week38: wagner, and music as a parachute

Richard Wagner, Overture to Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Prelude to Act 1,3 and Wedding Chorus

Richard Wagner, Overture to Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Prelude to Act 1,3 and Wedding Chorus

on music as a kind of parachute: 

true religious experience is a sort of madness. i can’t take seriously any claim to something otherwise. but who can articulate the many dangers, hidden cliffs and the panoramic precipice one must face in any attempt at recovery? well, nietzsche. he knew, better than anyone else my luck has discovered, the inescapable error of this peculiar kind of convalescence: one is likely to overestimate health, to become overzealous in cultivating the instinct for reason and every kind of apollonian even-mindedness. what is the greatest value one can make of nietzsche? that increases proportionally to the years since his death?—is it that he was, among many things, intimations of what is yet to come?...to that extent he dubbed himself the posthumous philosopher. tremendous though that value might be—at present one stands in desperate need of hyperopic optimism—it still takes a back seat to his greatest significance which, again, increases posthumously. right from the very first page of any of his books (zarathustra, for example, the gay science, especially) one is surrounded by the vistas of intimations of a brighter future—but to have understood his intimations in the opposite direction is to have been introduced to nietzsche twice. who  better than him appreciated that there are twice as many discoveries of the past as there are of the future? we stand in great need of such appreciations today. that philology is near extinct in the academic arena is the first symptom of our current crises in the university—jordan peterson, for example.

Historia Abscondita—Every great human being exerts a retroactive force: for his sake all of history is placed in the balance again, and a thousand secrets of the past crawl out of their hiding places—into his sunshine. There is no way of telling what may yet become part of history. Perhaps the past is still essentially undiscovered! So many retroactive forces are still needed

(Nietzsche, The Gay Science)


example of nietzsche as a retroactive force: he was the significant contributor to my subtlest realization of a psychologically nuanced development. on the same topic of recovery from madness, and in particular, the tendency to overestimate health: what else is dislodged when one cuts the umbilical tether of religiosity and the routine of worship? as i’ve said elsewhere i can’t take too seriously our celebrity atheists who have no talent for religion, who took the merely theoretical path to atheism. they have too pixelated an acuity for what a post-religious world order might resemble. we, for whom ‘atheism’ is still too religious a word for our purposes, can better estimate just how much the religious experience is done for. it comes from my stomach when i say: the religious experience is evermore a relic. god is dying: how much more hopeful a thing to say!—how it alleviates all suspense, makes no allowance for a question mark. but caution. caution! there are cliffs everywhere: or, what is at risk of dying with it?

who has so far been the best physician for the spiritual body as a whole? well, nietzsche. i’ve learnt from him the most underappreciated word of the english language: piety. it is older, deeper, grainier, more organic, more humane, softer, more transparent, more persistent, harder—than religion. it’s lodged deep in us, that shit ain’t going nowhere. it would require the skill of a brilliant surgeon to unseat this ancient artifact of our humanity: unfortunately, we’ve suffered a surplus of such brilliant excavators. those who are able to articulate their disdain for religiosity whilst distinguishing piety as a necessary force will find themselves in an astounding minority. typically, one has on one side the dog-whistling for a return to some form of churchiness and on the other side some floating belief that we’re just days away from the supremacy of reason and the absolute reign of scientific observations. the world is bigger than both sides combined, and deeper too.

it’s perhaps irrelevant that the whole point of this rant came as an afterthought. a delicacy for sensitive pallets. when the point has been made, everything thereafter is extra; you’ll always win a debate with someone who has no time for the extras: i suspect, and have not found sufficient proof otherwise, that those in that astounding minority will either have a tremendous appreciation or considerable talent for the musical experience. in my heart and mind i believe music to be the supreme secular-spiritual art. it’s the balm, the insatiable poultice for those who find themselves increasingly diametrically opposed to belief as a system. what our celebrity atheists (and i mean dawkins, harris, dennett, hitchens and the like) consistently deny as relevant is the degree to which we are in need of belief systems for the operation of even the most menial economic functions. nevertheless, no one can say, of whose who find themselves diametrically opposed, that they’ve not relied at some point on this self-denial. in fact i’d say that the majority of our minority required the overestimation of rationality, as an element of survival. however, a year, five years, a decade of this stiff clean air and one’s nostrils become singed with the cold indifference of an overestimation of reason as a vector for social intercourse. yes indeed, one is need of a balm. of some sort of midway estate between the incalculable depths of an organic spiritualism and the tangible, scientific, communicable intellectual dialect known impudently as reason. because the born-again atheist (that is, those who realized atheism as an instinct) is so far from the church, she needs music more than ever. she needs it as a salt-lick, as a humidifier, a parachute for every leap of faith out of faith.

extra: caution—caution! that music becomes a tool makes for bad listeners, and in the short run—bad musicians.

there is but one rule to the criteria of this compilation: at any rate, no fucking compilations. had i been diligent in maintaining that i might have spared myself having to listen all week to the bridal march---especially during my final examination week when i needed nothing too recognizable as background music....