and trace the footsteps of mankind as it made its great sorrowful way through the desert of the past: thus you will learn the surest way whither all later mankind can and may not go again. And by your desiring with all your strength to see ahead how the knot of the future is going to be tied, your own life will acquire the value of an instrument and means of knowledge. You have it in your hands to achieve the absorption of all you experience — your experiments, errors, faults, delusions, passions, your love and your hope — into your goal without remainder. This goal is yourself to become a necessary chain of rings of culture and from this necessity to recognize the necessity inherent in the course of culture in general. When your gaze has become strong enough to see to the bottom of the dark well of your nature and your knowledge, perhaps you will also behold in its mirror the distant constellations of future cultures…

– Excerpt of aphorism 292 in Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).

The strengths and weaknesses of spiritual productivity depend far less on inherited talent than they do on the power of expansion bestowed with it. Most educated young people of thirty go back at around this early solstice of their lives and are from then on disinclined to make new spiritual changes. That is why an ongrowing culture at once needs for its salvation another new generation, which in its turn, however, does not get very far: for to overtake the culture of his father the son must consume almost all the inherited energy the father himself possessed at the stage of life at which he begot his son; it is with the little bit left over that he goes past him (for, because the path here being traversed a second time, progress is a little quicker; the son does not need to expend quite as much strength on learning what the father has learned). Men possessed of great power of expansion, such as Goethe for example, traverse as much as four generations would hardly be able to equal; for that reason, however, they advance ahead too quickly, so that other men overtake them only in the next century, and perhaps do not even completely overtake them, because the chain of culture, the smooth consistency of its evolution, is frequently weakened and interrupted. — The ordinary phases of spiritual culture attained to in the course of history are overtaken more and more speedily. Men at present begin by entering the ream of culture as children affected religiously and these sensations are at their liveliest in perhaps their tenth year, then pass over into feebler forms (pantheism) while at the same time drawing closer to science; they put God, immortality and the like quite behind them but fall prey to the charms of a metaphysical philosophy. At last they find this too unbelievable; art, on the other hand, seems to promise them more and more, so that for a time metaphysics continues just to survive transformed into art or as a mood of artistic transfiguration. But the scientific sense grows more and more imperious and leads the man away to natural science and history and especially to the most rigorous methods of acquiring knowledge while art it accorded an even gentler and more modest significance. All this nowadays usually takes place within a man’s first thirty years. It is the recapitulation of a curriculum at which mankind has been labouring for perhaps thirty thousand years.

– Aphorism 272 of Neitzsche’s Human, All Too Human (1878), R.J. Hollingdale trans. (Cambridge: 1996).

The French Revolution may be regarded as the greatest and most remarkable phenomenon in the history of states, as an almost universal earthquake, an immeasurable flood in the political world; or as a prototype of revolutions, as the absolute revolution per se. These are the usual points of view. But one can also see it as the center and apex of the French national character, where all its paradoxes are thrust together; as the most frightful grotesque of the age, where the most profound prejudices and their most brutal punishments are mixed up in a fearful chaos and woven as bizarrely as possible into a monstrous human tragicomedy. Now only a few isolated traces remain that might serve to develop these historical insights.

– Friedrich Schlegel’s fragment no. 424 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

Romantic poetry is a progressive, universal poetry. Its aim isn’t merely to reunite all the separate species of poetry and put poetry in touch with philosophy and rhetoric. It tries to and should mix and fuse poetry and prose, inspiration and criticism, the poetry of art and the poetry of nature; and make poetry lively and sociable, and life and society poetical; poeticize wit and fill and saturate the forms of art with every kind of good, solid matter for instruction, and animate them with the pulsations of humor. It embraces everything that is purely poetic, from the greatest systems of art, containing within them still further systems, to the sigh, the kiss that the poetizing child breathes forth in artless song. It can so lose itself in what it describes that one might believe it exists only to characterize poetical individuals of all sorts; and yet there is still no form so fit for expressing the entire spirit of the author: so that many artists who started out to write only a novel ended u by providing us with portraits of themselves…. Romantic poetry is in the arts what wit is in philosophy, and what society and sociability, friendship and love are in life. Other kinds of poetry are finished and are now capable of being fully analyzed. The romantic kind of poetry is still in the state of becoming; that, in fact, is its real essence: that it should forever be becoming and never be perfected. It can be exhausted by no theory and only a divinatory criticism would dare try to characterize its ideal. It alone is infinite, just as it alone is free; and it recognizes as its first commandment that the will of the poet can tolerate no law above itself. The romantic kind of poetry is the only one that is more than a kind, that is, as it were, poetry itself: for in a certain sense all poetry is or should be romantic.

– excerpt of Friedrich Schlegel’s fragment no. 116 from the Athenaeum Fragments (1798), trans. by Peter Firchow.

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