Quotations

A more public, digital equivalent of my old habit of keeping some favorite excerpts organized in one place, and with names withheld so as to reduce distraction and motivate engagement with the ideas and language rather than the personages attached.

So the soul of immensity dwells in minutia. And in narrowest limits no limits inhere. What joy to discern the minute in infinity! The vast to perceive in the small, what divinity!
When I think about it, I sense an extreme delicacy in the feeling I got from stones worn away by the walking of fellow human beings. It’s hard to explain, but it’s probably a composite of minute discrepancies from stone to stone. Intuitively, I felt that the stones held a great amount of information. If I were able to input into my computer all the information coming from those stones, I’m sure it would freeze. I realized something then; although today’s society is said to be in a state of information overload, in fact it may not be an excess. It’s just an overflow of odd and fragmented information in the media. The amount of information in each fragment is in fact quite small. In this slew of half-baked information, isn’t the brain just oppressed? The stress on the brain isn’t because of quantity, but because of limited quality. Against the backdrop of the evolution of media and its powerful gathering of news material and data, all of the world’s happenings are trimmed like a lawn by a mower, with fragments of information flying about from place to place through the media like grass flies through the air. These broken pieces of information adhere to our tofu-like brain like spices sprinkled so thickly that they obscure the entire surface. For a moment, this makes us think we’re quite knowledgeable, but information tacked on the surface of the brain doesn’t amount to much when you add it all together. Conversely, the amount of information we receive through a sensual, pleasant experience via the soles of our feet is enormous. The human brain likes anything that entails a great amount of information. Its extensive capacity waits eagerly to perceive the world by completely exhausting its great receptive powers. That potential power, through, remains today in a state of extreme constriction and is a source of the information stress we’re all under.
…it is not the intelligence that is a filing cabinet; it is the filing cabinet that is an intelligence.
That in a blatter of rain, in the smell of an unaired room or of the first crackling brushwood fire in a cold grate: wherever, in short, we happen upon what our mind, having no use for it, had rejected, the last treasure that the past had in store, the richest, that which, when all our flow of tears seems to have dried at the source, can make us weep again. Outside us? Within us, rather, but hidden from our eyes in an oblivion more or less prolonged. It is thanks to this oblivion alone that we can from time to time recover the person that we were, place ourselves in relation to things as he was placed, suffer anew because we are no longer ourselves but he, and because he loved what now leaves us indifferent. In the broad daylight of our habitual memory the images of the past turn gradually pale and fade out of sight, nothing remains of them, we shall never recapture it. Or rather we should never recapture it had not a few words been carefully locked away in oblivion, just as an author deposits in the National Library a copy of a book which might otherwise become unobtainable.
The rationality we use to wrest ourselves free of nature becomes the instrumental reason that organizes all of human society. This is the ironic denouement of the history of enlightenment, a pattern of thought traceable to the very origins of human consciousness and culture. Even our most primitive systems of magic and mythology, for example, were originally attempts to anthropomorphize and thereby gain some measure of control over our natural surroundings. But as it grew in power and sophistication the Enlightenment gradually dismantled these anthropomorphic projections as well, until nature was fully disenchanted. The fully enlightened world is therefore also a fully administered world: nature presents itself to the modern subject as little more than a meaningless and fungible substratum upon which reason can thoughtlessly exercise its authority. But the triumph of unreflective reason locks us into gestures of fatalistic repetition that ironically resemble the myths reason aimed to destroy. The Enlightenment that once promised freedom as its highest ideal has ended by creating a human world in which freedom is little more than a counterfactual hope.
In most sciences one generation tears down what another has built, and what one has established, another undoes. In mathematics alone each generation adds a new story to the old structure.
Bene qui latuit bene vixit
We would do better to presume that in our universe, 'thinking' is much more diverse, even alien, than our own particular case. The real philosophical lessons of A.I. will have less to do with humans teaching machines how to think than with machines teaching humans a fuller and truer range of what thinking can be (and for that matter, what being human can be).
I have no explicit interest in criticality as a primary goal in art. I think this is better served in other forms, like writing a book or public speaking. Art's enduring radical potential, which has never gone away, is its capacity to portal you beyond yourself, expose you to new compositions of feelings, to confound you, to seduce you into seeing fertile perspectives that your pedestrian identity would not normally grant. When I look at art, I want to feel confusion and contradictory emotions, held together by its own energy. I want to see evidence of the artist obsessively trying to work out an inner argument with themselves, an argument whose answer is not already known to them in advance of making. To make something whose purpose is already known in advance, and which explores only the perspective of its predesign, is less art and more an exercise in propaganda (even if used to address an injustice). I fear that art dealing solely about issues of representation cannot escape becoming merely this. Aliveness is one paradigm to move around it all and tap into the energy and complexity present in life itself.