The Soundtrack of Writing

It’s dangerous to reflect once it’s finally going the way you hope. Writing seems like a delicate balance of happiness, frustration and a sense of urgency. Is it me, did something change, or I am I just (finally!) ready to write my PhD, after two-and-a-half years of reading and preparing?

Building momentum, struggling through meters of books, reading complete oeuvres and random books that happen to exist. Reading systematically and hap-snap, but most importantly: taking notes. My notebooks don’t only provide the background that help me now, but will also be the most valuable archive of my own thinking, my development. Future-me will laugh at them, recognising turns in my thinking due to Agamben, Wittgenstein, Badiou, Blanchot.

Working at the library, early, the first to arrive...
Working at the library, Staatsbibliothek Berlin, early, the first to arrive…

An interesting aspect of writing is rhythm. Everything is music (sorry, Jim, not sound). The importance of a rhythm to propel one’s writing forward, music without words, music that is more than background, more than closing off the world around. It’s a beat that moves, the lets the words flow. It keeps out the superego, that would refuse every single word as none reflect the truth that is to be said. That cannot be said. Which is precisely why one needs to go on, either in first person singular, or in the formal we/they.

The present-me is happy. Is only concerned with this moment, one word at the time. Reaching the end of this project, already thinking and constructing the next. Always continuing, faithful only to the illusion of the philosopher-me.

Language. Always language. Something that I don’t understand, which is always beyond understanding, always framing us. Which makes me want to re-read Benjamin. Again. Always already again. While I spend my days here, speaking German and English, writing in English, thinking in Dutch/English/German, reading French/Dutch/German/English.

But always dreaming of the beyond.

The Impossibility of an Original Self

There is always already the world with me in it (Heidegger). There is no me without the Other (Levinas). I am a product of my time. Everything I think and do is framed, already framed, in language. If there is a protolanguage, an original structure, this will always remain a mystery for me, as it is always me thinking it.


Any existentialist conceptions of the Self, a being free of the Other, a being able to choose freely, is merely a product of our time. Existentialism is its own mauvaise foi. Even as a philosopher, how am I to know I am not merely satisfying my human longing, desire, for change, for freedom, existence?

As such all my thinking is fully grounded in today’s world: the illusion of being original. The search for a breaking of this structure, this world, is in vain. The idea of an Event (Badiou), a search for the impossible possible (Derrida), etc etc, is itself a product of our paradigm and as such it is impossible to use it as a starting point for the finding of a possibility for a rupture. And if we do find a break, a rupture, will it mean we have created it ourselves in order to satisfy our own needs? Breaking the world to reach for an original self is only one more perversion that merely re-establishes the present paradigm (Zizek).

But what does this mean? Does it tell us something about the limits of our present paradigm or does it say something about the most fundamental structure of truth and reality?

Or is it the impossibility of originality that makes it valuable above all? And are we to destroy the dichotomy of possible-impossible in order to become?

Crying & Style

In the end it must be as it is and has always been: great things are for the great, abysses for the profound, shudders and delicacies for the refined and, in sum, all rare things for the rare…” Friedrich Nietzsche

This quote has stayed with me, for many years since I first read it. And it is applicable again today.

I am reading Alain Badiou’s Ethics. It is one of those books, that make me cry. Inside. Tremendously, as I feel the words connecting to what I call myself. It is incredible to read words that describe my own struggle with life so precisely and to the point, formally even, and put into syllables those things I have found exceptionally difficult to say. Without falling back into nihilism. Without closing an eye to the impossible. “Nothing dispenses with the need for courage.” (Verso, 2012, p.50)

Although there remain many things that I continue to be skeptical about. And some things Badiou has apparently not understood in the same way I do. But that makes it even more precious to continue reading this small, yet biblical book. After having struggled my way through ‘Being and Event’ and ‘Logics of Worlds‘, I can breathe his sentences and choice of words. It’s like take a lavender bath. It makes me cry.

And it also creates a longing in myself to find my own voice, to acknowledge myself and the courage I need, and take up my pen and stop quoting other people to give strength to my own arguments.

Let’s think the impossible.