Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-10-24 - 6:27 a.m.
I half watched the programme about Hardy on Sunday night on ITV and registered his poem – Lyonesse - which made me think of the Plath poem with the same title from October 1962 and so I dug it out and started to ferret in various commentaries.
In her poem the mythical country has sunk into the atlantic and there is a question about whether god is implicated and whether the inhabitants have gone to heaven. The inhabitants seem to have deluded themselves – believing that god in some way takes an interest in what has become of them - possibly they think that they are in some kind of heaven and god has seen to it that they have arrived there.
The truth is other. God’s mind is a tabula rasa – a white gape. He is in a cage of ether and a cage of stars. He is like a caged animal and he certainly doesn’t care about Lyonians – maybe he thinks their plight is rather funny. He is a god who ‘has too many wars’.
I’d never really thought much of this poem but now it comes off the page like a rocket. A whole people who might have thought themselves in some way saved being abandoned on a whim by a powerful being in a cage with elemental instincts and reactions. I couldn’t say that it’s a great poem but it’s something to conjour an image-set that suddenly reads and grasps an unforeseen situation 40 years on.
Its like Mystic in some ways – a poem I like a great deal. Mystic also impugns religious practice for its deluded ordinariness. Remembering Mystic I went back to the sublime of the small – in the light of the chinese room of dog feelings. There s a way of thinking about the vision of these poems – Mystic and Lyonesse – that reflects anxiety over the metaphysical state we are in. It’s the anxiety that fuelled H G Wells’ novella The Island of Dr Moreau.
In the sublime of the small, I was trying to suggest that this anxiety is indeed a new kind of sublime – but it’s a sublime that extends within us and is triggered by small internal events which show that we are creatures of alien scientific processes. Plath projects this inner animalness onto god and implies that it leads him into too many wars. Sometimes we are overwhelmed at small evidences from inside that we are inner animals – you can certainly find hints of this way of thinking in Miss M. It’s a kind of recurrent nightmare for our current condition.
My conceit is that this metaphysical angle is also in minimalism – which is why it mixes the small – say small algorithms which unfold – with big structures – showing how little schema have grand consequences. There ‘s also something of Lenin in the metaphysics – Lenin acting in the belief that the science of history is behind him.
I think I have a new performance piece –if I do I will dedicate it to Nick Brown. It is a sequence of harmonies, the like of which I have written quite a lot here and the harmonies are algorithmic so they cycle but not too obviously. Across the harmonies a figure develops which is played in octaves on two synth patches – one a bass – maybe the bass deviates in an unspecified rather erratic way some of the time. Then there is a solo voice which could be flute or Dhorn – I played it this morning on both and found it very very absorbing – which is why I think its performable.
I have been working most of the day on the job before the current job. Its one of those things where you redraft part of the work and people say they like it so much that they would like more of the original redrafted. There s a limit to how far this ought to be taken because the core of it is purely factual and I can’t rewrite the existing facts into facts that would have been nice but maybe didn’t actually happen. So far I have rewritten chapters 1 2 3 5 and 6 – 4 has the facts.
Laurence has mailed from Rome saying what fun it is. I have just turned down a trip to Lower Saxonny next week – simply because we have booked to see Glyndbourne do the Turn of the Screw – in Woking of all places. I also talked to Paul Bell who has been in Paris. Keith is in Cardiff and I booked to go there on Wednesday in pursuit of a uk technology platform.
The BS book has arrived – its hard work – but you have to admire his ambition and also his insight in going back to Aristotle in trying to get a grand overview of technology and society. In fact as I begin to see the shape of it, the scale of the undertaking begins to emerge and it is breathtaking. When I was at Sussex I studied a French theorist called Jacques Ellul who was a Christian existentialist anti-technocrat – quite intelligible by their standards – and I can see that BS is in that tradition.
Unfortunately he also picks up on some of the hardest reads of the 20th century, for example Heidegger. BS doesn’t let him off the hook – his flirtation with Nazism is seen as being fundamental and it is because both H and the Nazis both had the wrong philosophy of technology – talk about playing for high stakes. BS also draws on Husserl and Derrida, neither of whom are amongst my favourites and both of whom I d rather put in a box and leave alone.
In the broadest of terms BS seems to be saying a) we don’t have a theory of technology and we need one b) to get a theory of technology you need a theory of man c) to get a theory of man you need to go back to Rousseau. I totally agree with a) and I can go along with b). I have trouble with c) but that could either be my own fault or it may an excess of chauvinism.
I have learned the hard way that to make progress with authors like this you need to take the original text in extremely small chunks and consume it with very large quantities of commentary, Fortunately last night I found a decent english commentary.
Here ‘s some of the commentary: Organized inorganic matter is matter which transforms itself in time as technical object. Whilst in time, its transformations, however, are the condition of the human temporalization of time. In this sense, matter is constitutive of temporality. And this, in an explicitly historical sense: each ‘time’ matter undergoes radical evolution, the temporalization of time changes.
This comes from http://tekhnema.free.fr/2Beardsworth.htm
If this is the simplified english version you can imagine what the original is like. But you also begin to get the drift – we have a technology system and at any historical period the technology system underpins how we manage temporality. So for example we used to write in diaries with biros and now we write diaries on blogs; at the beginning of civilization people made marks on clay tablets. This means the technology system has a strategic determination of who we are and how we remember in any historical phase.
Budd and Martyn today – the former especially – also the mid 80s Prince vids.