I have just now finished reading Lewis Hyde’s fascinating study, Trickster Makes This World. Before I put it aside as a blog topic, I’m going to post below a couple of quotes (with emphasis added) embedded within excerpts that I came across toward the end of the book.
The depth and breadth of Simone Weil’s investigations and understanding of the intellectual pursuit of objective Truth is such that it never surprises me to find her cited in any intellectual work, regardless of subject matter. Such is Trickster Makes This World. In a chapter on the rejuvenative effects of the trickster impulse on art, focusing on the French Dada and Surrealist artist, Marcel Duchamp, Hyde quotes Weil on contradiction:
“Contradiction is a lever of transcendence,” Simone Weil once wrote, but that lever will not work unless accompanied by some oil to keep it loose, a fluid we call “humor,” the smile of early surrealism… [p.275]
The next excerpt, still focused on Duchamp and “contradiction’, is a bit longer and contains a quote from minimalist, Carl Andre:
Duchamp’s well-oiled contradiction…was a tool not simply for avoiding mundane consumer regret but for avoiding the regret of living a life derived from unexamined language, tradition, and habit. Individuals who never sense the contradictions of their cultural inheritance run the risk of becoming little more than host bodies for stale gestures, metaphors, and received ideas, all the stereotypic likes and dislikes by which cultures perpetuate themselves. As Carl Andre once said, “Culture is something that is done to us. Art is something we do to culture.” When the thing “done to us” ceases to satisfy and empower, it becomes a kind of parasite, an ichneumon fly depositing its eggs in the soft bodies of children learning to behave. Better, then, if one of those children can outwit the parasite; best if he turns out to be an artus-worker, a Hermes of the Hinge, whose mischief keeps the protective barriers surrounding cultural forms porous and open to change. [p.307]
Such is the antidote for the dread toxin that causes terminal Bleating Merinoitis.