"The thing is, if you just do stuff, and nothing happens, what's it all mean?"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shadows of the Past: Fragments of Philosophic Interventions

My buddy Nick Bacon (the cat that first turned me on to the show) gave me this mid 20th-century philosophical text called Critique of Everyday Life, by Henri Lefebrve. He "lent" me this book like 3 years ago. Because guy friends often have an obstinate cloud of stubborn resistance between them, I didn't actually get around (it was his fav Philosopher, and he'd fellatiate the think [rhetorically and metaphorically, of course] so much that I kind of felt like I'd heard enough to not need to read the text).

Anyway, I finally get around to reading it, and within the first few pages there are these long passages that strike me. They seem to speak to art; and they seem incredibly pertinent to Breaking Bad; as well as to my grand crazy scheme to prove the tao "The Meaning of Breaking Bad is the Meaning of Life." I'll just post the sections here, for now, and see if they resonate...

Using the example of creating a philosophical timeline through icons of demarcated fashion trends, Lefebvre quotes Baudelaire (who is channeling Marx's dialetical diatribes), "'and if to the illustration representing each age he were to add the philosophical thought which that age was mainly preoccupied by or worried by, a thought which the illustration inevitably reflects, he would see what a deep harmony informs all the branches of history'" (106).

Lefebrve then explains, "To Baudelaire the unity of the world appears in the narrow, abstract form of the symbol hidden behind the thing. He says elsewhere that beauty always has 'a double composition.' This duality of art is a consequence of the duality of man: on the one hand an eternal element, on the other a 'circumstantial' element, which will be separately or at one and the same time 'the period, its fashions, its morals and its appetites'. When the eternal appears in the circumstantial--the marvelous in the familiar-- the result is a beautiful work of art...the ability to extract the phantasmagorical from within nature" (106).

"Among the various aspects of man's duality, that of art and nature corresponds to those of town and countryside, make-up and unpainted skin, clothes and body. The duality of the eternal and circumstantial  of spirit and matter, is also the duality of good and evil, of the individual and the crowd. Baudelaire, who did not discover duality and who never pretended to have done so, is mainly concerned with intensifying it until it reveals a sort of unity within its extreme and painful tensions: a confused unity-- not conciliation, or synthesis, or supersession, but more of a scholarly confusion where contradictions are resolved through a painful, relentless struggle so intense that it leaves the mind in ruins" (107).

"...He wants the artist to confront the everyday-- and even if necessary to tear through it to reveal the living spirit enshrouded within, not above, or beyond, but within-- and in doing so to liberate something strange, mysterious and bizarre..." (107).


  1. What can art teach us when it produces the everyday out thin air? In the world of exchange value, which is already a perverted manipulation of use, art and representation lose their revelatory function.

    I think that's kinda what he's getting at there. Though I haven't read him in years (probably why you finally felt you finally decided to read it ;)).

  2. ....wait, these passages at least seem like they is saying the opposite. Alls I sayings is, after a few dozen pages, I think I knows a little bit more about Le Feb Feb than yous guys...