Thursday, 12 December 2013

Philosophy as a Way of Life

One of the best philosophy books I've read is Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot which tells you how you can actually use philosophy to change and enrich your life, rather than endlessly theorize. Here's a pertinent section [p.83]:

'In the view of all philosophical schools, mankind's principal cause of suffering, disorder and unconsciousness were the passions, that is, unregulated desires and exaggerated fears.  People are prevented from truly living, it was taught, because they are dominated by worries.  Philosophy thus appears, in the first place, as a therapeutic of the passions...Each school had its own therapeutic method, but all of them linked their therapeutics to a profound transformation of the individual's mode of seeing and being.  The object of spiritual exercises is precisely to bring about this transformation.

To begin with, let us consider the example of the Stoics.  For them, all mankind's woes derive from the fact that he seeks to acquire or to keep possessions that he may lose or fail to obtain, and from the fact that he tries to avoid misfortunes which are often inevitable.  The task of philosophy, then is to educate people, so that they seek only the goods they are able to obtain, and try to avoid only those evils which it is possible to avoid.  In order for something good to be always obtainable, or an evil always avoidable, they must depend exclusively on man's freedom; but the only things which fulfill these conditions are moral good and evil.  They alone depend on us; everything else does not depend on us.  Here, 'everything else' which does not depend on us, refers to the necessary linkage of cause and effect, which is not subject to our freedom.  It must be indifferent to us: that is, we must not introduce any differences into it, but accept it in its entirety, as willed by fate.  This the domain of nature.

We have here a complete reversal of our usual way of looking at things.  We are to switch from our 'human' vision of reality, in which our values depend on our passions, to a 'natural' vision of things, which replaces each event within the perspective of universal nature.

Such a transformation of vision is not easy, and it is precisely here that spiritual exercises come in.  Little by little, they make possible the indispensable metamorphosis of our inner self.'


Various concerts over the last month or so:

The Fall at Clapham Grand 15th November.  Probably would have been better if it had been louder, from my perspective on the side I couldn't hear it properly - the mosh pit in the centre seemed to be having fun.  MES possibly the happiest I have ever seen him onstage - new ep track The Remainderer was aired plus a pretty shambolic oldie 15 Ways.  Alright, but I have much fonder memories of the Islington concert last year - far better venue for a start, where you could see and hear well from anywhere.

Christian Scott Ronnie Scotts 20th November.  I was really looking forward to this.  I still find the idea of eating a meal while listening to live music a bit strange, but the young bankers and legal professionals around me seemed perfectly at home.  Scott was with a quartet (no piano) but fortunately had his guitarist Matt Stevens onboard.  Stevens was more noodly Methenyesque with a much cleaner sound than on the records but certainly doesn't run down the usual worn grooves; then Scott announced that the guitarist was leaving to form his own band, which will be quite a loss I think and it seemed that Scott felt the same.  He spent quite a lot of the evening telling us what he thought - it took up way too much time in my opinion - how much he loved his wife (who came on to sing a number) and making numerous humorous observations.  The first set was a bit of a disappointment to me and it was only in the second that the group came alive and played with more bite and heaviosity, Stevens finally started using distortion - Jihad Joe and KKPD stood out.  I agree with this review that if more of this type of music could have been played I'd have enjoyed it more.

Troyk-estra Purcell Room 23rd November.  The best of the bunch - I've written about Troyka before (see earlier post) so it was interesting to see them in a much augmented line up.  The music was dense, constantly changing, but with a great rock and funk groove on most numbers.  This review and this one chime with my thoughts (a number of people walked out, always a good sign I feel) - Chris Montague is a very interesting guitarist and Kit Downes is certainly one to watch -  he works in many different ensembles and plays solo piano  - Joshua Blackmore the drummer's pretty good too and contributed my favourite piece Zebra (alternative anagrammatic title Braze).   The sound was excellent and I had a great view from the fourth row - the cd of the band live at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival this year was available and is recommended.

Wooden Shjips Audio Brighton 9th December.  I had high hopes for this concert but they were marred by the very poor venue.  Firstly, I can't have been the only person to go to the wrong club Haunt, as most of the publicity said the gig was taking place there.  Fortunately Audio wasn't far away along the seafront - but what a badly designed club for live music!  The stage was along the side wall past the entrance and the crowd was bunched in front of it meaning that anyone else coming in afterwards had to stand at the side with minimal view and the prospect of having to push through a very densely packed group of people to reach the toilets stranded on the far side of the room - combined with one of the most bored and surly barmaids I've encountered for a long time (not enough bar staff certainly) it wasn't a great experience.  However the music, what I could hear of it (once again it wasn't loud enough), but was probably good for the people directly facing the stage, was hypnotic and entrancing - as with any group I haven't seen before I don't prowl the internet for a preview - heavy psychedelic fuzzed drone influenced by the VU with hints of Suicide, Felt even, and most of all Spacemen 3 I thought.  They plough a very narrow repetitive furrow, but they do it well.  At the gigs you can buy the latest lp Back to Land on lovely pink vinyl with a far-out sleeve modelled on Led Zeppelin 3 and the 13th Floor Elevators artwork.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Alan Odle

This week I ordered a copy of The Life and Work of Alan Odle by Martin Steenson which tells you most of what you need to know about this interesting if fairly obscure artist.  I'm glad I found it, as I was thinking of doing a similar book myself - abandoned project No.57.  I do agree with the review that can be found here, however: after a pretty thorough bibliography of his work in books and periodicals there's very little information about the final illustrations - are they all in the collections of Terry Gilliam, Jeremy Hulme and Victor Arwas?  We're not told.  I see that Victor Arwas died in 2010.

Some years ago, searching around for a cover image for my Decadent London book I found the above picture in a history of the Cafe Royal and the search was over.  Many people think that it's a portrait of Aubrey Beardsley (or even the result of an incestuous relationship between Beardsley and his sister Mabel!) but it is in fact Odle, painted by his friend Adrian Allinson (if I recall correctly, the original is now missing, but the V&A has a photograph, hence the sepia tones).  I'm not sure that I care for a lot of his art, I prefer the earlier illustrations but he seems to have suffered many disappointments and setbacks in his life.  He was married to the Modernist writer Dorothy Richardson, whose reputation, unlike her husband's, grew after her death.  She writes that she was glad that he predeceased her, as he appears to have been almost hopeless at coping with everyday life; in earlier years he led a life of ceaseless dissipation, mostly within the comfortable environs of the Cafe Royal.  In a letter to his brother he wrote 'You know the old man's allowance won't run to Cafe Royal evenings and fires.  Necessities come first so, I do without fires.'  He also collaborated with Clifford Bax (friend of Aleister Crowley - see his memoirs Some I Knew Well) and Austin Osman Spare on the periodical The Golden Hind.