Nadir’s ramblings at the start of 2024

(version originale en français)

Enchanting the world
“And yet life is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?” says Leopardi’s passer-by, who thinks otherwise and ironically questions the almanac seller.

“Everyone knows that,” replies the almanac seller.

As we enter a new year, which we always hope will be better than the last, let’s look to the present and not allow ourselves to be led astray by nostalgia for the past and expectations for the future.

In Exercices spirituels, Pierre Hadot implores us to rediscover a taste for the present:

For Goethe, the Ancients knew how to live in the present, in the “health of the moment”, instead of losing themselves, like the Moderns, in nostalgia for the past and the future.

It’s not that Goethe is unaware that the present moments of everyday life can become mired in the trivial, the ordinary, the banal or the mediocre, which is the great danger that threatens man. The vulgar and trivial life is a life without ideals, a routine dominated by habit, worries and selfish interests, which hide the splendour of existence from us. A life consumed by insatiable desires: wealth, glory, accumulation, notiriety…

How can we return to the enchantment of a fresh look at life and the world?

Lying on the ground, with our heads in the clouds, awakened by the song of the birds and roosters that chirp in the morning, our eyes still half-closed, as on the first day, and dazzled by the landscape of the unadorned earth before us. This brings us to Hartmut Rosa’s thoughts on Resonance: according to him, contemporary alienation is linked to the pressure of time on our lives and our submission to a logic of social acceleration.

How often do we hear that people no longer have the time to sit still, to look at a landscape, a street, a person, to nurture relationships, to open texts sent to them, to write a letter, to cultivate themselves? But, in his view, the responses to the phenomenon of acceleration offered by the branded concept of slowness (slow food, slow life, meditation retreats, mountain walks, etc.) are not credible socio-political alternatives to the capitalist time-regime.

Hence the work being done on the concept of Resonance: “human beings, in addition to the need for reconaissance, need to enter into a relationship with the world, to find a non-alienated means of acting in the world”. It’s that utopian place, in the sense of the search for a beneficial island, where the things, places and people we encounter touch us, grab us, where the world goes from silent to singing.

Marx called this phenomenon alienation, Weber called it disenchantment, Lukács called it reification, and Camus saw it as the birth of the absurd. Paradoxically, the implicit injunction to connect and to be transparent, which has become unhealthy, via the permanent availability to the permanent intrusion of social networks and the exhibition of our existences, ends up making the world virtual, and then mute, and brings us dangerously close to individual and ecological burn-out.

In The Golden Pavilion, the Japanese writer Mishima said: “What characterises hell is that you can see everything, down to the smallest thing, with the utmost clarity, and this in the middle of an inky night”. He agreed with his colleague Tanizaki: “As far as I’m concerned, I’d like to try to revive, in the realm of literature at least, this universe of shadows that we are in the process of dispelling. I would like to widen the canopy of this edifice, which is called ‘literature’, darken its walls, plunge into the shadows what is too visible and strip its interior of all superfluous ornamentation.”

And what if we paid attention to the small, microscopic things that make up beauty and that often remain foreign to us?

Lynn Margulis & Dorion Sagan remind us in “L’univers bactériel” that there can be no life without symbiosis. When humans look at life on Earth, they think that they are its rulers and that they are the most advanced form of life on the planet.

The vision of evolution as a bloody and permanent competition between individuals and species – a frequent distortion of the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest” – is dissolving in favour of a new vision of continuous cooperation, strong interconnection and mutual dependence between life forms. Life has not conquered the planet by force and combat, it has woven its web. Life forms have multiplied and become more complex by co-opting others, rather than simply killing them.

Our stereotyped thinking has moved away from the heart, instincts and spirit. The slogans and managerial discourse that have crept into our ways of communicating have rendered language inexpressive by petrifying it in a sterile codification.

The excessive specialisation of our world, divided into watertight disciplines, has led to the fragmentation of knowledge.

In the dialogue between the passer-by and the almanac merchant, Leopardi reveals a timid love of life and a discreet expectation of happiness. I would say that we need to go further and advocate an effusive love of life and a discreet search for happiness. We also need to add a touch of Don Quixote madness to catch a glimpse of luminous beauty. For, as Clément Rosset says, “joy is indeed only madness, and every joyful person is, in his own way, an unreasonable person… In the absence of any credible reason to live, joy is the only thing that holds, because it dispenses with all reason”. Let’s cultivate joy, which unlike happiness, which depends on context, is a timeless and unreasonable state of mind.

We wish you a new year 2024 plenty of Joy!

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