haywain: pulling at straws of pessimism

The Haywain by Hieronymus Bosch is almost as complex as the Garden of Earthly Delights. It carries a similar message; that of desperate pessimism. Even in the darkest of the Christian books of the Bible Hell exists for the damned, but some souls are saved, and for them there is the opportunity for eternal life. Not so in the vision of Bosch, which moves through universal folly to endless damnation, without a hope of heaven.

---Gombrich:The seven details of the centrepiece of the Haywain triptych rather emphasise the demonic and grotesque at the expense of marvellous panoramic landscape and the humour of the foreground group, which anticipate Bruegel. Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf

On the backs of the side panels, there is a single, bitter and sad painting of a poor elderly, homeless peddler defending himself with a stick against a snarling dog. In the background a couple are dancing to a shepherd’s bagpipe and on the other a traveler is being robbed and stripped and tied to a tree. In the foreground is a skull and leg bone of a horse, with two carrion crows. Who is this peddler, this exile wandering through an alien world?

---The historian will in any case prefer to proceed from the known to the unknown. He will be grateful that, apart from the Table Top, we now have incontrovertible proof of the meaning of another Bosch’s principal works, the Haywain. The history of this discovery is interesting. In the seventeenth century the Spanish ecclesiastic Siguenza was reminded by its theme of the passage in Isaiah, “All flesh is grass,” with its message of the transience of all worldly pleasure. Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf

The center triptych is symbolic of human folly and sin; Paradise on the left is complicated and hell on the right is devils building a strong tower. A bank? The world of money? The central panel contains many types, but it is led by demons. Before the grave and important personalities is a huge wagon piled with hay. Hay is useless except as fodder for animals, therefore this must mean that the pursuits of individual life are worthless, even for dignitaries like Kings, princes and popes.

---(CBS News) Federal prosecutors said on Tuesday that Full Tilt Poker and its star-studded board of directors operated the company "as a massive Ponzi scheme against its own players," according to multiple media outlets. Manhattan's U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the government was filing legal papers as part of a money laundering suit that accuses Full Tilt of bilking online poker players out of $440 million since 2007. Prosecutors say the company used that money to pay its board of directors, which includes big name players like Howard Lederer and Christopher "Jesus" Ferguson. Read More:http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/09/20/national/main20108950.shtml Debord:The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification. As a part of society it is specifically the sector which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, and the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of generalized separation. 4 The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images. ...

Also, the Bible compares human life to grass which grows up and dies quickly. Men are “like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” Like Stalin, no compunction about mass slaughter which he considered cutting the grass. Or, like the Byron epigram: The World is a bundle of hay/Mankind are the asses who pull/Each tugs it in a different way/And the greatest of all is John Bull.

The groups of people surrounding the hay wagon typify various kinds of silliness and wrongdoing. A woman quarreling with a cripple is about to knife him. A duelist has disarmed his opponent and is cutting his throat. A fat fryer is drinking in a bemused way and ignoring a nun who is praying for him. Three of the devils are holding something that may be one of the shafts of the hay wagon. If it is, they are supplying the motive power. With their energy and the zest with which they move it conveys a sense of the victorious. They are taking over.

---Top executives from a bankrupt California solar energy company pleaded the Fifth Amendment more than a dozen times Friday in a congressional hearing that went nowhere but gave members the opportunity to pose dozens of questions about the loss of a half billion dollars in government loans. Solyndra Inc. CEO Brian Harrison and the company's chief financial officer, Bill Stover, had notified the House Energy and Commerce Committee they were going to invoke their Fifth Amendment .... Read More:http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/23/solyndra-execs-plead-fifth-at-congressional-hearing-more-than-dozen-times/ Debord:The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the project of the existing mode of production. It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society. In all its specific forms, as information or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption, the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choice already made in production and its corollary consumption. The spectacle's form and content are identically the total justification of the existing system's conditions and goals. The spectacle is also the permanent presence of this justification, since it occupies the main part of the time lived outside of modern production.

Look at the calm impercipient faces of the great men following in this triumphal procession; they are satisfied and contented with their movement through the world and do not know where it is leading them. In heaven, the Savior has thrown up his arms in helplessness. The original creation of mankind and angels has gone awfully wrong; the act of redemption through his sacrifice on the cross was a meaningless gesture. Useless. Humankind, in spite of god, is determined to go to Hell. Back then, this scenario may have either been an obscenity or a mania, however today, it is not so far removed from our experience; people living for themselves and one another in a brittle, dreamlike present, without effort, aspiration or ideal.

---A plan to build 1,100 housing units in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood was approved Tuesday by the city's regional planning and construction committee. The plan includes construction of small housing units, a boardwalk, public buildings, a school and an industrial zone...."It's a nice gift for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year)," said Yair Gabay, a member of the Jerusalem committee. "Jerusalem in expanding to the south, creating affordable housing. We must clarify to the world that Jerusalem is not up for sale." About a year and a half ago the planning and construction committee approved a motion to expand Gilo and south Jerusalem and build new housing units in the neighborhood. The construction project has drawn heavy criticism from Washington and left-wing organizations. Gilo was built on land that was seized during the Six Day War and later annexed to Jerusalem. The neighborhood was a frequent target of Palestinians during the second intifada.... Read More:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4128629,00.html Debord:The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than "that which appears is good, that which is good appears. The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact

lready obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.

A picture of madness, of insensate folly. Virtually nobody is doing anything of any value to anyone. Almost all the figures, looked at from our distance, are absurd. A banality of evil? progressively and complicit in their efforts to bring about a Hell? Hannah Arendt theory of thoughtlessness? And Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle:

Joseph Heath on Thorstein Veblen: Once the predatory class is sufficiently entrenched, fewer opportunities present themselves for displays of prowess. Thus this class invents for itself new, labor-intensive activities, which may involve great effort and skill, but which are demarcated from the activities of the laboring classes by virtue of being explicitly futile in their aim. Sport is the most obvious example, but more controversially, Veblen also includes under this rubric religious observances, etiquette, esoteric learning (such as classical languages), aesthetic appreciation, “domestic music,” and a variety of other activities ….

Gombrich:It turned out that a real haywain was actually dragged through the streets of Antwerp in 1563 during a procession, accompanied by a song emphasising the vanity of all earthly gains. Professor de Tolnay refers to these articles, but still prefers his 1937 interpretation (which is repeated under the plate), even though the detective work of these scholars has meanwhile been brilliantly confirmed through the discovery of the description by Ambrosio de Morales, mentioned earlier, who, only a few years after Bosch’s death, explained that hay in Flemish meant “nothing,” and that the picture was an allegory of the hunt for vanities, “al hooi” (all hay). Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf

…Hence the perverse spectacle of the best (if not necessarily the brightest) applying themselves with boundless energy and selfless commitment, developing advanced competencies in activities that have absolutely no redeeming social value. The term “leisure class” is, in this respect, somewhat misleading, since members of this class often find their lives to be just as hectic and demanding as those of the laboring classes. This is why Veblen describes leisure, not as mere “indolence,” but as a “performance”. (For example, he observes that, “good breeding requires time, application and expense”). Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdfa

Gombrich:Noting the many figures in the painting grabbing bundles of hay, Professor de Tolnay in 1937 suggested that it illustrated the proverb, “The world is a haystack; and each man plucks from it what he can.” In 1938, however, there appeared in the Gentsche Bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis a paper discussing a print from the middle of the sixteenth century (now reproduced in Tolnay’s Appendix) showing a haywain surrounded by groups of people, each motif being explained in a satirical verse. Jan Grauls could show by means of extensive pictorial and literary parallels that hay here stood for all vanities, the grabbing for hay was the chase after emptiness, which led to perdition. Read More:http://gombricharchive.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/showrev10.pdf


Thorstein Veblen.The concept of “property,” extending beyond mere personal possession, emerges also during this stage, modeled on the relationship of domination toward women. Ownership begins with the domination of women (what we would now call “mate-guarding behavior”), and is subsequently extended to encompass physical objects. It is therefore, first and foremost, a system of rank. “Ownership began and grew into a human institution on grounds unrelated to the subsistence minimum. The dominant incentive was from the outset the invidious distinction attaching to wealth” Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf

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