March 04, 2006

Tristan Tzara: everything is alike

One of best thinkers of the last hundred years. Tristan Tzara (Sami Rosenstock) 1896 - 1963 Early Game Gene Theory Geoffrey Hamilton October 21, 1996
The story of Tristan Tzara is also an outline for the problem of this century regarding knowledge: the fearful reluctance of influential thinkers to stare down the meaninglessness of existence without needing to redeem it. From Einstein to Jung, from Chomsky to Tzara, all wanted to make the world a better place. It wasn't that Tzara in particular lacked an overall courageous attitude, After all he risked his life, his honour and his self respect continuously in the pursuit of his ambitions. But when he discovered the relativity of all meaning while in his teens he was afraid of the implications for all humanity and himself. He needed to redeem that meaninglessness by proving that relative meaning could be an absolute. It was much later in his life when he saw what he was doing at this time of Dada.
In 1947, at 51 he said dada was born out of a moral requirement to search for absolute truth untainted by preconceived ideas. He blamed history for the relativity of meaning. As well as the use of conventions, and institutions. This blaming of constructions is why, he, in a sense, represents so many great thinkers, and why he and so many turn to Communism, fascism, or other poitical affilations. Tzara like the others was afraid of the obvious answer, that meaning cannot be anything but relative. It was this fear which prevented him from recognizing the exactitude of his own words.
1 - "The acts of life have no beginning or end. Everything happens in a completely idiodic way. That is why everything is alike."
2 - "You explain to me why you exist. You will say: I exist to make my children happy....You will never be able to tell me why you exist, but you will always be ready to maintain a serious attitude about life. You will never understand that life is a pun."
3 - "There is no logic. Only relative necessities discovered a posteriori, valid not in any exact sense but only as explanations."
4 - "For everything is relative..../Words...have a different meaning for every individual. Words with the pretention of creating agreement among all...Words which have not the moral value and objective force that people have grown accustomed to finding in them."
This last point is the point which is the heart of Tzara's fear. It is Tzara who is accustomed to finding absolutes in words and these are his moments of disillusionment. But the next quotations begins to show how he overcomes that disillusionment.
5 - "Their meaning changes from one individual one epoch, one country to the next...It is diversity that makes life interesting." Why the idea, that diversity being "interesting", should matter, he does not argue. But it hints at what he is afraid of, I'll come back to it. This next quotations are what I would call realistic and accurate accountings of why existence is irrelevant to everything but ourselves.
6 - "Measured by the scale of eternity, all activity is in vain" Yet, however, he states exactly why he continues to be active.
7 - "If I continue to do something it is because it amuses me..."
Here again, like the idea of interest, there is a symptom of something he continually hovers over but refuses to acknowledge. Tzara is motivated to activity despite the meaninglessness of all activity.

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