6 March 2002 the end of human life

to Alan Sondheim and everyone:

re this line of his posting titled Of Coinin a poetics discussion list:

We live within the horizon of universal apocalypse

which reminds me of somethings I underlined recently (in Leo Strauss and Nietzscheby Laurence Lampert, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London 1996, page 182):

Nietzsche speaks:

...And if the whole of humanity is destined to die out - and who dares doubt that? - so the goal is set ... to grow together in one and in common that it sets out as a whole to meet its coming demise...

(originally from Richard Wagner in Bayreuth4 end)

...which puts everything into a different perspective, does it not? - affects each of us, profoundly, and affects all ideas...

and then from page 183 of Lampert's book, Nietzsche sings:
...love for life as it is becomes the desire that life be eternally what it is, that our paradise of the imperfect eternally return just as it is.

(from the songs that close part 3 of Thus Spoke Zarathrustra)

and on page 181 of his book Laurence Lampert speaks lines from Wallace Stevens' poem The poems of our climate... from which I select:
Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow...

while Laurence emphasises this line:

The imperfect is our paradise.

(but he speaks it very quietly)

...and then I underlined Lampert's astonishing statement,, on page 181:
"what religions are good for" ...
What they are simply indispensable for, is the structuring poetry of everyday life, that web of beliefs and values lived spontaneously by any and every human community as its testament of the useful, the good, and the holy.

...which he seems to ascribe to Nietszche! (though not those words)

...and now, in the presence and hearing of these quotations, from Sondheim to Nietzsche, I sense that a belief in progress is indeed no longer timely, that a belief in religion is no longer irrelevant, nor is religion Man's worst invention (Marcel Duchamp), (if it is a post-religion - not one of the failed ones) and that 'the poetry of everything' is perhaps more relevant than is any of this? ...

...at which I imagine Percy Bysshe Shelly applauding, and restating his Defence of Poetryin the distance among the unacknowledged legislators of mankind

...as I fall into the deepest water, beneath politics, but breathing, and writing these words I hope without fanaticism...

...But Alan, and Laurence, and Friedrich, and everyone, I cannot quite believe in any apocalypse, or creation myth, or any other such words or categories, because, as many people have pointed out, and as even J R R Tolkien has:
By ... naming things and describing them, you are only inventing your own terms about them. And just as speech is an invention about objects and ideas so myth is an invention about truth

(ascribed to Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter in J R R Tolkien, a biography, George Allen and Unwin, London 1989, page 151).

And lastly (in this disease of quotations that you have provoked, Alan) there is a remark of the painter Francis Bacon that I remember (perhaps imperfectly) from a radio interview:
I am an optimist, but so far I've not found anything to be optimistic about!

with good wishes despite everything from all of us to all of us in this less than eternity beyond theory beyond carnations or not not!

john chris

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© 2002 john chris jones

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