from ‘autobiography: what i’m doing in this hell’

The syndrome of the deep-sea diver. The famous Sartrean theme of lead shoes that bring you down from your philosophical empyrean and bring you into the nakedness of the human condition and of life. I’ve done my share of pointing out this attraction to lead in other–that is, a bad conscience; I’ve talked enough about the dimension of expiation and penitence with which intellectuals have always been involved. I’ve made enough fun of this way of thinking of engagement only as a “shot” of reality in a soul that, rightly or wrongly, thinks it’s weaned of it (Nizan and the temptation of Aden, Aragon’s “real world,” all those intellectuals with too-clean hands coming, during the 1930’s, and then the 50’s, to join the school of life to expiate their original sin…), I’ve spoken too much of this nostalgia for the concrete in others, in ancient times, not to suspect it in me, today, at a time (internet, cloning, unbridled potentiality) when the real, not content with hiding itself, is in the process of exploding, of eclipsing itself. A taste for chaos. The extreme curiosity of the advanced Westerner faced with these images of confusion and disaster. Destruction was my Beatrice. Not to camp, but to write, on the ruins. To save bodies of course. But also–how can I deny it?– to observe how a suffering, dying body, at extreme boundaries of life, function–obscenity of great reportage, shame of the grand journey, wild entomology, passionate vivisection. Nostalgia for asceticism. I have friends who go, in wars, to feed their taste for the epic, for lyricism. Not me. Not the epic. Not lyricism. First of all because I have always thought, rightly or wrongly, surely wrongly, but I have thought it, that I had, without that, without dispatches, my dose of private lyricism (inner life, etc.). Then, especially, because I definitely do not believe that war is a place for the lyric or the epic. But asceticism, on the other hand, yes. A taste for a life stripped of what usually furnishes and, perhaps, encumbers it: habit, conventions, urbanity, money, that whole part of life that makes life secure–and that, suddenly, shatters into bits–all that’s left is a fragile body, three shirts, the old copy of Kaputt, some dreams. Of all that, of that other heap of secrets, of that strange pleasure I feel when I act the ascetic, of the shadows that, at this instant, haunt me and of which I surely want to make myself worthy, I don’t want to say any more–maybe because I can’t, for now, see any more clearly. That’s it.
-Bernard-Henri Lévy

There would probably be money in war-tourism for existential guilt-ridden intellectuals.

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~ by ironcupshrug on 12/25/2009.

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