things of little relevance

March 2, 2010, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Justin E. H. Smith’s work (world?) ethic:

I think I wanted the inside of the can to be a sort of microcosm, to duplicate the outer world of qualitative variety and complexity in which eggs thrive. I seem to have believed that if one of the ingredients could not come to the egg’s rescue, another surely would, and that that saving ingredient, whether the peanut butter or the sock, needed only to be represented in a token amount. To say that this was a primitive sort of thinking would not be the half of it. It bore obvious affinities to voudun and like practices, but rather than creating a double of some particular person or thing, I wanted nothing less than to bring into being a fetish object of the world itself.

In a sense, this has been my approach to every project I have taken on since, whether creative or scholarly. In the hope of protecting against failure, I throw in everything available. If this footnote doesn’t save me, that one will. In the end I want everything, no matter how remotely connected to the topic at hand, to get its mention. I don’t think this makes my work bad, in any case I hope it doesn’t, though it does obligate me to constantly keep a natural inclination in check.

What stuns me now when I think about this incident is how utterly inflexible personality is, and how consistently a deep, generally invisible pattern is able to determine the way a person performs in seemingly unconnected spheres of life. The recipe I threw together for that can was a rough draft of everything I have ever written. But how can it be that a lump of yogurt placed in a can in 1984 can come from the same place in a person’s psyche as does a footnote 26 years later? The answer to this question probably lies somewhere in Spinoza, as the devotion to an everything-in-everything vision of the world leads directly back to Leibniz. With Spinoza, I strive to simply ride out this determined state of affairs, rather than to bemoan it as some sort of malediction, and with Horace I accept that, while you can drive out your own nature with a pitchfork, it always comes roaring back again.


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