"Let Spring Play Over The Earth" by Knut Hamsun

my translation of "Lad Spille Med Vaar Over Jorden" from Det Vilde Kor, 1904

                              I do not know how
                              my heart is full,
                              it keeps me awake
                              this sluggish night.

                              My pulse now throbbing,
                              like a dog barking,
                              now lying quiet,
                              it's like a gate.

                              I raise the curtain:
                              the daylight is coming.
                              Ice hangs from the eaves
                              of the bath house.

                              I walk softly through the fields
                              and listen
                              to the strange and trembling
                              play of spring.

               It goes on almost silently in the fields,
               the animals awakening to flirt and tease,
               the fir trees cracking with resin,
               dripping with life's elixir.
               The stars above now still and pale,
               The birds begin to play.

                It brightens everywhere
                and one by one the stars return home,
                and from beyond the world's edge
                a flicker of fire breaks forth.
                The sun, the sun, the flaming eye of God,
                resting on a river on high.

                By what sorcery is the Earth aroused?
                Its bosom heaving,
                its limbs stirring
                and pulse beating.
                Mist rises along the river,
                to the rumble of screaming and fighting.

                Behold, spring comes to the valley.
                Emerging now from hibernation, the lean bear,
                and high over the western mountains
                sails a royal eagle.
                In all houses preparation is on for
                the wedding of discipline and glory.
Let spring play over the Earth!
And with the magnificent music of nature
a voice hums in my heart,
a thank you for each spring I receive.
My chest pounds with its joyful hoofbeats
and my eyes well up with tears.


In the City, Again (miscellaneous remarks)

Adventuring off into the world to write about things. Writing about things never before made legible. Such projects implicitly bring along the legible world, a world of fiat and governance, both state and corporate. Legibility is the bedrock of that form of life. Through legibility the state and corporation expand. Any man that writes has not yet departed from the form of life rooted in legibility. It is a disguised departure at best. Most likely he will return to the legible world to publish his discoveries.

After all the travel I live again in the city. Like all the others, I have taken on commitments and obligations. I look for work. I have done this before. I am again no different than any other city man. Our concerns are the same. Any interest in other forms of life is now a hobby, something to be done while not in the pursuit of fiat. Am I defeated? Perhaps. Will I try again for something outside this form of life? Perhaps. Perhaps I will fade away. Fill an apartment with new things and use alcohol to console my spirit.

Woe to him who would get a peek outside his form of life, and then to return.

Why should ruins not be allowed to disappear without any trace? Why should the dead be disturbed, dug up and sent to museums for infinite preservation? Why do men stricken with legibility fear the prospect of extinction? Being completely forgotten?

Is the destruction of Palmyra by ISIS any different than what the government archaeologists did with the Anasazi artifacts at Range Creek? Is it any different to destroy something with dynamite than to dig it up, tag it, put it in a plastic bag, and send it far away to a museum to be stored in a drawer? Range Creek is perhaps now more empty of ancient forms of life than Palmyra.

His understanding of the ruin is his understanding of himself. It cannot be anything else. The ruin of long ago men and their form of life is a dirt covered mirror.

The inability of archaeologists and their sciences to account for the meaning of prior forms of life and their divinities will be no different than when the men of new gods uncover the books of the scientists. The godless men of legibility and their libraries of books will be as incomprehensible as the cave drawings, as the Chaco Meridian, et al.

Things slow down. A man ages. His youth — suddenly, one day — is gone. He knows it is gone before the others do. Youth has discarded him. The world looks at him differently. He can no longer be regarded as youthful, given a benefit of the doubt for youthful errors. Indeed, it is expected of him that he be like everyone else; that he be a modest success, a contributing member of a fiat based, consumption focused society. Only because of his youth was he able to live in contrast to that society, for it was his youth that charmed other men (not all of them) into giving him a free pass, a gentle, knowing smile, and sometimes their assistance. But once youth is gone the man who lives contrary to a fiat society becomes pathetic, and he is regarded as such.

Legibility leads to silence, if it is properly understood and followed to its extreme. Rimbaud understood this before the age of 20. He lived out the implications of writing and Cartesianism while still in his teens, and saw it all for what it was: mierde. There was only travel then left to him. There was Java and Africa. He went looking for something. But there was only gunrunning and slave trading for fiat. He learned many languages. He amassed a small fortune. It was all for nothing, he said. All for nothing, this traveling all around. There was nothing to do with the fiat but worry about it. As the doctors amputated his leg in Marseille he was being praised in Paris as the greatest of poets. But the praise of the poetry he had written in youth meant nothing to him. He was dead a few months later age 37. The brilliant poetry was as irrelevant as the bank accounts, the explorations, all the learning. It all comes to nothing.

In the absence of the gods, the terminus of legibility is hopelessness.

Gods cannot exist for one man. Gods must exist for many. There can be no lone pioneer who discovers divinity. Rather, a community of men must together be visited by divinities and receive them.

It was my error to believe I could do it all on my own. It is perhaps a profoundly American error, modeled upon the mythic stories of the pioneers who made these United States. But the history of pioneering was never men alone, but men supported by other men through trade. Mountain men such as Jim Bridger would have died without their being accepted among the tribes. Today in the Alaskan wilderness, Heimo Korth and his wife live as much from the fiat earning from their winter trapping as from their hunting. As his native wife Edna says, No one from my people would live alone as Heimo does. You do not survive alone.


The Old Man 2

"Follow the trucks. Get over," said the old man. "Get in the truck lane."

I was driving a load of fine paving sand back north on the freeway through Portland. We had hit heavy traffic in the city center.

"Start moving over or they won't let you in," he said. "Nobody wants to be stuck behind a truck. Nobody let's you in unless they think you're going to run them over."

I was in the third lane of the four lane highway. The semis were moving slowly in the second lane. I put on my right blinker and looked in the mirror for an opportunity to get over.

Some guy in a pickup slowed to let me in. He flashed his lights. I started over, giving clearance for the trailing axle.

"Stay in this lane. The lane the trucks are in is always fastest," said the old man, "Always."

A white hatchback with blackened windows and big silver rims merged onto the freeway and then cut in front of me and I slammed on the brakes. Now the guy wanted to get over into the next lane.

"Motherfucker!" yelled the old man. "Where's that banana?"

I slowed to increase my following distance behind the white hatchback.

"Get back on him! Get on his bumper! Where's those banana peels?"

"I ate the banana," I said. I got back on his bumper.

"Whatd'ya do with the banana peels? Where are the banana peels?"

"In the garbage bag on the floor," I said. We had both had bananas for breakfast. The hatchback was trying to get over and nobody was letting him in.

"Look at this motherfucker." The old man had retrieved a banana peel from the garbage bag and rolled down the window.

"Motherfucker!" The old man was furious. The old man got up on the passenger seat and leaned half out the window with the banana peel in his hand. The old man hurled the banana peel at the white hatchback. The banana peel landed on the back bumper and stayed there.

"What the fuck, Ray!"

"Motherfucker!" yelled the old man. "Motherfucker!"

The hatchback swerved in front of a car in the third lane. Then he shot over into the fast lane. I saw him switch back into the third lane. He didn't use his turn signals.

The old man was digging in the garbage. Now he had the other banana peel.

"We're going to see him again. Look at these idiots switching lanes. They think they're getting ahead. Nobody knows the truck lane is fastest."

I didn't see the hatchback now. He had gotten far ahead.

"On Long Island one time I threw a banana peel on this zip's windshield. Zip stops right in the middle of the intersection just staring at me, stopping traffic. So I throw another banana peel on his windshield," the old man laughed. "Goddam zipperhead just stared at me until I yelled at him to get out of the way."

We continued slowly ahead in the lane of trucks. Then I saw the white hatchback in the fast lane. He wasn't moving. None of the cars were. The banana peel was still on his back bumper.

"There he is, that dope. You see, they think the truck lane is slowest but they're wrong."

The old man had the other banana peel in his hand. But it was impossible to throw the banana peel over the hood of the truck and two lanes of traffic. We moved on past.

"One time I was driving a walking floor full of garbage into Jersey and this guy cuts me off on the bridge so I hit him with a banana peel. This guy drives up beside me. I look down and he's got a pistol on the passenger seat, patting it with his hand. This guy follows me all the way to Trenton. I waited half the night at the garbage plant to make sure he wasn't outside. Scared the shit outta me. I was scared to drive home. Looked in my mirror all the way home."

"But banana peels aren't garbage," said the old man. "You got to drive with a banana peel next to you for when you need it."


Geronimo's Cadillac

The great Apache warrior as melon farmer

43. His unhappiness can be gauged by his longing to travel, to leave his home. The more traveled a man the less he is happy. Travel and a superficial understanding of local cultures western men have proclaimed a virtue, a bulletpoint for the curriculum vitae, when really travel is an indication of the globalization of unhappiness and homelessness. The entirety of the earth is no man's home.

45. His form of life is without any locality. His form of life can be sent anywhere. Without the local he is homeless: a planet populated with homeless men.

46. Local words and expressions are gradually stricken from his language. Local practices and variations in a form of life are lost to successive generations. Craftsmen are replaced with Walmarts selling cheap machine made products from the Orient. The world becomes a vast urban marketplace dominated by global corporations and the competition of economies of scale.

49. Previously the earth and the gods and animals of a particular place determined his form of life. He did not need or wish to go beyond his locale, where other men and animals and other gods had their dwelling. The first explorers were exiles and outcasts and fools, those who were sent away from a tribe and family for some unforgivable infraction. To be forced to rebuild a form of life from nothing in a foreign land, to discover new gods and where and how to hunt animals, or to die there, was the worst punishment imaginable. The men who traveled to the ends of the earth and began populations there were not noble explorers in the mold of Amundsen or Shackleton, but the degenerates and throwaways from longstanding and religious forms of life. It took countless generations of men in these new, uninhabited lands, to discover the hindering and helpful spirits, the rituals of the hunt, the migratory patterns of the animals, the edible plants, etc. It was an incredible multi-generational project that no sane and healthy man would willingly undertake.

50. The white explorers had it easier in that they brought a powerful form of life with them: agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as the ideas of slavery for the service of working the fields. Because their God was an agricultural god, He came along too. The white explorer did not thus begin from nothing. His was a form of life that could be transplanted wherever crops could grow.

55. The danger to hunting forms of life was always that the locality they lived in would be changed and their form of life made impossible. They were careful not to over hunt, to diminish the soil, to muddy the rivers and streams. They listened attentively to their gods. They resisted going beyond their lands.

59. Western man looks out upon the fenced in wild. From the safety of the steel observation deck the wild stimulates something deep within in him. Something he no longer understands touches his spirit. He says he feels refreshed by the wild. It is an antidote to the city. Now refreshed he can return to his office labors.

60. There is no reason to protect the wild, to save the earth, etc. It is not through any reason that the earth can be saved. Rather it is through reason that the earth is destroyed and men brought to their knees in unhappiness.

75. Philosophy, as a practice of extending legibility, making typographies of the world and cataloging it, is guided by the most hindering of hindering spirits.

77. Philosophical problems have no translation into the languages of other forms of life. The mind/body problem cannot be made a problem in Inupiat. The universality implicit in the arguments made by philosophers cannot be demonstrated anthropologically or ethnologically in every form of life. 

78. Now that the Inuit have an alphabet and their form of life is less reliant upon the hunt, are they now capable of understanding the mind/body problem? Are the Inuit now capable of being troubled by the separation of their minds from their bodies? Or are they still in need of further "progress"?

87. LW posited that philosophical problems were born of language going on holiday, being extended to where it cannot go, etc. But he should have specified that these problems were the result of a language befallen to legibility: Men speak and think legibly today. It is legibility which pushes language where it cannot go. It is the misapplication of an accountant's technology to man and his world.

88. It seems too simple a shorthand to argue that the discovery of agriculture and animal husbandry begat surpluses which begat legibility, then statism and the enslavement of men and animals, oligarchy, etc. Were there farming cultures that resisted legibility, or resisted its advance beyond an accounting technology? Perhaps it was the strength of their divinities that protected them? Is the link between agriculture and population growth really as Brody argues? There seems a decidedly western bias in both economics and anthropology that has obscured these questions, perhaps a result of attempting vast generalities (what the white eyes call Truth) instead of maintaining a local focus. And so few have gone to live for an extended period among the people they write about. Does the act of writing itself, that most dangerous of hindering spirits, make any understanding impossible from the start? It was Teddy Carpenter's realization that he was only assisting the hindering spirit of legibility in destroying the forms of life he admired that led him to quitting the anthropological project entirely. Must a western man stop writing and go silent to preserve the world?

93. Men cannot walk themselves back from their knowledge of certain technologies. The accountant's technology of making legible cannot be overcome or forgotten. There has appeared no divinity yet powerful enough to assist men in overcoming it. 

94. I realized I could never be more than another Carpenter, Scott, or Brody: guiding the hindering spirit of legibility into some hidden, unspoiled and unwritten territory; showing the way to undiscovered transcripts, and if not writing them myself, showing the way to them for states and corporations and their missionaries. Even unwritten, the hindering spirit of legibility I brought with me, would proclaim another, dominant, hostile form of life: to explain, to argue, to define, to make equations, to break into the most essential and then to generalize, to assign ownership: to teach men to become individuals and to make them responsible, to teach them the earth and gods and animals were separate from them, and that they were even separate from their own bodies. 

99. It was not the military might of the Great Father in Washington that finally ended the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. It was the slaughter of more than 500 million animals to make way for the pioneers and their farmland. Without animals to hunt, the tribes faced starvation and were forced onto the reservations with the promise of food. The Indian warriors had routinely defeated the US military, despite it large numbers, but with the animals, specifically the plains buffalo, all but annihilated, their form of life, its gods and language and ritual, was vanquished. Even the great Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered his feathers for a white eyes' suit and was instructed in the farming of melons. In exchange for food, the tribes subjected themselves to legibility. There was only death or the white eye's form of life.

100. Population growth is essential to maintaining the constant increase of capital values. This in turn maintains the fractional reserve banking system assuring that credit extended to capitalists will be repayed along with interest. Growing populations also have the effect of making other forms of life impossible--particularly those that rely upon natural abundances--by killing off the animals and taking the lands upon which those forms of life are reliant. The forests can now be cut down and sold as valuable timber; oil pipelines that might have disturbed caribou migrations can now be constructed without the protest of environmentalists.

104. When a form of life is vanquished its gods go speechless, for man is the mouthpiece of divinity.

105. To make way for the western form of life the land animals had to die. They had to die to make way for the vast farming plots. The forests the animals lived in were necessarily cut down. The animals were slaughtered for interfering with the farmer's produce, for feeding upon his domesticated cattle. Even more importantly, the native men who lived off the land animals, who's form of life the land animals supported, had themselves to be domesticated and taught to live not from the hunting of a natural abundance, but rather by hard work in the service of other men for the currency of government sponsored fiat.

111. If you say that something I have written here is true, it is only because it has appealed to your bias. In the absence of divinity and ritual and the hunt, men are drawn together through Reason, argument and explanation. The whisper of divinity: that men of similar instincts will be comrades. 


From a Truck Stop

Ticonderoga, NY

4. Legibility takes an equational structure. As an accounting technology the debits must be equal to the credits. With the balance sheet the concept of BALANCE in life is originated. A life lived according to the golden mean is not simply the good life, but good accounting.

5. Legibility begins with naming and then is extended structurally in the form of equations and arguments. Philosophical disagreement has historically taken two forms: a disagreement over what has been made legible (the named), and/or a disagreement over the equational argument built upon what has been made legible. 

6. The project of what to name is determined by a man's objectives and biases. A man of fiat profit will name to increase his bank accounts and to justify the state's protection. Whereas the philosopher will name according to his biases, his instincts, perhaps some unknown power speaking through him.

38. The Unabomber's Manifesto is a beautiful work of mathematics, a work of philosophy made by a talented mathemetician. It is hard to disagree with its equational logic. But what has been named, and what has been left unnamed and unequated, is open to disagreement. An equation may itself be perfect, but a disagreement with how X, Y, and Z have been defined is always personal.

56. There are two movements in the scientific project of legibility: (1) finding the smallest, tiniest building block of the world and naming it; and (2) finding the most general, expansive argument/equation to make the world reasonable and completely understood. Both tendencies of legibility disregard the middle, the local, the small group, the family, the tribe, the understanding of men of a particular place and time. 

57. Man lives neither at the most essential nor the most general. He lives, even when blinded by the logic of the state and corporation, inseparable from a specific place and a time, from blood and its lineage. Legible language and  its argument draws man into inhospitable, inhuman places. The global competition of fiat; the competition of worldly fame and other competitions. The equational logic of legibility leads him to develop the world and himself into ugliness and unhappiness. 

60. Science performs best locally. Men and their forms of life function best locally. Yet strangely philosophers, statists, and scientists neglect the local, and are even contemptuous of it. The languages of specific and isolated forms of life are disregarded and soon destroyed. 

69. Philosophy's task (it it can have one) is to interrogate legibilities; to show how the project of making legible fails and its unintended consequences;  to question why a name has been given, to expose the objectives and biases behind the naming; the failure of the equations and arguments constructed upon the names. Philosophy's rightful task is with making the world less legible, protecting the local, protecting its silence. 

77. LW demonstrated this was possible for philosophy: he showed where legibility failed and could not go; his work was a defense of hidden transcripts; a rebuke to those global corporate and state powers that would make of man an economic individual, subject to a global accounting. 

81. As long as there are men, there will be hidden transcripts. 

85. The proper end of philosophy is not silence, but silent prayer.


The Divinities

9. When man stopped hunting to become a farmer and domesticator of animals, his diet changed and his life expectancy was cut in half. He now was lucky to live through age thirty. His teeth fell out from the grain sugars. His bones weakened. He died horribly from diseases received from the domesticated animals he now lived beside.  From the forest the hunters and animals watched him working from morning until night. The gods of the hunt and the wild forest no longer spoke to farming man. Was he at this moment godless? Without a divinity how did he explain to himself the new and terrible afflictions and illnesses and the shortness of his life? Did he not consider a return to the forests and the life of hunting? 

10. The Biblical God was his answer. A vengeful God of punishment and sin and guilt. A God that from the first book of the Bible emphasized the hard life of work in tilling the fields and domesticating the animals (see Brody, The Other Side of Eden). The God of the Old Testament fit the farmer's form of life, a life of work and suffering. 

12. The farmer in his transformation of the earth was still close to the wild. Unlike the hunter gatherer who safeguarded the wild, the farmer fought against it. The farmer's struggle with what is wild made possible his God. Without the wild and the undomesticated there can be no divinity. 

13. Just as the divinities of the hunter gatherers perished with the passing of that form of life, the agrarian Biblical God is no longer suitable for the city dweller. His form of life cannot sustain a divinity. His form of life is no longer suitable to a god. 

14. Man's distance from the wild earth and untamed animals is his distance from divinity.

15. This epoch of man, the first to have broken with the divine, calls this break "progress"? But is it truly a break--will man never again require a divinity? Will man never again require the wild earth and the undomesticated animals?

28. The idea of slavery is born in his needing many sons to work his farm. To enslave strangers comes later. The first slaves were a farmer's sons. The hunter gatherer had no use for slaves: there was not enough work to be done to require them.

38. Men admire science and reason with something similar to the force of prior belief in divinities. But men do not regard the force of gravity as they once regarded the force of Ussen or Jupiter.


The Legible Individual

(these are notes to future aphorisms written from the sleeper berth of a big rig)

The poets learned the technology of writing from the accountants and state legislators.  

While the poets predated the accountants, legislators and writing, the philosophers emerged after the technology of writing was discovered. With writing comes a kind of fixity, a physical fixity on the page,
Writing creates Reason. Writing makes possible what appears as a higher magnitude of thought: lengthy argumentation. Symbolic logic, mathematics, and the heavy books of the well known philosophers are not so much testaments to men's thinking, but examples of the elaborate constructions possible with the technology of writing. Men believed they had made discoveries about themselves and the world when in fact they had constructed idols of thought. Statues. Memorials. Stone and iron wrought structures to be erected in the town square and admired by all.
The legible individual arises from work. Man worked so hard to make the land farmable, to kill and chase away the animals, to cut down the forests, to care for his crops, that he declared this land to be his own. An excess of work creates the idea of possession. "This farm is mine," he says. "These crops are mine. I have worked so hard to grow them." And from this simple first idea of possession the philosophers who come later will say, "This mind is my own. These thoughts are my own. I have thought so hard to discover them." The accountants and state legislators made legible the farms and the stored grain surpluses, declaring they belonged to this man or that man, and then in a similar way the philosophers made legible the man himself, declaring these ideas belong to this man, this man to possess these characteristics. Legibility was foremost a technology of identification for the purpose of ownership.
Dodds writes of the early Greeks as attributing to the gods the dramatic outbursts of men. Madness was believed to be something divine. A horrific murder was believed to be the result of a god entering and acting through a man. The idea of total responsibility for each man--that a man should be in possession of every one of his acts--was not known to the ancients.
The legible individual is the man who possesses himself. He has made himself into an accountants ledger of characteristics and histories and beliefs, of likes and dislikes, of addresses and bank account numbers and balances and credit scores.
To have an identity is not different than owning a farm.
The technologies that came after the advent of farming were all to better it and make it more efficient. With the coincident idea of the legible individual--the man in possession of himself--technologies also appeared to make men more efficient in the possession of themselves. The computer is used to expand the state, enable more surplus, but also to assist men in making themselves more legible to themselves (and to the State) as individuals.
Men domesticate themselves with legibility just as the first farmers cut down the forests and annihilated the animals who threatened their crop.
Strangely, the brain shrinks in size as the man becomes more reliant on his technology. The brain is finally left with lesser functioning. Men remember less. The supposed organ of man's individuality is rendered useless. Man becomes all men, all working men. His legibility to himself no longer matters to him.
The future of man is work. He will no longer be an individual. The epoch of the legible individual will pass as only his work gives him definition. Then, finally, he will no longer even think of his work as what he is. The autistic is one step in this becoming. The autistic examines computer code for errors out of some obsession; not for pay, not for the hoarding of surplus fiat currency for the purchase gadgets and vacations. The autistic is the first step in the annihilation of the individual.
Legibilities change the world. It does not matter whether a new legibility, a new word and idea, 
makes sense or is logical. Legibility was never about logic. This is the failing of the philosophers. 

Legibility first appeared as accounting and statebuilding. It was only after its appearance that the oral singers and poets took it up and applied it to their art. Perhaps the philosophers were an offshoot of the first lawyers and politicians (Plato). The philosophers, like the poets, had previously not written anything down.
And "by writing it down" philosophy and poetry took the form of accounting and gave themselves up to state oversight and a general feeling of reasonableness and the personal triumph that accompanies this feeling. The introduction of writing to poetry and philosophy allowed for a whole vocabulary of new legibility within these areas which became known as disciplines with their own practitioners and schools and diplomas, and a whole infrastructure of legibility grew up around them. Philosophy and poetry could now aspire to the rigor of the state's laws.
Legibility promotes a reasonableness that fascinates certain men.
There could be no legibility before the first farmer. There was no legible individual before the first farmer.
The farmer became a legible individual by way of his work, his many hours of toil in the fields, which, formerly being forested and filled with animals, he transformed into a new vision of the earth. The farmer worked from dawn to dusk while the hunter sat by idly watching from the forest. The farm was the farmer's own. It was made his own by all the work he put into it. He must protect the result of all his work. It seems the notion of possession begins with the idea of protecting what one has toiled for. No one is really attached to that which comes to them by accident, or is granted to all men by the gods as an abundance. But what one has had to work long for one has a strong attachment: Possession.
Copyright © Moraline Free