Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Tag: philosophy

On the origin of food

Writing about the origin of food for us contemporary supermarket-bound and slow-food-preferring culinarily-minded individuals has been tickling my mind for over a year now. Maybe it’s a good reason to start blogging again, who knows?

It started last year as I ordered a grilled rock lobster in a fine restaurant in Lisbon. Picked up living, the waiter squeezed his eyes to make him “say goodbye” by waving his only remaining arm (the other one had been taken away for a reason unknown to me, probably for the reasons of economic profit). As it happened, Luis tried to jump off the plate, but the laughing executioner aptly caught him. Within minutes, Luis returned to me, halved, grilled and scenting of saffron. Tasteful.

Although I failed to blog about this funny incident back then, I was reminded by it this year as I was fishing with my brave niece and nephew. Catching the numerous fish, mostly zander and the pike, was of course exhilarating. It was also exiting for everyone to row to the shore and meet the children’s mother and grandmother and tell them about the epic trip, wondering the beasts. But…the question emerged…then what? What was to be the destiny of those pritive, sharp-toothed beings?

Well, this brings us to the crossroads of real life and philosophy; and how the use of language ‘sanitises’ our life-experiences. What I did with the fish was I killed, slaughtered and cut them to pieces. Intriguingly, my choices of words of explaining the then-on-going process were not extremely highly regarded by the gate-keepers of family morality. Why? Should we clean our vocabularies of violence, even if that is exactly what we do to living beings to keep ourselves (well-)fed?

In our contemporary society, death and violence are highly regulated, conceptually and rhetorically. Meat comes from the supermarket and when people grow old they end up dying in hospitals (this gives a whole new meaning to ‘taking care’, doesn’t it?). Violence is abundant in entertainment, but daycare aunties and other professionals of education condemn boyish wrestling as ‘gendered violence’. In this post, I’m only concentrating on the un-knowability of the origin of food and how children should be protected from knowing it? Or should they?

The main reason for this seems to be to save them from the emotional distress of losing their cuddly animal friends. On the other hand, our whole Western lifestyle depends on killing; not only animals, but other human beings as well. What a hypocritical dilemma! In other words, we want to whitewash our life-worlds by the proper use of words. Everyone knows that ‘killing’ doesn’t sound that good.

This might be a thread in the development of ‘cleaning’ media-vocabularies as well: is this not similar to ‘neutralising’ terrorists? In a sense, this combines patronising, neo-colonialism and compassion. ‘Cleaning’ fish and ‘terrorist training facilities’ doesn’t sound that bad after all…

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Jesters allowed

A rather disturbing remark closed a fine Žižek documentary. Reacting to someone’s question about the ‘funniness’ side of his popularity, he raised his concern of that in many places he is only published/read/heard when he tells jokes when confronting serious social and political issues. In other words–being funny is the prerequisite of having voice!

The importance lies in that elite-disturbing talk is not welcome at all, with the natural exception of ‘eccentric professors’, ‘artists’ and other marginal groups whose very existence legitimates the canon of ‘liberal democracy’. And when they do raise their voice, they are only allowed to do it when they take the time not to confront the status quo directly.

Hence, every time one feels the urge to voice criticism, one should adopt the helpful attitude of actively planting ‘comediality’ to one’s talk; thus avoiding the direct confrontation of the established language-game!

A thought that also rang my Rorty-bell immediately (Contingency, irony, and solidarity: pp. 48)!

Those who speak the old language and have no wish to change, those who regard it as a hallmark of rationality or morality to speak just that language, will regard as altogether irrational the appeal of the new metaphors – the new language game which the radicals, the youth, or the avant-garde are playing. The popularity of the new ways of speaking will be viewed as a matter of “fashion” or “the need to rebel” or “decadence.” The question of why people speak this way will be treated as beneath the level of conversation – a matter to be turned over to psychologists or, if necessary, the police.

This is not…

One of the most often heard outcries in art galleries, universities, and conferences starts: “This is not…”

Be it ‘art’, ‘philosophy’ or ‘science’, each has their very own guardians devoting time and effort on the assessment, fulfillment and reproduction of the criteria of their precious doctrine. As if the ‘art’ would disappear if the linguistic conventions surrounding it would (and they inevitably are) be structured and re-structured.

And I’m not talking about the underlying theory of truth shaping the world-view of the guardian, but rather the need for ontological security through departmentalist smothering.

Acclaimed French sociologist/anthropologist/philosopher Pierre Bourdieu noted (in his famous Distinction) that different tastes emerge from fundamentally negative positioning. Someone is not to be associated with something–the definition being absence rather than presence.

This puts the current departmentalisation of knowledge and even scholarship into a questionable light, in the very ‘scientific’ terms that it outspokenly embraces. How is it possible that (at least in my mind) most fundamentally new insights emerge from the ranks of talented generalists refusing to take a tag of one camp or another?

Moments of clarity

It’s always as intriguing to come up with ideas between sleeping and being awake. Given the abstraction capabilities of the human mind, one can not but wonder the role of consciousness on the creativity of ideas one gets. I’ve gotten many of my personally most captivating thoughts either just about to wake up or fall asleep. This is, of course, not to speak of a collection of much much fuzzier moments…

Taking the notion of ‘consciousness being sleep guided by the senses’ seriously, what are the consequences? Instead of trying to deliberately come up with theories of creativity, should we rather concentrate on sleeping more, spending more time with the activities and people that enrich our lives and finding meaning in subtleties? It might be too radical to the industries of knowledge (management consulting among others) to start selling ‘insights emerging from laid-backedness’, but on a more personal level, should we start to be just a bit more greedy in this sense?

Also, in terms of much serious matters–such as ‘decision making’– should one more readily rely on one’s gut instead of seemingly-sophisticated-but-helplessly-bogus models?

In other words, ‘avant-garde art’ or ‘serious science’?!

Couple in the cabin

Lars von Trier’s newest is a disturbing one. Careful with the reviews though, discussions of Antichrist’s disturbance often become spoilers.

The flick has absolutely stunning cinematography. Slow motions and art-like colours are combined throughout the film with an eerie soundtrack. Depending on the viewer, it might also be viewed either as a feminist or a misogynistic film. Beauty/ugliness, inside/outside, bliss/pain, life/death, you name it. Lars likes to disturb. In a way, this play with contrasts is an old one.

One likable feature in von Trier’s story-telling is his habit of dropping hints along the journey. On the other hand, these traces, picked up and followed, can lead to an underlined use of symbolism. What he discusses nicely is man’s relationship with nature, fear, the forest around him and how it gazes him from within himself.

The cabin becomes the self.

Proselytise the traveller

There is one thing that I’ve come across in some Muslim countries I’ve visited. It’s the eagerness of some locals to convert me to Islam.

First one took place in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, when the warden gave me a handful of leaflets telling how wonderful the faith was. I had been staring at the beautiful murals, obviously long enough to trigger his mission. In Eastern Turkey, the approach was not that respectful. A bearded man challenged me and my friend of us “Not respecting Mohammad, why?” Answering that kind of question is quite hard: “Umm…we don’t disrespect, he’s just not part of the doctrine…” invoked just another set of questions and suspicions.

In Iran, everyone minded their own business in terms of religion.

In Sahara, however, it happened again. In the shared taxi from Tan Tan to Laayoune, my neighbour (young and multi-lingual guy) suddenly popped out the question: “Why are you not a Muslim?” “Well, I was not brought to be one, and haven’t felt the need to convert” was my initial reply. This was not satisfactory. Interestingly, he used the exactly same argument than the man in Van (East Turkey): “Why hold on to a faith that is obviously wrong? Islam is correct, so you should convert to it.”

Needless to say, a philosophical argument questioning the foundations of his claim didn’t yield much. Raising the issue of having read the Qur’an and still not believing didn’t help either… Oh well.

It’s just interesting. There must be something in the religious mind that makes them spread the ‘good’ word. It happens also in the better families. It’s a gift, not an attempt to proselytise!

Tourists and travellers

One of the most prevailing topics in hostels and guesthouses during the evening hang-out is the classic distinction between us travellers and mere tourists. Sometimes you meet outspoken and even proud (?) tourists, but usually the narrator himself is a sailor of the uncharted seas.

Whereas it is undeniably lucrative to tag oneself as ‘brave’, ‘explorer’ and ‘free spirit’, one should perhaps take a moment to really put it in the context. True, there are the poles of the ‘samsonite-herd-animals’ and those that have totally abandoned (or been abandoned by) the organised society possessing only flip-flops, sarong and attitude. Although these extremes exist, there are lots of shades of gray between them.

I don’t like advance payments to strangers, let them be travel agencies or airlines. Despite this, I admit that I have a blueprint or a rough idea of my near-future whereabouts (subject to change) while travelling. If a tourist is defined as a person booking flights or buses more than a day in advance, then I fall in the other category. On the other hand, I’m far away from the extent some people are willing to go, one example here and another here.

One should perhaps balance one’s own ambiguity avoidance / adventure ratio.

Al-Ándalus

Ah, the edge of Europe! Seeing Africa across the strait is a funny feeling. Tomorrow morning, the ferry takes me to the Caliphate proper…

Just few reflections of my time here in Andalucía. First, the cities and general atmosphere are more civilised than I thought, being at first a bit worried about the contrast between Catalunya and the deep south. There are some real differences though, for example the apparent vicinity of Africa and Arabic-speaking world… Crafts, names and particularly music (the flamenco songs reminded me of the minarets) are something very different.

Last, the gitano would be better off if he sometimes would not be his boorish self. True, just a total tourist (like me) tries to order a tostada in the evening, but making it a public joke is not necessarily good for business. Some elegance and hospitability beyond greediness would make the toothless smile even more appealing.

Well, tomorrow towards the new vistas!

One way ticket

Those who know me also know that I’m not quite a morning person. That’s why waking up after five without the alarm (after the end-of-semester-party @ NHAC) seems a bit odd.

Itchy feet, travel fever, you name it; after a long while I’m off to somewhere! Don’t quite know where, but definitely somewhere where the pollution of artificial lighting doesn’t dim the stars…

Just have to be careful; after a while of gazing the desert it might start gazing back!

“Summit and abyss-these are now comprised together!”

That’s the nature of good travelling as well…

Trying to keep this blog posted!

Essence of message

As often said, the content of the message is only as good as its delivery. If one could always tell one’s thoughts with the same intensity and passion than one late Layne… The ignorant in a ‘hurry’ can ff to 5:00.

Just slightly mending the classic: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in…?”