In the Mood

Some people are emotional while others are moody. Emotion confesses, mood places. Emotion represents a solitary feeling whose vintage expression is the lyric poem. “Mood makes manifest ‘how one is and is coming along'” (Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. Stambaugh, p. 131).  It represents the experience of a person’s embeddedness in the world whose vintage expression is the piano piece, as in Träumerei/Reverie (1882), the 4th piece of 5 Stimmungsbilder/Mood Pictures, op. 9, for solo piano by Richard Strauss.

German thought and art have reflected extensively on the ontological operations of mood and its role in humanity’s place in the world. “The German word for ‘mood’ is Stimmung, a term that refers to atmosphere as well as temperament. From stimme, or voice, it implies more than shifting humors. It speaks out of, or into, the self. It resonates. For Heidegger, Stimmung is this resonance, an attunement of a state-of-mind with the world. Like the weather, Stimmung ‘wraps’ the body lightly; moods are ‘the least pressing […] concrete encounters that our bodies can have with the material environment’ [Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht]. Mood is not just a feeling – it is the convergence of that feeling with the elements. You can get lost in a mood, but you can never be absent from it. It is the figure and its environment, the lone subject staring out at the ocean or the mountain range, and the vast ocean, and that foggy mountain range” (Joanna Fiduccia, “Cloud Study”, 2011).

Caspar Friedrich, “Mountain Landscape with Rainbow” (1810)

Mood and atmosphere, dispositions and elements are intimately related. “Inasmuch as moods are an atmosphere, a kind of weather, they are not ‘psychological,’ located in some interior space we can reach by way of introspection or self-examination.  Moods are not in us; we are in them; they go through us” (Flatley:  Affective Mapping:  Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism, 2008, p. 22).  Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self,” is not an emotional, let alone sentimental, person. He is an overwhelmingly moody person for whom the weather is a daily point of reference. He comments on the elements all day long because he is aware of the Heideggerian ways in which his temperament is intertwined with the atmosphere. While conditioned by conditions of mood, he is also actively involved in self-conditioning by seeking to be in peaceful or turbulent tune with his environment.

Stimmung (plural Stimmungen) gives rise to stimmen/to tune an instrument, to make harmonious. The perfect participle gestimmt/in a certain mood, attuned, gives rise to Gestimmtheit/being in a mood, attunement. Stimmung tunes Pantelis’ openness to the world.  “The moodedness of attunement constitutes existentially the openness to world of Dasein” (Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. Stambaugh, p. 134).   Mood is not necessarily a passive predicament into which Dasein is “thrown” but potentially an engaged attunement that involves a world disclosure.  Moods are modes of world disclosure. Being in a certain mood, Pantelis exposes himself to his utmost potential. That is why the moment he steps out of his home, taking up his own “thrownness” in the world, is a momentous occasion in his day, an emergence into the atmosphere that places him in conscious attunement with the environment and destines him, directs his Bestimmung/determination towards people and his Bestimmung/vocation.

The instant I step with Pantelis out of his home, I witness the εξαίφνης/the instant in Plato’s Parmenides:

–ἆρ’ οὖν ἔστι τὸ ἄτοπον τοῦτο, ἐν ᾧ τότ’ ἂν εἴη, ὅτε μεταβάλλει;

–τὸ ποῖον δή;

–τὸ ἐξαίφνης. τὸ γὰρ ἐξαίφνης τοιόνδε τι ἔοικε σημαίνειν, ὡς ἐξ ἐκείνου μεταβάλλον εἰς ἑκάτερον. οὐ γὰρ ἔκ γε τοῦ ἑστάναι ἑστῶτος ἔτι μεταβάλλει, οὐδ’ ἐκ τῆς κινήσεως κινουμένης ἔτι μεταβάλλει: ἀλλὰ ἡ ἐξαίφνης αὕτη φύσις ἄτοπός τις ἐγκάθηται μεταξὺ τῆς κινήσεώς τε καὶ στάσεως, [156e] ἐν χρόνῳ οὐδενὶ οὖσα, καὶ εἰς ταύτην δὴ καὶ ἐκ ταύτης τό τε κινούμενον μεταβάλλει ἐπὶ τὸ ἑστάναι καὶ τὸ ἑστὸς ἐπὶ τὸ κινεῖσθαι.


–καὶ τὸ ἓν δή, εἴπερ ἕστηκέ τε καὶ κινεῖται, μεταβάλλοι ἂν ἐφ’ ἑκάτερα–μόνως γὰρ ἂν οὕτως ἀμφότερα ποιοῖ–μεταβάλλον δ’ ἐξαίφνης μεταβάλλει, καὶ ὅτε μεταβάλλει, ἐν οὐδενὶ χρόνῳ ἂν εἴη, οὐδὲ κινοῖτ’ ἂν τότε, οὐδ’ ἂν σταίη.

–οὐ γάρ.

–ἆρ’ οὖν οὕτω καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἄλλας μεταβολὰς ἔχει, ὅταν ἐκ τοῦ εἶναι εἰς τὸ ἀπόλλυσθαι [157a] μεταβάλλῃ ἢ ἐκ τοῦ μὴ εἶναι εἰς τὸ γίγνεσθαι, μεταξύ τινων τότε γίγνεται κινήσεών τε καὶ στάσεων, καὶ οὔτε ἔστι τότε οὔτε οὐκ ἔστι, οὔτε γίγνεται οὔτε ἀπόλλυται;

–ἔοικε γοῦν.

–κατὰ δὴ τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς ἐπὶ πολλὰ ἰὸν καὶ ἐκ πολλῶν ἐφ’ ἓν οὔτε ἕν ἐστιν οὔτε πολλά, οὔτε διακρίνεται οὔτε συγκρίνεται. καὶ ἐξ ὁμοίου ἐπὶ ἀνόμοιον καὶ ἐξ ἀνομοίου ἐπὶ ὅμοιον ἰὸν οὔτε ὅμοιον οὔτε ἀνόμοιον, οὔτε ὁμοιούμενον οὔτε ἀνομοιούμενον: καὶ [157b] ἐκ σμικροῦ ἐπὶ μέγα καὶ ἐπὶ ἴσον καὶ εἰς τὰ ἐναντία ἰὸν οὔτε σμικρὸν οὔτε μέγα οὔτε ἴσον, οὔτε αὐξανόμενον οὔτε φθῖνον οὔτε ἰσούμενον εἴη ἄν.

–οὐκ ἔοικε.

January 1, 2015

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