Thursday, February 28, 2008

Exhausting the Well

Sometimes exhaustion just about sums things up.  Often inspiration, that elusive and much invoked writer's source of ideas, is singularly lacking.  These words are merely wrestling with each other on this page to catch a few stray thoughts and attempt to shape them into some meaningful formation.  That, I suppose is the philosopher's plight, if not that particularly of the creative writer, that he pushes and pushes his questions as far as they can go.  When he can go no further what is left for him to do?  It often seems to me that collapsing in some state of mental exhaustion is his only option.  Constant questioning, which true authentic philosophy is, does like the proverbial drip upon the stone, wear its object down or at least wear a good groove in its surface.

Julia Kristeva (born 1941), the Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic, novelist, feminist and psychoanalyst among other designations, who can be seen as straddling the structuralist and post-structuralist movements in continental philosophy, favours a subject always "in process" or "in crisis." In this way, she contributes to the post-structuralist critique of essentialized structures, whilst preserving the teachings of psychoanalysis.  She says that we all suffer from the malady of existence, or from the pain or pathology of living or being.  In other words she argues that we suffer from hurt and confusion in virtue of being born human.  The Irish dramatist, Brian Friel, says rather philosophically and indeed with positive sentiments that such "confusion is not an ignoble condition."  Indeed it is not.  A friend of mine who gave the funeral oration for his father described this experience as "ennobling."  I agree heartily with him.  I have given several eulogies, the most notable of which was one for a work colleague and friend, Mr Brendan Leahy, R.I.P.  I, too, found so doing ennobling and enriching if at one and the same time confusing.  I like Richard Kearney's summation of Kristeva's contribution to the sense of confusion left in philosophy's wake.  I'll quote him rather extensively here as I feel it is worthwhile to ponder.

...Kristeva who is a philosophical psychoanalyst, maintains that there are three ways of dealing with the "melancholic imagination", as she calls is, with our sense of separation and pain and want and lack, and they are: art, psychoanalysis or religionUltimately philosophy does not provide the answers.  Philosophy gets you to question and then leads you to the limits of what can and cannot be answered; but when you reach that limit, art, psychoanalysis and religion take over; psychoanalysis at the level of the unconscious, art at the level of aesthetic experience and imagination which goes deeper than philosophical reason and religion and faith.  Some choose one of those three, some people a combination of all three, some people none of them - they just remain neurotic...  (The Irish Soul In Dialogue, Stephen J. Costello, ed., The Liffey Press, Dublin, 2001, 142.)

Tonight I feel exhausted, my mind frazzled by sheer tiredness, my spirit sapped of any inspiration, my heart sore. Truly with Kristeva the subject of my being, my soul (my word) is "in process" or "in crisis."  Accordingly it is content to be so, to rest, indeed to sleep in confusion; to leave such process and crisis open to the possible suggestions from the dream world of our great, often untapped, unconscious depths.

Above I have uploaded a picture of me at an old disused "dry well" in Sienna, Tuscany, Italy, July 2006.

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