Nicholas R. Jeelvy’s Reading List to Stimulate the ImaginationNicholas R. Jeelvy
Having read Morris van de Camp’s and Kathryn S.’s recommended reading lists, I thought that I’d like to do one of those. The problem is, however, that due to my miseducation and subsequent intellectual deformity, I have no specialized focus, and as such I had no idea how to thematically list five books that people should definitely read. It bothered me greatly. But then it hit me: My lack of focus is itself a product of a specific intellectual path I’ve taken. It is the path of lateral thinking and radical doubt, the path which manifests itself in front of he who walks it only after the step has been taken, the path which is savage and unpredictable, but blissfully far away from the humdrum noise of modern intellectual life. We shall proceed from our current position, backwards towards the first step taken, because this is the only part of it that we know: that which has already been discovered.
5. Yukio Mishima, My Friend Hitler
In the great tradition of doing everything ass-backwards around here, let’s start our list by discussing the political implications of the as-of-yet undeclared philosophical foundations with Mishima’s excellent three-act play about the waning days of the Weimar Republic and the birth of the Third Reich. In this romanticized retelling of the events leading up to and during the Night of the Long Knives, the fate of Germany is decided by four men of differing and opposing temperaments: Adolf Hitler, Ernst Röhm, Gregor Strasser, and Gustav Krupp. At first glance, they represent the forces in German society: Röhm the militant SA, Strasser the agitated workers, and Krupp the Rhineland capitalists, with poor Herr Hitler left to balance between them. Indeed, this seems to be the play’s dominant reading: a political power struggle between interest groups.
On second glance, they form a sort of caste structure: the warrior Röhm, the priest Strasser, the merchant Krupp, and the artist/divine king Hitler. And indeed, there is a minority reading of the play as a violent clash between the tendencies represented by the three lesser castes and their final subjugation by the King, who has absorbed everything within the divinely-inspired state — finally completing the system of German idealism.
But my own reading of the play is different (and can be heard here). I see a battle of four great wills which are not fully rational, nor completely good or evil. They are in many ways forces of nature and animal spirits often present in elite classes, and these forces are what drive politics rather than rational interest groups or historical processes. Owing to his fascinating speech about the true will of Iron, see Gustav Krupp not as a capitalist or mercantile archetype, but as a hereditary high priest of the furnace-temple, not directing but serving Iron. Strasser accuses Krupp of representing the interests of the Rhineland capitalists, but we know better. Strasser himself is supposed to be “just a chemist,” but he too serves cruel and strange gods no less than Herr Krupp; he is an agitator who cannot and will not stop, and indeed does not know victory when he has it. We know his kind, this irrational person who cannot admit that he has won and has to find reason time and time again to fill the gaping void at the middle of his being with the pursuit of a grand and unattainable cause. It is pathological, of course, but it is Quixotic in the most noble sense.
Able to see his demise, Strasser appeals to Ernst Röhm to join him, but Röhm is, tragically, not a rational actor, either, for just as Herr Strasser, there is a void at the core of his being as well, filled not with ideology, but with dreams. That dream is one of companionship and loyalty, an ultimately doomed attempt to combat the lies and hypocrisy of civilian life with military discipline, camaraderie, revolutionary fervor, and great strength — all dedicated to service of one man, “my friend Hitler,” to escape the ugly secular world in the great childish fantasy of the parade ground, where beautiful, strong men in uniform set the world to rights. Much has been made of the play’s supposed homoeroticism, but it is relatively mild; far more jarring is the sheer childishness of Röhm’s fantasy. And indeed, who wouldn’t want to retreat from the ugliness of the world?
I believe Dr. Goebbels said it best when he pointed out that anime girls are so beautiful, but meanwhile, in the real world, we have liberals. As we learn in the play, however, Hitler has nothing but contempt for Röhm’s fantasy — not because he’s a cold and rational man who believes his eyes and ears alone, but because Röhm’s fantasy is simplistic. Röhm is a boy, whereas Hitler is a man and his dream is inspired by Wagner’s music. Hitler’s dream is of himself as a storm to be unleashed on the world, and indeed, it is this supremely all-encompassing and radical will that wins the day, defeating Strasser’s ideological fervor and Röhm’s childish fantasy while hewing even the will of iron to itself. The storm has come and swept it all away.
4. Nassim Taleb, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Yes, I know — non-fiction. Che brutta. But hazard your valuable time with this one, because it reads like a charm. You’ll hear some fine insights from mathematics and finance, some riveting anecdotes about wearing comfortable shoes and walking the streets of Zagreb, a debate between Fat Tony and Socrates, a treatise on teaching birds how to fly, and speculations about populations in the ancient Mediterranean. You’ll find that you’ll blaze through the book because it is just so well-written and entertaining. You’ll also struggle to remember any specific thing you’ve read, but something would have changed irreversibly in you: You’ll no longer put so much stock in knowing, and you’ll find that doing suddenly sounds more attractive. You’ll have developed a nose for sniffing out unsehn and a heuristic for detecting nonlinearities. In a word, you’ll be given a crash course in avoiding the impoverished and neurotic intellectualism of our age.
If there’s a great graph of thinkers ranked by how conducive their thought is to autism, Ayn Rand would be the most strongly pro-autism and Taleb the one on the exact opposite of the spectrum. Of course, this is not to say that autistic or autistic-like people will not benefit from reading Antifragile. Quite the contrary; one of the book’s great strengths is that it is autism-friendly, with the ultimate goal of instilling some practical and interpersonal wisdom in the reader. You’ll find yourself chuckling whenever someone mentions being “reasonable” after this one — reason is powerless before dreams.
But beyond the ability of this book to shatter the autistic age’s preconceptions, Taleb’s most lasting influence may be aesthetic. I have called before for the formation of a dissident high culture and an aesthetic standard which would incorporate world-consciousness and ethnic nationalism. Nassim Taleb might help us there, not only because he’s a friend of the local and time-tested but also because he has in some magical way managed to remain cosmopolitan without becoming a libtard. We should definitely look into ways of developing this superpower.
I wish Nassim Taleb had never gotten on Twitter and embarrassed himself with his hot takes on IQ and COVID. Then I wouldn’t have to waste time convincing people that Antifragile is worth reading despite all of that. Tragically, although his position of IQ is about 80% wrong, nobody else is talking about the 20% that he got right, specifically the very weak correlation between IQ and incomes and this fact’s implications. The only person I remember even noticing this, aside from myself, was Jean-Francois Gariepy, who invited Taleb to discuss this. This discussion will never happen, of course, and that’s a tragedy. But don’t let somebody’s Twitter stupidity blind you to genius in other areas; in fact, Taleb would be the first to point out that genuine insight usually comes from people who disregard such superficial things as appearing smart on Twitter.
3. Daniil Kharms, Incidences
There was a red-haired man who had no eyes or ears.
Neither did he have any hair, so he was called red-haired theoretically.
He couldn’t speak, since he didn’t have a mouth. Neither did he have a nose.
He didn’t even have any arms or legs. He had no stomach and he had no back and he had no spine and he had no innards whatsoever. He had nothing at all!
Therefore there’s no knowing whom we are even talking about.
In fact it’s better that we don’t say any more about him.
They’re not even short stories; they’re “incidences”: an entire theater company being sick, Pushkin and Gogol tripping over each other onstage, Pushkin and his sons falling from their chairs, men going to the cinema and never coming back. Girls growing up as a function of will. A young man astonishes a watchman. Man is sphere, and fat women have distinctive smells. All the trees peef, all the rocks puff, all of, all of nature poof. Russians used to tell them as jokes in the Communist period. You will enjoy this. You will laugh like a madman. You will be forever changed, or so one hopes. A dead man rises from the funeral bed and eats three meters of linen. One does not read the incidences to learn, because there is nothing to be learned. One does not read the incidences to be inspired, because they inspire nothing. If you want an image of the future, imagine old women falling out of windows one after another, forever.
We could find ourselves living in a world not very different from the one inhabited by the esteemed Daniil Ivanovich very soon. Leningrad in the 1920s and 1930s was not a happy place, but it is definitely one where the weird arts could be practiced; it provided enough absurdity to fuel OBERIU for a while, at least until it was shut down in the Stalinist purges.
Reading Kharms is a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of dust. It reminds you that at a distant point in the past, literature was fun and innovative and that things were written in books that people read for entertainment, not only for “edification.” But most importantly, reading Kharms exercises those areas of the brain which one needs to think irrationally, absurdly, laterally, and over the top. Over time, one starts getting the meta-story, the thing that lies beyond the first-order uproarious laughter courtesy of our good friend Daniil Ivanovich. We learn to reject the hidebound and formulaic, but also live beyond it and attain the freedom we always sensed we could have. We arrive, in a lengthy journey through modernist literature to an ancient and very traditional Orthodox thought: that all, including what we call truth, is vanity.
2. Tales of Nasreddin Hodja
He was a troll. He was a mullah. He was a wanderer. He was a wise man. He was a fool. In a word, he was a Sufi, or so we think. He may not have been real in the sense in which you are, but he is real in an archetypal sense. He would use humor and mockery to make a greater point, or to teach men that they don’t know as much as they think — or that knowing is a much taller order than anyone had imagined. He would ride his donkey around, dispensing wisdom in this way. He was known as Nasruddin Hodja, or Mullah Nasreddin. He was probably a Seljuk Turk, but he belongs to us all. He was friends with Itar Pejo in Macedonia, Aldar Köse among the Kazakhs, and Reynard Fuchs in the Netherlands. He is appropriate for all ages: Children will love hearing about how the clever Mullah Nasreddin outsmarted the man who asked to borrow his donkey, or how the Mullah resigns himself that he’ll never please the fickle crowd. As they grow older, they learn that their childhood companion wasn’t quite as silly as he appeared at first glance and find that his wisdom will help them on their political path. And the old Sufi will smile and stroke his beard as he sinks back into the shadows to sip his tea, for he has set one more wayward soul on the path of righteousness.
Man often has all that he needs to be content, to succeed, and to be in the world right in front of him. He is often blinded by envy, greed, pride — by all of those things which we used to call sins. He finds himself questing for truth, never stopping to think what that elusive thing may even be. He wants to do things, but can’t even think of a thing to do, he is restless yet underfed. He appeals to aesthetics, yet has no sense of beauty. Man is a moron sometimes, but a beautiful one. Sometimes the Mullah must teach him a harsh, yet humorous lesson in humility, contentment, and clarity.
1. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Adults think they’re very practical, aren’t they? They chase money and status, believe themselves kings of the Sun itself, enslave themselves to narcissism, count the stars as if they were their own, and cannot even tell a drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant from an image of a hat. But that which matters most is invisible. Indeed, things as they are do not fit neatly into the boxes of preconceived notions and reason-based reality. Grownups are a strange lot. Come to think of it, so are roses. They’ll believe themselves to be unique, but there are thousands like them. They can preen and prickle their thorns, pretend to fall ill and demand bell jars for protection against caterpillars, but in the end they are rooted and not as one-of-a-kind as they imagine themselves to be. And yet what matters is that there is one that is ours, and that is invisible, intangible, and immeasurable.
When the Little Prince falls into the desert, the aviator, who once entertained dreams of being an artist, is given a chance to learn that what is most important cannot be seen or measured. They are surrounded by ugliness, but somehow they find a way to understand the intangible bonds of mutual taming that go into human relations and find beauty in them. When we find that elusive person who can understand what we are about, who can see the boa eating the elephant where others can only see a hat, who can understand that inside a plain box is a sheep that will eat the baobabs off the small planets to keep them safe, we have found an invisible treasure. Because man is born alone in the world, to know another soul is to resolve the problem of solipsism and to start the great journey towards bridging the gap between A and B, between himself and those around him.
The Little Prince represents the triumph of the genuine over the false, of the essential over the ephemeral, and of the undying over the perfunctorily rational. The Little Prince conquers those who think the world is simple enough to understand and measure and those who have no heed for the lost dimensions of beauty. He is humble enough to realize that what he has is not precious because it is expensive or rare, but because it is his and his alone, because he has grown accustomed to it and it to him, whether it be the Rose or the Fox or, ultimately, the Aviator. It is a tale of friendship and also of belonging: The Little Prince gives himself to the snake so that he may return home.
Something we keep coming up against in our journey is that man’s pretensions to reason are his greatest vanity, but in his rationality he has lost the eyes to see that which is truly important: that the irrational desires and tempests of men are what governs the world. Man, having been almost fully abandoned to himself in the world, seeks to salve this great suffering. Some men will fill the gap with ideology. Others will serve strange gods. Others still will retreat into fantasy. But a lucky few will learn to smell, like Fat Tony, the deception on their enemies’ breaths. They will learn humility, both epistemic and personal from the Mullah Nasruddin. They will find in the roaring humor and quiet sorrow of Daniil Kharms that all, even truth and beauty, is vanity. And finally, they will find themselves becoming the storm, like Hitler, for the benefit of what was essential and invisible to the eye, to that which was important to the Little Prince.
When we build a new ideology for the white identitarian Right, let it be an ideology that does not fear to soar into the great, burning sky of the fantastic and irrational. Let it never be said again that we were autistic little inchworms measuring the marigolds, but that we’ve drunk from the well in the desert that ought not have been there, that we shook the hand of the red-headed man who did not exist, and that we bore ourselves with courage and wisdom — and that our strength was tempered with humility.
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