Plagiarism

This is my second blog. I used to blog under a different name until about six weeks ago. I had quite a few followers and some of them commented regularly. I followed their blogs in turn and we became friends, in a way. If you read this, you probably know what I’m talking about. This being the internet, I was aware that I didn’t see the whole picture. But as humans, we never do, so I decided to take things at face value.

Two women at a window, by  Murillo c.1655-1660 [public domain]

Two women at a window, by Murillo c.1655-1660
[public domain]

When a person from outside the WordPress community started to throw around accusations of plagiarism about one of the bloggers I knew, I didn’t know what to think. It was impossible to find out what was going on and within days, the blogger had disappeared. The abusive comments didn’t stop; I got three of them today.

Blogging has enchanted and inspired me. I love to read and write about philosophy and reading the comments of others is something I really enjoy. If I didn’t I’d probably have stopped blogging six weeks ago.

Today, I received another comment concerning plagiarism. This time it wasn’t a rant from an outsider, but a message from somebody who tried to warn me about a blog I referred to. I’ve since deleted the referral to what seemed to be a plagiarised article and I thought it was time to share my thoughts with you, the small group of people that reads this new blog.

I know the internet is not a safe, friendly bubble, but my experiences with blogging at WordPress have been great. To quit blogging just because there are people sending me silly comments and people who engage in plagiarism would mean to disregard all the positive experiences I’ve had up to now.

I’m not prepared to do that, yet.

PS: All comments on this blog are moderated in advance. Any comment that seems inappropriate will not appear in the comments section.

Kierkegaard on seduction

My online-bookstore had it tagged as Chick Lit, even though it was written in 1842. I think they just read the title, although I won’t give up hope that somebody takes it to the beach this summer and discovers a lasting passion for literature. The seducer’s diary is a disconcerting little book by Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard. It’s part of his Either/Or but printed separately by Penguin.

Copenhagen, by Mariusz Paździora (Own work)  [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://cc.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Copenhagen, by Mariusz Paździora (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0
(http://cc.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The book starts by showing us some letters Cordelia has written after her fiancé has left her. Johannes has returned them unopened. Kierkegaard makes the multilayered story compelling by telling it in this order; the outcome is inevitable.

“It is grievous for her that he has deceived her; it is even more grievous, one could be tempted to say, that he has aroused in her this many-tongued reflection, that he has developed her aesthetically enough no longer to listen humbly to one voice, but to be able to hear the many points of view all at once.”

Unanswered letters play an important part in the book. Johannes takes a lot of trouble to get to know Cordelia, even before they meet. He becomes very friendly with her aunt, the person she lives with because her parents are dead, and he regularly visits her house in the company of Edvard, a shy young man who is completely besotted with Cordelia. Johannes uses Edvard, he uses the aunt and ultimately Cordelia. He sends her love letters that border on the burlesque and when they go out together, he’s cold, almost to the point of ignoring her. Cordelia doesn’t respond to the letters: that is to say, she doesn’t write back.

“She will believe in me, partly because I count on my art, partly because at the bottom of what I do there is truth. If it were not so, she wouldn’t believe me.”

Johannes is not playing games, even though he sends her a personal note that is delivered by messenger at a dinner party they are both attending. He wants to possess Cordelia and he works towards that end by carefully observing her and by manipulating her thoughts and her environment, almost as if she were a tiger. They don’t talk, they don’t develop mutual trust. Cordelia is enchanted and inexperienced: Johannes is neither.

“Nothing less erotic is imaginable than this talk of the future, the reason for which is basically that people have nothing with which to fill the present. When I’m there I have no fear of that … for I can make her forget both time and eternity.”

After the snowfall, by Cordelia Wilson (1876-1953) [Public domain]

After the snowfall, by Cordelia Wilson (1876-1953) [Public domain]

Johannes is inspired by aestheticism, not by love. His seduction of Cordelia is a work of art, a ritual. He loves her deeply, but he still adheres to his own rules: no relationship is to last for more than six months and after the apotheosis, they should never see each other again. Cordelia’s unanswered letters clearly show she’s wounded by the experience. Johannes feels no remorse:

“I have loved her, but from now on she can no longer engage my soul. If I were a god I would do for her what Neptune did for a nymph: change her into a man.”

The composition shows great care and has the feel of a classic. Love is portrayed like an unavoidable battle, but there’s no blood and gore to be found in Kierkegaard’s descriptions. Starting with the image of Johannes as a perfect aesthete, the philosophical questions constantly well up in the mind of the reader. I’d like to discuss them in the comments section, so please share your thoughts.

The shake

An artist discovered he could no longer make pointillistic work: instead of nice dots he drew strokes, like those violent, elongated raindrops that strike and hurt your face. When he found his hand trembling he’d used more and more force and the result was a neurological condition called a tremor. He went to see a neurologist and was told he had permanent nerve damage. That hurt. He only ever wanted to become an artist and now he couldn’t draw a straight line or a round dot.

An out-of-doors study, by John Singer Sargent [public domain]

An out-of-doors study, by John Singer Sargent [public domain]

What should he do? Try and learn to draw with his other hand? Get medication to numb the effect? Start all over again and study something different? The neurologist had some advice:

“Embrace the shake.”

You can find the whole story on TED, illustrated with drawings and other works of art. I’d like to look at the advice to embrace his condition. The neurologist started by calling a tremor, with the associated terms: neurological condition, incurable, effects can be dampened by brain surgery or anti-convulsive medication a shake, which could mean: to quiver, to tremble, to vibrate or to rock. He effectively told the artist he should decide on the name and the nature of his problem.

I think western culture often tells us to correct a problem or, if that proves impossible, to actively ignore it. Dull the pain by taking a pill. Surgically cut a nerve that causes us trouble. If we don’t look like the beautiful people: sculpt our bodies until we do.

Meditation by the Sea, Unknown artist ca 1860 [public domain]

Meditation by the Sea, Unknown artist ca 1860 [public domain]

Eastern culture tells us to look our problem squarely in the eye and accept it. To meditate and find compassion for our own imperfections and those of others. I know I’m using bold brush strokes here, but you get the idea.

Phil Hansen tried something different. He embraced his condition: he looked at his hand as if he was a newborn baby, to discover what he could do with it. He used his trembling hand to draw squiggly lines, he dipped it in paint and used it like a rubber stamp. And then he realised that art is all about thinking inside the box.

“The absence of limitations is the enemy of art,” Orson Welles

Perhaps we shouldn’t stop at accepting our limitations. Perhaps we should find ways to make them rock.