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so, what’s with the knife?

June 26, 2009

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.

manjusri_0713But 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.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    June 27, 2009 7:42 pm

    Be interested to know what prompted the change? WordPress is a little cold. I preferred the other format – but this is your blog and you gotta do what you gotta do. Preferred the other image to0 – more of a knife and pen(?) thing going for it than a crackled painting of a point-less sword(?). Looking forward to the next evolution…

    • andries du toit permalink*
      June 27, 2009 8:28 pm

      There is a big difference between the two blogs and I want clear blue water between them. The other blog is very ‘private’ and I don’t want a connection between the two. Mebbe I should have taken the other one to WordPress and kept Subtle Knife at blogger. I don’t know.

      The crackled image of Manjusri’s sword is a placeholder. It is not as nice as the pen and sword one but (1) it is not copyrighted, which the other one was, and (2) it fits the template. The one disadvantage of WordPress is their templates are less flexile. I hope to get Masha to do a nice graphic instead, and then we will really be cookin’

      Thank you for your feedback. I really value it!

  2. May 29, 2010 12:09 am

    Awesome blog. I am a fledgeling blogger myself and I must admit that this is the best of the lot. The writing is on another level.

    Viva la blogger.

    “I blog…therefore, I am.”

    • andries du toit permalink*
      May 31, 2010 2:42 pm

      Thank you kindly… I will check out yours soon!

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