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October 27, 2009


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Having just seen this post and thinking it was June), and seeing it now, and sobered (because it is October), I thought I'd comment on the German word Stimmung. As you probably know, it comes from Stimme, voice, and the reverberations of that word include tuning, key, and pitch alongside mood, disposition, etc. What intrigues me is that voice is certainly a sound, but the sound of a living entity, and mood may thus be felt as a "tuning in" to a voice, or voices, or to a whole living dimension that we "pick up."

One of my more fantastic imaginings is that "little people" live beneath the atoms and the enzymes, what I've called "chemical civilization," a theme in one of my novels: life everywhere. Thus the moods we associate with nature may indeed be a perception of vast congeries of souls... And so on at our level and above ours. One encounters this sort of weird perception in the usual circles on the margins of conventional life--among poets, Sufis, sorcerers, and saints. By sorcerers I narrowly refer to Castaneda, and if the name's unfamiliar, I'll say more.

Our internal structure is so very strange that sorting out the sources of moods becomes a life's experience. My own inclination is in the direction of resonance; we produce our own and respond to other's vibrations (if I dare use a word too much sullied by overuse).

No, I didn't know Stimmung was derived from "voice." It makes sense when you think of people praying or chanting en masse and the way that sound actually does seem to reverberate inside one's own body. In the Entitled Opinions program that I talked about above, I think it was Harrison who spoke of this like a vibration on the strings of a violin; as the instrument is bowed (by an external mood), the sound reverberates within the soundboard and then travels back out again-- as music (like Nietzsche's poem).

This idea of mood as externally derived-- like music or the effect the weather has on us-- is so totally different from our modern understanding of mood (as something derived from our internal chemistry). And I would say that if we deny this Heideggerean understanding of Mood; ie:

mood is a form of attunement between nature and spirit; between habitat and inhabitant

then we dull ourselves to our surroundings at our own peril.

In th post that originally followed this one, Peony Plays the Piccolo, I tried to explore a little bit Professor Dreyfus' idea when he said,

Heidegger would point out that a minimally meaningful life requires sensitivity to the power of shared moods that give mattering to our world and unity and meaning to events

That the moods are shared moods seems somehow the point.

And your description of your novel reminded me of the ancient Greeks. To them moods were like gods. Like when Helen ran off-- they blamed it on Adonis. Or remember the scene in the Aeneas when Cupid is blowing through a little straw smoke on Dido-- so that when she falls madly in love with Aeneas we know that Cupid caused her to do so. (dante, of course, had a different take on things!)

To quote you back to you: These shared moods…I am arguing, reside in the finest details of our imagined

experience. When I saw that passage the other day, I copied it and saved it in a file on my machine. I thought the meaning exponentially raised by your interpretation. I had a rather strong reaction to that line. Aeneid: I have never read it, although I once spent some time comparing several translations of the opening (“Arms, and the man, I sing…”). A future project. If I can do Divine Comedy

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