Thoughts during the plague. № 1. Black revenge of light god


Hello, I have decided to share my thoughts with you on the pandemic in which we have found ourselves. Naturally, I have a lot of thoughts, as most do, regarding what is currently happening to us, and it seems to make sense to record a series of conversations or lectures on the coronavirus, the modern plague, on the associations it inspires in the mind of a philosopher and the predictions that political scientists and experts in political philosophy and geopolitics might make regarding the world after all of this comes to an end. 

I suggest that we discuss the matter on social media, where I will answer your questions and discuss the interesting ideas that come up.

However, today, let's start with something relatively fundamental. If we recall the beginning of the Iliad, we will remember how we encounter a situation that is surprisingly reminiscent of what is happening to us now. Apollo is present and cast in sinister shade darker than the storm clouds - this shows that the god of light, the god of lightness, the god of clarity, the god of constancy, has been angered. 

Interestingly, he has been angered by the disrespectful attitude towards his priest, a priest of Apollo, and the result of his irritation toward the Achaeans is a plague.

So the god of light, the god of muses, the god of harmony, the god of exalted beauty is also the source of the plague, the source of the pandemic spreading among the Achaean army. 

Another rather important point is that when Apollo comes to the feast of the gods in the same section, all the gods jump up from their seats, as his arrival does not bode well for anyone. This ominous aspect of the god of light, the god of justice, the god of true judgment in the Greek tradition, is very revealing. He carries the plague, he carries the virus, he carries death and extermination. But why?

Here it is important to keep in mind: Apollo took action because his priest was treated disrespectfully. If we break away from the specific history of Homer, we can formulate this philosophical myth as follows: the god of light, the god of the vertical, the god of heaven, the god of Hyperborea punishes humanity, which has been distracted by some completely inappropriate matter, insulting the solar axis in each of us. 

In light of this story, the coronavirus, the pandemic, the plague that decimates humanity, becomes understandable. 

Apollo is a metaphysical symbol of our appeal to ourselves, to our inner dimension, to our immortal soul, and when people sin against this immortal soul, when they are completely absorbed in the elements of entertainment, the outside world, pleasure-seeking and constant swarming around material goods, things we are obsessed with acquiring, or think we haven’t been given enough of, or want more of, or feel compelled to use up faster...

As soon as people begin to swarm around non-Apollonian values, when this swarm reaches a certain critical point, Apollo sends a plague to humanity, and this is absolutely just and logical, as this plague makes people return to themselves again.

This was mentioned by Albert Camus in his novel "The Plague." He says that the plague is a way to think, it is an invitation for us to think about the most important and fundamental things.

It is not only about quarantine, it is primarily a collision with death, because when we live in a normal state we don’t remember our finitude, we forget about death, it is somewhere outside our attention, we fail to think existentially. And then comes the pandemic, the coronavirus, the plague is at hand – death has come back to us, and we have come back to it.

Thus, we return to the essence of humanity, because it is no coincidence that the Greeks called human beings mortal, βροτοί.

Morality is humankind’s special figure, its border, its formula, its limit - death. And it is in the face of death that our life unfolds. 

Life only makes sense when it is related to death. In the twentieth century, already at the end of his philosophical process, Heidegger defined Dasein as "being toward death." 

Our presence in the world, our physicality, our thinking, our conceptualization of our dwelling in this place, acquires meaning, significance and weight only when we visualize death.

Plague moves us toward this visualisation, it brings us back to our Dasein; in fact, this is a kind of philosophical lesson. 

Apollo is the god of philosophy, the god of thought, the god of light, and it is precisely the light of human finitude that is ignited in us at the moment we encounter our limits.

It is rather interesting: “finitude” (“peros” in Greek) is the border, the limit. It seems to us (the reason why is another question)  that everything is infinite: the universe is infinite, matter is infinite, and in the absorption of material infinity, the infinite fragmentation of matter, we become slaves to infinity, and in this infinity, we simple plummet into entropy, entertainment and dispersion, forgetting about ourselves. 

We want to live forever, and therefore we talk about physical immortality, therefore we talk about the transfer of consciousness to cloud servers, and our logical thought seeks to merge with this infinity.

Yet the Greeks said that the essence of man and the essence of spirit, the essence of God, is the limit, peros, not apeiron, not infinity, but precisely finiteness, boundedness, and this boundedness, this proportion of life and death, the presence and absence which establishes a boundary, constitutes the essence of a delineated unity.

Our finiteness, our limitation by death, constitutes our essence, our light essence. And when we strive to get away from this boundedness, when we try to merge with infinity, we lose ourselves. 

That is what is happening now, and Apollo has sent the plague to make us recall that we are mortal and finite creatures.

If we fight the coronavirus purely technically, striving only to recover, to save our relatives, to sit in quarantine (all of which we must certainly do), we will miss the main lesson of Apollo, we will miss the main philosophical message of coronavirus: that we are finite, we are mortal, and this mortality is our essence. 

In the face of death, we live - and whenever we truly live, we live only in the face of death.

As soon as death disappears beyond the horizon, life loses its astringency, its presence, and so life spreads out, falls into the pseudo-infinity of entertainment, domestic worries, into the constant dispersion of an infinite number of small objects, actions, steps or gestures that attract us at a given moment.

In fact, only in the face of death is our presence, our being in the world, truly assembled, and only in this state, and only in this position, in the face of our own border, are we able to be ourselves, are we able to exist as people, are we able to collect our thoughts.

Therefore, it’s not actually about living or dying, it’s about the fact that a person lives only on the border with death, and when we forget about this border, stop living, disperse, we commit a crime against ourselves, and an epidemic is called upon us in turn; perhaps as a last call for us to return to our own dignity. This is the philosophical meaning of the plague.

It is amazing that we only recently opened the exhibition “Apollo. Manifestation” by the remarkable artist Alexei Belyaev-Gintovt at the Moscow Art Theater, just at the moment when the epidemic began. We did not even think about it, we had been preparing the exhibition earlier, at the end of 2019, and yet it perfectly coincided, it just so happened that this exhibition “Apollo. Manifestation" was underway at the Moscow Art Theater exactly at that moment.

Obviously, we did not cause the coronavirus pandemic, but it is also obvious that this pandemic, in a metaphysical sense, in a philosophical sense, is connected with the Apollo gestalt.

This is perhaps what is most important: we must think about more than how to save ourselves from the coronavirus, we must also consider the reason for it, and most importantly, for what purpose it came to us. Whoever is really behind it, whether the pandemic was man-made or not man-made, natural or artificial, all of this is not important-- all that really matters is why. Here, when it comes to the question of telos, the purpose of something, the meaning of something, we must turn to the figure of Apollo, who is the interpreter and the true originator, that is, the metaphysical source of the pandemic. This is a development at once cruel and curative, it is an outstretched hand from light metaphysics directing us to return to ourselves, to close our borders, to close our homes, to close our eyes and focus them inward on ourselves.

It is so, so that we may finally stay with ourselves, with our immortal soul, which we are in danger of losing to postmodern culture, constant and inescapable, penetrating ever more deeply into our culture of transgression.

The plague is a call to take a step back, turn into ourselves, shut ourselves off from endless entropy and clearly, piercingly, tragically and with a new inner hope, realize our finiteness.

Only in the face of death can a person exist authentically, and therefore, one must look directly into the eyes of death.

All the best, you have been watching a new format of address to the audience, and with this program, with this short speech, we begin a series of conversations in the era of the pandemic, lectures in the era of the plague.


Russian version