Cloud Animals

Language as a ‘code’, behavior as ‘programming’, ideas as ‘downloadable’—these are all metaphors drawn from a cybernetic and technoscientific paradigm. However, predominant as these metaphors are in guiding the norms of our society, is not guaranteed, nor is it likely, that their explanatory power extends to cover all aspects of semiological activity—whether natural language use, economic behavior, or exchanging ideas is concerned.

A code is something that is really only virtually present: all that matters is that it be received and decoded at the target end so that the desired and expected action is performed. The code ‘disappears’ in or underneath the communication. Once the message or packet of information is received and processed, the means can be disposed of. I send a signal for a document to print; once it’s printed, the computer can comfortably forget the signal and ready itself for another. Likewise, all instances of reception are functionally identical, no difference or mutation enters in. When I download a PDF, my computer receives the exact same file your computer would. Obviously, the details of the code will depend on the platform, the OS, the printer, and so on; but no matter these details, whenever the desired acted is successfully performed, the code disappears.

In other words, with ‘codes’, interpretation is lacking. This is essential to its purpose: if the dots and dashes of Morse code allowed for interpretation, it would be a nightmare to send a consistent message. A code cannot function without a clear set of references that are regularized and repeatable. Computers function on 1’s and 0’s and nothing in between. But even word-based sign-systems, like crossword puzzles, can lack this dimension of interpretation and operate like a code. All that matters in the puzzle is to fill in the blanks with the right letters; once this is finished, there’s nothing left to do. And while thought is involved in finding the right answers, there’s no option about what they can be. It is retrieval from memory and highly associative, but in the end, the activity of decoding the code— by whatever strategy, along whatever detour— is all that takes place. To interpret a clue differently from what’s expected just means you’re making a mistake. It is also an activity that aims at disposing its means, the crossword itself, upon completion. That is why ‘cheating’ is both silly (because why play if it’s just copy and paste from an answer key) and irresistible (because cheating may be the only way to get it over with). Finally, once more all instances of solution are identical. The only variety comes in how one reaches that identical goal, but again, by puzzle’s end all trace of that process is invisible and irrelevant (unless, perhaps, you’re being graded on your crossword skills!). The ‘means’ vanish into the message, the proper arrangement of letters on a grid, which itself is meaningless once the task is finished, the challenge met and some leisurely pleasure produced.

By contrast, if each of us read Plato’s Phaderus, every instance of reception is going to be different, spark different associations, lead to different intellectual conclusions and existential choices. There will be ambiguity at points and dispute at others. Certain meanings will be clear and agreed upon, others will remain hidden, obscure, perhaps even unreachable. At no point will the text become disposable or lead to an identical result. Although Plato has been interpreted by nearly every philosopher since, none would be so foolish as to suggest that their interpretation could substitute for reading the text itself. So, there’s difference and supplementarity all along the line of transmission of this text: readings that differ from each other and supplement each other without replacing each other or the original; an original that itself appears different with the passage of time and the history of interpretations. Indeed, after multiple readings of it, the same reader’s interpretations will evolve, deepen, perhaps contradict. And this is without even mentioning the importance of translation and how, if we could read it in ancient Greek, the entire text would look different and raise other questions. But the primary point is that it calls for interpretation and cannot be treated like a code.

In short: interpretation comes in the moment we have to ask “What does it mean?” and the answer is not only *not* transparent but demands we exert ourselves to read— not only to make sense of what it says, but to reflect upon ourselves and examine our own ideas in the process. The Socratic method could even be viewed as a type of deprogramming: right where you thought it was simple as filling in the right answer, according to views you already hold but never investigated, instead you’re asked to think. Furthermore, there is no ‘message’ of the text that interpretation only has to reach. Reading is not deciphering but thinking-along-with. This spills over, in Plato’s case, from examined text to examined life. This is where interpretation shows its true color as something world-embedded, as a process of weaving understanding from all the texts and textures encountered there.

To return, code-based metaphors only get us so far. They may even lead in the wrong direction, if too broadly applied. For my part, I would say it’s a great danger to view communication and the acquisition of knowledge according to this paradigm. The question of a tradition (‘handing-over’) of knowledge is something different from the decoding of a code: it is a creative project and the outcome cannot be predicted in advance. It is this unpredictability of result—the un-programmable nature of any genuine inheritance from the history of thought, which involves decision, risk, faith…— it is this unpredictability that everything from big data mining to an education system based in standardized testing seeks to eliminate from the process of understanding the world, in all likelihood, to dull our power to critique it.

No one can deny the pervasiveness and dominance of codes and programming, but the consequences of accepting it as defining of knowledge are severe and further reaching than we may initially believe. Doing so turns society into a calculation of ‘social codes’, with most outcomes effectively prescribed according to manufactured views and norms. It is a manner of treating each of us like terminals, like machines merely selecting from options defined in advance. Worse, the ‘messangers’ for these codes, humans, ultimately become disposal too–a model that draws strength from evolutionary theory when it treats the individual as the vessel for passing on the species DNA code—only now, the code is caste and capitalist accumulation, maintenance of a status quo of inequality passing itself off as the ‘programming’ necessary for the ‘act’ of society to succeed. A code is good for computers, but the idea of a code comes from military and religion culture. So, it is no accident that codes so efficiently accomplish tasks, stabilize references, circumscribe fields of reference, and make sure all the letters are in the right place in the grid.

What is the code we are normally unwittingly consigned to transmit, and which takes us out of play for the sake of the ‘message’? What does resistance to the paradigm of total encoding and information transmission look like? What is interpretation?

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Narcissism of ‘Smarts’

Psychological tendencies we dislike and critique, that irritate and get on our nerves, can over time get rooted in us, as much out of repulsion as attraction.

One becomes so troubled by what one observes in others, or in general social norms and trends of ‘thought’, that one is compelled to amplify its importance, its negative impact, and so one sets out to set things right.

One crafts various ‘charms’ to keep the unpleasant influences away, but this often just brings them closer in less obvious ways. Not infrequently, even when I think I’m speaking on my own behalf, I’m just foolishly trying to account for and make up for the lack of thinking I perceive, or rather project, in others. The narcissism implied in the attitude is obvious. This easily becomes occasion to make a fool of myself, in displays of seriousness that convey more than anything my own frustration and anger at not feeling I fit in or can relate. The other side of this coin is dissimilation, withdrawal, multifarious pity.

One acts as if the grief and fury funneled into a musing might propitiate the entire assemblage of confusions that seemed to have made it necessary, including one’s own beguilement at having anything more to do with it – as is often the case with ‘political tirades’ that are as vehement as they are self-consciously impotent.

Some part of ourselves rises up to have its voice heard, as it supposes to bring clarity to chaos, but often it is only a release of tension, a performance meant to reassert a prowess, superiority, or self-respect. It is a way to gain distance from a conflict by announcing it and putting oneself in conflict with it. An act of intellectual war.

Followed, often enough, by a bad hangover consisting in futility, regret, embarrassment, powerlessness—isolations inevitably accompanying a mind that ‘betrays too much’ of its own inner workings, often enough just to demonstrate to itself it still ‘works’.

The beautiful soul fails to recognize that he not only contributes to, but in a way produces from within himself, the intellectual disorder he perceives as bearing down on him from the outside world.

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Patterns of Fascism

Patterns of fascist demagoguery and propaganda:

1) The fascist wins support by playing on unconscious mechanisms, rather than by presenting ideas and arguments. Compared to the emotionalized, psychological stimuli applied to the crowd, the ‘content’ of the propaganda, the ‘platform’, plays a minor role.

2) The fascist agitator focuses on personal lives and personalities, not on objective social structures and tendencies. They frame themselves as making a big sacrifice save the people and as outsiders to the system. They announce a band of ‘good guys’ who are just about to save the day.

3) The fascist message is REVIVAL– of religion, nation, patriotism, race, etc. – but in terms that only glorify the activity of reviving. Means are substituted for ends. The ‘goal’ is left unstated or deliberately unclear, thus it is ready for an uncontrolled flood of repressed content, resentment, racism, protection, etc.

4) Propaganda becomes content: the audience suddenly feels privy to information about the hidden workings of society: they have the ‘scoop’, they know the dirt, etc. Knowledge about scandals (fictitious or true) proliferates, producing the pleasure of ‘participating’ in the goings-on of society.

5) Fascist leaders avoid positions they will have to stick to because a) their followers are only useful for the consolidation of power, after which it is easier to cheat and abandon them, b) repressive measures will go much further than the announcement; no definite limit is set because there is no intention to stay within any limit.

6) The masses are not seen as self-determining, but as objects of administration; the expectation is for self-effacing, obedient, non-resistant, conformist behavior.

7) The fascist attacks bogeymen, not real opponents. The chosen foe is an imaginary one that need not be grounded in reality whatsoever, or in exaggerations that reality does not bear out.

8) The fascist ‘discourse’ operates not on logical premises and inferential reasoning but on ‘similarities’ and ‘associations’. This not only makes it resistant to rational examination: it also makes it much easier for the listener to follow. Exact thinking is not required, one simply flows passively with the stream of words.

9) “The fascist agitator is usually a masterly salesman of his own psychological defects.” The structural similarity in mentality between follower and leader turns neurosis or lunacy into a commodity that can be sold to the afflicted. Propaganda’s goal is to establish this concord: a fellowship of pathological thinking.

10) The fascist agitator knows how to put on a show, how to entertain, how to produce pleasure and gratification in the listener: out of gratitude the listener accepts the ideology of the speaker.

11) The fascist leader differs from the follower only with respect to uninhibited expression: they do and say what the followers would never have the gall or courage to do or say. By risking making a fool of themselves, they break through norms of middle-class discourse, increasing the effect of the propaganda.

12) The fascist leader is beloved for their “false tones and clowning.” It is not true that the mass audience has a subtle taste for ‘authenticity’ and disparages the fake; rather fictitiousness, like a drunk’s tirade, appeals for its affectation.

13) The fascist orator redeems the masses’ inarticulateness. This redemptive act requires the RITUAL of rallies, ceremonies, public statements, and so on. These reveal to the masses the identity they want to have but cannot express, and sanction emotions they would have otherwise concealed. (At the center of the ritual is often the symbolic murder/sacrifice of the chosen foe.)

14) “This loosening of self-control, the merging of one’s impulses with a ritual scheme is closely related to the universal psychological weakening of the self-contained individual.” The fascist ritual applies the mechanism of religion emptied of religious content, sanctioning a ‘community’ or ‘cult’ around a leader or ideology that, in essence, prohibits and eliminates critical, individual, divergent, self-determining thought.

15) Fascist propaganda is characterized above all by stereotyping and cliché and the amazingly incessant repetition of stereotypes and clichés, which are ritually ‘drilled’ into the skull. Rigid repetition and mechanical application is craved and standardized. The fascist leader makes a fetish of reality, of the status quo of established power relationships.

16) The fascist spirit is essentially destructive, both selling and enjoying warnings of impending doom, for friend and foe alike. Underneath it lies the unconscious desire for self-annihilation, which is why it ultimately turns its followers into victims.

—Adapted/summarized from Adorno et al. “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” printed in From the Stars Down to the Earth

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Spirituo-materiality

SPIRITUO-MATERIALITY

It’s difficult to countenance the divide between atheism and theism as a real one any longer, given the degree to which things have sunk into opinion on these matters, and when those preparing the next stages in thought are already working on both sides.
The question would have to be: what operational difference is there across this divide? How do different beliefs shape different worlds and, are these worlds actually different?

When a ‘case’ can be made for both sides, what’s wrong with ‘both’ being the case?
A case, grammatically, is just a tense of a verb, which can ‘fall’ into many cases. It just depends on situational pragmatics, to decide what to say. That’s a lot easier than choosing, in some fantastical moment of conversion, ‘once and for all’, how to talk henceforth, which ‘side’ to belong to.

That doesn’t mean that, ‘innerly’, there isn’t an intuition, conviction, choice, or guiding/grounding orientation. There can be hidden convictions and responsibilities, what the soul receives. Only that, whatever that may be, it has nothing to do with the surface talk and its supposed necessities of logical opposition, operation, and predicative combinatorics.
Listen first, then decide what to say, in a strategic manner, getting at the unclosed truth of things. Otherwise there just the nasty ‘handling’ of the other like an overlord: leading questions that drive them to a side, into mental and linguistic prison.
The other’s language comes ‘first’ in any equation of saying. It gets in us ‘innerly’, too, and ‘shudders’ our hidden convocation, so that at no time is there cessation to the need of novel language.

There is normally a fruitless obsession with pre-dicted ‘grooves’ in the logos, so that thought is funneled down given lanes, to regions known and mapped. Thus ‘debates’ become brain-dumbingly dull and predictable.
One pretends its a different liquid in the various grooves and that there can be no contamination across them; but in fact it doesn’t matter, the liquid is the same – obligatorily conceptualizing and metaphoring language.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but once ‘soaked’ in it, the notion of sides and options becomes comical, given the range that opens up.

Wisdom wants to resolve the madness of poetry, but poetry sticks to the contingency of things, dreams, words, ideas, situations, durations, persons (don’t stop there).
That’s why a generic, unallied practice of thought-words 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑡 signification follows the age of religion and ideology-production. The trouble is, as a practice, it doesn’t look like anything. It doesn’t ‘recall’ anything, exactly, because it can’t. Its movement is anti-referential, free to use any reference. Nothing covers its range.
The ideal is to match mind and matter exactly–almost as if language would then disappear from language. Such would be the revelation of mystery as mystery.

If there’s spiritual considerations, these can and must be dealt with materially, not as ideology or belief, not even as ‘vision’.
But the minute I concoct a term like spirituo-materiality, I both open a field of potential semantic exploration, and show the folly of running through it with my head chopped off.
I would like to do that, and why not? Who could stop it?
But the term is irrelevant and needn’t ever be said again. It will never be of any help, on its own, to guide any sense of anything whatsoever.
All that would matter in this ‘case’, is running.

Ironically, words are no longer obvious and must never be obvious anymore. They no longer communicate anything to anyone–except of course in exchanges of information, as in debates over beliefs. Words with clear reference are, obviously, still useful for pragmatic situations. But, for ‘truth’ in the momentous sense, ‘words’ are helpless and help only by indirection, by refusing obviousness.
There is nothing to ‘tell’ anyone at the spirituo-material level.
It’s a case of ‘put up or shut up’ in raw description of thought-matter that lacks outcome, accumulation, even memory. None of that’s needed anymore–not intentionally; and in not being needed, the whole play of thought and imagination is liberated away from conceptual and imagistic capture, into the contingency of experimental gestures complete in themselves and forever unfinished.

The secret boils down to: give no information about God. But also, there’s no information to give: there is no secret held by anyone. “God is love.”
This is how one might successfully ‘exhibit’ how it might be that ‘everything is out in the open’.

Of photographs, only the ‘click’ remains. This does not mean we stop taking, looking at, and cherishing photographs. After all, we’re only human.

—April 16, 2019

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Enlikenment

ENLIKENMENT
(after Wallace Stevens)

1
Some call the opacity of reality ‘God’, some call it ‘matter’.

If you dig down deep enough, what do you find? Top-spinning quarks or Ishvara’s playing cards?

A category like ‘quarks’ is made of resemblances between entities.

A quark resembles other quarks, other subatomic particles, other quantum mannerisms.

By extension: quarks might resemble any teensy-weensy thing (especially if fast and invisible).

Moreover, though they can be calculated similarly, no quark is identical to any other.

A pin, for example, could fit about 20 million million (different) quarks on its head.

That’s a fun fact: so many resemblances! But even more pleasurable to think is:

The stars in the heavens that night were as numerous as quarks on a pinhead.

Imagination stepped up to bat there, and swung itself over the moon.

Poetry and reality have one structure: resemblances that give pleasure.

Where nature keeps resemblances to its natural level, poetry oversteps those levels.

That is poetry’s pleasure: to intensify the sense of reality through extended resemblances.

2
The eye sees, at nature’s level, a text of life it did not write.

The mind however “begets in resemblance,” seeks a world within a world, like a painter.

When that world resembles reality, it satisfies our sense—

But the resemblances we’ve imagined, in the meantime, have added to reality a reality of their own.

In the Great Chain of Likening, the poet’s faith, fact, and practice is that:

Reality, extended through ‘resemblances’, intensifies reality’s sense;

Intensified reality is not just part of the structure of reality: it is its increase, has its own reality;

Increased realization brings pleasure: it suits our desire to enjoy reality at its height.

Poetry epitomizes our aptitude for this: to heighten and enlarge the sense of reality

By adding imaginative, ambiguous resemblances to it—

Pleasing to see pleasures to carry.

3
With Ishvara’s playing cards, you don’t know where the limit of resemblance is drawn.

They could be quarks, pigeons, DNA, bars, fingernail clippings, and so on.

But who is Ishvara? This doesn’t matter—resembles a card player, gambler, lover, friend.

Any resemblance chosen will shade the metaphor, and so the reality, some way.

One must be wise, therefore, in deciding the metaphors by which reality shall be lensed.

Playing cards, after all, is not limited to solitaire. Maybe they’re someone else’s cards too.

Maybe the hearts are dark, the corners cut. Maybe two holes are punched through the wax.

What I mean is: reality and its reading coalesce. It factors in not as ‘reading’ but as metamorphosis.

Starting from natural resemblances and their extension by metaphor, ‘logic’ is widened

And this widening, opening fully in poetry, increases reality itself.

Ishwara dances on the dealt cards, does not need to read the scattered face.

4
They say, using an architectural metaphor: DNA is the building blocks of life.

Can someone be dealt bad genes, bad DNA ‘cards’, bad blocks? Perhaps so— but then who dealt them?

Objection: nobody dealt anything, it’s all by chance. —But what else is it to deal cards?

Objection: the cards aren’t anyone’s, aren’t Ishwara’s. —OK, are they ‘matter’s cards?

What is matter? What is the matter? Why are there bad cards? (Or for that matter bad apples?)

Is this an inappropriate metaphor? How else describe fortune?

Of course, at any point, they can stop the poetic play and say: no, reality cannot be understood this way.

Or: that’s just a metaphor, not science or logic.

But how could you lecture someone: don’t make things worse with your silly playing card analogy?

Did you ever try to convince someone they weren’t dealt a bad hand?

How could modes of reaching resemblance—gaining sense of reality—be controlled?

For resemblance is not just sought in lab coats, but in hospital gowns, lingerie, army uniforms…

What is it like and not like? That is the never-ending question, changing with it what is and is not.

Such modes are as unique as each mind’s spasm of quark.

How could the extensions of things (of natural resemblances) occasioned by metaphor (poetic imagination) ever be limited?

Who could ever delimit the possible senses of reality in all the worlds within worlds?

The extensions reach as far as… a fill-in-the-blank that never gets filled.

5
To say ‘that is out of bounds’ is a metaphor.

To say ‘that way of speaking is meaningless’ is to police the borders of the senses of reality.

Poetry and reality the share lived sense and realization that is ours.

God’s hour is not a bear’s hour, probably, but they are ‘hours’ all the same.

What is ‘a good long while’? What does it mean that intelligence ‘lumbers’?

How many trees does it take for Ishwara to produce a playing card with your name on it?

How many fingernails will you clip before your fingers are DNA-modifying angels?

Where is the holy strand, quark’s color, nobility of bear?

These are all questions resembling questions about the structure of reality. To formulate them so

Is not a frivolous game of words, but Ishvara’s

Poetry: which the material mind, in material lines, can save.

 

―April 24, 2019
―Cf. Wallace Stevens, “Three Academic Pieces” in The Necessary Angel

 

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Spit it out!

SPIT IT OUT!

*
To argue is to disagree about the world: what it has been, how it is, what it should become. Alongside this, a disagreement about our place in it, about who belongs where. It’s where world is no longer fact but problem. And so everything, rightly, depends on solving it – arguing it out.

*
Our defense of a point is as much about us as it is about the point itself. The latter is often just an alibi for self-assertion, self-defense. Weapon, shield, or both at once. This is excusable: were it not for that ‘self’, the argument would not matter. And so we are ready to argue over the most pointless things.

*
What irritates us at first may later prove pathetic. What got under your skin is now easier to manage; you’ve learned something. The sliver you were neglecting to remove suddenly works itself loose. You begin to feel sympathy for the irritant, remorse for arguing. But be careful: your opponent may benefit more from your chagrin than your pity…

*
Certain situations are ripe for you to *play* at being upset. This tends to work best when you don’t yet know it’s a play.

*
A clever mix of indirection and precision, frivolity and seriousness, understanding and inflexibility. Letting much wander, stray, error, digress – yet somehow never missing the mark.

*
There’s comedy in every passionate outburst, every contentious display, even in justified protest, but it is better if this is discovered after the drama’s run its act. The actor needs a stage and an audience to rave at first – even if it’s just an audience of ‘self’.

*
As the actor must believe their part, you must believe you can still live better – can still stomach more of the difficult truth.

*
“There is no salvation for impatience.”—Albert Camus

*
In the end, if you cannot laugh at yourself, you have lost; but never make a mockery of yourself, or fear to stand firm in your position, mid-game. Otherwise, the game will never end.

*
Arguing is play-acting: to take a position for the sake of arguing. That is why it hardly matters what you say. Aggravation is part of the pleasure. It indicates a longing for genuine reconciliation. A sure sign you are not just play-acting.

*
It is as with God or any beloved: more threatening than jealousy, reprimand, or punishment, is incuriosity and disregard. The latter may be mistaken for forgiveness or a sign the battle was won, when in fact it’s just that the sin no longer matters, the war irrelevant. We fight so that we do not forget our love.

*
Often, what in other people most provokes your criticism has largely to do with pieces in yourself you’ve refused to face – aspects of your own attitude and behavior you’ve yet to process and figure out. That is why you stick so adamantly to the debate, why you cannot sleep, why you fall into fits of frustration. You are about to meet a truth about yourself, about what obsesses you, but you hesitate at the threshold and blame your opponent for the barricade, as if they held the key to dismantling it. And if they do?

*
Patience is the heart of life. As Kafka put it, impatience is what got us expelled from Paradise, and it’s what keeps us from getting back in. But what is patience without the possibility of impatience? What is action without the possibility of laziness? Ours is a world of codependent opposites that are not, however, equal – neither in worth, nor in difficulty.

*
Where laziness signals incuriosity and disregard, impatience signals concern, desire for focus and achievement. Laziness avoids to bear a difficulty, but impatience is so strapped and enraptured by difficulty it cannot let it go. Perhaps the only difference between patience and impatience is – the strength of the grip.

*
Arguments run the gamut from strangulation to make-up sex, bombing campaigns to merged territories. Division and union belong to a dynamic wherein the future of the world is at stake. Love may be a ridiculous game, but it would be even more ridiculous to treat it that way. We shall argue until we are blue in the face: until defeat or reconciliation.

*
It is impossible to go straight to the finish line, and if it were, you wouldn’t want to, since then the contest could not be savored. Nothing makes sense without a detour of conflict – without a failure in judgment, a wrong move, an exaggerated injunction, an overblown indignation here or there. This is why you cherish your impatience so: it is your constant reminder to be more patient. To learn that the path is a good one, and goes elsewhere than you thought.

*
Patience laughs at the folly of impatience, but it needs this laughter like an animating force, lest it become lazy, incurious, neglectful. That is why it must carry it like a silly sidekick wherever it goes: without it, patience would lose its why – its urgency.

*
Hurry is not the opposite of focus, but its teacher. It teaches it how to stop, how to be patient differently.

*
If peace is just a lull between hostilities, at least hostility calls out eternally for peace. To argue, only, without violence: isn’t it already a sign hostilities can cease?

*
Often, all we are really struggling for is a good use of our frustration, for deep down we know: it’s telling us what we want. And we do not want the world to go to waste.

*
A hypothesis: without contention, strife, disagreement, no progress, no freedom, no light. It is only the pace through them that differs between us – depending on our willingness to let go, or to fight?

*
What is easier, what more difficult – to hold it in, or spit it out? Either way, the right word is in search of you, and it will not let it rest until it’s heard.

*
“Strange is the world that reveals its feelings about itself despite its arguments.”—Fanny Howe

*
An argument may be called resolved when everybody involved goes in a new, or renewed, direction. Clearer in the head, less angry in the heart. By then, these will be the only directions worth it, the only ones that could exist. Such is the virtue of a good argument: it leaves us no other option than to switch places.

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General Energy

original: April 16, 2015

Bataille argues that the world of work (civilized society) poses human beings as objects among others, like tools designed to have function or a goal, objects that can fall into disuse. In his view, out of all the horrors society imposes on our being, this is the worst or the core one, for it forces us to constantly and exclusively think of our being as own-being, as having a duration in time, with all the name-tags and identity-crises that follow from this concept of self.

This posing or assumption of ourselves as individual, delimited objects, determined by social work value, is at the root of our sense of subjugation and alienation, our separateness from others and from the universe. It functions as an ‘unshakable’ norm of social interaction: we are each isolated beings with our own past that we must preserve and our own future for which we must constantly take precautions. This separate being is thus conservative of itself, cautious, preservative of its ‘own’ interests above all else. To question this, like Kafka or Bartleby, is deemed juvenile or insane, a ‘giving up on oneself’, and evil. For that social, self to function needs to ensure its ‘duration’ in time as a social object, possess and protect itself as private property. By that token, it is trained to avoid risk, outburst, and excess, and instead submit itself to regulatory procedures. For this object is evidently a servile one: it is subordinated to the use that rational, goal-oriented, accumulation-oriented society puts it to (and not only in the sphere of employment). This separate being is then the locus of our anguish of our ‘own’ prolongation, the anguish of ‘dying’, for ‘death’ applies precisely to the end of duration of this separate being.

The separate being, then, is also the locus and focus of our energetic economy: the calculations we make regarding energy and time expenditures. The need to persevere in separateness effects cycles of energy, and how energy is consumed and expended, in the direction of the particular. The human body cannot act in the world of work without a regulation of energy cycles: hours of sleep, types and times of meals, exertions of physical and/or mental energy at specified times, exercise and hygiene, weekend leisure as preparation for the work week… and this is only the beginning, once we start to consider all the social-symbolic energy connected to ‘locating’ one’s separate self in the social space of other separate selves. All this regulation, the imperative to be “regular,” is geared to have us function like a “well-oiled machine,” i.e., to run the maintenance routines of selves and bodies such that the past-present-future continuum of separate, isolated beings isn’t jeopardized; so that their role- and aim-oriented lives undergo as few hiccups as possible and do not clash too often with the other isolated beings’ road-schedules, work-schedules, marriage-schedules, retirement-schedules, and so on. The goal of this maintenance is to keep our social standing and uphold the rational and logical structure of the world.

The threat that hangs over all this and under-girds it is, no surprise, the threat of death and poverty, threat of loss of standing, of sustenance, of socio-economic or physical integrity as an isolated, self-same, (and in this set-up necessarily) proud, self-displaying, self-defensive being. If we were not caught in servile “regularity,” society would not recognize us, and neither would anyone else, precisely because there would be no one, no me-separate being to recognize. We would not “be” in the sense that we are regulated to experience being; we would not-be; we would “effectively” be dead; in relation to society and history, we would be useless (the accursed share). The argument of a “necessary future for ourselves” that shackles us interminably to anguish and all the measures meant to stave it off would dissolve and disappear.

This abandonment of efforts to preserve the separate self into the future implies, however, acceding to anguish to the point of laughter, ecstasy, tears—and dying (ellipsis to Paul’s, “I die daily”). There is what Bataille calls the sovereign moment: a moment insubordinate to language, social worth, stable meaning, the duration of separate entities and integrity of the constructed world whatever its form. The sovereign moment—arising, essentially, not from labor but chance—is foreign to the activity- and maintenance-oriented regulations of self-isolating society, since here there is no longer some “one” to persevere. This loss or dissolution, halt of knowledge and function, exists for Bataille as a return to “intimacy”: the distinctions that once separated me from my fellow human beings and from the entire universe no longer hold and I communicate or rather am communication (elsewhere, loyalty). Such is sovereignty: NOTHING: the exuberance of a useless expenditure that is not regulated and, more importantly, not owned or used up by anyone. It is rather the crossing-over of consciousnesses, so that its ‘electricity’ is all there is in motion, no isolated ‘bulb’ needing to shed its ‘own’ light. Theoretically, it is the difference between a particular economy, where energy is the possession of set beings, which they expend for the sake of self-preservation, and general economy, where energy is continuous, without ownership, and can be squandered exorbitantly without any thought of saving it for any future.

Bataille’s contention is not that we jump by a leap of faith or force of will outside of our isolated being. Any attempt contradicts the sovereignty of the moment; it accesses us like a strike, like tears. In this “return to intimacy,” this dissolution, dispossession, destruction or fiery consumption of ourselves—of everything that ties the anguished being to death, since here death is nothing (and the contiguity here with sovereignty is not accidental)— there is an unleashing of energy that is unimaginable to any knowledgeable subject of action in the world, who would durate. Intimacy means the subversion, the ‘transformation into light dust’ of the separate being and all its regulations: it is thus nothing less than a testing of the limits of the possible. How far can energetic resources that aren’t yours and are beholden to no one be pushed? This unleashing of an energy is general or generic and uncontainable, for the only thing that ever contained it was what we “falsely,” normally and conventionally, held ourselves to be (and let’s not kid ourselves, this illusion is inescapable: we cannot not “traverse the fantasy”).

In the continuity of being, where our discontinuity with being reaches its zero limit and the “intimate dark” dawns; in this world where there is nothing to anticipate because death is nothing and you are nothing, “Exuberance is beauty” (William Blake) and, “What is intimate, in the strong sense, is what has the passion of an absence of individuality, the imperceptible sonority of a river, the empty limpidity of the sky…” (Bataille).

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