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Sybrand Veeger

Poetry Sybrand Veeger TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOCRATS - December 2018

To Whistleblowing

Written by Sybrand Veeger

“Living comfortably yet unfreely –
That is something many are willing to accept.”

“Not me,” he says.

He spotted abuse and recognized its accumulation –
He could observe, from within,
The architecture,
Intricate and infinitely pervasive,
Of the Orwellian Leviathan:
Big brother’s eyes and ears multiplying,
And multiplying,
To see and hear all things communicated.
The most intimate of conversations – recorded,
A sensual exchange of images – surveilled and documented,
A google drive of private poetry – filed and stored.

The panopticon turned almighty,
Turned God?

“Don’t you realize you’ve helped create this monster?
Blow the whistle or I will end you!
You filthy animal!
I will eat through you like a worm and you will die a slow, painful death.”

His conscience made him an offer he couldn’t refuse…

The whistleblower, the bureaucrat,
The coggest cog in the omnipotent machine,
Turned martyr of some sorts,
Sacrificing his freedom for democracy? For the people?

I’m not sure.

His conscience simply played Don Corleone on him,
Threatened him with capital punishment.
Did he act out of heroism? Out of courage? Noble valiance?

Did he transcend his individuality to reach out for something greater?

I’m not sure.

One blows the whistle to self-preserve,
To survive;
Like a meerkat, in panic, calling out for the predators that nobody else can see.

The predators are dangerous, surely,
They’ll invade, sack, kill and eat up till stuffed.

What if the meerkat remained silent?
Wouldn’t conscience, then, become the most threatening,
The most dangerous of predators?

The whistleblower’s cry is the sound not of courage,
But of necessity:
Instinctiveness,
Biology.

I unsurely conclude:
Conscience defies the line drawn
Between nobility of heart and primitivity of gut;
Between what is deemed exclusive to a few higher spirits,
And what is common to all creatures,
Base or brave,
Courageous or cowardly.
Poetry Sybrand Veeger THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

That Godly Chord That Strikes My Ear

Written by Sybrand Veeger

That godly chord that strikes my ear,
Pounds me down to beastly state:
A punch or blow that meets no fear,
That sends me through a holy gate.

My eyes drown, my hairs erect:
A scale of notes can madden – paralyze!
Yet, music-shock means to resurrect,
To lift off and hear God or Nature’s cries.

Happiness, joy, excitement: words insufficient
To describe the beautifully invasive mania.
Description: to do justice insufficient
To the perplexity of clarity: experienced contradiction.

A mental ascension? A bodily hijack?
Chopin’s ballade is psycho-physical kidnap:
Is it accurate to distinguish body and mind?!
Not when music strikes – when I yield to the sublime.

Sybrand Veeger THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018 Tjan Ho Lai

Parallel Spinozas, the Craftsman and the Philosopher

Written by Sybrand Veeger

Baruch Spinoza: the name of the 17th-century, Dutch, daytime lens-grinder, and nighttime philosopher, of the excommunicated Amsterdam Jew, of a solitary yet dextrous lens-grinding body, of a joyful and infinitely thought-provoking mind. Baruch means the blessed, Spinoza, he who comes from a spiny place.

Baruch Spinoza: the blessed spirit from the spines.

Spinoza had one method for the making of telescopes and metaphysics – Euclidean geometry. One begins with a number of axioms, these are irreducible and self-evident truths about the world, to then deduce certain optical theorems, or philosophical propositions, that follow strictly from these truths, to determine the concavity, convexity, transparency, and opacity of what we can see, of what we can know.

What did he see? What did he know?

As preliminary work, he had to wipe off the foggy dualism left by the Cartesians, who thought that mind and matter were divinely connected through the work of an intervening God. The axioms then led the blessed telescope-maker to a different idea, to develop a clear and pristine metaphysical image.

Excommunication curse of Spinoza by the Amsterdam Jewish Community. Photo: Tjan Ho Lai

Axiom 1: God is Nature

First, he observed that God must be equal to nature. God, or nature, is the one and only substance constituting the world, it is everything that is – there is by definition nothing outside of it because what would be outside of it wouldn’t be. The oneness of the world, the identity of God and nature, constitutes Spinoza’s first theorem: monism.

For Spinoza, the craftsman, this meant that Jupiter and the telescope with which he observed it worked according to the same fundamental laws. For Spinoza, the metaphysician, it meant that the truth about the world and the mind with which he conceived it were fundamentally identical.

Axiom 2: God-Nature has Infinite Forms

Second, he saw that because God-Nature is absolutely infinite, it follows that it has infinite forms of expression. Merely two of these forms, which Spinoza calls attributes of God-Nature, are conceivable to us – thought and matter. Attributes are how God-Nature expresses itself and they are infinite in their quality as attributes. It follows that there is an infinite amount of infinite attributes: the limitless expressionism of God.

Spinoza observed that due to the existence of one substance only, “[t]he order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things” (7, 2, Ethics). Geometrically, and optically, attributes form a parallelogram of lines that never touch each other but express in different forms the one substance, God-Nature. There is a correspondence between attributes, in the sense that attributes always express the same thing, but there is no real causal interaction connecting them. Mind and matter never really touch, they run parallel, never perpendicular.

Axiom 3: God-Nature has Infinite Production

Third, Spinoza observed the work of God-Nature, it’s infinite production. If attributes are the forms of expression, then modes are the content of expression, what is expressed. Modes can be infinite, like, say, energy; and modes can be finite. Modes can be simple, like the asteroid, or can be complex enough to be self-conscious, like the human.

Spinoza noticed that he was one mode of God-Nature, operating through two parallel attributes, Spinoza as the craftsman, and Spinoza as the philosopher. Spinoza’s lens-grinding body, expressed through the attribute of extension; Spinoza’s metaphysical mind expressed through the attribute of thought. One mode of God-Nature, one individual, constituted by a body and a mind: two parallel expressions of the same thing.

Photo by Adrien Olichon

What We Can Know

Body and mind, therefore, are modes forming a complex, self-conscious union, an emergent mode – the human individual. My body is the expression of my individuality in God-Nature’s attribute of matter, whereas my mind is the expression in God-Nature’s attribute of thought. My mind is the idea of my body, and my body is the object or ideatum of my mind. Mind and body are lines that never touch, yet the order and connection of the idea, my spirit, is always parallel to the order and connection of the ideatum, my body. There is a perfect correspondence between the mental and the physical, neither comes a priori, like two mirrors facing each other in parallel, reflecting themselves to infinity.

Spinoza, daytime lens-grinder and nocturnal philosopher, did not only deduce the parallel relation between mind and body, but also lived according to it, personified it. He made parallelism an expressionist ethic.

Browsing through Spinoza’s biography at the Jewish Historical Museum. Photo: Tjan Ho Lai

Creative Pieces FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018 Sybrand Veeger

To The Three Tuebingen Brothers

Written by Sybrand Veeger

Young philosophers and poets,

Romanticists and laureates:

Hegel, Holderlin, Schelling –

All boarded at the same dwelling.

 

Tuebingen: birthplace of this German school,

Housed the love for thought and God as World.

There the Spirit was wound up,

And charged up with philosophy’s jewel.

 

Before the romantic diamond was blasted

High into the Western firmament,

It was patiently polished by three friends,

Three brothers who looked through the same lens.

 

Our memory has been blurred somewhat,

By endless cynical tomes.

Let us do justice to this crazy lot

By listening to their polished tones:

 

Spirits and idealists,

Plaguing all their thought-lists,

Histories and dialectics,

Invading all our Geistes!

 

Hegel thought ideally,

Holderlin: poetically,

Schelling, the youngest madman:

Laughing stock of these boy-men.

 

Wisemen: human owls,

Obsessed with Grecian fouls,

“Philosophers of Nature”?

Transcendents of the Structure!

 

(Spinoza lived among them,

Both in thought and soul,

Forerunners of our Spirit,

– these Germans knew for sho!)

 

    -It’s Tuebingen! House of Genius!

 

Schelling und Zeit!

Was surely love at first sight:

– an expansive, contractive force,

Anti-hegelian with no remorse!

Schelling’s temporality,

Indeed lacked all possible linearity,

Question: Absolute Spirit?

Answer: No, Hegel, forget it!

 

Second boy, Hegel:

Napoleon, his World-Spirit,

No irony, his lyrics:

Too serious for satirists…

 

Third boy, Holderlin,

A true poet in his lyrics:

”Hyperion! The Greeks truly did it,

Philosophy, poetry, you name it!”

 

Holderlin willed no thought system;

He assigned verse to the Spirit’s voice:

“The poet’s vocation must be the combination

Of reason and energy, as musical expression”.

 

All these three combined,

Fused together are Divine:

They make up a human trinity

That deserves a space in memory:

 

Assign a corner of your soul

To this brotherhood’s legacy,

Hang a cross in your mind

As a reminder of their eternity.

FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018 Sybrand Veeger

The Greek Seed-Tree

Written by Sybrand Veeger:

Greek Seed-Tree

 

Sometimes I wonder…rather,

I’m inclined towards the question:

Is Western Thought’s development analogous to, say,

Benjamin Button’s?

 

That is, was it born mature,

And is now in decline,

Towards immaturity?

 

The metaphor does not do Greece justice, though,

It breaks down upon minimal geometry:

Unlike Button, thought was born strong;

And all-encompassing the Greeks were:

The unrestricted?

 

Plato’s mythological conservatism,

Summoning, say, Poseidon,

Plummeted him,

To hydrate the blossoming

Of dialectic and critique –

No less than the roots

Of thinking.

 

Eclectic,

Were the Greek,

Yet surgically incisive,

And profoundly thorough.

 

Plato’s offspring, Aristotle,

The Greek apogee,

Was bound to a skull,

And could rightly count himself king of infinite power,

Of infinite science.

 

A metaphor for the Great’s teacher’s mind

Could be the cosmic void itself, (any less would fall short, a void):

It expands in all directions, everywhere.

 

Two of an infinity of Aristotelian vectors:

The ethics, the politics,

They go down deeper than all petty moralism posterior,

They’re grounded in the natural,

Governed by eternal and immanent legislation;

They operate, like nature,

Through proportions, geometrics, arithmetics –

By distributions and corrections,

Up and down the topographic plain,

Not the cartographic Plan, of Being.

 

Justice and the Good Life blossom,

Only when facing the Sun,

When hydrated and rendered strong by the elements –

Then they’re virtuosos at equilibrium,

Dancing in harmony,

On the rope of the golden mean.

 

Aristotle’s universal spirit unfolded all spheres –

Like a cosmic bombshell, or an earthly rose, or,

The seed grains of the Western tree?