Negligible Differences

God isn’t humanity’s limit-point, though humanity’s limit-point is divine. Or put it this way– humanity is divine when experiencing limits. –Georges Bataille.

First Axiom: There is no such thing as a negligible difference. But all differences are, in the end, negligible.

Second Axiom: There can be no end. There can be no end to “difference.”

Third Axiom: Differences do not exist per se. Difference is existing. Existence is its difference — but not “difference from itself.” Follow me closely here: the “itself” of existence differs. The “itself” of existence… is difference.

Fourth Axiom: Difference is the principle of all principles because it effaces all principles, effacing itself in the articulation of its own (non-)principle. To rest on “principle” is not only the primary target of a philosophy of difference; existence itself rules out the very possibility of “principles” – in order to exist.

Fifth Axiom: “Difference” is not negligible because it precedes the possibility of any concept of different and same. Difference precedes the possibility of beginning/end, visible/hidden, present/absent, human/divine, etc. Difference, then, precedes the very possibility of identity, and thus of naming in general. Every name, every identity, every idea or ideality is constituted in contrast to another. And in another sense, deeper sense, another always constitutes it.

Proof for Fifth Axiom: To say “this is red” implies a flexibility, not only in terms of gradiations redness (crimson, vermillion, rose, etc.), but in terms of cases of redness (blood, vehicles, emotions). The unity of the phenomenon “redness” is merely derived from this plurality of graduations and cases. It comes after the reality of the object. This means that “there is no self-same color named red.” Red is “not” red. We have to show how, rather than undermining the name or concept of red, these “inherent,” non-negligible differences, their flexibility or reflexibility, in fact constitute its strength as a signifier. But since its range of application is not infinite — since not everything is red — we have to show, or at least suggest, that is boundedness and its universality go hand-in-hand.

Truth abides in the individual drama. If I suffer authentically, I suffer much more than an individual, I transcend the sphere of my selfhood, I rejoin the essence of others. The only way to proceed toward the universal is to concern ourselves exclusively with what concerns us. — Emile Cioran

Infinite Axiom: There is an other inside of me to whom I address this speech. He is on your side. Imagine me as a womb. Imagine my words as the uterine wall, as the sound of someone great and lovely breathing, the sounds of someone’s blood pumping, the sounds of some father lending his ear to my outer wall and listening closely. Imagine that you are a child. Imagine that you are a child inside of me. But do not imagine me as me. I am your child.

First Imagination: Two doors, one heavy, one light, situated in the same door frame. The first has a brass doorknob, the second, something flimsy. The one has a long plane of glass and is made of metal. The other is plastic– but it’s windows open. Well, almost: they can be shifted so as to expose a mesh netting called a “screen,” which lets air in from the outside. What do I do? I open the first door and say, “I’m not opening the door, I’m just opening the door.” What do you then do?

Sixth Axiom: If we wanted to trace the origins of time and space — whether as “concepts” or as the “constituent structures of existence in general” — we would find that they have their common root in difference. That is to say: we are born different. And from then on – remember this – we are never the same. Give yourself over as a signal to this.

Methodological principle: The hard line often drawn between preparation and performance is effaced in the being of the performer (i.e., in the performance) to the extent that the performance comes to be seen as nothing more than preparation. For there is no “final match.” The being of the performer is effaced in the performance: he discovers he has not even begun yet, that he is not yet. Therefore: excursion coincides with report; investigation with result; draft with final work. Design (sketch, investigation, excursion) with design (intention, meaning, purpose). Let us let our finished products open our eyes to the incompleteness of our work. Let us let our closures be openings. Let us let each death birth.

Seventh Axiom: Self-presence, the sense of being, what I have of “being myself,” the sense of myself as a monad, as self-contained and self-enclosed, as a bodily “thing,” therefore, originates in difference. We are borne unto this presence that is different. We are always original, in this sense. This bearing unto, or birthing, of presence is the essence of what is meant by “being-singular.” It is “being” in the active, not the substantive, sense. We could even say: there is only stability in self-presence insofar as this presence becomes, or rather, is becoming, differentAnd there’s no instability in difference.

First Note on “Singularity”: In mathematics, a singularity is a point at which a function takes on an infinite value, the exceptional point at which it ceases to behave well. For example, the function, f(x) = 1/x , on the real line, has a singularity at x = 0, where it seems to “explode” to ±∞ and is not defined.

Second Note on “Singularity”: Whenever speaking about it, Jean-Luc Nancy reminds us that the original or common usage of this word in Latin – singuli – meant “one by one,” “one after the other,” as if on a real line. He emphasizes this to remind us of the plurality implied in singularity. This is easily detected in the title of his book on ontology, Being Singular Plural. We come to presence as singulars because we come to presence one presence at a time — that is, through absence. At any one time, we “are” a plurality of presences (absences) that become, and are becoming, different. And if each “moment of presence” involves the birth of “a new one of me,” so too does each birth involve a “moment absence”: the death of the last one. There’s nothing special about singularity– even if it points toward the extraordinary. For these “rules,” this one-by-one, holds true for everyone. Furthermore, it holds true for every thing. Levi Bryant has done some incredible work connected to this topic. See his work on the dynamic life of objects, objects as actsobjects as events, etc.

Eighth Axiom: Since time lies at the origin of self-presence, and since time cannot help but be characterized by the metaphors of — or experienced as — “movement” and “passage” — incessant movement and passage at that — then self-presence is marked by an originary difference. Its origin, then, or its time, is always coming ahead of it. Its origin is its coming-ahead-of-itself. It comes ahead of its difference. This is what makes us lovely: just as we are.

First Note on the Eighth Axiom: We don’t have to wait to die to reach completion or closure because in every moment we are “reaching completion.” Which also suggests to us that death is nothing more than an infinite opening. The tiniest nothing there could be.

Second Note on the Eighth Axiom: In affirming that the self is auto-affective, in affirming that it affects itself, what is questionable is not the affection, but the “autos” that is affected. Can we think of a shared autos? We will forever run into problems if we ask: how does the self stay the same over time? how does is it affected and affect itself while remaining the same? These questions lead us in the wrong direction entirely: they are also somewhat weak questions, since they seek security where no security need be sought. We have to think of affection as a differing that is always coming “ahead” of the autos; which again suggests that the autos is always doubled or somehow multiple. In the passage of time, which is the passage of affects, it is this passage which makes our autos possible — and not vice versa. There is not some same (autos) that then becomes different; there is the movement of difference (which we remember cannot be stopped) from which we (retroactively and always provisionally) deduce sameness. This means that we are a trace of ourselves — that is, we are absent and elsewhere — before we “are” ourselves — and who said we had to “be” anyway? Why constitute something (autos) where there is only passage, affection, build-up and decay? Discontinuity need not constitute. This implies nothing less than that we revamp our whole notion — better yet, our whole practice — of “self-consciousness.”

Summary View: We can see now that we are forever working over the questions of unity and dissolution, of ideality and “realing,” of identity and difference, etc. Perhaps we can learn to extend our insights on “redness” into topics that are a bit less easy to manage, like ‘humanness’ or ‘divinity.’ But even these question boil down to the question of the oneness of the one. Recall the difficulty of bracketing off one moment from another along the continuum of time. Recall how one side of your country seamlessly and without interruption becomes the opposite side. Recall how the photo album teaches you après-coup “who you are.” Recall how you are not surprised by anything… until you are surprised by something. My suggestion is this: any “one” is only more or less one. I can say, at the same time: “I’m not yet who I am” and “I’m already more than I am.” My very being is addressed to this not-yet and this already-more-than. This “not-yet”/”more”… this not-yet-more…  is what I amI am That. Which, clearly, still means: I am Not

Final Meditation, or, “A Prelude to Spiraling Out”: This short treatise began with a quote by Bataille where he says that “divinity” is the experience of humanness at its limits; and that “God” does not necessarily indicate an upper limit. We have written this treatise to affirm that, insofar as difference is always “operative,” we are always experiencing humanness at its limits. We are always more-than-human, not-yet-divine. But on the other hand, this being-on-the-limit is not something to take lightly, or to take for granted.Paradoxically, it would seem, we have to seek the limit, to chase it down, to never let up. Of course, it recedes infinitely, for it indicates that Other-in-the-Same that immemorially takes us hostage (according to Levinas). To this — to him? to her? to it? — we make ourselves vulnerable. Our treatise has therefore been written to remind us of what we cannot be reminded of, to give us access to the inaccessible: being-on-the-limit as the gift that comes from nowhere. For it is not within my power as a self-present being to take myself to the limit. I can only recognize, by a strange torsion between “am” and “am not,” that an “other side” is exposed, and I am exposed to my other side. Writing (– Life?) is a privileged access to this spiraling-out; but it is not everything. “Writing” too is nothing if not different. In the end, like us, it’s nothing. In the end, we will have written many things, we will have exposed ourselves, we will have searched for signifiers and love, we will have become totally and utterly different. And, we will have died. But as I have said time and time again, this death will make no difference it hadn’t already made. Death itself: it makes no difference. And there is no negligible difference.

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