Horticultural Aesthetics

Poetry is the secret sap of political relations.  No one ever “has“ that power, which can only be suffered.  The Hellenized Jews called their political suffering the Mysteries. In those ceremonial dramas they chose the destiny of man. The influence of those “chose people” spread throughout the ancient world thousands of years ago. They taught humanity a secret suffering of destiny. Or maybe they didn’t. This is just a story. This is the story of the chosen people who discovered a secret suffering. Telling this story is the choice of fatal vines through which suffering flows.

The world integrates culturally through narratives and figurations. This is a planetary puzzle that gets assembled and disassembled by overlaying the contours of myth. This integration is only ever very limited. There are always a holey landscape which is only a hodge-podge of fleeting appearances – Darstellung – which is always on the verge disintegration.   

“The culture of the Hellenized Jews was already introduced into the ancient Han Dynasty of China.”  This is not a fact, but rather a fabulation.  We collect some shards of pottery, and pretend that it was once an impossible whole.  This poetic constellation circulates the sap of a planetary culture. 

The interweaving of China with Europe provides our age with a great aesthetic problem.  There was the French Jesuit style of the 1700’s called Chinoiseries, which was an intoxicating infusion of oriental blood related to the Rococo style.   There was an instance where Robespierre invoked Confucius as a patron of the national examination. Hence his portrait hangs today in the Confucius temple in Beijing. 

Nihilism is the failure of fabulation, where the sap of poetry doesn’t flow.  The academic obsession with facts and values spreads the drought of nihilism.  These days, nomothetic spirits are often concealed behind their compliments.   

Nihilism is a quest for goodness, which it assumes as an unproblematic concept.  This is the quest for positivity, peace, prosperity, truth, happiness, health, cleanliness, purity, beauty, gentleness, softness, warmth, roundness…. and conversely it’s the avoidance of war, poverty, falsity, sadness, sickness, dirt, impurity, ugliness, meanness, hardness, coldness and squareness. Nihilists make facile conceptual cuts to separate what they want from what they don’t want. This is how they separate facts from falsehoods, reality from fantasy.  They purify the good by excluding the bad.  But values are static and mechanical, and they are implicated with an unquestioned industrial rationale. 

One may respond to this one-sidedness with a dialectic which holds opposites together.  But this implies nothing particularly Hegelian or even European. What we suggest here is more akin to Chinese philosophy: that peace comes from war, that wealth comes from poverty, that happiness comes from sadness… this Chinese dialectic was introduced into Europe centuries ago. Maybe it was introduced by Leibniz when he corresponded with the French Jesuits in the court of emperor Kangxi. Leibniz and Hegel provide competing translations of the Yijing. Puruing this line does not require more scholarly expositions of what they wrote, but rather decisions about how Chinese can be rendered through their respective thought styles. It’s about which hybridizations can flourish under contemporary circumstances.

Assuming east and west are aspects of the same thing renders their separation unthinkable.  Their undulations reverberate back into prehistory. 出口转内销. This ground remains to be fabulated.  This requires obscure courses of translation which are only tangential to anything passable as scholarly research. The circulation must proceed along ancient routes. But this is a functional antiquity as opposed to a factual antiquity. And even on the level of simple facts, who even knows where those caravans traded and where those ships sailed? And who could say for sure if they were Arabs or Iberians?  The course of translation is hidden in the dirt of poetry.

Nihilists reach for flowers but reject the dirt, and so their rootless leaves and petals quickly wilt.  

A planetary dialectics cultivates deep roots which produce fruit for millennia. Though the roots can only go so deep as the soil, which never continues far beneath the surface. Nihilists are obsessed with what grows above the surface, or else they want to seize the center of the earth. But the sap of antiquity flows through the subsoil.

The invisible veins of ancient culture wind errantly around the earth just beneath the surface. Scholars may study this meandering.  They may disclose the political powers that move this world. These are the abstract forms of relationships. This spirituality of art can never be rendered as an economy of exchange. At noontide the two become one and the laws are written anew: “they come like lightening…. without pretext or reason… instinctive givers of form…. that is how states are born on this earth”.

Horticultural artists plough the channels for sap-flow, so the powers of suffering can bud and bloom. The colors above the surface – green, red, blue, yellow – express powers which emerge from the roots. Changes in colors can correspond with particularities of root-growth.

Nihilistic colors are clichés or advertisements. Like blue for boys, and pink for girls. These rootless colors are synthetically produced to manipulate customers. They are insufficiently grounded in suffering. Green is the color of environmental nihilists. Entire palettes must be abolished and mixed again more painfully.   

Vibrant surface colors are expressions of hidden darkness. Everyone knows that roots are black or brown. The name “terror” can designate that dark power. This power related to that thymodic disquiet which the ancient Greeks called the furies.

Modern gardening began when the French people (aka le patrie) abolished the purple of the Bourbon monarchs. The Patrie performed its heroic actions starting in 1789. They attacked the Bastille and set the prisoners free. They declared the universal Rights of Man and something they called a “Republic”. The women marched on the palace at Versailles. But, after those brave acts were accomplished, the Bourbon rulership of the country was restored again. It seemed the revolution had failed, and the king was returning to power. It seemed that the rights of man were lost forever, and there would never be a republic on this earth. But then the hero Robespierre saved the revolution. Just when everyone thought the Rights of Man were lost, Robespierre and St. Just invoked the Terror. He used the Guillotine to cut off the heads of the old rulers. And so, the Republic and the Rights of Man were saved by the Terror. They were saved when Robespierre cut off those heads of the Bourbon. And today all the countries in this world are “republics” which come from the darkness of the Terror. The Spirit of Man survived because the Terror destroyed the power of the old kings. The darkness of the Terror can be seen in the painting called Death of Marat in the gapping blackness above the body of the dying martyr.

The drama of the modern world is called the Mystery of the Terror. The Black Terror flows beneath the surface, but then it emerges on the banners of the armies of color. First, there was the “Republican Terror” in France and America which was red and blue. And then soon those were the colors of the United Kingdom. That was a bourgeois expression of the Suffering of Man.

But the bourgeoisie were eager to betray the Spirit of Man, and so the Terror leaked away and became the Plague of Black Anarchy. The anarchists of Germany, Russia and Spain returned Terror to its true darkness. They waged war against the bourgeois republics in the name of a Sacred Community of Man. The anarchists were enemies of the bourgeoisie, but they were also enemies of the old kings who the bourgeoisie had corrupted. When the Russian king fell in October 1917, black flags were carried to St. Petersburg. Black Flags of Anarchy marched in Russia!

Russia was intoxicated with the Spirit of Man. Socialism took red from bourgeoisie, but not the blue. Socialist Russia was draped in red-gold, but that red flower was nourished by the black roots of suffering. For the old Russia was destroyed by anarchist militias.

At the end of the Qing dynasty, Chinese intelligentsia were carrying black flags in Tokyo and Paris. Anarchist spirits were flowing into China from exiles abroad. The black of anarchy was opposed to the yellow of the Qing. The first Chinese republic emerged 1911 draped in the red and blue of the bourgeoisie. But again, the deeper power of all the republics always comes from the flash of black lightening, the true color of the Spirit of Terror. For example, the elders of the Kuomintang Party carried the black flags of anarchy. Those bands of anarchist mandarins include figures such as 蔡元培, 李石曾 and 吴稚晖. Those dark precursors of Chinese republicanism are seldom mentioned today.

The bourgeois Chinese republic was exiled in the late 1940s as the red armies of socialism pushed out the blue of the bourgeoisie and founded a socialist republic. And by the 1960’s, the Spirit of Man was alive in Shanghai in red and gold.

Then the armies of the world split between the red-blue of the bourgeois west and the red-gold of the socialist east. This great “cold war” continues until today, though an important shift occurred with the bourgeois victories around 1989. That victory did not end the cold war (as some have mistakenly assumed) but rather shifted it into a dramatic mode. The cold war has become an abstract spiritual conflict which is the secret cypher of a planetary culture.

Where green has been the color of republican Islam, black became associated with Islamic terror after the bourgeois victories of 1989. Islamic terror emerged due to the machinations of the bourgeoisie who used Islamic mercenary armies (Mamluks, Mujahideen) as weaponry against socialism in the cold war. As socialism declined, those Islamic militias found themselves unemployed, and turned against the bourgeoisie who had originally sponsored them. Also, there is reason to suspect that the bourgeoisie might prefer to struggle with the black of Islamic jihadis as opposed to the black of anarchist terror.

This concludes a brief synopsis of contemporary horticultural aesthetics. The fauna in this terrible garden are red-blue (bourgeois), red-gold (socialist), green (republican Islam) and black (anarchist terror, Islamic terror). These colors and sides may change without notice. But the essential question remains:  does the sap flow deeply enough in the soil of suffering? Or are these the fake flowers of rootless nihilism? Market-driven changes in horticultural fashion may periodically bring new distributions of color and figure to the gardening of institutions.  

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