Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Acts of war"

They are smart. They are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us.
US Rear Admiral Harry Harris
, Guantanamo Bay Camp commander, on the suicide of three inmates.

Reading Rilke brought about an important transformation in my understanding of myself and the work I wanted to do. I left my ego behind me, and I focussed on a task that was far greater than filling in the thinly-drawn outlines of my self. At that point, [...] I fell in love with the reason why we still read and think about literature, and it seemed imperative I should continue to do so, for as long as anyone would let me, because there was nothing more sensible I could do with my life.


  1. Ummm, I'm a bit puzzled by the analogy. The point I was making, in case it was unclear, was that I felt jobs are done better when egos aren't involved. I read Rilke because it interested me passionately, not because I wanted a good mark for an essay. I don't quite understand what that has to do with the suicide of war prisoners?

  2. "For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure"?

  3. You realize, of course, you're rendering a mere US diplomat into a literary ally of French Heideggerians, or Germans here (assuming that's Rilke)'s almost an act of war! (in the Groucho Marx sense).

  4. OK, what I meant to suggest was that a genuine passion is invariably mistaken as an absenting of oneself from common, acceptable discourse. But there's a paradox I guess - what is a passionate letting-go of the ego?

  5. I understand the concept - the dedication of the self to a noble, abstract ideal. Courtly love would be another example - whereby the knight runs dangerous missions in the name of his idealised lady. But is it possible to think a distinction between possibly excessive engagement of the self's resources, and a reckless form of self-annihilation? You might say it's a question of degree, but I think the degree is significant.

  6. Ah, well for me it's all or nothing. Usually nothing.

  7. Anonymous5:59 pm

    "Rhetoric, or perfected terror, as Jean Paulhan says."

    -MB, "How is Literature Possible"

    I suppose it was a strained joke; sorry.



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