Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Desire and Unseen Orders

TLS January 12 2011

from Julian Bell's review of Deanna Petherbridge's The Primacy of Drawing: Histories and theories of practice:

... Klee's notion of "taking a line for a walk", or Matisse's "desire of the line"...

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from John Ray's review of British Museum exhibit "Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead":

O my heart of my mother, my heart of my forms, do not stand against me as a witness, do not oppose me in the tribunal, do not incline against me in the presence of the Keeper of the scales, for you are my spirit which is in my body, the god with the potter's wheel who moulded and made safe my limbs. Go on to the happy places to which we speed.

In ancient Egypt, these were the words that were needed during the judgement of the dead. The subject's heart is being weighed in a balance, in the presence of the most awesome of the gods. In the opposite pan of the scales is the feather of truth, and the heart of the righteous is required to weigh no more and no less than this feather. But the heart of the owner's forms (the different stages of his life) is also his conscience, and it may choose to upset the balance and condemn him at the critical moment. If this happens, the monster called the Devourer (part crocodile, part lion and part hippopotamus) is waiting at the foot of the scales. Hence this spell, intended to quieten the heart, which is known to Egyptologists as Chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead. It was also inscribed on scarabs or other amulets and placed on the chest of the mummy.

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TLS January 21 2011

from N. J. Enfield's review of Paul Bloom's How Pleasure Works: The new science of why we like what we like:

Seemingly irrational devotion to a cricket ball [batted by Brian Lara to break Garry Sobers's world record Test match high score of 364 runs] only makes sense if you have a predilection for what Bloom calls "realities that are not present to the senses". What's required is a psychological bent for "unseen order", a term William James used in characterizing the object of human religious thought and experience.

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To "see" an author's intentions in ink marks is to put them there, in a way that only humans know. Paul Bloom's engaging account shows that desire is mostly just like this, but not because such depths are unique to it. The depths of desire are the same depths we see in all the kinds of hidden meaning that shape our human lives.

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