Blue Christmas, A Video Essay from The Criterion Collection

“A Free Man’s Worship” — Bertrand Russell

“A Free Man’s Worship” by Bertrand Russell

TO Dr. Faustus in his study Mephistopheles told the history of the Creation, saying:

“The endless praises of the choirs of angels had begun to grow wearisome; for, after all, did he not deserve their praise? Had he not given them endless joy? Would it not be more amusing to obtain undeserved praise, to be worshiped by beings whom he tortured? He smiled inwardly, and resolved that the great drama should be performed.

“For countless ages the hot nebula whirled aimlessly through space. At length it began to take shape, the central mass threw off planets, the planets cooled, boiling seas and burning mountains heaved and tossed, from black masses of cloud hot sheets of rain deluged the barely solid crust. And now the first germ of life grew in the depths of the ocean, and developed rapidly in the fructifying warmth into vast forest trees, huge ferns springing from the damp mould, sea monsters breeding, fighting, devouring, and passing away. And from the monsters, as the play unfolded itself, Man was born, with the power of thought, the knowledge of good and evil, and the cruel thirst for worship. And Man saw that all is passing in this mad, monstrous world, that all is struggling to snatch, at any cost, a few brief moments of life before Death’s inexorable decree. And Man said: ‘There is a hidden purpose, could we but fathom it, and the purpose is good; for we must reverence something, and in the visible world there is nothing worthy of reverence.’ And Man stood aside from the struggle, resolving that God intended harmony to come out of chaos by human efforts. And when he followed the instincts which God had transmitted to him from his ancestry of beasts of prey, he called it Sin, and asked God to forgive him. But he doubted whether he could be justly forgiven, until he invented a divine Plan by which God’s wrath was to have been appeased. And seeing the present was bad, he made it yet worse, that thereby the future might be better. And he gave God thanks for the strength that enabled him to forgo even the joys that were possible. And God smiled; and when he saw that Man had become perfect in renunciation and worship, he sent another sun through the sky, which crashed into Man’s sun; and all returned again to nebula.

“‘Yes,’ he murmured, ‘it was a good play; I will have it performed again.'” Continue reading ““A Free Man’s Worship” — Bertrand Russell”

What if a demon (Nietzsche)

The greatest weight.— What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?… Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

–From Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.

 

“Sredni Vashtar” — Saki

“Sredni Vashtar” by Saki

Conradin was ten years old, and the doctor had pronounced his professional opinion that the boy would not live another five years. The doctor was silky and effete, and counted for little, but his opinion was endorsed by Mrs. de Ropp, who counted for nearly everything. Mrs. De Ropp was Conradin’s cousin and guardian, and in his eyes she represented those three-fifths of the world that are necessary and disagreeable and real; the other two-fifths, in perpetual antagonism to the foregoing, were summed up in himself and his imagination. One of these days Conradin supposed he would succumb to the mastering pressure of wearisome necessary things—such as illnesses and coddling restrictions and drawn-out dullness. Without his imagination, which was rampant under the spur of loneliness, he would have succumbed long ago.

Mrs. de Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she might have been dimly aware that thwarting him “for his good” was a duty which she did not find particularly irksome. Conradin hated her with a desperate sincerity which he was perfectly able to mask. Such few pleasures as he could contrive for himself gained an added relish from the likelihood that they would be displeasing to his guardian, and from the realm of his imagination she was locked out–an unclean thing, which should find no entrance. Continue reading ““Sredni Vashtar” — Saki”

“Thoughts on Various Subjects” — Jonathan Swift

“Thoughts on Various Subjects” by Jonathan Swift (From The Battle of the Books)

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

Reflect on things past as wars, negotiations, factions, etc.  We enter so little into those interests, that we wonder how men could possibly be so busy and concerned for things so transitory; look on the present times, we find the same humour, yet wonder not at all.

A wise man endeavours, by considering all circumstances, to make conjectures and form conclusions; but the smallest accident intervening (and in the course of affairs it is impossible to foresee all) does often produce such turns and changes, that at last he is just as much in doubt of events as the most ignorant and inexperienced person.

Positiveness is a good quality for preachers and orators, because he that would obtrude his thoughts and reasons upon a multitude, will convince others the more, as he appears convinced himself.

How is it possible to expect that mankind will take advice, when they will not so much as take warning?

I forget whether Advice be among the lost things which Aristo says are to be found in the moon; that and Time ought to have been there.

No preacher is listened to but Time, which gives us the same train and turn of thought that older people have tried in vain to put into our heads before.

When we desire or solicit anything, our minds run wholly on the good side or circumstances of it; when it is obtained, our minds run wholly on the bad ones.

In a glass-house the workmen often fling in a small quantity of fresh coals, which seems to disturb the fire, but very much enlivens it.  This seems to allude to a gentle stirring of the passions, that the mind may not languish.

Religion seems to have grown an infant with age, and requires miracles to nurse it, as it had in its infancy.

All fits of pleasure are balanced by an equal degree of pain or languor; it is like spending this year part of the next year’s revenue.

The latter part of a wise man’s life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices, and false opinions he had contracted in the former. Continue reading ““Thoughts on Various Subjects” — Jonathan Swift”

The Penguin Guide to Children and Hallucinogens

Children and hallucinogens

From Scarfolk Council, one of the finest sites I’ve seen in sometime. Their self-description:

Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. “Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay.” For more information please reread.

The site’s got this wonderfully weird Wickerman / Ballard / Prisoner vibe to it. Very cool stuff.

 

Deadly Virtues (Book Acquired, 3.01.2013)

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Deadly Virtues, a new mystery from Jo Bannister. Publishers Weekly review:

Stubborn morality and acid-tinged whimsy drive this superior stand-alone from British author Bannister (Liars All and eight other Brodie Farrell mysteries). Recovering mental patient Gabriel Ash looks pathetic and vulnerable as he rambles through the town of Norbold while talking to his dog. One day, at the local police station, where he’s recovering from a beating, Gabriel receives a cryptic message from a man who’s then killed by a crazed prisoner. Gabriel forces himself back into contact with normal humanity because he feels he ought to do something about the crime. Rookie policewoman Hazel Best is also dissatisfied with the official explanation of the tragedy. And so the three—the traumatized beating victim, the idealistic young cop, and the dog—begin sniffing under the pristine surface of the virtually crime-free town. They have no idea how dangerous good intentions can be. Bannister’s plotting is neat and her characterization smooth, with just enough irony to keep people from seeming ostentatiously noble