“The streaking and trailing and after-imaging persisted for days. He began to panic. “I really lost it,” he said. “I was sitting in one of my first college classes and, like, hallucinating.” He met with psychologists, who could discern little. He called his parents, who could discern less. He became unhinged, wandering campus in a daze, squinting at the world as if through a kaleidoscope. “I broke down,” he said. “I could no longer go to class. I couldn’t do anything.” He quit school, moved back home, and entered rehab. His search for a diagnosis came up empty: no underlying medical condition, nor had the drug been laced with something sinister. Weeks, months, then years went by. The trip just wouldn’t end.”
“Soon it would be too hot. Looking out from the hotel balcony shortly after eight o’clock, Kerans watched the sun rise behind the dense groves of giant gymnosperms crowding over the roofs of the abandoned department stores four hundred yards away on the east side of the lagoon. Even through the massive olive-green fronds the relentless power of the sun was plainly tangible. The blunt refracted rays drummed against his bare chest and shoulders, drawing out the first sweat, and he put on a pair of heavy sunglasses to protect his eyes. The solar disc was no longer a well-defined sphere, but a wide expanding ellipse that fanned out across the eastern horizon like a colossal fire-ball, its reflection turning the dead leaden surface of the lagoon into a brilliant copper shield. By noon, less than four hours away, the water would seem to burn.”
J G Ballard, The Drowned World
“For thousands of years, humans have been defending their cities by building huge walls around them. Over time, the cities often spill over the walls — but sometimes they remain hemmed in. Here are some incredible images that show what happens to walled cities over time.”
So what I finally decided was, art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it’s because we are a species that’s driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that’s impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being – literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you’re experiencing that piece of art, you’re not alone. You’re connected to the arts. So I feel like that can’t be too bad.
“In the tenth century BC, the priests of India devised the Brahmodya competition, which would become a model of authentic theological discourse. The object was to find a verbal formula to define the Brahman, the ultimate and inexpressible reality beyond human understanding. The idea was to push language as far as it would go, until participants became aware of the ineffable. The challenger, drawing on his immense erudition, began the process by asking an enigmatic question and his opponents had to reply in a way that was apt but equally inscrutable. The winner was the contestant who reduced the others to silence. In that moment of silence, the Brahman was present - not in the ingenious verbal declarations but in the stunning realisation of the impotence of speech. Nearly all religious traditions have devised their own versions of this exercise. It was not a frustrating experience; the finale can, perhaps, be compared to the moment at the end of the symphony, when there is a full and pregnant beat of silence in the concert hall before the applause begins. The aim of good theology is to help the audience to live for a while in that silence.”
“In the fifth book of the Odyssey when Odysseus is about to confront a witch named Kirke whose practice is to turn men into pigs, he is given by the god Hermes a pharmaceutical plant to use against her magic:
So speaking Hermes gave him the drug
by pulling it out of the ground and he showed the nature of it:
at the root it was black but like milk was the flower.
MOLY is what the gods call it. And it is very hard to dig up
for mortal men. But gods can do such things.
MOLY is one of several occurences in Homer’s poems of what he calls “the language of gods.” There are a handful of people or things in epics that have this sort of double name. Linguists like to see in these words traces of some older layer of Indo-European preserved in Homer’s Greek. However that may be, when he invokes the language of gods Homer usually tells you the mortal translation too. Here he does not. He wants this word to fall silent. Here are four letters of the alphabet, you can pronounce them but you cannot define, possess, or make use of them. You cannot search for this plant by the roadside or Google it and find out where to buy some. The plant is sacred, the knowledge belongs to gods, the word stops itself. Almost as if you were presented with a portrait of some person—not a famous person but someone you might recognize if you put your mind to it—and as you peer closely you see, in the place where the face should be, a splash of white paint. Homer has splashed white paint not on the faces of his gods but on their word. What does this word hide? We will never know. But that smudge on the canvas does serve to remind us of something important about these puzzling beings, the gods of epics, who are not consistently bigger, stronger, smarter, nicer or better-looking than humans, who are in fact anthropomorphic clichés from top to bottom, yet who do have one escapade up their sleeve—immortality. They know how not to die. And who can say but the four untranslatable letters of MOLY might be the place where that knowledge is hidden.”
“In the German-speaking world, and in most of the rest of Europe, that type of straightforward storytelling, which the Nazis had made such good use of, came to be viewed with distrust. The danger hidden in storytelling became clear—how easy it was to manipulate the crowd. As a result, film, and especially literature, began to examine itself. Storytelling, with all the tricks and ruses it requires, became gradually suspect.”
Michael Haneke, quoted in ‘Sadomodernism’ by Moira Weigen, for n+1