A Cynic I’ll remain; pessimist and ironist to the end.

I do not see myself as a philosopher with philosophical merchandise to sell. That is for the mountebanks of theory who infest the world with their codified sects, each baring its teeth to defend some trademarked icon. Ligotti reminded me of such thoughts today…

A Cynic I’ll remain; pessimist and ironist to the end. I’ll let the philosophers among us bury their own in derision or praise; either way matters not one iota to me. What matters is people themselves, not their thoughts. We’ve seen two-thousand years of philosophical thought and has it changed the world or divided it. Maybe thought is overrated, raising now one, now another, to some pinnacle of contemporary fame; then bringing them back down low in the next generation’s slow exit to some new luminous light of philosophical entrepreneurship. What is philosophy but the long history of an error; one that has yet to be resolved. The error of being human – conscious of our consciousness. We are the only creatures who are restless, dissatisfied with ourselves and others, unable to live at peace with just being as ‘being’. We always want more, seek more, hope for more; and when it is not forthcoming we blame each other for our malaise, our troubles. Humans will never be happy, and yet they seek it above all things – eternal optimists in search of hope and some utopian world of peace and joy. When a pessimist arises in their midst and sounds off the dark knell bell of doom and gloom they mute him, stamp him out with trumpets of noise, and pass him by like a terrible promise of catastrophe.

In Lucian the Roman poet’s Dialogues of the Dead, Menippus the Cynic comes upon the dead god Chiron and asks him why he wanted to die? The god tells him because he was tired of immortality, that nothing changed; neither sun, nor moon; nor food or drink. That everything remained the same in the gods abode. So that he sought above all things cessation of being, the halls of hades. Menippus laughed out loud at this, asking him what he felt about death now that he was dead. The god pondered a moment, saying he had no feelings one way or the other; because unlike immortality he did not need beauty or sorrow, being dead. Yet, Menippus questioned him further asking: “But my dear fellow, nothing changes here in death as well. So what will you do now for change?” The god Chiron thought a moment, and asked: “What would you suggest, Menippus?” Menippus answered:

What I imagine a sensible man is reputed to do— be content and satisfied with one’s lot and think no part of it intolerable.

Why seek for something you’ll never find? Why pursue a world of peace and joy that cannot be? Maybe it’s this pursuit that has brought on all the world’s woes to begin with. Humans cannot be content and satisfied with their lot, so instead they will in envious glee seek out what their neighbor’s have; or, seek to impose some notion of the Good Life out of their Mind’s as if the pursuit of thought-forms and utopian ideas would assuage the restlessness of their dark souls. In the end we have what you see around you: this world of war and endless restlessness, of people wanting more than their lot offers; never happy, always sorrowful that they do not have more and more: for them life is full of misery and intolerable.

Against such stupidity the cynic barks…

 

On Influence and Plagiarism

I was rereading the interview with Jon Padgett from 2014 on Lovecraft ezine about True Detective. What’s sad is not that Nic Pizzolatto plagiarized Thomas Ligotti’s work (which he did!), but that he did not admit it or even openly acknowledge the deep influence Ligotti’s dark vision had had on his TV series, etc.

There’s always a fine line in a healthy influence and appropriation of another’s ideas, and the blatant and uncreative remix of another’s thought without the interjection of creativity.

Hell I’ve been influenced by so many cynics, pessimists, satirists, from Greece to Post-modernity it would be hard put to name all those I owe honor too (although I try over and over on my blog, here, and twitter to do that!). Yet, in creating as I do aphorisms and writings, I as Nietzsche one of my early influences said have “learned to forget” so that I can create. It’s this ability to forget the other in one’s self, to realize as Emerson once stated that “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” It’s this uncanny feeling that the other’s thoughts are our own, that they bring to white heat the very things we’ve thought for so long that brings us to a pitch of creative agency. And, yet, we must make those thought’s our own, not the other’s… distill from this deep influencing the drift of our own utterance, our own voice.

There must be this distinct difference of voice and utterance, a subtle change in tone and style that goes beyond the other’s informed precursory presence. As Borges once said we must make our own precursors, otherwise we are made by them. It’s in that difference that creativity spawns its power, and the plagiarist is found out to be what s/he is: a theft artist, while the creative being has acknowledged and made his/her precursor in one’s own colors. As Harold Bloom once said,

“Aesthetic value emanates from the struggle between texts: in the reader, in language, in the classroom, in arguments within a society. Aesthetic value rises out of memory, and so (as Nietzsche saw) out of pain, the pain of surrendering easier pleasures in favor of much more difficult ones … successful literary works are achieved anxieties, not releases from anxieties.” ~ Harold Bloom

The point here is that each of us has one or more precursors (texts) that awaken our ideas, our moods, our expressions; and, yet, the struggle is to achieve out of our struggle with and against our precursor(s) a stance and place or our own within the great weave of literature that has gone before: an idiosyncratic change upon that vast ocean of words. The difficult pleasure is in making another’s thought invisible within one’s own writing in such a way that it pays it forward, it allows those ‘who know’ to know this tribute of influence as an idiosyncratic play upon the web of thought and language. Otherwise we become footprints in an endless land of ghost thieves, stealing our thoughts rather than living them in our actual lives.

My Essay on Thomas Ligotti coming in July in Vastarien: The Literary Journal

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My essay Thomas Ligotti: The Abyss of Radiance will appear in the award winning Vastarien: The Literary Journal in the Summer issue this July!

Visit their site to learn more: https://vastarien-journal.com/

“Vastarien: A Literary Journal was conceived five years ago by a handful of people who wanted to see more writing about and in response to the work of writer/thinker Thomas Ligotti. Since then, our publication has been bombarded with stellar, but unusual, work by authors and artists—many of whom are underrepresented and/or newer voices. Without them and the incredible support Vastarien continues to receive from its devoted readers, this singular journal never would have come to fruition. Thanks so much to all of you and the staff of This Is Horror for this wonderful award!”
—Jon Padgett, Editor-in-Chief of Vastarien: A Literary Journal
THIS IS HORROR FICTION MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR