It is hard, this travel and thinking; uprooted means new experience, but new experience often leads to a realization of how little one knows, or can know – or discover without a library or a university, a circle of people who know a few of the answers. Then the question becomes, is this journalism or autobiography? History or a kind of contemporary mania?
There is certainly much that isn’t yet written about the nature of our new world, and the new Europe – connected to every other part of the world not just by historic trade links, or intellectual trends, wars, colonies and nomadism of whatever type. But how to reduce it, this continent of wi-fi and terror laws; this place which is borderless to Europeans, where national identity is still such an issue? The simple idea was to follow Tom and receive experience; then to concentrate on ideas and things that “changed” the nature of Europe, and so – in some way – the rest of the world. Now it is both, and to try and define the modern “betwixt”.
And the modern “betwixt” is – of course – the hardest thing. It is generational and professional, it is citizen and nomad; art and commerce; philosophy and sex. It is so many things. But “Betwixt” it must be from now on: that is where we are, and so my journey evolves I think into an exploration of this alone.
Returning home for a few weeks to read more, to study in a great library, only heightens the paradoxes, buffets the early prejudices, and adds to the confusion. Contemporary life isn’t an easy generalization, and few try. Devils make their names in the details now; rhetoric is almost always undercut in a few choice replies on a newspaper blog. This is an example of how the balance of the betwixt can alter. If some have lost faith in “truth” while others ground themselves in remaking, or ancient religious texts, there is no way around the idea that we’ve moved into an age of “exception”. Laws, morals, aesthetics, history, politics: all have a formal “canon”, and then there are exceptions…
The challenge of the Renaissance, and now, in thought or art, or business that is to make the confusing simple: but we know so much more now than 1608, or at least have access to it, even if most of it we choose to ignore. I wonder if this is a time when history can’t help us very much? When the “Betwixt” requires new ideas, not reworkings of older ones?
Rousseau cannot be seen alone, as some radical one-off; neither can his faults be ignored. And if we do ignore in the cause of his genius, then where to stop? With Byron? With Wagner? With Hitler? Rousseau talks and yearns for an honesty, yet is self-evidently a remaker of fact, a moaner; probably paranoid for a good part of his life – some say an egomaniac. But the work, the influence even now, lives on.
Question: do we simply misread all art and history, incapable of grapsing out of our own time?
Two great Europeans died today: Bergman and Antonioni. I wonder what that means?
It is time soon, I suppose, for mirrors.
To see what’s reflecting back from an island in Venice.