seven quintillion five quadrillion (andalus) wrote,
seven quintillion five quadrillion

A reading last Tuesday --- this short play is a loose adaptation of The Bacchae through absurdism (director described it as "like Beckett... for kids!"). I'm still editing it, but I'm curious as to what you all would think of it.
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Can't see a link.
I think most of the beginning will change. play.pdf
How did it change?
I haven't had a chance to go back to it yet, though I need to send in a new draft by the end of the month. (So I'd always appreciate your thoughts.)

But I started writing this a while back, and since then I've realized that idleness and restlessness are very different things. I started writing the play thinking that it was idleness I was writing about, or at least the knowledge that comes when you're very, very bored. But that wasn't it, that was already Beckett, et al. No, it's restlessness that I want to talk about --- not having time, having this brief moment in which to figure out everything all of it but no knowledge of how. That was already coming out in rehearsals, but the beginning I think needs to reflect that more, and faster, at least before the D character arrives and things get going.

Other things I should fix as well.
I thought the middle worked best, when everyone suddenly went Greek.

I couldn't quite tell if the scheme was supposed to be WfG leading to the rebirth of theater, but with anxiety about meaningless continuing to pop up through all the playtime doings, or the suggestion that that's more or less what caused it in the first place. Which is an effective ambiguity, but I'm not sure if it was presented as a clean one, so to speak. And by ending on Hamlet it's unclear whether at the end we're to have infinite Hamlets or whether something happens (what?) to drain desire to make belief away again.

Were you doing something with the "third actor => drama" turn in Aeschylus or whoever? Bishop fascinatingly conflates that with "wherever two or three are gathered in my name I am there" in a supremely underrated prose piece called "Primer Class." Basically suggests no one can buy any of these order schemes alone, and when alone with one other can only weep - authority comes with three, and with that you can do anything. Except that people wander off by themselves again eventually, and notice stuff, and stop buying it except when the apparatus reasserts itself. Not far from some of what you're arguing but she drags in civilization as a whole, or anyway everything about it intended to assuage anxiety about dissolution. She doesn't really buy boredom as a thing. For her, life is great except that your spine invariably explodes and your mother curses you for it while you're dying, which is a horrific knowledge that must be somehow put off without ever auite being out away - a complex, hydraulic system must be set up to tell the right number of slanted truths at the least unacceptable intervals in the most discrete languages. Different problem, though maybe not quite what you mean by restlessness?

Didn't quite grasp what the feminine had to do with the religio-theatrical explosion. The specifics, anyway. Felt like you were maybe playing with fire there, since this is meant for performance? Which can be fine if you know what you want to burn and are sure you won't be.
all of art/civilization blooming out of a failed attempt to cope with meaninglessness, faking our way through unsolvable problems to the point where the problem is forgotten and the faking is all. The unsolvable problem being existence, sure, but also the problem of arbitrariness: why this and not that, which on this stage is reduced down to gender. That's all that gets written on cast rundowns, two male, two female -- why? I haven't yet succeeded in making the arbitrariness of gender apparent --- all D is, after all, is not-A, and if the play were to restart then D would be in the place of A and the genders would be reversed --

and moreover the question of why do we identify with fictions, why do we suspend our disbelief, on one hand it's an important human way to learn and figure things out and become societies, on the other it's so close to the herd mentality, or the dangerous blindnessess of modern life. An action here played out physically against the doubting character, and after which self-awareness is lost and something is very, very wrong. And Hamlet being the ultimate emblem of the realization of the limits of play-acting, a character who has outgrown his play yet is still trapped inside it. He knows he does not have to be this thing he has become, and yet here he is, playing it out.

also the question of is there a cat.
I wonder if arbitrariness is a true problem, or just an attempt at a more impersonal version of what's overly personal even alone in the dark: the problem of not feeling we have what we need. Said thus it's shameful. But it's the only reason we'd ever hit the shuffle button, if one were provided. The button where everything's different when you wake up. The second chance.

Relatedly, that formulation dodges the more direct question of whether the world is intended. If unintended, isn't the problem solved, however obscure the mechanism? Things fell this way because they have to fall just one way at a time if they're things (i.e. stably related, though again perhaps obscurely) and of those ways possible none was preferable, because what's in charge lacks preferences. "Why" is a one-word question beg for God, applied at the macro level, where "by what cause" rather than "for what reason of a reasoning causer" is answerable by the summary "pretty much all of them." You're you because of damn near everything that ever happened before you. Which happenings are also why you don't have what you'd need to be ... whatever.

I'm with Bishop in that I think the move into existential concerns wasn't a Heideggerian one - look too closely at your skin and you fall through its cracks, that kind of thing. But instead it followed from misery. Proclaiming absurdity is an attempt at escape. It immediately becomes another torment, but only in the way that all escapes do - you start feeling the cost of committing to them. She has a line somewhere, I think in a poem about Buster Keaton, that goes (very roughly) like, "I don't see the absurdity everyone talks about; to me the world is a sort of paradise in which we work together, seriously." The bad parts of the picture send our eyes toward the frame in desperation. Or the texture of the paper.

Because there's everything to say, isn't there? What's between you and what you want is everything, and you need infinite help, ever more knowledge and encouragement. The "what you thought you wanted isn't what you really do" problem isn't even a real one, just one more complication: something is the thing I do want. Even if I wouldn't care at all to have it. If I'm destined to die on the journey there's still a best death, journey, I. The arbiter of what I am isn't the slightest bit arbitrary - to the eyes of WHAT I AM. Its absurd or arbitrary derivation doesn't cheapen what I love. It just makes it harder to find and to keep.
but to that part which asks why all of everything, the pseudo-gnostic part, what is the working paradise but something like an anthill, self-organized and deathly important, to ants, but not particularly so to anything else. To anything else, like an oncoming car, the loves of an ant are ant-loves, and the best death, journey, self of an ant is nothing at all. What I am is not what-I-am, goes the existentialist thingie (or, I guess, Platonic?), and what I want is what you want, demiurge, gene fairy, whatever. And the all that is lacks two things I want: meaning and control. Control in the sense of choice made freely outside of the gene fairy's sense of necessity (ideology?), Meaning in the sense of freely chosen actions attached to freely chosen desires.

Which would all be useless if alternatives were unimaginable. But are they?

I can't decide whether this schema or yours is the simplistic one.

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It takes a bit of privilege to think that happiness is the baseline and misery an aberration. If anything, Hamlet would say that to question is the proper role of man, while no one wants to be Polonius, thinking he has everything figured out. Society needs the blissfully blind, of course, but I don't think anyone's suggesting it's a role to be admired. But this sounds like the same old disagreement we've been having for years about the merits of contentment.

But anyway, in questioning Gods, we start understanding that they are entirely us, we made all the rules that we chafe against, and for reasons, even if we've forgotten them, except the rules we didn't make. And those ones we didn't make are the ones to figure out, to understand, to explain, to obsess over. And I think science helps us every more every day to make that region smaller and more compact --- five hundred years ago half the sky was an impersonal god, now it's too small to see with the naked eye, but still, still, still important to find and gaze upon.

Who called happiness the baseline? I think it may be for Hamlet, actually - for your guy, as read by you. Material and cultural privilege plus unacceptable injury equals rejecting life in toto, or anyway the danger of it. Hence his being a prince and all, and the stress on his being Wittenberg educated.

Desiring and enjoying are baselines, though, i.e. trying to get a lot and going forward on a bit here and there. You've been doing those all day, at whatever level of intensity. I assume Bishop meant that by "kind of paradise." Not far from Stevens' "unhappy people in a happy land," which even he at first rejects. That true happiness is theoretically possible but both vanishingly unlikely and frighteningly temporary is the least popular, most maddening position we unhappy ones can take. Hence the turns to sacrificial God, Platonic God, and void God. Someone save me! Later: No One, save me! Rather than "looks like no one's saving me again." ("Unless it's me.")

As for your Hamlet reading: is he a questioner or a silent letter-be, ultimately? The questioning Hamlet is the one that became iconic, but Shakespeare unravels the icon (and while Hamlet's valorized for questioning I don't recall his extolling it - he instead praises question-proof Fortinbras). There has been an answer. Not Polonius', but some allaying knowledge - or knowledge that one cannot know, which still ends questioning. Special but unguessable providences are less annoying than platitudes, but both are intellectual resting places.

Not quite following the conflation of an impersonal god, the unknown, and the rules we didn't make. These seem very different to me. We can know rules we didn't make, those rules could have been "made" by a non-god (or personal one), an impersonal god can be chased out of the sky entirely and still kick on somewhere etc.

And I of course take offense at the notion that I've foreclosed the possibility of questioning. I haven't. But "question" has become a Trojan Horse term, smuggling some implausible aspects of god into godlessness for those uncomfortable with the pure form - and vice versa, doubtless, since I guarantee there's nine million readings of Hamlet extolling his doubt as a part or precursor of faith or similar silliness. There's a lot of subtle religious bias built into the language at this point. Into our understandings of terms like "everything" and "proper role of man" even. I'm protecting the mysteries of existence from false mystifiers, or would wish to.

Merits of contentment? I didn't realize I had a position on that. Sounds like it has some and lacks others.

But of course I understand and deny the implicit accusation. Foregoing pseudo-escapes is the start of the sublime struggle, not its end.
The answer Hamlet receives isn't a positive one. If we take his "divinity that shapes our ends" at face value then his apotheosis is one of accepting fate, destiny, all those unbelieveable things. What I am saying is the triumph in his return is not in his accepting but his being beyond acceptance. The providence he is aware of is no more and no less than the plot of this story he's trapped in, and he will go along with it because that's what you do, not because anyone is pleased about it. His questioning, brought to its height, gives him a buddha-like insulation from the vicissitudes of plot.

Hamlet's return is so strange and implausible it seems a fantasy, like the last scene of Taxi Driver. Shakespeare has created a character so human he will not accept his plot; the only way he could force his Hamlet to return to the plot was to have the whole universe conspire to re-set him on his path. It is a thoroughly metaphysical conversion, not a natural progression of life to be emulated.

At this point I'm only still arguing for the practice of arguing, not out of any hope to convince you that other ways of thinking exist besides your own. I guess what I'm saying in counter to your last is that I don't reject the notion of god as a metaphor, and feel it is the proper metaphor to talk about what we need to talk about. Otherwise you get arguments that are properly rational but also unsatisfying and bourgeois.
Should you still call it questioning if the person's no longer asking (non-rhetorical) questions? Hasn't one passed from negative incapability to neg. cap., at that point?

"Since no one of aught he leaves knows, what is't to leave betimes?" is no further from my position than yours. We don't know this stuff. The people who say they do thus claim the rights of "no one." God is a dangerous metaphor precisely because he feels so right: we've all been heavily primed to see the world through a certain set of interlocking filters, however secular our upbringing. To get to the questions that qualify as "questioning" questions - the "why" ones that beg or doubt an intelligence in the world - you need to first assume an awful lot of aught. Aught meaning not empiricism, since Hamlet can tell a hawk from a handsaw, but any details at all as to the nature of the end-shaping divinity, of dreaded somethings after death, of what it is that "what's left by any man" amounts to as a whole. Questions pertaining to the container rather than its contents will not be resolvable, because a) whatever we can observe may be another "content" of those conditions that make onservation possible, and b) no entity that appears to pass beyond our own sensory limits can prove that it has the authority to answer them. The play's pretty clear on this too: even if supernatural forces addressed us directly that would help us not at all, because what they say (or their very existence says) about the container can't be verified.

But that's just, like, my opinion and stuff, and there have been serious allegations that it's bourgeois, privileged, dissatisfying, rational in a bad way, unconsidering of other points of view, content in a way resisting inquiry, and hostile to the concept of argument as a whole.
Some kind of bug happening with comments. It presented this one in the wrong place, then when I deleted that it instead deleted my previous comment etc.