The Bound Figure

Kristen Lindseth entrusted me with the task of giving her art voice. Not only do I have a deep appreciation for her talent, but we have come to discover in each other kindred spirits, in sync cerebrally and existentially. For those of you who might be interested in exploring her art work just click here: Kristin Lindseth. I highly recommend that you do! 

6ec8dc3e-33ff-4bec-8695-7b0572ca9b38Ropes cascade across the figure’s torso, her form folded, her expression forlorn. Encrypted bondage finds us all. For it is not to concrete walls that the figure speaks; not to bars that stand erect before us. It is rather with eyes poised inward that walls and bars dissolve, and there our greatest despair! For what she sees is the complete annihilation of all boundaries; the absence of all constraint beyond self-constraint. Nothing can contain us except a mind so bent, so twisted, to have been deceived by false idols! The totalizing effect of this experience is terrifying, yet exhilarating. Freedom is the new bondage.

“The great liberation comes for those who are thus fettered suddenly, like the shock of an earthquake: the youthful soul is all at once convulsed, torn loose, torn away – it itself does not know what is happening. A drive and impulse rules and masters it like a command; a will and desire awakens to go off, anywhere, at any cost; a vehement dangerous curiosity for an undiscovered world flames and flickers in all its senses. ‘Better to die than to go on living here’ – thus responds the imperious voice and temptation: and this ‘here’, this ‘at home’ is everything it had hitherto loved! A sudden terror and suspicion of what it loved, a lightning-bolt of contempt for what it called ‘duty’, a rebellious, arbitrary, volcanically erupting desire for travel, strange places, estrangements, coldness, soberness, frost, a hatred of love, perhaps a desecrating blow and glance backwards to where it formerly loved and worshipped, perhaps a hot blush of shame at what it has just done and at the same time an exultation that it has done it, a drunken, inwardly exultant shudder which betrays that a victory has been won – a victory? over what? over whom? an enigmatic, question packed, questionable victory, but the first victory nonetheless: such bad and painful things are part of the history of the great liberation. It is at the same time a sickness that can destroy the man who has it, this first outbreak of strength and will to self-determination, to evaluating on one’s own account, this will to free will…” (Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, Preface.)

Nietzsche understood this bondage. He understood that the idols of old held us captive, yet grounded, …but invariably blind; nay sayers!. Nietzsche famously pronounced the death of God symbolically to expose false idols born out of human need and weakness. For there are two kinds of philosophers: ‘those that philosophize out of defects, and those that philosophize out of their riches and powers.’ The former has need of his philosophy to support, ground or sedate which, in effect, medicates, elevates or gives promise of salvation! The latter turn to the practice ‘as a beautiful luxury, at best the voluptuousness of a triumphant gratitude that eventually has to inscribe itself in cosmic capital letters on the heaven of concepts’. (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism 2, p. 4, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy, Bernard Williams (ed.))

The decadent reach for constructs to appease their anxiety over assuming responsibility for the path they must charter. There’s just no avoiding the simple fact that we acknowledge ourselves as self-conscious, contemplative beings – we ponder, question, gamble, esteem how we should best make our way in this world. Opting for one path, a life-style, a marriage, or a cause carves out from the world that which is distinctively valuable, that for which we shall deny everything else. For when I chose to marry, I reject every other possibility, and thusly bestow value upon it. But how ever does one choose? We are not merely instinctual beings that are spared the destitute of having to address oneself as the gatekeeper to one’s life. In the throes of despair some…most…the decadent, find God, the Absolute, Goodness, or Truth – all conceptual apparatuses that create a world order from human imagination, and with it extrinsic resources to guide, direct and define one’s life. There is an independent world or objective reality out there that grounds and justifies all human judgment. There just is a way things are independently of what any individual subject might believe; perceptions are chimeras that throw one afield, and hence are suspect. The subject is lost, finding presence in and through these enduring human constructs which step in to tell us how to best live. Moral principles – Plato’s Idea of the Good, Socrates’s rationated formula, Mill’s Principle of Utility, Kant’s Categorical Imperative, or the Word of God, ideological ideals, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama have grounded human judgement.

Some are keen to uncover the disease that has taken root for all the while she has been secretly unnerved by the convenience of evaluative formulae that dictate how I…anyone…everyone should act given these universal principles. Standing on the periphery of herself, as if an inconvenience that must be factored out of the equation, snuffed out as it were, so as to discern how things are free from appearances, she invites her mind to eradicate these false idols, and at long last her “heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, premonitions, expectation. At long last the horizon appears free to us again, even if it should not be bright, at long last our ships may venture out to face the danger’. By this Nietzsche means that once the metaphysical rug has been pulled out from beneath our feet, absolute freedom lays bare, and with it an infinity of choices none of which is marked as the right one. There is no standard, criteria, nothing to appeal to outside of the simple, but terrorizing, act of choosing, to ground one’s choice. When we unchain the earth from the sun, we are free-floating beings whose gravitational pull is inwardly experienced, but outwardly abandoned. How wonderful it is to feel free to choose for myself, by myself without having to appease the standards of the Almighty, but infinite freedom is a cage-like freedom that can leave one feeling quite adrift, and peaceful certitude is now replaced with anguish. “In the horizon of the infinite”, says Nietzsche, “We have forsaken the land and gone to sea! We have destroyed the bridge behind us – more so, we have demolished the land behind us! Now, little ship, look out! Beside you is the ocean; it is true, it does not always roar, and at times it lies there like silk and gold and dreams of goodness. But there will be hours when you realize that it is infinite and that there is nothing more awesome than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that has felt free and now strikes against the walls of this cage! Woe, when homesickness for the land overcomes you, as if there had been more freedom there – and there is no more ‘land’!” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism 124, p. 119, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy, Bernard Williams (ed.))

Perpetual existential crisis is the only constant. Ropes hang loosely, draped across my torso, as I wrestle with the groundless abyss of my mind, and like the bird set off into the endless blue I desperately look for a branch upon which to perch my fatigue.

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7 thoughts on “The Bound Figure

    1. I’m sorry I took so long to see your comment. The passage you quote actually speaks to the decadent who take there to be such a world upon which to hang all human judgment but who in the process forget themselves, and all the wonder that is lived life amidst all that awaits,

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    1. I think the question itself invites a paradigm that already presumes a distinction between the thinking subject and a world “out there”. I don’t want to dislodge common sense experience which speaks with the presumption that there is a mind-independent world out there – I presume myself to be talking to you out there albeit via a social media platform right now – but the idea that I can know such a world as some kind of objective, disengaged onlooker seems an impossible thesis to defend. 🙂

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      1. “I think the question itself invites a paradigm that already presumes a distinction between the thinking subject and a world “out there.”
        This is interesting!
        If you are sitting in a park on a bench alone thinking and after sometime you get hungry and take a sandwich from your bag and eat it , then the thinking subject is hungry no more. Instead if you had put the sandwich under the bench, the thinking subject would still be hungry. In putting the sandwich in your mouth instead of putting it under the bench are you acting according to a paradigm which already presumes a distinction between the thinking subject and a world “out there” ?

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