Saturday, 31 January 2015

On Pilgrims and Aliens

I wrote a bit before about Frédéric Gros’s A Philosophy of Walking, arguing that in rejecting scholarship it rejects community. After I finished the book, I had quite a few more complaints about it, some of which I addressed in this post I wrote for one of my tumblrs. Here's an excerpt:
As previously discussed, H. P. Lovecraft saw the world as radically Other, and he reacted with horror; he also saw non-white people and uneducated people as radically Other, and he reacted to them with horror. His cosmicism—the view that we are insignificant in the strange Otherness of the world—is inseparable from his racism. Northrop Frye, whose high view of literature and society comes from a deep fear of the natural world and its apparent indifference to us, had little attention for non-Western literature; I suspect that he suffers from the same sense of the Other, but he reacts by ignoring or delegitimizing, rather than despising, those people whose experiences are too different than his own. In rejecting the Other, both reject people. I wonder—but no more than wonder—whether Gros suffers a fate much like this; he rejects the Other, but misidentifies the natural world as his, owned by the mere fact that he walks into the forest, strains against the wind, drinks from a stream with his hands; in his book he frequently writes that the one who walks owns all that he sees. When Gros does recognize the Other in people he doesn’t quite understand, he rejects them, dismisses them, pities them, at times despises them. And in so doing these men make themselves more alone than they could otherwise be: if they are alienated from society, they seem to alienate themselves.
You'll see that I've written about Lovecraft and Frye over there already. I guess I've started blogging a little bit on my tumblr; I changed the name recently, and discussed why I changed the name, and that become a thing. I've been thinking about how Otherness influences my thinking and engagement with the world--yes, yes, Christian has attached himself to yet another construct--and since I needed to point that out to explain why I was doing what I was doing, that's become a theme over there.

As a bonus, I'll give you an excerpt from an article that I read yesterday, which I thought was related. It's from Hiromi Goto's "A Bending Light: Thoughts of Story, Diversity, and Social Responsibility," in the Winter 2014 issue of Ricepaper, which is itself an excerpt from her Guest of Honour Speech at the WisCon28 Conference. The piece convinced me to go ahead and publish the tumblr post. Here's the excerpt:

When writers try to imagine different ways of engaging, humans to other humans, humans with aliens, humans with animals, all these different relationships, we can make possible new kinds of engagements. To bring stories alive in this way is to try to make change in the workings and fabric of our world. If something is not of this world already, it first needs to be imagined. After it is imagined, it needs to be shaped by the parameters of language. And in writing, in the utterance, the story can begin its life. It can become.
You can read the rest at Goto's blog.


Also: I've been reading from Gordon Marino's Basic Writings of Existentialism, which contain a number of excerpts I haven't read before, or associated with existentialism, or even heard of; so far I've read the excerpts from Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death, and Friedrich Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals. Nietzsche is more persuasive than I remembered, until he pulls outside terrible bit of psychology or really bad biology; there are parts I pretty much whole-heartedly agree with, and then other parts that seem plausible enough but definitely subject to empirical falsification, and others that are just nonsense. I appreciated what I read of The Sickness Unto Death, though it took me a long time to figure out how to read it; reading Fear and Trembling convinced me that I'm less intelligent and less informed than I thought, because I understood maybe half of it. I guess I'm a philosophical baby.

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