I haven’t been able to do much writing lately. Partly I have been working far too much, and, perhaps related to this condition, I have been in extremely low spirits for several months. What little time I have devoted to any serious personal pursuit has been spent almost exclusively on trying to gather material for a large essay on a single topic that has held my focus for more than four years. A complete essay is a long way off, and I’m not sure it will ever be reproduced here. I’m still not certain that the materials I have gathered or what I have to say about them could possibly interest anyone else. The pathological nature of my own interest seems to argue against it. I may, however, from time to time offer small snippets of some of the supporting material, to keep it fresh in my own mind and step. Today, I recall section 192 from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil:

192

Whoever has traced the history of an individual science finds a clue in its development for understanding the most ancient and common processes of all “knowledge and cognition.” There as here it is the rash hypotheses, the fictions, the good dumb will to “believe,” the lack of mistrust and patience that are developed first; our senses learn only late and never learn entirely, to be subtle, faithful, and cautious organs of cognition. Our eye finds it more comfortable to respond to a given stimulus by reproducing once more an image that it has produced many times before, instead of registering what is different and new in an impression. The latter would require more strength, more “morality.” Hearing something new is embarrassing and difficult for the ear; foreign music we do not hear well. When we hear another language we try involuntarily to form the sounds we hear into words that sound more familiar and more like home to us: thus the German, for example, transformed arcubalista, when he heard that, into Armbrust. What is new finds our senses, too, hostile and reluctant; and even in the “simplest” process of sensation the affects dominate, such as fear, love, hatred, including the passive affects of laziness.

Just as little as a reader today reads all of the individual words (let alone syllables) on a page—rather he picks about five words at random out of twenty and “guesses” at the meaning that probably belongs to these five words—just as little do we see a tree exactly and completely with reference to leaves, twigs, color, and form; it is so very much easier for us simply to improvise some approximation of a tree. Even in the midst of the strangest experiences we still do the same; we make up the major part of the experience and can scarcely be forced not to contemplate some event as its “inventors.” All this means: basically and from time immemorial we are—accustomed to lying. Or to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, in short, more pleasantly: one is much more of an artist than one knows.

In an animated conversation I often see the face of the person with whom I am talking so clearly and so subtly determined in accordance with the thought he expresses, or that I believe has been produced in him, that this degree of clarity far surpasses my powers of vision: so the subtle shades of the play of the muscles and the expression of the eyes must have been made up by me. Probably the person made an altogether different face, or none at all.

—From Walter Kaufmann’s translation of Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

NP: The Transplants, Tall Cans in the Air