Friday, January 01, 2010

“Even so, I go my own way, following the drifts of the hourglass,” or, Striding, blindly but happily, into the new year

A new year is upon us, a time for good wishes and advice and resolutions and trenchant thoughts on new beginnings and old endings.

But you can find plenty of that elsewhere on the Internet (to say nothing of the Self-Help/New Age/SpiritualityMemoir section of your local bookstore). Here, I opt to ring in the new year with an acknowledgment that what we don’t know still far outweighs what we do, and that inscrutability, intentional or otherwise, can sometimes--especially amid the foggy heads and fugitive regrets of January 1st--be more fun than clarity.

So first, I give you the only surviving writings of the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Archelaus, in a brief account from Simon Critchley’s endlessly diverting The Book of Dead Philosophers (2008):
Archelaus was the pupil of Anaxagoras and the teacher of Socrates. He is usually seen as the bridge between Ionian natural philosophy and Athenian ethical thinking. The cause of his death is unknown and his writings are lost apart from the following enigmatic words: “The cold is a bond.”
Hard to beat that for gnomic obscurity, no?

And then there’s this, from Jenny Boully’s The Body: An Essay (2002), a book that consists entirely of footnotes to a missing text:
51. Underneath the covers, the message would always be different: the white bird flying overhead would reveal itself as an emblem of hope; a sigh would be a sign of white flowers held while wearing a white dress; a shiver would be interpreted to mean a shaking of spring leaves, blossoms, or rain; her name, sounding from his mouth, would mean whatever the dream wished it to mean.
Consider yourself launched into 2010.

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