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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reading Eric Packer Through Rudolf Steiner and Kolisko

He watched a hundred gulls trail a wobbling scow downriver. They had large strong hearts. He knew this, disproportionate to body size. He'd been interested once and had mastered the teeming details of bird anatomy. Birds have hollow bones. ....He didn't know what he wanted. Then he knew. He wanted to get a haircut.

He stood a while longer, watching a single gull lift and ripple in a furl of air, admiring the bird, thinking into it, trying to know the bird, feeling the sturdy earnest beat of its scavenger's ravenous heart. (C p.7)

In the above quote DeLillo's language soars with the bird. As Baudrillard has said, Your writing must mirror what you are writing about. If it is a soaring bird, then, your writing must soar even more than the bird. It does.

Eugen Kolisko
Lili Kolisko

Zoology for Everybody: Birds Bk. 2 Eugen Kolisko [Paperback]

Rudolf Steiner
As the story goes, when Hitler was asked who his greatest enemy was, he said, "Rudolf Steiner".
Steiner, Eugen Kolisko and Lili Kolisko were colleagues in Anthroposophy.

If you study a bird's skeleton you will notice that it is extremely light, and all the bones, especially those of the skull seem penetrated by air.  (p.9)

The bones of birds are whiter and contain more calcium. They are more brittle and more dense than those of other animals. Very early they lose their content of blood and marrow ....The marrow shrinks and its place is taken by a space filled with air. ...The better a bird flies                                                                                                ,the  more its bones are permeated with air. Life in the air makes the bones dry, brittle and filled with air instead of blood....Studying a bird's bone, we come to the conclusion that it has the qualities that other bones acquire in old age. ...A phenomenon which appears only in old age in all the other animals and in man, appears immediately in the bird. It has a senile skeleton(p.10-11)

In the eye of a bird is a much greater limb-activity. Because it is so well provided with muscles and a ring of bones, it acts more like a limb than an eye. It is not only a physical apparatus to receive light, but also as an organ coordinated with the limb-system. A bird of prey (or scavenger?) looks and strikes; the activity of its eyes is followed immediately by a reaction of the wings and beak.

The birds are thus very sensitive to conditions in the atmosphere through which they fly; they are attuned to the activity of the winds and air currents. They have an extremely well developed muscular sense, a sense of motion, a sense for their own movements and at the same time a sense of touch.

And here I remember David Foster Wallace's essay on his own tournament tennis playing. How he won because he played with the air currents.

The third remarkable feature in birds is the development of the breathing system. Birds have huge lungs, reaching as far below as the belly. The diaphragm  is missing. From the lungs branch off air-sacs, entering the bones and the wings....Some of those branches enter even into the feathers, so that the bird is everywhere surrounded and embedded in air. (20)

The strange phenomenon of migration can be understood if we know that they only fly according to routes having certain ether configurations. They follow the way of rivers.  Much has been written concerning the study of migrating birds, but it shows the great mistake of looking for the explanation in the intellectual capacities of the birds, attributing much to their small brains. Their intelligence is spread out all over the atmosphere. We do not realize the various changes in the atmosphere, for we are not sufficiently sensitive, but the birds are. They migrate on those air currents where they sense certain ether configurations. They are in unison with the air.

Now we turn to the soul-life  of the bird. Everyone who observes birds, remarks that they are more alert than any other animals. They need very little sleep. ...Although birds are very much awake, they are very easily distracted.  They certainly lack the capacity for concentration....Creatures endowed with feathers cannot really concentrate. (23)

Conte in Duvall,  In Cosmopolis Packer possesses an almost preternatural ability to recognize the patterns in currency values that shift in nanoseconds and cyber-capital that is traded instantaneously on the Nikkei and Nasdaq markets. He assumes the hieratic role of the prophet.

He understood how much it meant to him, the roll and flip of data on a screen. He

studied the figural diagrams that brought organic patterns into play, birdwing and

chambered shell. It was shallow thinking to maintain that numbers and charts

were the cold compression of unruly human energies, every sort of yearning and ...

....midnight sweat reduced to liquid units in the financial markets. In fact data itself

was soulful and glowing, a dynamic aspect of the life process. This was the

eloquence of alphabets and numeric systems, now fully realized in electronic

form, in the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every

breath of the planet's living billions. Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our

bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole. (C 24)

"There's an order at some deep level," he said. "A pattern that wants to be seen."

"Then see it."

...I always have. But it's elusive in this instance. My experts have struggled and just about given up. I've been sleeping on it. There's a common surface, an affinity between market movements and the natural world."

"An aesthetics of interaction."
"Yes. But in this case I'm beginning to doubt I'll ever find it."
"Doubt. What is doubt? You don't believe in doubt. You've told me this. Computer power eliminates doubt. All doubt rises from past experience. But the past is disappearing. We used to know the past but not the future. This is changing," she said. We need a new theory of time."

Speed and Politics -  Virilio. The new theory of time. Speed is the last World War. (C 86)


 In 1896, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche asked Steiner to help organize the Nietzsche archive in NaumburgHer brother by that time was non compos mentis. Förster-Nietzsche introduced Steiner into the presence of the catatonic philosopher; Steiner, deeply moved, subsequently wrote the book Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom. Steiner later related, "Nietzsche's ideas of the 'eternal recurrence' and of 'Übermensch' remained long in my mind. For in these was reflected that which a personality must feel concerning the evolution and essential being of humanity when this personality is kept back from grasping the spiritual world by the restricted thought in the philosophy of nature characterizing the end of the 19th century....What attracted me particularly was that one could read Nietzsche without coming upon anything which strove to make the reader a 'dependent' of Nietzsche's."[18]

In 1897, Steiner left the Weimar archives and moved to Berlin. He became part owner, chief editor, and an active contributor to the literary journal Magazin für Literatur, where he hoped to find a readership sympathetic to his philosophy. Many subscribers were alienated by Steiner's unpopular support of Émile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair[22] and the journal lost more subscribers when Steiner published extracts from his correspondence with anarchist John Henry Mackay.[22] Dissatisfaction with his editorial style eventually led to his departure from the magazine.

Rudolf Steiner's theory is spiritual, connecting all knowledge with the cosmos. Agriculture, education, music, plants, animals, an incredible array of knowledge about the world. His theories and observations were originated to provide exercises for spiritual development.

Eric Packer is using his spiritual practices to give him knowledge about cyber numbers "floating currency" for huge financial gains. Steiner never intended that.

DeLillo is making a statement against theory making that can always be turned against itself to strengthen the opposite for what it was intended. For example, Virilio was dismayed to find his work and theories on speed were being taught in military institutions around the world. For the very institutions it was intended to expose.! Deleuze and Guattari 's book A Thousand Plateaus was studied careful by an Israeli general to use against the Palestinians.

So when developing and explaining theory one must be careful Baudrillard warns.

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