history falling apart
December 09, 2015


my study of history is falling apart. i haven't concerned myself with it since i was kicked out of st johns for sleeping in the library. i haven't been able to bring myself to be concerned with it through the web. i spend most of my day looking through this screen, trying to find something worthwhile, and looking for history online seems distracted from what history is supposed to stand for; a referential tomb, for authority of thought and practice.

in where i find myself financially, i ought not to buy history books. i visited the vatican museums with coworkers earler today, and was inadvertently reprimanded by our boss and tour guide for prioritising atmospheric humour atop of the legitimate study of authoritative art. i think i have faith in the cards i played; but this could well be because i don't know as much about art as my coworkers. reductive humour may be my ego's appeal to inferior knowledge. with the piece of mind i have of theirs, it is hard to be persuaded by inanimate statues, no matter how naturalised are their opposite limbs. how can coffee with deceptive me be less dynamic than a ruptured torso?

my study of history is falling apart. i have taken to re-reading chapters, and meditating in a moving bathroom to avoid the train's ticket officer. i am reading about a new immobile model-view-controller approach, renovating the design of large-scale applications by reconceptualising dom insertions, deletes and updates as a complete re-rendering of the application state. as far as i can tell, this has nothing to do with the expansion of civilisation in southern asia. the perspective from which we as the reader know that jon snow must be some sort of metamorph, to inhabit ghost's habits as he sleeps, and yet cannot know that his brother brandon is still alive, in the coat and fur of his own direwolf, also cannot be said to be history. the monuments in the vatican museum are the closest that i have come to studying history, but i laughed and longed for food through most of that walking.

i had an idea when i arrived here that time would be revealing. that dissipating hours of appointments into longer, sturdier studies of the self would make better use of them. but in truth i feel time runs faster here. as though it is even more keen to get away from me. every day, there is nothing to do. meaning is what everyone else finds. i don't know if relationships are all that matter, as i am not on morrie's deathbed. what i am trying to say is that i am the sum and factor of expectations, imputations and explications that others afford me. when i am lonely, like this, this becomes quite clear. i believe it, even if it is not true.

history seemed a lot more important to me when i felt as though everyone else around me knew what it was useful for. the same stands for grammar, and capital letters: when a place has different attentions than these written words, their particular arrangement, i find myself much less faithful to them. i am not one who will stand for beliefs in a dead place.

art is deeply attentive to history. my living and study are in spite of it. i am not what i imagine i should be. after some wine and a deep contemplation of whether i ought to exercise, i have still done no history. here is recap of some things with which i have wasted hours since september:

development

languages

front end

back end

  • django (in truth i learned this before september but i think it prudent to include)
  • ruby on rails
  • parse (in tandem with react, angular, javascript and ios)
  • mean stack (disclaimer: i only used this in one hackathon project)

other technologies

italian

classes

  • five times a week through for two months
  • three times a week through for one and a half months

reading

  • the first of harry potter e la camera dei segreti
  • 200 pages of il trono di spade: i guerrieri del ghiaccio, i fuochi de valyria, la danza dei draghi
  • newspapers, articles, roadsigns, restaurant menus

television

  • la grande belezza, paolo sorrentino
  • four seasons of il trono di spade
  • one season of how i met your mother (italiano)
  • last four harry potter movies
  • scattered tv watching at homestay
  • scattered tv watching for a week in arezzo

spoken

  • two months in a homestay in rome
  • one and a half months living with italian students in frascati
  • general getting around

reading

non-exhaustively

  • plato, the republic: books I,III,IV,VI,VII,X
  • first third of a world history textbook
  • david hume, enquiry concerning human understanding
  • robert hughes, rome
  • lucretius, on the nature of things: book III
  • steven conor, topologies (essay)
  • isaiah berlin, two concepts of liberty (essay)
  • plato, symposium
  • shakespeare, hamlet
  • milton, paradise lost
  • g.s. fraser, ezra pound
  • nietzsche, beyond good and evil
  • boethius, consolations of philosophy
  • tolstoy, anna karenina
  • brecht, a short organum for theatre (essay)
  • emerson, essays
  • heidegger, poetry language thought
  • heidegger, origin of the work of art
  • half of thomas bokenkotter, a concise history of the catholic church
  • daniel quinn, ishmael
  • michel decerteau, the practice of everyday life
  • the portable hannah arendt
  • susan sontag, against interpretation (essay)
  • toni morrison, song of solomon

i have veered from the syllabus i drafted in august, which is saved in a file on my computer called historyofideas -- so much so, that about a month ago i created another file called historyofextras, to take note of readings i didn't plan.

i drew up four pillars for study, in the jfk airport about to board a plane to rome. they were software development, italian, reading, and history. the fourth, like the second third of a textbook, has fallen out of my mind. i visited the vatican museums with my co-workers, but left early to get back to frascati to pay rent. i didn't make it to the sistine chapel. i started combing through an annotated edition of the aeneid in latin, read 150 lines and then forgot to ever open it again. crumbled away like the use of Capital Letters.

author Lachlan Kermode

Written by Lachlan Kermode who lives and works in Princeton. You should check out his Resume, GitHub, or Twitter.