so, what’s with the knife?
The name of this blog, a subtle knife, is of course and most obviously a reference to Philip Pullman‘s wonderful book. In the book, the knife in question is a precious and terrible artifact, a knife forged so finely that it can cut through the very fabric of the universe to open up portals between the worlds: it is not only a weapon and a tool, but a liberator, the opener of pathways.
But Philip Pullman’s knife is, of course, far from new. It has been wielded by many. It is, of course, the the sword of reason, the sword of Theory, the sword of discrimination, the sword of intellect. It is Tenar’s fingernail in Tehanu. (‘Who will asks questions of the dark?’ Moss asks. Tenar splits a reed with her fingernail: ‘I will,’ she says…) It is Socrates’s sword, Marx’s sword, Foucault’s sharp scalpel of unveiling. It is Cassandra’s sword of words: bell hooks’s sword, Tony Morrison’s sword, naming what will not be named.
Ultimately at the end, it is Manjusri‘s sword: the sword that punctures illusion, the sword of discriminating wisdom.
About Manjusri’s sword we are told that it is often pictured as tipped with flame, to show that it severs all notions of duality. Manjusri’s sword exists ‘to cut away delusion, aversion and longing, to reveal understanding, equanimity and compassion.’
In a way this captures for me what I think this blog is about. (You will notice I am not sure. I am not planning this blog. I let my fingers do the writing; often I have no really clear idea what will come out). It’s a blog of commentary about art, literature, current affairs. But in particular, I think this blog is about the stuff I write when my bullshit detector winks on. When I feel myself to be in the presence of lies, blandishments, and ideology. When things feel so comforting that I feel I need air. When there is something else going on, something between the lines, a dark and unconscious intention or agenda: when something is in need of naming.
Those are heavy claims, you say?
Indeed they are. But these are heavy times. Swords are needed.