mardi 11 janvier 2011

Killing one's time

One way or another, this expression probably can be found in about every language in the world because the underlying metaphysical uneasiness it evoks is universal.

One may wonder if it ever existed one single individual who didn't -at least once in his/her lifetime- ask oneself if life was worth living or how absurd existence was.

Time means duration for us and the perception of duration can greatly vary according to our activity and our grasp of reality. Duration can be hurtful, very painful indeed since it places ourselves in front of the vacuity of our lives and the hopelessness we're confronted with.

The desire to kill time arises from the feeling that Time is the cause of our torments and therefore the enemy par excellence we must get rid of.

Hinduists long after the end of Samsara in order to get free from the cycle of repetitions. And all religions promise that real life pertains to another world where time no longer rules our lives and where suffering no longer exists.

Everyone has been in the situation of this woman in the painting by E. Hopper, waiting for someone to arrive or maybe not even waiting after someone but waiting, simply waiting for time to pass by.

Life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom.

The expression to kill time only shows how deeply we know that life in its very essence means pain and suffering. Otherwise the expression wouldn't exist.

26 commentaires:

Anijo a dit…

Beautiful painting. Belle peinture.

merbel a dit…

Je crois bien que oui...
Je viens de travailler un de ses tableaux avec mes élèves!

Anijo a dit…

Alors les français connaisent Edward Hopper? Je connais bien ses peintures, mais je n'avais jamais vu celui ci.

Flocon a dit…

"Alors les français connaisent Edward Hopper?"

Les Français... Hmmm... Do I detect a generalisation here? ;-)

So much so that his article on Wiki is a golden one. The English article isn't.

Ned Ludd a dit…

A couple of years ago, Le Monde offered various books about art with your buying the edition. There were classic painters of different centuries and one of the books was dedicated to Edward Hopper.

Anijo a dit…

Do I detect a generalisation here? ;-)


Je crois que bien que c'est un mot français, il n'est pas utilisé en français pour cette raison.

You're right, the English one not so much...

Flocon a dit…


Funny how your web page doesn't mention it's a French word and that it's stil very much in use in fencing (8 occurences in the English wiki page).

"Je crois que bien que c'est un mot français, il n'est pas utilisé en français pour cette raison."

Oh yes, it is.


"Je connais bien ses peintures, mais je n'avais jamais vu celui ci."

Also, since you know peinture is of the feminin gender it should be celle-ci ;-)

(a temporary lapse of attention I know)

Anijo a dit…

Oh yes, it is.

Good to know. Bon à savoir.

J'ai cru que c'était peut-être comme "double entendre" qui est utilsé en anglais différemment qu'en français. C'est pas un Zeugma, mais un jeu de mots tout de même. En français je crois qu'on dit simplement "double sens".

Un mot intéressant en anglais:
Mondegreen: une expression inventé par Sylvia Wright. Y'a t'il un mot pour ça en français?

Flocon a dit…

Je ne connaissais pas Mondegreen ni Sylvia Wright.

I had to look at this site.

Funny that "And laid him on the green" morphed into Lady Mondegreen...

Je ne vois pas quel mot en français pourrait correspondre. Il faudra demander à Christine.

Since you're interested in words, do you know where "to jeopardize" comes from?

I wondered myself a long time ago and asked the question to a British teacher who hadn't the faintest idea.

He returned the day after and told me how surprised he was.

Christine a dit…

Cela s'appelle des hallucinations auditives...

Flocon a dit…

Merci docteur... Combien vous dois-je?

Christine a dit…

Pour vous, c'est gratuit! Parce que c'est vous, hein!

Anijo a dit…

jeapardy = jeu parti
Thanks Flocon. I didn't know that.

Et un grand merci à Christine !

Anonyme a dit…

// in its very essence means pain and suffering.//

I was at first surprised that such a dolorous view of life drew no objections. My observations of many men and women who appear to lead satisfying and, dare I say it, happy lives lead me to question this evaluation of the human condition.

But, on reflection, I understand that one who accepts Schopenhauer's pessimism, who holds that we lack free will and that our actions are determined by forces we cannot control, or even detect, would come to this gloomy conclusion. In fact, it seems to me that this post is the pivot abound which turn many of Flocon's negative posts about marriage and other institutions. When one holds to this pessimism, it is fair to ask why we should bother to take any action beyond what is necessary to avoid immediate pain.

And yet... and yet he does not act as if all was ultimately determined by forces beyond our control, and that we lack free will, or even the ability to perceive reality. Flocon takes the time to compose elegant posts about art and music. Why bother? He puts effort into penetrating comments about mathematics, French and American politics, and events in the Middle East. Why bother?

What is the point of this effort? Why bother?


Flocon a dit…

Thanks for your question SemperFidelis, one which offers me the opportunity to clarify some points.

You had me read the post again and yes, it's very Schopenhauerian in its tone, no doubt about it.

"Why bother?" do you ask and I understand you're adressing me.

Answer: Simpy because it's due to my nature which I'm not responsible of, although I'm accountable for.

"Why bother" is indeed the motto of Taoism and in certain aspects resonates with the Islamic so-called "fatalism".

The crux of the matter is that everyone comes to life with certain specific traits of characters that simply are beyond all explanation.

Some were born bastards while some others -from the same family, with the same education, the same environment, the same mental background etc. will live honest and decent lives, not being saints or heroes, just being regular people.

Why is that? Nobody will never know because there's no explanation. Not one that can be traced through our neurones and synapses or the level of whatever chemical element you can think of.

No one can decide out of its "free will" to be J.S Bach, Averroes, Kant or SemperFidelis.

We have to do with what we are, fighters or nonchalant, poets or criminals, bright people and not so bright ones.

Everybody is generally satisfied with what he/she is (see Descartes' Discourse on the Method first sentence).

Many wish they were somebody else but that is mere fantasies. We are what we are, prone to action or prone to not get involved in the City's life.

"Why bother?" about writing posts on a blog? Put it very simply, because I can't help for the time being. But, like you, there are many, many things I don't care a fig to engage into.

"Why bother?" doesn't depend on my -inexistant- free will. It all depends on my feeble abilities which I didn't chose at any moment in my life.

And the same goes for the guy in Arizona who went bersek. He didn't chose to be a loony nor did we chose not to be loonies.

I didn't chose not to be an homosexual nor did I chose to be a man rather than a woman, which makes a world of a difference as you can easily imagine.

Flocon a dit…

And now I'll try to answer more specificaly to the different points in your comment.

"I was at first surprised that such a dolorous view of life drew no objections."

Shall We talk has a limited audience to say the least...

"My observations of many men and women who appear to lead satisfying and, dare I say it, happy lives lead me to question this evaluation of the human condition."

On a day to day basis, life may appear not to be so painful like was the lives of the victims of the Arizona shooting (granted, that is an exception) or like was the lives of the more than 200.000 victims of the latest earthquake in Haiti.

Our selfishness prevents us to directly suffer from others' pains otherwise life would be unbearable.

Yet, didn't Christ preach for a morality of care and solidarity with all of our brothers?

It's our selfishness which enables us to live satisfying or even happy lives while knowing there are millions starving in the world, children being sexualy abused, people mutilated or suffering agonizing pains until they die.

The same goes for animals which we raise on an industrialy scale just to kill them and eat them.

This very thought is unbearable to hundreds of millions of people on earth, be they Hinduists or just vegetarians like I am.

The animal world is one where creatures devour other creatures in order to survive and the process isn't painless. This world is one of unending cruelty to the living.

On an individual point of view, life may appear to be not so painful if you're lucky but from a Sub specie aeternitatis' one it is.

Also, when you consider the Christian moral stand -which you know better than me- didn't Christ say: "Those who commit an offense upon his next commits an offense upon me" (a loosely remembered one).

Which means we're all one and that the pains of others are also our pains.

Once again, it is our selfiness which prevents us from suffering other's pains like they do suffer them.

Most of us live peaceful and satisfying lives until death strikes and it always does. And it brings heart wrenching pains with it.

Flocon a dit…

"yet he does not act as if all was ultimately determined by forces beyond our control, and that we lack free will, or even the ability to perceive reality"

I realize I have answered that part in my first reply.

I have no free will and I am determined by forces beyond my control.

My only "liberty" is to be aware of this state of affairs would say Spinoza and most others but I do disagree.

Even this ability to become aware of the processes that lead us in the course of our lives isn't available to all, by far, by very far. And this purported liberty isn't real imho.

The huge majority of people on earth have no idea why they lived and why their lives were what they were.

I have a post in the offing on this issue. Another dolorous one I'm afraid...

All in all, we're what we are and we act accordingly, no matter what.

Merci de votre commentaire qui appelle de très nombreux développements but they would turn rapidly boring, wouldn't they?

Anijo a dit…

Shall We talk has a limited audience to say the least..

Semperfi was probably curious why the people who did comment on this thread (Anijo, Merbel and Ned) didn't address the topic.

I live a happy and content life at the moment and yet I have had many dolorous times in recent years.

What if a day, or a month, or a yeare
Crown thy delights with a thousand sweet contentings?
Cannot a chance of a night or an howre
Crosse thy desires with as many sad tormentings?

Flocon's negative posts about marriage and other institutions

As for marriage, I know a lot of happily married people with happy families. I also know a lot of people who are married but spend most of their time complaining about one another and seem to be miserable. Marriage is a piece of paper. Two people who love each other don't need to be married to spend their lives together and have children. A very close friend of mine has been with the same woman for about 30 years. They have three children who have all grown up to be amazing young men. They've never been married. They've had a lot of ups and downs but they're still together.

Flocon a dit…

Think of it, I don't know why I wrote that post in English save maybe to please SemperFidelis...

If there seems to be discrepancies between the post that I wrote and the way we consider our respective lives and those of others, it probably stems from the misreading of said post I'm afraid.

The quote SemperFidelis chose ("life in its very essence means pain and suffering") refers to the very essence of life, not to the individual tiny bits of life that we live one and each other in our tiny part of the world.

We all share a common entity called Life whose essence I think is made of pain and suffering.

This doesn't imply that 100% of every second of our existences are made of blood, sweat, toil and tears.

Even between two episode of unspeakable horrors we can savour some moments of respite and bless just because the horrors have stopped for a while.

Thank God we don't carry the world upon our shoulders like Christ thought he was during his martyrdom.

Anijo a dit…

My existence at this very moment is f a b u l o u s !! It snowed overnight!!! The batteries for my camera died, but here is a webcam from someone else who lives west of Las Cruces.

☺ ☺ ☺

Flocon a dit…

"My existence at this very moment is f a b u l o u s !!

Well... I'm glad for you about that and even if I'm not that exhilarated I nonetheless enjoy my day :-D

The temperature is colder in Las Cruces (-11°C) than in Paris (-4°C this morning)

The link you give leads to a site which gives temperatures in Celsius and all other data are metrics.

That must be the French "subsidiary" of Weather Underground since the categories et al are in French.

Anijo a dit…


The categories must be in French because you are in France. Someone in Spain would no doubt read the categories in Spanish. Just as someone in Mesilla sees a Cézanne celebration on Google, while someone in Paris does not.

According to your friend

Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was founded in 1995 as an offshoot of the University of Michigan's Internet weather database. The name is a reference to the 1960s militant radical terrorist student group the Weather Underground, which also originated at the University of Michigan.

Anonyme a dit…

Flocon: It is certainly true that these discussions are, for some readers, gray, dismal and dreary. I find them invigorating, but accept without reservation that others may not be interested. I am always grateful when anyone finds the time and has the interest to respond.

//Answer: Simpy because it's due to my nature which I'm not responsible of, although I'm accountable for.//

In the spirit of your exchanges with Anijo, your meaning is clear here, but the proper way to say this is: Simply because it's due to my nature, for which I'm not responsible, but for which I'm accountable.

That said, note that I would not dare to write a post in French, and I can confirm that your English proficiency is of a very high order indeed for a man who does not have the advantage of daily immersion in the language.

Your position follows from your premise. You are consistent.

One of the objections I have to your view is that it requires us to empty of any real meaning the concepts of admiration and opprobrium.

To use an example that Anijo has discussed, if we have no free will in any meaningful sense, we cannot in any meaningful way admire the Egyptian demonstrators who brave beatings to press for political rights, and assign opprobrium to those who beat them.


Anonyme a dit…


Thanks for your interest in this little blog of mine.

"I am always grateful when anyone finds the time and has the interest to respond."

That is why this blog bears the name Shall We Talk?

I, for one, am equally grateful to people who are magnanimous enough to show some interest in my little posts.

As pertains to my formulation (responsible of, accountable for) I thought it was an elegant and balanced one but I would never have thought of the correct one you write.

There is a repetition of "which" which I thought I would avoid by resorting to my formulation. Well, I was wrong then.


As pertains your too kind appreciation of my abilities in English, you know there are four facets to be taken in consideration re foreign languages learning.

The passive one (listening and reading) and the active one (writing and speaking).

Another aspect of the same process of learning is the oral/written "opposition".

Depending on the learner, one of these aspects is less painful and difficult than the others.

But foreign languages teaching and learning is an immense field of research dealing with so many topics such as psychology, semantics, pedagogy, you name them.

Flocon a dit…

Votre objection concernant l'absence de libre arbitre qui nous empêcherait de porter une appréciation morale sur les manifestants égyptiens est intéressante mais trouve immédiatement sa réponse.

Nos concepts moraux sont ceux qui nous ont été enseignés par les sociétés dans lesquelles nous vivons.

Ce ne sont pas les individus qui acquièrent tout seuls la notion de ce qui est bien ou mal.

Toute moralité a une généalogie pour reprendre la formule de Nietzsche.

Vous retrouvez la relativité du bien et du mal chez Spinoza (save for physical pain where bad is actually very bad by itself imho) et même chez les Grecs (Stoïciens je crois). Sans parler des Hindous et des Bouddhistes...

Nous jugeons des événements en Égypte en fonction des valeurs qui sont les nôtres et qui, il est vrai, ne sont plus exclusivement occidentales à présent.

La question du libre arbitre n'a pas sa place en la matière puisque je ne fais, en tant qu'individu, que me conformer, globalement, aux valeurs qui m'ont été enseignées.

Notre réaction par rapport à l'insurrection égyptienne est déterminée par notre éducation collective.

(I wrote this answer in French and, paradoxically, I wonder if I wouldn't have made myself better understood had I written in English...)

Anijo a dit…


ha! ☺

I'm enjoying the exchange of ideas between you two. (Flocon and SemperFi)