Henry James on Artistic Difficulty

Now to see deep difficulty braved is at any time, for the really addicted artist, to feel almost even as a pang, the beautiful incentive, and to feel it verily in such sort as to wish the danger intensified.  The difficulty most worth tackling can only be for him, in these conditions, the greatest the case permits of.

Heidegger on Philosophy, Art and Religion

Here’s a thing about Heidegger.  For all that is forbidding and foreboding in his writing, he can produce passages of a peculiar beauty.  Often, the passages seem to come from next-to-nothing, like a mouse spontaneously generated from grey rags and dust. Or they suddenly loom up, unforeseeably jutting out of an apparently flat landscape.

Consider the abrupt apotheosizing of the inner form of philosophy in this passage:

Only if we go along with this work [Hegel’s Phenomenology] with patience–understood in the sense of really working with it–will it show its actuality and its inner form.  However, the form of this work–here as everywhere else in genuine philosophy–is not an addition which is meant for the literary connoisseur.  Nor is the question that of literary decoration or of stylistic talent.  Rather, its inner form is the inner necessity of the issue itself.  For philosophy is, like art and religion, a human-superhuman affair of primary and ultimate significance.  Clearly separated from both art and religion and yet equally primary with both of them, philosophy necessarily stands in the radiance of what is beautiful and in the throes of what is holy.

(It is fascinating how this passage resonates with the Preface of PI.  Wittgenstein there relates how he pictured the essence of the book he wanted to write, and how he then came to repent of the picture.  He realized that the actual inner form of his book was the inner necessity of the book’s issue itself–and that the book’s inner form was not one that proceeded from one remark to another naturally and without breaks.  So when he ends the Preface by conceding that he has not written a good book–or not as good a book as he would have liked to write–he is not measuring his lack of success against the pictured essence of the book.  And he is not measuring the book’s literary decoration or his stylistic talent, where each of those is understood as ‘additive’.  No.  He is measuring the book, measuring himself as its writer, against a full realization of the book’s own actual inner form, a full realization of its own inner necessity. Every force evolves a form, yes; but not every force fully evolves its form.)

A Few Words from Bill Mallonee

Bill Mallonee–the centerpiece of Vigilantes of Love, recorder of 50-some albums–writes the following in a preface to the liner notes of his two new albums:

Maybe it takes years of doing something long & well before you “wake up” and realize that you’ve put your own style, or own imprimatur on it. Perhaps it took years of writing songs, recording albums & then laying the wares in front of folks every night for me to “spark;” to feel comfortable in my own skin.

Here’s where it went: Eventually, one comes to that (glorious, liberating) place as an artist where you can leave the hipsters to their hip-ness, be amused by the cultish-ness of the blogger/critics, and walk away from trends.

Eventually you can say: “Hey, this is what I do. Maybe not for everybody, nor is it meant to be. But, it’s good and it’s what I do.”

Maybe that’s how an artist is “born.”

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