On the Frustration & the Beauty of Repetition

As a child I thought I despised repetition. Little did I know that I actually loved it, and practiced it. Just not at school.

“Skill development depends on repetition…” I am reading a book by the American sociologist Richard Sennett on the position and the role of The Craftsman in society. An interesting book. But that sentence would have made me angry. At least, when I was young.

When I was a child I was convinced I hated repetition. I hated it all through elementary school and all through high school. At least, that is what I thought. But I was made to repeat tasks that were much too simple for me. Now I know, that if they had given me Chinese characters to learn, told me to repeat them hundreds, thousands to times, I would have gladly done so.

Because I enjoyed repeating the same piece of music for hours to at least master it a little – having not much talent for the piano, the repetition itself made me happy. Peaceful. Seeing how each repetition was different, maybe just slightly, but always another attempt was possible. Another reaching of that rhythm, that melody, that mode of music that could lift your spirits or not.

I also enjoyed learning poetry by heart. Especially when riding my bicycle, I would have a small piece of paper with a few lines scribbled on them. Again, I have no talent for remembering words, am actually pretty bad at it, but I enjoyed murmuring the words and the  melody and the meaning while I was cycling to school.

When Richard Sennett writes his sentence, and I read it in full, I must acknowledge I deeply agree with him. “Skill development depends on how repetition is organized. (…) As a person develops skill, the contents of what he or she repeats change. (..) This is not obvious. (…) When practisce is organized as a means to a fixed end, then the problems of the closed system reappear; the person in training will meet a fixed target but won’t progress further. The open relation between problem solving and problem finding builds and expands skill, but this can’t be a one-off event. Skill opens up in the way only because the rhythm of solving and opening occurs again and again.”

The things I was asked to repeat in school were this type of closed-circuit, where knowledge was more important than skill. And the skills that were offered were too natural to me. I remember one full year in high school having to learn how to look things up in an atlas. Every class I raised my hand to ask why we had to do this, as it seemed senseless. Every time the teacher grew more frustrated with my question, until I had only to raise my hand for him to shout “we will not be discussing this, Nicole!” It was the only time in my whole school career I was sent to the principal.

But I was wrong to think, back then, that I despised repetition. I loved repetition, and it is how I built skill. And how I enjoyed art. Only a few years ago I read Deleuze’s book Difference and Repetition and elucidating this concept to me. How we long to experience something over and over again, not because we want to do the same thing, but because we want to experience this connectedness, this sense of elevation again and again.

It explains the repetition in prayers. The repeating memorial services so we can connect to that moment in time when something significant happened. It explains why thinking is also a matter of repetition. We need to think everything anew, every day. It is not enough that someone some day has written about it somewhere. We need to connect to that thought again and again.

This is why time is circular.

This is why we repeat the phrase ‘I love you’. Or at least, we should.

Truth has never been sexy – let’s focus on the real issues please

It should be extremely clear to everyone that truth is besides the point. And has been for decades already. 

Truth does not exist. It is not something you can simply point out and say: look at that, that is the truth. Truth is made. Truth exists only in a particular world, in which specific rules and regulations about what is reality matter. Truth is always subjective, as it depends on which world you live in on what kind of rules you will follow, what truth-procedures you follow. And truth is always objective, as within that specific world with its truth-procedures, that truth is the truth, no matter who says it or who thinks it. That is the truth, and nothing but the truth (so help me God). Continue reading “Truth has never been sexy – let’s focus on the real issues please”

Cursus: Filosofie voor de kunstenaar

Cursus praktische filosofie als een hulpmiddel richting autonoom kunstenaarschap.

Filosofie is een methode die onmisbare handvatten geeft aan autonome kunstenaars (in opleiding). Het is meer dan een theoretische benadering uitgedacht op een stoffige zolderkamer. In deze cursus zullen we deze praktische, filosofische handvatten gaan bekijken en vooral ook: ervaren en toepassen.

Deze cursus is geen cursus beeldende kunst, maar ook geen theoretische cursus kunstfilosofie. In deze cursus gaan we expliciet niet op zoek naar een begrip of een verklaring voor kunst of naar antwoorden op de vraag ‘wat is kunst’. In plaats daarvan wordt filosofie in deze cursus ingezet als een methode, die de kunstzinnige houding van de autonome kunstenaar en de beeldend therapeut verdiept en versterkt. Continue reading “Cursus: Filosofie voor de kunstenaar”

Zij en Wij – Het Omarmen van de Paradox

Wat heeft hedendaagse filosofie te bieden in deze tijd waarin populisme van allerlei kanten op de loert ligt? In dit artikel ga ik in op werk van Boris Groys, Emmanuel Levinas en Bracha Ettinger om twee benaderingen van de Ander te analyseren.

Veel van de huidige politieke ontwikkelingen spelen zich af rond het fenomeen dat in de continentale filosofie wel met ‘het probleem van de Ander’ wordt aangeduid. Emmanuel Levinas omschreef dit ongeveer als volgt: Er is iets dat zich buiten mijn eigen wereld bevindt, waar ik niet langer omheen kan, waar ik iets mee moet. Het is anders, het is niet-ik. Dit probleem komt naar voren rondom het vluchtelingenvraagstuk, bij de discriminatie van vrouwen, en in Europese discussies zoals BrexitContinue reading “Zij en Wij – Het Omarmen van de Paradox”

They and Us – Embracing the Paradox

What do Boris Gorys, Giorgio Agamben and Emmanuel Levinas have to say about how we are dealing with the threat of the Other – the immigrant, the religious, the woman? They warn for an oversimplification that leads to populism, and how the best approach involves dealing with paradox.

Many of the contemporary political developments are based on a phenomenon that in continental philosophy is called ‘the problem of the Other‘. Emmanuel Levinas described this somewhat as follows: There is something outside of my own world, something which appears to me and which I can no longer ignore, I have to do something with it. It is other, it is not-I.  Continue reading “They and Us – Embracing the Paradox”

Can Women Think? A Contemplation and an Invitation

Listen to my talk on the role of women – in society, in philosophy. How can we allow for female thought to have a voice? With an introduction by Professor Hoda Mahmoudi of the University of Maryland. I’m looking forward to your responses, your questions, your support. As the Dutch poet Lucebert once said… all that is valuable is defenseless…

Can women think? What kind of a ridiculous question is that? It is a stupid question, specially if a woman is going to ask it and give an answer, right? Either she cannot think – and whatever she says needs to be dismissed as nonsense. And you don’t even need to listen to me. Or she can think, but then you already know the answer, so why are you reading this?  Continue reading “Can Women Think? A Contemplation and an Invitation”

Forget this “When good men do nothing…”

Reading books can give a distorted idea of what evil is, and what it means to be a good person. And especially when we start using falsely attributed quotes that are both misleading and wrong, we need to reconsider what it actually means – to do good.

The power of a good story

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of good books, with stories that stay with me, hopefully forever. But I have always read a lot of books. As a child, I would go to the library every week and find a new set of books – 6 as that was the maximum. Carefully selected of course, as it would have to last me a week. Continue reading “Forget this “When good men do nothing…””