August 27th, 2022

500 hours of mind pumping action!

I wish Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel a happy 252nd birthday. A favorite listen of mine recently has been Chris Breemer's performance of the two volumes of J.S. Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, which he refers to as the 'Old Testament' of keyboard literature. It isn't the most sophisticated interpretation of Bach, his command of dynamics isn't as crystalline as those who've been afforded the luxury of studying at prestigious conservatories, and he rightfully calls himself an amateur. I find myself in a very similar position in regards to the works of G.W.F. Hegel, I freely admit the haphazard and amateur nature of my own study. I don't claim the most absolute of interpretations and my command of individual paragraphs is porous-- and I can't attest to receiving any formal training in the study of philosophy at any kind of institution. He's no Glenn Gould just as much as I'm no Frederick Beiser. Regardless, I find this pianist's studiousness commendable, and it's apparent to anyone who listens that his notes are still those of J.S. Bach, just as I hope my own prose can one day shine through as recognizably Hegelian.

My personal history with Hegel begins with my reading of Slavoj Zizek's collection of the writings of Mao Zedong, where he proclaimed that Mao's thinking was only at the level of the Understanding, and I took it upon myself to take that as a challenge to find out for myself what he really meant by that. Similarly, he piqued my interest when he stated that the history of philosophy should be read as culminating in the movement of German Idealism, and that only with that broad movement can the history of philosophy before and after be read as the history of philosophy. My interest secured, I undertook a rather slipshod study of Hegel's Early Theological Writings and his Life of Jesus (which he wrote when he was about as old as I am now) along with watching Greg Sadler's lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit.

With the very first paragraph of the Phenomenology, I felt as if my brain had stopped. No matter how many times I reread it and pressed on, I had to admit that I had no idea what the hell Hegel was talking about. Sadler's first lecture on the first paragraph was a watershed moment for me since he was able to make it more digestible and I found myself pressing on with his lectures all the way to the end of the Preface, which I first finished in March of 2021, lectures I've since continued all the way to the chapter on Reason. Since then, it's been an on and off journey where I've consulted the mediations of H.S. Harris, Donald Verene, Frederick Beiser, a little bit of Hyppolite, now Peter Kalkavage, but consistently Prof. Greg Sadler. With as much time as I've spent with Hegel, he's seen me through some of the best, and some of my most painful moments of these recent years. I can't admit to being a perfect student of Hegel, present every day and perfectly passive with little argumentative posturing, but I think Hegel would forgive my transgressions as sometimes my necessities get in the way of his necessity, and he would equally expect my own spiritedness to amusingly get in the way of his account of Spirit's journey.

Although I haven't yet gone a day without thinking about his works, I can't admit that reading Hegel has gotten any easier, and I find myself incredibly frustrated that I struggle to give a readily understandable account of many of his paragraphs that I've come across, and I don't expect to be able to accomplish that until I've made a thorough undertaking of the Science of Logic so that I can give a properly speculative account of what's been going on 'behind the back of consciousness.' It is incredibly disheartening to find myself still puzzling over something I've been reading for over a year-- and I wouldn't have it any other way. There is simply no other work of philosophy that I've come across that excites me as much as this cavernous work and I expect to find few works that are as comprehensively rewarding. My copy of the Phenomenology is littered with underlining that I later come to find unnecessary, margin notes that greet me like my own shadow, little drawings I left myself to make the pages more familiar and welcoming; and vast, expansive sections of paragraphs completely untouched, as if I've yet to map this unfamiliar terrain. His scientific ladder to the absolute is still my Bacchanalian revelry and I'm many Stations of the Cross away from the Golgotha of Absolute Knowing. I can't predict how long I'll be studying Hegel, just as I can't predict what kind of events will keep me away from his works, but until then I'll be sitting here quietly working, reading and rereading as I step towards the spiritual sunburst, leaving behind my stinginess in giving and more importantly, my modest complacency in receiving.

Allow me to assume a solemn air. Here and now, I raise this shimmering glass of Saint-Estephe in your honor to solicit you, my old master, from beyond the grave. For better and for worse, I remain a child of the world of knowing you've gifted me. Let me reconcile with eternity and witness suffering emptied into time. May I one day come to meet you when I reach the end of my own circle, presupposed by its beginning.