Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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when everything is permitted, Nietzsche said, we have nihilism

"We may ask, clumsily, which person is happier, or has a more vital grip on experience? The villager may have possessed his world more pungently, more sensuously; he may have found more sense in things owing both to the limited scope of his concern and the depth of his information-not to mention his basic spiritual assumptions. But I also take seriously Marx's quip about the "idiocy of rural life." Circumstance, but also dullness and limitation. The lack of a larger perspective hobbles the mind, leads to suspiciousness and wary conservativism; the cliches about peasants are probably not without foundation. But by the same token, the constant availability of date and macroperspectives has its own diminishing returns. After a while the sense of scale is attenuated and a relativism resembling cognitive and moral paralysis may result. When everything is permitted, Nietzsche said, we have nihilism; likewise, when everything is happening everywhere, it gets harder to care about anything. How do we assign value? Where do we find the fixed context that allows us to create a narrative of sense about our lives? Ideally, I suppose, one would have the best of both world-the purposeful fixity of the local, fertilized by the availability of enchancing vistas. A natural ecology of information and context.

We are experiencing in our times a loss of depth-a loss, that is, of the very paradigm of depth. A sense of the deep and natural connectedness of things is a function of vertical consciousness. Its apotheosis is what was once called wisdom. Wisdom: the knowing not of facts but of truths about human nature and the processes of life. But swamped by data, and the thrall to the technologies that manipulate it, we no longer think in these larger and necessarily more imprecise terms. In our lateral age, living in the bureaucracies of information, we don't venture a claim to that kind of understanding. Indeed, we tend to act embarrassed around those once-freighted terms-truth, meaning, soul, destiny. . . We suspect the people who use such words of being soft and nostalgic. We prefer the deflating one-liner that reassures us that nothing need be taken that seriously; we inhale the atmospheres of irony." pg. 73,74 "The Gutenberg Elegies" by Sven Birkerts

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