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Me and Gary, brooding (September 2004)


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He became so absorbed in his reading that he spent his nights reading from dusk to dawn, and his days from dawn to dusk; and thus, from so little sleep and from so much reading, his brain dried up, so that he came to lose all judgement.

Miguel de Cervantes

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Here are some first attempts at phrasing some of the questions that I want to answer in my writing about Nietzsche and Eliade. All this is going to be quite disjointed for a while yet. I want to thank in advance, 3 people with whom I am corresponding about these ideas; they are Ed Antoine, who introduced me to Eliade; Kai Lorentzen, who has given me a lot of help with Nietzsche over the years; and Randolph Fritz, who is helping me examine my ideas a bit more closely for coherence than I am used to. Oh and of course, thanks to John Holbo for introducing me to "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life"*

How strongly does Nietzsche advocate living in the moment? My first impulse was to say that he favored it absolutely; but this is silly and wrong as he makes clear toward the front of the essay: "However, the fact that living requires the services of history must be just as clearly understood as the principle, which will be demonstrated later, that an excess of history harms the living person."

Building on and spinning off of the last question, to what extent is it proper to view Nietzsche (and Eliade) as advocates pro or contra history and memory? Nietzsche is clearly setting his essay up as an argument against "an excess of history"; and it's probably okay to take this at face value. But I was oversimplifying when I wrote to Randolph, "Note however that "losing [ones]elf in the stream of becoming" is bad by Nietzsche's lights." So this needs to be developed some more. Eliade on the other hand does not put himself forward as an advocate, or does not seem to me to do so.

More later.

*The translation I am reading is the Cambridge edition, translated by R. J. Hollingdale; however when I post quotations I will generally be using Ian Johnston's translation, which I think is not quite as well done but which is available online for cutting and pasting.

posted evening of Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004
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