Audio Tour Full Text: Ancilla — RETOUR, Resources

Annotations for RETOUR

1. Bertrand Russell, Nobel Lecture

All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths.

2. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Reveries of The Solitary Walker, Fifth Walk

My morning exercise and the good temper which is inseparable from it made the pause for lunch very enjoyable. But when it took too long and good weather beckoned, I could not wait so long.

While they were still at the table, I would slip away and go throw myself alone into a boat that I rowed to the middle of the lake when the water was calm; and there, stretching myself out full-length in the boat, my eyes turned to heaven, I let myself slowly drift back and forth with the water, sometimes for several hours, plunged in a thousand confused, but delightful, reveries which, even without having any well-determined or constant object, were in my opinion a hundred times preferable to the sweetest things I had found in what are called the pleasures of life. Often, warned by the setting of the sun that it was the hour of retreat, I would find myself so far from the island that I was forced to work with all my might to get back before nightfall.

[…]

In the vicissitudes of a long life, I have noticed that the periods of sweetest enjoyment and most intense pleasures are, nevertheless, not those whose recollection most attracts and touches me.

Those short moments of delirium and passion, however intense they might be, are, even with their intensity, still only scattered points along the path of life. They are too rare and too rapid to constitute a state of being; and the happiness for which my heart longs is in no way made up of fleeting instants, but rather a simple and permanent state which has nothing intense in itself but whose duration increases its charm to the point that I finally find supreme felicity in it.

Everything is in continual flux on earth. Nothing on it retains a constant and static form, and our affections, which are attached to external things, necessarily pass away and change as they do.

Always ahead of or behind us, they recall the past which is no longer or foretell the future which often is in no way to be: there is nothing solid there to which the heart might attach itself. Thus, here-below we have hardly anything but transitory pleasure. As for happiness which lasts, I doubt that it is known here, in our most intense enjoyments, there is hardly an instant when the heart can truly say to us: I would like this instant to last forever. And how can we call happiness a fleeting state which leaves our heart still worried and empty, which makes us long for something beforehand or desire something else afterward?

But if there is a state in which the soul finds a solid enough base to rest itself on entirely and to gather its whole being into, without needing to recall the past or encroach upon the future; in which time is nothing for it; in which the present lasts forever without, however, making its duration noticed and without any trace of time’s passage; without any other sentiment of deprivation or of enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear, except that alone of our existence, and having this sentiment alone fill it completely; as long as this state lasts, he who finds himself in it can call himself happy, not with an imperfect, poor, and relative happiness such as one finds in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, perfect, and full happiness which leaves in the soul no emptiness it might feel a need to fill. Such is the state in which I often found myself during my solitary reveries on St. Peter’s Island, either lying in my boat as I let it drift with the water or seated on the banks of the tossing lake; or elsewhere, at the edge of a beautiful river or of a brook murmuring over pebbles.

What do we enjoy in such a situation? Nothing external to ourselves, nothing if not ourselves and our own existence. As long as this state lasts, we are sufficient unto ourselves, like God. The sentiment of existence, stripped of any other emotion, is in itself a precious sentiment of contentment and of peace which alone would suffice to make this existence dear and sweet to anyone able to spurn all the sensual and earthly impressions which incessantly come to distract us from it and to trouble its sweetness here-below.

3. Thomas Nagel, What Is It Like to Be a Bat?

(Continue reading…) “Audio Tour Full Text: Ancilla — RETOUR, Resources”

Audio Tour Full Text: Ancilla — Souvenir, Sources

Annotations for Souvenir

1. Aristotle, De Anima. 430a10–430a26: 

Since in every class of things, as in nature as a whole, we find two factors involved, (1) a matter which is potentially all the particulars included in the class, (2) a cause which is productive in the sense that it makes them all (the latter standing to the former, as e.g. an art to its material), these distinct elements must likewise be found within the soul. 

And in fact, mind as we have described it, is what it is by virtue of becoming all things, while there is another which is what it is by virtue of making all things: this is a sort of positive state like light; for in a sense light makes potential colours into actual colours. Mind in this sense of it is separable, impassible, unmixed, since it is in its essential nature activity (for always the active is superior to the passive factor, the originating force to the matter which it forms). 

Actual knowledge is identical with its object: in the individual, potential knowledge is in time prior to actual knowledge, but in the universe as a whole it is not prior even in time. Mind is not at one time knowing and at another not. When mind is set free from its present conditions it appears as just what it is and nothing more: this alone is immortal and eternal (we do not, however, remember its former activity because, while mind in this sense is impassible, mind as passive is destructible), and without it nothing thinks.”

2. John Ruskin, The Two Paths — Lecture II, The Unity of Art: 

Our enjoyment arose from a weakness meeting a weakness, from a partiality in the painter fitting to a partiality in us, and giving us sugar when we wanted sugar, and myrrh when we wanted myrrh; but sugar and myrrh are not meat: and when we want meat and bread, we must go to better men.”

3. John Ruskin, Lectures on Art and Painting — Lecture IV, Pre-Raphaelitism: 

…it is not so much in buying pictures, as in being pictures, that you can encourage a noble school. The best patronage of art is not that which seeks for the pleasures of sentiment in a vague ideality, nor for beauty of form in a marble image; but that which educates your children into living heroes, and binds down the flights and the fondnesses of the heart into practical duty and faithful devotion.

4. Aristotle, De Anima. 429b22–430a9: 

The problem might be suggested: if thinking is a passive affection, then if mind is simple and impassible and has nothing in common with anything else, as Anaxagoras says, how can it come to think at all? For interaction between two factors is held to require a precedent community of nature between the factors. Again it might be asked, is mind a possible object of thought to itself? For if mind is thinkable per se and what is thinkable is in kind one and the same, then either (a) mind will belong to everything, or (b) mind will contain some element common to it with all other realities which makes them all thinkable. 

(1) Have not we already disposed of the difficulty about interaction involving a common element, when we said that mind is in a sense potentially whatever is thinkable, though actually it is nothing until it has thought? What it thinks must be in it just as characters may be said to be on a writing tablet on which as yet nothing actually stands written: this is exactly what happens with mind. 

(2) Mind is itself thinkable in exactly the same way as its objects are. For (a) in the case of objects which involve no matter, what thinks and what is thought are identical; for speculative knowledge and its object are identical. (Why mind is not always thinking we must consider later.) (b) In the case of those which contain matter each of the objects of thought is only potentially present. It follows that while they will not have mind in them (for mind is a potentiality of them only insofar as they are capable of being disengaged from matter) mind may yet be thinkable.

5. Isaac Newton, Letter to Robert Hooke, 15 February, 1676: 

I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy.

6. Novalis, Fichte Studies, 373: 

When I ask what a thing is, I am asking about its representation and intuition— I am wondering only about myself.

7. John Ruskin, The Two Paths — Lecture II, Influence of Imagination in Architecture: 

If we see an old woman spinning at the fireside, and distributing her thread dexterously from the distaff, we respect her for her manipulation—if we ask her how much she expects to make in a year, and she answers quickly, we respect her for her calculation—if she is watching at the same time that none of her grandchildren fall into the fire, we respect her for her observation—yet for all this she may still be a commonplace old woman enough. But if she is all the time telling her grandchildren a fairy tale out of her head, we praise her for her imagination, and say, she must be a rather remarkable old woman. Precisely in like manner, if an architect does his working-drawing well, we praise him for his manipulation—if he keeps closely within his contract, we praise him for his honest arithmetic—if he looks well to the laying of his beams, so that nobody shall drop through the floor, we praise him for his observation. But he must, somehow, tell us a fairy tale out of his head beside all this, else we cannot praise him for his imagination, nor speak of him as we did of the old woman.

8. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book X, Chapter 21: 

Earth loves the rain, the proud sky loves to give it. The whole world loves to create futurity. I say then to the world, ‘I share your love.’ Is this not the source of the phrase, ‘This loves to happen?’

 

ANIMVS SVMMISSVS

Architecture and Construction by Sapata Fofana-Dura and Santigie Fofana-Dura; electronics by George Lee, Zeal Mayfield, and me; concept and painting by me. Composed of about 1200 bricks cut from wood salvaged from multiple sources, including a from house fire, The Shrine of Humility was made to exist for only three months of 2019, and is now no more. The unsuspecting, possibly reluctant supplicant would enter the shrine alone and be cast into darkness, enduring this for some time, when at last they are granted a vision.

The relevance of any undertaking can only ever be proportional to its purposiveness.

The Shrine of Humility, or ANIMVS·SVMMISSVS is a reaction to the affronts to consciousness and dignity we face in a world of ever greater depersonalization and isolation. Technology has allowed us to consume more than what we could ever hope to actually assimilate, more than what our own native sensorial metabolic rate can sustain, whether speaking about the merely material, or sensation, or thoughts and ideas. It’s expected that we will consume many hundreds of images and impressions in any single minute of any day, a single image only commanding perhaps at most some few seconds of direct attention. In this way, impressions and thoughts remain only the constituent parts of unformed ideas, and may then never go on to ever being anything more than assumptions which cannot be consciously attended to, where no inquiry is possible. This sort of overloading of the faculties induces a psychological state of passivity, somnambulance, confusion, and purposelessness. Life is thus proportionally less lived.

What if we were to have an image which is only seen by one observer, in a liminal space, for longer than a few seconds, yet perhaps only for as long as any reasonable directed attention might last, knowing that the image is not extant elsewhere in any form and that sharing the experience is not possible. Neither artist nor viewers are looking for “followers” because there is no association of images to be had. And the image may only ever be experienced once. The purpose of this exercise is to remind us that this is in fact always the nature of any experience: an image that can be seen by only one observer does not possess an objective reality— objective experiences are the varying attempts to share what is ineffable, observed as a functional state by any present consciousness. Only you know for sure what you have seen, and of course even that is impossible.

Take back your Subjective Truth because it is the only Truth. Here is a humble shrine where we hope you may find a moment of illumination and awakening.

For further elaboration on these ideas and how this relates to the message of the Encyclical theme, please see the accompanying project monograph.