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Monthly Archives: April 2011

At one point Knecht speaks about analogies and associations in the Glass Bead Game, and in regard to the latter distinguishes between “legitimate,” universally comprehensible associations and those that are “private” or subjective. He remarks: “To give you an example of private associations that do not forfeit their private value although they have no place in the Glass Bead Game, I shall tell  you of one such association  that goes back to my own schooldays. I was about fourteen years old, and it was the season when spring is already in the air, February or March.  One afternoon a schoolmate invited me to go out with him to cut a few elder switches. He wanted to use them as pipes for a model water mill. We set out, and it must have been an unusually beautiful day in the world or in my own mind, for it has remained in my memory, and vouchsafed me a little experience. The ground was wet, but free of snow; strong green shoots were already breaking through on the edge of streams. Buds and the first opening catkins were already lending a tinge of color to the bare bushes, and the air was full of scent, a scent imbued with life and with contradictions. There were smells of damp soil, decaying leaves, and young growth; any moment one expected to smell the first violets although there were none yet.

“We came to the elder bushes. They had tiny buds, but no leaves, and as I cut off a twig, a powerful, bittersweet scent wafted toward me. It seemed to gather and multiply all the other smells of spring within itself. I was completely stunned by it; I smelled my knife, smelled my hand, smelled the elder twig. It was the sap that gave off so insistent and irresistible a fragrance. We did not talk about it, but my  friend also thoughtfully smelled for a long time. The fragrance meant something to him also.

“Well now, every experience has its element of magic. In this case the onset of spring, which had enthralled me as I walked over the wet, squishing meadows and smelled the soil and the buds, had now been concentrated into a sensual symbol by the fortissimo of that elder shrub’s fragrance. Possibly I would never have forgotten this scent even if the experience had remained isolated. Rather, every future encounter with that smell deep into my old age would in all probability have revived the memory of that first time I had consciously experienced the fragrance. But now a second element entered in. At that time I had found an old volume of music at my piano teacher’s. It was a volume of songs by Franz Schubert, and it exerted a strong attraction upon me. I had leafed through it one time when I had a rather long wait for the teacher, and had asked to borrow it for a few days. In my leisure hours I gave myself up to the ecstasy of discovery. Up to that time I had not known Schubert at all, and I was totally captivated by him. And now, on the day of that walk to the elderberry bush or the day after, I discovered Schubert’s spring song, “Die linden Lüfte sind erwacht,” and the first chords of the piano accompaniment assailed me like something already familiar. Those chords had exactly the same fragrance as the sap of the young elder, just as bittersweet, just as strong and compressed, just as full of the forthcoming spring. From that  time on the association of earliest spring, fragrance of elder, Schubert chords has been fixed and absolutely valid, for me. As soon as the first chord is struck I immediately smell the tartness of the sap, and both together mean to me: spring is on the way.

“This private association of mine is a precious possession I would not willingly give up. But the fact that two sensual experiences leap up every time I think, ‘spring is coming’ — that fact is my own personal affair. It can be communicated, certainly, as I have communicated it to you just now. But  it cannot be transmitted. I can make you understand my association, but I cannot so affect a single one of you that my private association will become a valid symbol for you in your turn, a mechanism which infallibly reacts on call and always follows the same course.”

– Hermann Hesse (The Glass Bead Game, p.69-70)


People accept a representation in which the elements of wish and fantasy are purposely included but which nevertheless proclaims to represent “the past” and to serve as a guide-rule for life, thereby hopelessly confusing the spheres of knowledge and will.

– Johan Huizinga (1872–1945), Dutch historian. In the Shadow of Tomorrow, ch. 11 (1936).

Without claiming superiority of intellectual over visual understanding, one is nevertheless bound to admit that the cinema allows a number of æsthetic-intellectual means of perception to remain unexercised which cannot but lead to a weakening of judgment.

– Johan Huizinga (1872–1945), Dutch historian. In the Shadow of Tomorrow, ch. 7 (1936).

We have been summoned
We have been called upon
By the Movie gods
To be the witnesses
To be observers of
A content that has been
Specially,specifically, formed
To follow a certain logic
To bring us to a certain conclusion
The thinking has all been done
No need to question the outcome
Or the reality of the ideas
You are to just sit and watch
To laugh, cry, ooo and awe
But with a little thought
And an eye for reality
One shortly sees that
Within this little paradise
Of logic and thoughtlessness
Lies ignorance and vanity
Those movie gods love to
Pride and plume themselves
With the knowledge that
Millions of eyes follow them
With the knowledge that
By getting you to laugh and
Cry they have stolen your ability
To reason, to pull your selves
Out of the moment and think
“But life is not cause and effect,
The pieces of this movie have lead
To this conclusion, but this movie
Is not life. So how could this
Conclusion ever fit? If this has
Any truth it can only lie in
This narrow field of vision. For
Life is a whole and we create
Things like this to escape,
To try to get outside yet
Life always includes and
We are always on the inside
For to be out is to be dead.”


Now I believe I can hear the philosophers protesting that it can only be misery to live in folly, illusion, deception and ignorance, but it isn’t -it’s human.

–  Desiderius Erasmus

Science, unguided by a higher abstract principle, freely hands over its secrets to a vastly developed and commercially inspired technology, and the latter, even less restrained by a supreme culture saving principle, with the means of science creates all the instruments of power demanded from it by the organization of Might.

– Johan Huizinga (1872–1945), Dutch historian. In the Shadow of Tomorrow, ch. 9 (1936).

Barbarisation may be defined as a cultural process whereby an attained condition of high value is gradually overrun and superseded by elements of lower quality.


– Johan Huizinga (1872–1945), Dutch historian. In the Shadow of Tomorrow, ch. 1 (1936).

If, then, this civilization is to be saved, if it is not to be submerged by centuries of barbarism, but to secure the treasures of its inheritance on new and more stable foundations, there is indeed need for those now living fully to realize how far the decay has already progressed.

– Johan Huizinga (1872–1945), Dutch historian. In the Shadow of Tomorrow, ch. 1 (1936).

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.

– Chinese Proverb

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.