timer Asked: Apr 29th, 2020

Question Description

What has interested you the most in this class? Is it a particular writing? An image? A conversation we’ve had in class? Take inspiration from the thing that has interested you the most and do something unique with it in your writing. There are many approaches you can follow or invent: write a straightforward essay about why you are interested in the thing, write a personal reflection, write a play, write poems, write a short story – write creatively. Use your imagination. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – fear kills good writing and makes everything boring and the same. The method of good writing is to love what you write – and love and fear are opposites, aren’t they? Keep in mind that writing is a form of communication: a real person will read what you write so you want to make yourself understood, but more than that, you might want to give pleasure to your reader. Because hopefully one thing you’ve learned in this class is that reading can be pleasurable. If you enjoy yourself while you write, chances are the reader will also feel it. If instead you’re in excruciating agony, pumped full of stimulants, bitter, paranoid and unhappy – it will show, and it won’t be fun for anyone. Maybe you’ve been rewarded in school for torturing yourself while you write, but all that comes of that is a hatred for writing. How strange! – to hate a form of expression because you don’t feel free to express yourself in it. In this class writing can be what you want it to be, what it already is – yours. Pleasure and thinking, pleasure and writing – that’s the key to creating beautiful things. But be careful! Be sure that you choose a topic from this class, and in writing about it demonstrate to me that you have read the assigned writings regarding your topic. Do not abuse the freedom given to you in this assignment by writing about something totally unrelated to our class that demonstrates no real engagement with the assigned writings.

Requirements: 1. Do not summarize a piece of writing in the book report fashion. Do something more interesting than that.

2. Do not worry about your thesis statement. It’s ok to contradict yourself, you are not in court.

3. Do not worry about the Chicago Style or the MLA Style. If you want to include footnotes and references just use common sense – yes, you have common sense.

4. Think about what you would like to read – that’s a good place from which to start writing.

5. Three pages, double-­‐spaced – that’s a minimum, if you want to write more, feel free.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

Dear students, The grey weather of these days solidifies the ambiance of misery that fills up the world of empty streets and empty places where we use to meet. But we are far from it, contained within our houses, and there, there are candles to light that no one else can see. Our inner worlds can be places of joy, of candles, hiding amidst the empty grey, which we were use to anyway. The exceptional doesn’t contradict the normal, but reveals its truth more lucidly – in these exceptional times we can learn a lesson that applies to all times, and that just now perhaps is more obvious: Beauty hides in the world. The way we are hiding now, and the way our dreams might even be hiding from ourselves in our immobile time that is so well disposed for doing nothing. It is when we do nothing that many things happen – but they happen within us, within the closed houses of our souls, and they don’t appear outside on the streets of the social register of productivity. Yet what happens inside, in hiding, can haunt the physical world, or the social world, like a spellbound aura of dreams that never end. What better thing is there to take from our solitude than our dreams? What better use is there of solitude than to dream? Yet to dream, one must know how to do nothing, and that is the topic of this lesson from a distance: The magic of doing nothing. Is it a white magic or a black magic? Of course it depends from which point of view its creations are regarded – because doing nothing is in fact, and in secrecy, one of the most creative states that a person can exist in. I have arrived at the idea of writing to you about doing nothing through a consideration of the ways that it is being impeded, even at a distance, by certain providers of busywork who view it, quite simply, as a form of black magic. It is as though they are trying to perform an exorcism against doing nothing – wishing to expel it from your lives as though it was a virus. Points of view are entitled to exist, and points of view are entitled to view each other and speak what they see. From my point of view I see this: A stream of busywork is at this moment a direct impediment and a denial of the fecund possibilities contained within doing nothing. It is always this way, now it is just more clear, because our situation is perfectly suited for doing nothing most intensely, which means most creatively. There is a desperation, quite sad, in current efforts to reestablish the order of social time, with its register of days and nights, the hours of the clock, scheduled activities, and its apotheosis of anxiety: the deadline. Doing nothing exists outside of the social register of time. The time spent doing nothing can’t be counted, because its essence is a communion with eternity that laughs at clocks and to-do-lists. It floats above the labyrinth of the reality principle so as to contemplate it for what it actually is: A collective neurosis as disproportionate to life as a catcher’s mitt is to the amount of toilet paper really needed to clean oneself properly. Doing nothing is a moment of revelation, and that is why the coloring of its magic takes on different hues for different people – because there are different types of people who each see the world as refractions of what they themselves are. The concept of doing nothing comes wrapped to us like a gift, under different layers of perception that we remove like children on their birthdays, unwrapping the paper to see what’s inside. The first layer of wrapping paper is the perception of doing nothing accorded by our society and its dominant ideas. Here, at the most superficial level, which is the best place to begin – and to forget like wrapping paper – doing nothing appears as a 1 manifestation of laziness. And laziness signifies non-productive activity. Yet “productivity”, in this equation, is strictly identified with the social circuit board of value whose organizing principle is money. Read Benjamin Franklin, if you dare to know one of the architects of the concerns that organize your mind. “Time is money,” he says, and time that is not money is consequently nothing. So he did not appreciate nothing, or perhaps he appreciated it too much and as such felt compelled to deny it to himself. It is not from a consideration of an external necessity – the need to make things – that a person denies his own inclination to doing nothing, it is instead from a consideration of an internal necessity that is stronger – the need to dream – that a person builds labyrinths of reality to hide in. The United States, and all countries imbued with the Protestant ethic, or “work ethic”, have imagined themselves as being very different from the rest of the world, but especially from the Catholic countries which constantly reappear in the Protestant field of vision as lazy. All this means is that the fecundity and creativity of doing nothing are not perceptible from this point of view, or from this point of denial. So very well, color me bad if you must as you see me doing nothing, but your perceptions are just a wrapping, the gift you still have not seen. And know that these perceptions of yours are destined to be forgotten, at least by me, at least for now. But in the language and in the perception of Catholic countries – and in Italian in particular – there is a different way of naming and of experiencing the gift wrapped under the first linguistic layer of laziness – and this we can call the gift’s second and final layer of concealment, its greatest moment of anticipation. In Italian there is the expression dolce far niente, which means sweetly doing nothing. Some people don’t like sweets, they taste lazy to them. But maybe the problem is with their palates and not with the sweets themselves. Could it be? Sugar is most fascinating when it melts, and it is in the slowness and serenity of melting that doing nothing finds its metaphor in sweetness. To sweetly do nothing is contrary to anxiously doing nothing and to passively doing nothing. To anxiously do nothing is akin to running away from one’s body, which is not a sign of health but a sign of misery that leaves one short of breath. To passively do nothing is akin to consuming mass-produced dreams, which creates nothing but voids that leaves one short of words. To sweetly do nothing is to love and to perceive the wealth of things that you are actually doing in your state of trance, and to be amused by the melting of the perceptions that have hid this idyllic place from you like obtrusive walls. Dolce far niente can be coupled with an aphorism that speaks to its journey towards bliss through layers – through wrappings – of judgmental perceptions: Rebel, you have been damned, why is it then that you are so happy? The gifts of doing nothing are ready to be seen now, shall we look at them? First let’s look at the part of ourselves that we can see with our eyes – our bodies. In doing nothing our bodies’ movements and its aura are not determined by an external object – by a goal, by a machine, or by a place to go. Our bodies serve nothing when we do nothing. Nor are our bodies merely in the shadow of an external object when we do nothing – they are not simply resting and recharging and preparing for another bout of activity, this would make our doing nothing serve an activity – a future activity – which would deprive doing nothing of its charm. Our bodies are like a balloon when we do nothing, a balloon that has been let go of by gravity’s personification – work. We’re floating. What do our bodies do, and how 2 do we see them when we float? When a body is not a conduit of work, or of exercise which is a continuation of work’s logic, then it becomes a conduit of an inner energy whose destination is the body itself. Interiority is manifested in the body when it does nothing – when it does nothing for anybody else except its own. The meaning of that interiority is perceived through sensuality. Look at art, dear students. Art is full of people doing nothing. That is because people are at their most beautiful when they do nothing. Because when we do nothing our bodies simply exist to be enjoyed, and to be enjoyed without any other purpose than enjoyment itself. The value of our bodies change when we do nothing, and so does our posturing of them. We can pose in our repose, and make our bodies objects of art in the field of physical reality, which is always hiding there under the field of work’s movements, and the circuit boards of panic’s routines. Here we have crossed the bridge to the other side of panic: We are now on the side of sovereignty. Sovereignty is a being serving itself and its own existence, doing nothing, immobile in its own serene enjoyment and contemplation of itself. There are of course an abundance of examples of bodies in motion and even at work in art, but consider that as a rule the bodies shown in art are doing nothing. Yet in that state of doing nothing they are creating beauty, which art then re-presents in its paintings and sculptures, in its poems and songs. Look at this painting – 3 Madeleine in the Bois d’Amour by Émile Bernard. She is doing nothing but contemplating beauty, inner beauty, and that is why she looks so beautiful. The path to her serenity begins from water, from its calming aura that dissolves concerns, that doesn’t know the solidity of facts, but that is immersed in the current of feeling. She is in the Bois d’Amour, which is an actual place in France, but the meaning of this name is also symbolic in the contextual whole of the painting – les bois d’amour means the woods of love in French. That is where she is. Love radiates from her eyes as she looks at the sky, and it fills her face as she is content to contemplate her own secrets. She is creating life’s meanings in this state of doing nothing, which in French is also called rêverie, or dreaminess. When we dream like Madeleine we create a sense of our world and of ourselves, we create reconciliations between all that is free within ourselves and all that is not. We create reality’s possibilities when we take a distance from reality’s facts. Maybe she is even creating her lover in the woods of love – the lover she remembers, or the one she hasn’t yet met. She is pregnant with ideas in her state of doing nothing – this fecundity, or creativity – is represented symbolically by her hand covering her stomach, which in art is an enduring symbol of pregnancy, which in its turn is an enduring symbol of creativity. Maybe the best teachers are only midwives of the ideas you create yourselves. Says someone: “But most people don’t see this beauty that is idle and serene, that has to be reached through the path of one’s own aqueous tranquility and delicate perception.” It is true, most people don’t. But then you have to ask yourself a question: Should you see life, and yourself, through the They that constitute “most people”? Each person will answer this question according to the courage of their own innocence. Here is another painting of a person who knows how to do nothing very well – 4 This one is actually called Dolce far niente and it is by the English artist John William Godward. Godward was born in industrial Victorian England where time was money – just ask Charles Dickens – but he escaped. He followed his imagination. First he changed location and went to Italy, and then he changed time and went into antiquity, which is where this painting is set. What is the bird that she plays with? What has she created in her perception of it? What stories will she tell about the bird? What stories can we tell about her? Is she floating like the bird? Do you see it in her face and her arm? No form of consumption can ever make a person as happy as this form of self-creation – and so businesses of all types must try to exorcize this form of bliss from the realm of experience, and brandish it with the label of doing nothing – simply because it does nothing for them. But even in our California people are good at doing nothing, yes, even here. Look – This painting is by Jerald Silva, who paints in Sacramento. Do you see the wonderment in her eyes? What is she discovering? What new forms of life are her dreams creating? Why is it that we are the best at doing nothing when we lay down, in a position from which we cannot look down on anything else? Perhaps, in our state of floating as we lay down, we do look down on the busy world from the far heights of our dreams, and through this reversal of perspective we reconcile ourselves to the world’s weight. But sometimes when we do nothing our spines are erect – 5 This is a painting of Xochiquetzal, the Aztec goddess of beauty and love, by Rick Ortega, who paints in Los Angeles. Xochiquetzal, in Nahautl, the language of the Aztecs, means precious flower. Flowers only look like they’re doing nothing, but what are they actually doing? They are growing in their apparent stillness so that we can admire them and see our own dreams in them. She is posing here like a flower because that is what a body can do when it is not directed by the remote control of a goal, of a future, or of an object. It can grow from within, and exist for the lucky few who have the eyes to admire it. May you do nothing better. Dimitri Papandreu April 6, 2020 6 ...
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