Can Literature Survive Without Spirituality?

Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by Carcano, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    No Celine would have seen gusto in everything, meaning if you are going to engage in any of these activities do so with full fervor. He did view life as absurd because he saw it in the actions of others which he takes much time to describe. And no he was not a nihilist, he was quite political if you will and was jailed in France for treason, he was an anti-semite and sympathized with the nazi's though to what degree is debatable as far as their ultra nationalism which I believe he would have found 'absurd'.

    Celine would not have found life without value or meaning afterall he was a physician and worked hard in the poorest of areas offering his services.

    Tis funny. He would have found this discussion absurd really. He would have asked what could be more absurd than to try and box or label the entire canon of literature. And even more worth hilarity would be to have a discussion when one of them hasn't read his work which I am sure would have bruised his French ego. He would have also found a discussion of this sort in a medium like this crazy as 'all life is awaiting us'.

    But on we go. Moving away from any particular work for a moment I would like to ask you what significance do you think your assertion has? Meaning what would it mean to you if this turned out not to be true in every single work of literature? What does it mean to you if it turned out to be true? Or a better question even is what do you think is the purpose of literature? I think it would broaden the discussion a little and perhaps further emphasize all that you think is 'spirituality' a definition we haven't yet come to any consensus on in terms of literature in general.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2009
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  3. Carcano Valued Senior Member

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    6,865
    All literature requires a dynamic...a conflict between two oppositions.

    As a example, lets take Carol. Carol is a heroin addict, and as such is the ultimate nihilist. To her, life is absurd and meaningless, therefore the only thing to do with her remaining time alive is to chemically stimulate her brain, which at least makes her feel good temporarily. She doesnt want to have children because she doesnt see the point in bringing another life into a pointless existence.

    Can we write a book about Carol???

    We cannot...as long as she embraces her nihilism with "full fervor" as you call it.

    Because there is no conflict, no dynamic.

    On the other hand, if Carol's nihilism were only half hearted, if she was somehow seeking redemption, only then would there be a story to tell.

    So even in the most extreme cases like Michel Houellebecq there is always a meaningful context of continuity hovering in the background, which provides the drama with its dynamic.
     
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  5. Carcano Valued Senior Member

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    To affirm what 'never was but always is'...to quote Joseph Campbell.
     
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  7. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    Well that is the purpose of myth but literature doesn't have such a narrow confine.
    Its primary function that it shares with myth is storytelling, what separates myths from literature is that the story of any myth is referential not actual and many stories in literature are actual with no need to find meaning behind the story because its revealed as the story. When Anais Nin published her diaries for example they are considered literature because of their beauty and insight into herself and others but those details did not go beyond themselves. Does this make it meaningless? No, they are still incredibly beautiful outlining the life of an artist what it does not do is outline all of objective life itself, myths can do this.

    Another difference between myths and literature is that myths tend to tell you where you are in life, they are markers. Literature doesn't have this as a de facto intention or function, when I read The Sorrows of Werther by Goethe I am reading a particular story of a particular type of youth, it is not 'open' enough as a myth would be so that every and any youth can relate to his particular disposition. The topic happens to be the romanticism of one young sensitive man but the story doesn't show how a young person can transcend himself into manhood nor transcend his dispostion. Why? Its not the aim. Goethe took his youthful sorrows and churned them into a fiction where the character takes this sorrow to its logical end.

    Myths and literature serve different functions.

    Myths are not written to entertain, they are written to ALIGN the reader with his society, his environment and himself. Literature can be a form of entertainment in the sense that it can be used as a distraction from ones everyday life as you immerse yourself in a different time and place and follow someone's adventure, like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe for example.

    Literature is often subjective. An author can delve into a world of his or her own making and it need not coincide or connect to anything outside of this personal creation, built by the individual espousing individual values and points of view. For this reason not everyone will be impressed or deeply moved by a particular story even if it is very good and well written, not everyone will find meaning in it whereas others can.

    Myths have to address that which it was designed for it cannot veer off from a hero's journey or the coming of age story or the tale of a lost man in the woods and begin emphasizing the comedy of a particular character or detail the love affair, or get into the hero's relationship with his father as a youth tangents are allowed in literature but myths have a particular trajectory. Hell in literature you can detail a walk to the store and talk about the store keeper and all the people in the store and detail the products in the store and make it interesting and do so for three pages before going back and pulling together the overall structure of the book. Myths are symbolic but not all stories in literature utilize this kind of symbolism in all aspects of the work the way myths do. Just take a look at Camus 'A Happy Death' its an exercise in existentialism (existence proceeds essence) and normative ethics but there isn't any meaningful symbolism in the work. Same thing with Pirandello's 'The Late Mattia Pascal' its philosophically fascinating and brilliant novel but almost devoid of symbolism.


    the suicide kid
    by Charles Bukowski

    I went to the worst of bars
    hoping to get
    killed.
    but all I could do was to
    get drunk
    again.
    worse, the bar patrons even
    ended up
    liking me.
    there I was trying to get
    pushed over the dark
    edge
    and I ended up with
    free drinks
    while somewhere else
    some poor
    son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital
    bed,
    tubes sticking out all over
    him
    as he fought like hell
    to live.
    nobody would help me
    die as
    the drinks kept
    coming,
    as the next day
    waited for me
    with its steel clamps,
    its stinking
    anonymity,
    its incogitant
    attitude.
    death doesn't always
    come running
    when you call
    it,
    not even if you
    call it
    from a shining
    castle
    or from an ocean liner
    or from the best bar
    on earth (or the
    worst).
    such impertinence
    only makes the gods
    hesitate and
    delay.
    ask me: I'm
    72.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2009
  8. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    If what you say is true then how is William Burroughs 'Junky' and 'Naked Lunch' literature and it is? You are limiting something that has no limits. Not only was Burroughs a heroin addict himself he was able to write quite poignantly about the lives of addicts, as they were in 'fervor' with their drug of choice they still had lives to live and in the living of those lives was the story. It made Burroughs famous. Literature among other things is a creative interplay of ideas and imagination and wanting to share the story of life, all kinds of life, the life of the bum and the life of the hero, there isn't only one type of story worth telling. You don't seem to recognize that literature is not an aspect of philosophy and not all writers utilize a philosophy when embarking on the telling of a story. What of writers like Charles Bukowski and lifelong drunk who was at times homeless and worked in the post office. His stories are of the track, drinking, women, bums, all the unredemptive types, hell he was an un-redemptive drunk but he did write and he found the humanity in these characters like no one else could and so earned the title 'The noble laureate of skid row'. Quite a title indeed.

    I think you need to read more. I'm certainly glad you are not a publisher nor a critic as there would only be five books in the book stores.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!




    THE ALIENS
    from The Last Night Of The Earth Poems

    you may not believe it
    but there are people
    who go through life with
    very little
    friction of distress.
    they dress well, sleep well.
    they are contented with
    their family
    life.
    they are undisturbed
    and often feel
    very good.
    and when they die
    it is an easy death, usually in their
    sleep.

    you may not believe
    it
    but such people do
    exist.

    but i am not one of
    them.
    oh no, I am not one of them,
    I am not even near
    to being
    one of
    them.
    but they
    are there

    and I am
    here.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2009
  9. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    the suicide kid

    by Charles Bukowski

    I went to the worst of bars
    hoping to get
    killed.
    but all I could do was to
    get drunk
    again.
    worse, the bar patrons even
    ended up
    liking me.
    there I was trying to get
    pushed over the dark
    edge
    and I ended up with
    free drinks
    while somewhere else
    some poor
    son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital
    bed,
    tubes sticking out all over
    him
    as he fought like hell
    to live.
    nobody would help me
    die as
    the drinks kept
    coming,
    as the next day
    waited for me
    with its steel clamps,
    its stinking
    anonymity,
    its incogitant
    attitude.
    death doesn't always
    come running
    when you call
    it,
    not even if you
    call it
    from a shining
    castle
    or from an ocean liner
    or from the best bar
    on earth (or the
    worst).
    such impertinence
    only makes the gods
    hesitate and
    delay.
    ask me: I'm
    72.
     
  10. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    There are many types of stories and many types of lives and they are all worth telling even if some aren't pretty nor happy nor redemptive to write them otherwise would be to lie. Not all paintings are beautiful but they offer a way of seeing and that is what makes them necessary. All types of perspectives and points of view are worth describing if they were not then there would only be one type of love story. In short literature serves many functions that serve to describe so many different aspects of life and living that to narrow it to the domain you assert would be the death of it. The dynamics of a story isn't always contingent on positive continuity, a story of a spiral downwards as in Carol's case can be just as affective an aesthetic nihilism if you will De Sade was known for it and it is a valid aspect of literary work along with everything else.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2009
  11. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    53,966
    It's fiction. Great stories can depend on ideas that are simply made up or "false". Even if the spirituality is not based on false ideas, we can appreciate how real people react to these ideas, integrate them into their lives or reject them, come to terms or just be confused. It's the human experience to be subject to false ideas.

    That continuity is the human experience, we don't have to appeal to anything else.

    You make the mistake of equating materialism to nihilism. In the material world, we still have ethics, love, art, music, literature, morals, etc...


    The brain is a material construction.

    The life of the body is not the limit to material nature. Ideas are transmitted materially from one brain to another. In this manner, ideas seem to have a life of their own. Consequences depend on cause and effect, we need look no further than that.

    So what? Altruism is not incompatible with natural selection. The material world extends past our bodies.
     
  12. visceral_instinct Monkey see, monkey denigrate Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,913
    I write poems and fiction. None of them have spiritual elements.
     
  13. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    Is Tolkein a writer of myths?

    I classify all fictional prose as literature, whether its classical myth, native american legends, novels, or old wives tales.

    This would not include the diary, letters to friends, newspaper editorials, or the philosophical treatise.

    Anais may have been a good writer but her personal musing is not literature.
     
  14. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    That depends...if consciousness extends beyond the life of the body then yes, human experience is continuous.

    It is this continuity which is necessary for what human beings call *meaning*.
     
  15. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    In a strictly materialist nihilism...what you have is the culture of the anthill.

    But even the most rabid nihilists still have some internal conflict in the back of their mind...a pervasive self doubt.

    It is only this doubt that makes them a *literary* character.
     
  16. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    That depends on the subject of the altruism. Evolutionary ideas tend to focus on gene pools, as opposed to individual organisms.
     
  17. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    "I will not die...it is the world which will end."

    -Ayn Rand's favourite phrase.
     
  18. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    In ancient times artists made ugly things beautiful.

    In modern times artists make beautiful things ugly.

    Salvador Dali wrote these words about his wife Gala:

    Her attitudes
    Her fleeting expressions
    Are another ninth symphony
    The architectonic contours
    Of a perfect soul
    Crystallized at the very edge
    Of the flesh itself

    If a modern artist wrote these words TODAY he would be consigned to the flames forthwith...and withforth!
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  19. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    I have a book of De Sade's letters from prison, and he's a good example of what I've described in this thread...the conflicted nihilist!
     
  20. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    53,966
    Not at all, in fact it is the discontinuity of consciousness that gives life meaning. If your consciousness never died, it wouldn't be all that special.

    Materialism isn't nihilism. Art, poetry, music, these all come from material sources, even the brain is material.
     
  21. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    Carcano: It is only this doubt that makes them a *literary* character.

    Well with this I can agree.

    Actually Carcano I am still not sure if I understand all you are trying to express in terms of this discussion but lets go deeper and see if what you refer to can become more clear.

    "I will not die...it is the world which will end."

    -Ayn Rand's favourite phrase.

    Does this surprise you? Rand was a complete narcissist. She speaks in terms of all the world as being relevant only through her subjective experience so when she takes her last breath and closes her eyes its the world that dies for her not her which dies for the world.
    I am always conscious of her neurosis when I read her work...grain of salt and all that.

    Carcano: In modern times artists make beautiful things ugly.

    If a modern artist wrote these words TODAY they'd be consigned to the flames forthwith...and withforth!

    Oh but this is so not true. I will put together a list of authors who's work is very very beautiful when I return later. I will post some of their words so you can see that beauty isn't lost in literature, this is why I think you need to read more literature, read more to see the breadth and depth.

    I totally disagree that if an artist expresses such sentiments he would be consigned to the scrap heap. Not at all. Literature is not dependent on what is fashionable. I agree that different times in history reaps different material, different focus and language in which to express themselves, I will get into this later when I return, but this is also necessary Carcano. Its a death in art that allows things to stagnate, a death in society. If the artist is a mirror then you cannot blame him or her for exposing the neurosis of their time, do no make the mistake of saying its the artist that is sick and infecting the world with his sickness it is quite the opposite. Do not make the mistake of saying that it is he that is neurotic and not the society.

    I think you over-romanticize the past or perhaps it isn't that and you simply are looking for a resurgence of a 'romantic age'.

    More later.

    Just caught the De Sade remark. Read the work man not his letters! But I will address De Sade later. Letters and such things are only relevant when you have his work to refer to.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  22. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,865
    This is exactly what the prevailing high priests of nihilistic modernity would say to an artist caught portraying anything but a disturbed mind...the groaning and howling echoing up from the catacombs of the local nut house!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=929ceD32uVo

    "You are discarded...the refuse of the past."
     
  23. Mrs.Lucysnow Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,879
    Anais Nin doesn't fall into that category and she is a modern writer and she was not someone who would have romanticized the past at the expense of the present. She wrote beautifully and poignantly, showed wisdom and perception, self-reflection and desire to transcend anything that would have held her back as an individual. She focused solely on beauty, growth, love and understanding.

    Now for the rant you are on. What makes you think that all literature is a portrayal of a 'disturbed mind'? If you want to offer the world something you think is meaningful then do so but it has to be meaningful to its age, it has to on some level perceive its age or have an awareness of a coming age in order to be relevant. You first say all literature is spiritual, I go about proving all of it is not, then you blame literature for being nihilistic when in reality Literature is made up of too many different examples to label as either encompassing the elements of one or the other. Literature portrays and reflects all that is human, all of man's vagaries.

    All you are doing is criticizing without being exact on what aspect of literature you are being critical of. Is it contemporary authors? Is it the age you live in? Is it social values or the lack thereof? Is it the lack of myths? Be clear, artists are vehicles. If the artist is a mirror then you cannot blame him or her for exposing the neurosis of their time, do no make the mistake of saying its the artist that is sick and infecting the world with his sickness when it is quite the opposite. Do not make the mistake of saying that it is he that is neurotic when all he or she is doing is reflecting back to the world or society what the world or society is itself reflecting. The fact that some show a way out by their very creation, by their very own perceptions and wisdom is part of the magic of the medium, few people will change because of books but books will always change because of people.

    What would you have?

    One thing I admired Nin for was her ability to be an example of beauty, a creator not a spectator. She didn't waste her time criticizing her age she analyzed, innovative, honed her craft and produced. SHE BUILT THE WORLD SHE WANTED TO LIVE IN FOR HERSELF and didn't expect something external to do this for her, she was supposed to fail to blossom, she could have remained a victim of her own neurosis and judgement but she saved herself. Your criticism of a medium you have not extensively explored, nor have contributed towards is a cry of the impotent. Either you have a solution for art or you don't. Either you are creating the world you want to live in or you are not. The criticism is merely another negative unproductive uncreative echo of bitterness, ennui and destruction.

    "Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living." A.Nin

    Where lies the hope and glory in you? If it is there then do not be mute. Spill the glow upon the screen so all who is willing to hear can be inspired and warm themselves by it, it is in this nature the artist shows his generosity.

    "Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death." Nin

    "Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together. " A. Nin
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009

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