G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Søren Kierkegaard: Why I Don't Share Ashok Shahane's Frustration With Lokhitwadi and Co.

Soren Kierkegaard :

 “The world is reduced into flat, surveyable, two-dimensional world events; and we can all enjoy the illusion that we know exactly what has happened in the last twenty-four hours and what precisely to think about what has happened. Except that the meaning and significance that even the most averse to thought among us need, remain lost. The news and opinions, the perishable, ephemeral and valueless facts with which alone we are bombarded is as much of a substitute for the truths we long for, as a telephone number is for its subscriber. So it is not so much that we know more and more about less and less, but that we know more and more about the less and less important; and the more the precision of our knowledge increases, the more trivial the questions we seek to answer.”
"Even if you offered me a place in the great edifice of the system, I would rather be the kind of thinker who just sits on a branch."

May 5 2013 was SK's (1813-1855)  200th birth anniversary. Widely considered the father of existentialism,  Strindberg, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Kafka, Borges, Camus, Sartre, Wittgenstein, Derrida are among his 'children'...what a troublesome family!

As far as I know leading Marathi daily Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) did not celebrate the anniversary event.

 I don't think the entire Indian media really bothered about it. So why do I single out a Marathi periodical?

The short answer: Ashok Shahane's (अशोक शहाणे)  book 'Napeksha' (नपेक्षा), 2005, one of the best Marathi books of this century.

 In an essay from the book, Mr. Shahane writes that he is frustrated to note that 19th century Marathi social reformers-essayists-creative writers such as Lokhitwadi (लोकहितवादी 1823-1892), Chiplunkar (चिपळूणकर 1850-1882), Agarkar (आगरकर 1856-1895) , Tilak (टिळक 1856-1920), Ketkar (केतकर 1884-1937), despite being his 'contemporaries',  were NOT influenced by Kierkegaard at all . 

"कीकेंगार्डच्याच काळात लोकहितवादीनी लिखाण केले आहे, कीकेंगार्डपासून युरोपमध्ये विचारांच्या क्षेत्रात एक नवीनच वृत्ती आली. कीकेंगार्डने तर्कबुद्धीला प्रचंड धक्का देणारे लिखाण हेतुपुरःसरच केले आणि आमच्या लोकहितवादीनी मात्र सबंध विचाराचा पाया केवळ बुद्धीनेच घातला जावा अशी धडपड केली. कीकेंगार्डच्याच काळात लोकहितवादीनी लिहिले ही निदान आता तरी क्रूर थट्टाच वाटते."

("Lokhitwadi wrote during the times of  Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard brought a new attitude in the field of thoughts in Europe. Kierkegaard wrote what purposely gave a big jerk to logical reasoning and our Lokhitwadi struggled to build the base of entire thought by intellect alone. Lokhitwadi wrote during the times of Kierkegaard at least now looks a cruel joke.")

Artist: Edward Gorey, 1960

Does Shahane expect them to learn Existentialism 101 from Kierkegaard? Even Europe waited for a long time for that.  And what if they didn't agree with what Kierkegaard was saying?

In 21st century, A C Grayling (1949-) attacks Kierkegaard thus:
"Some religious thinkers in the nineteenth century adopted versions of fideism as a response to the advance of science, thus exempting themselves from having to put their beliefs to the same tests as scientific hypotheses standardly undergo. The most extreme fideist is the Danish writer Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), who said that faith requires a leap in the face of reason and evidence, and is all the more admirable therefore. What horrors can be justified by appeal to the authority of the non-rational, the traditional, the superstitious, the suppositious, the evidentially unsupported, and so forth, history too often bloodily teaches."

(Wikipedia informs fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths.)

Can't we say that some of these 19th century borne Maharashtrians. opposed fideism- remember some one like Agarkar was clearly an atheist-  and hence did not approve of philosophy of Kierkegaard? And if so, how can they be influenced by him?

In the same essay, Shahane expects Agarkar to catch the 'virus' of  Nietzscheism (Kierkegaardism in turn) present in the 19th century air even if he did not get to see his books- a kind of induction working on great minds across geographies and vast distances.

Be that as it may, I wonder how much writing in Marathi from any period since 1813 has been  influenced by Kierkegaard.

My answer: very little.

We already know his 200th birthday has been ignored.

Even Vinda Karandikar's (विंदा करंदीकर) award-winning book 'ASHTADARSHANE’ (अष्टदर्शने), 2003 has Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Charvak.

Therefore,  I am not all that frustrated with 19th century Marathi greats on Kierkegaard count.

"Soren Kierkegaard in the coffee-house", 1843

Artist: Christian Olavius Zeuthen

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

(to be continued...)