Tag Archives: new year

Restarting the Machine

The new year is upon us. And while I’m not quite back to full operational speed, I started to get back to work after taking a bit of a break over Christmas and the New Year.

It’s funny how quickly the brain gears stop functioning exactly right after a few days of actively avoiding responsibility. Monday was the first day I’d attempted to do work – I barely managed to read half of a journal article before capitulating to my wandering mind. By Wednesday I was able to focus well enough to spend a few hours reading for work. I’m hoping that by the end of next week I’ll be able to turn the tap and have words flow out of it as they normally would.

My supervisor is expecting some decent progress on the current chapter I’m writing by the end of next week, so the machine has to start functioning.

I’m writing on John Norris and Nicolas Malebranche right now, on the way in which they fuse Cartesianism with Augustinianism. As with the rest of my thesis, the focus is on the Cartesian theory of emotion. I can’t say much more, but the chapter is forming nicely – just slowly.

One thing that helped with bringing my focus back is the very successful first meeting of the Friends of Mary Astell. A new scholarly society dedicated to the promotion of scholarship on Astell that I was invited to co-found by my colleagues Michaela Manson and Allauren Forbes. Our first meeting was a tremendous success, even if I could only attend via Skype. We have some big plans forming for this year. Plans which I will reveal in due time.

The writer Warren Ellis uses a codename system to talk about his ongoing projects that aren’t ready to be discussed in public yet. I think I might try to do something similar. Maybe I’ll discuss it further in another post, once I’ve thought of some cool codenames for the few things I’m doing that aren’t strictly academic.

Status: 75% operational
Reading: Pessoa’s Book of Discquiet, Ackworth’s The Philosophy of John Norris of Bemerton; next, Tokarczuk’s Books of Jakob (in Polish)

Gramsci Hated New Year’s Day

I often feel New Years Eve and New Year’s Day are disappointing. This year I longed for little more than to go to sleep early on December 31st and to rise early on January 1st and continue working on my thesis, and on other projects.

In this article from 1916 (neatly published exactly 100 years ago) Gramsci puts this sentiment best:

I would like every hour of my life to be new, though connected to the ones that have passed. No day of celebration with its mandatory collective rhythms, to share with all the strangers I don’t care about. Because our grandfathers’ grandfathers, and so on, celebrated, we too should feel the urge to celebrate. That is nauseating.

History continues today as it did yesterday. This is not a new year. It’s just another year. Every moment is new, and should be treated accordingly. As philosopher Dennis Schmidt put it in a talk I once heard, “we are now older, but we aren’t closer to death. Death is always just a step away”. I think Gramsci would agree. Add that as another reason to have a distaste for this celebration.