Saturday, October 16, 2004

of the everyday fatigue

Cloud Cleaner

In "Everyday Tragedy and Creation," Michel Maffesoli writes:
"One could say that a philosophy of becoming makes way for an anthropology of being, or, to repeat a statement of Durand's, the abstraction of history is replaced by the density of the present, (1980, p. 157) or what may be called the labyrinth of the lived (Moles & Rohmer 1972, cf. also Maffesoli 1979).
In this context, it is interesting to recall the etymology of the term concrete: meaning what stimulates growth or 'increase with (cum crescere); that is, a time lending itself to being that is shared with others. It is an increase that, mirroring the surrounding flora, raises itself by taking root and nourishment from all of those trifling things making up common life. Consider this an ethic (ethos): the place that unites me with the other, the other that is at hand, the other that is the distant tamed.
That is what I am calling the sacred. However, this sense of sacred is not overarching, nor does it imply an abstract God or a rational state. Instead, this sense of sacred relates to an immanent transcendence that is constituted by the feeling of belonging, by shared passion or by a quasi-mystical sense of correspondence to one's surroundings. Consequently, it is no longer the universal that matters, but the particular in all its carnality, affectiveness, and essentially symbolic properties."

A weary day, a day of frustration. Sitting and listening to a panel of "inspirational" talks, given by community non-profit organizers, miracle stories of individual impact, spiritual odysseys, small business loans, on the disaffected silent sea of potential college students from low-income America who simply never get someone to help proofread their essays, on the impact of Margaret Mead handfuls. You get the idea. An event almost hopelessly devoid of irony, a monotone of "inspiration" that never burrows and twists and punctures into its own language but rather planes endlessly, perhaps drowning out the possibility for any true inspiration, for the unexpected, for any response other than a fixed, vaguely disturbing smile. There seems no shortage of these fixed, radiant, irony-less new-age smiles in hither neck of the woods.

Afterwards, the exit-church feeling, strange mixture of relief (it's over) and pride (it was work, good work, this listening), tinged with the glowing inexpressibility of something in-common (time shared, silences given). But mostly just sitting and listening, sometimes attempting to appear as if listening, though the words being spoken do not warrant such attention, letting the mind wander, occasionally catching and reeling it back from the abyss of indisguisable boredom. A vague sense of guilt regarding this boredom, for after all this is another person speaking. This person dares to speak at all.

Skipping out and escaping, into the streets, I get lost in strange bookshops. Are we ever without a theory? Predictably, I read Celan, some Murakami, some Benjamin. A poem René Char dedicates to Blanchot. It fails to move me much. The Dylan Chronicles do not even tempt. I am mostly just weary. I begin to read randomly - haphazard from the shelf - and wind up buying Don DeLillo's Underworld, recalling that "most photographed of barns" which is also America (in White Noise). But mostly because it's cheap, the book, and the first page is something of an ocean:

"He speaks in your voice, America, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful.

It's a school day, sure, but he's nowhere near the classroom. He wants to be here instead, standing in the shadow of this rust-hulk of a structure, and it's hard to blame him - this metropolis of steel and concrete and flaky paint and cropped grass and enormous Chesterfield packs aslant on the scoreboards, a couple of cigarettes jutting from each.

Longing on a large scale is what makes history. This is just a kid with a local yearning but he is part of an assembling crowd, annonymous thousands off the buses and trains, people in narrow columns tramping over the swing bridge above the river, and even if they are not a migration or a revolution, some vast shaking of the sould, they bring with them the body heat of a great city and their own small reveries and desperations, the unseen something that haunts the day - men in fedoras and sailors on shore leave, the stray tumble of their thoughts, going to a game.
The sky is low and gray, the roily gray of sliding surf."

Impossible to fall asleep last night. The rain coming in waves. Unable to turn the mind off, to focus on breathing, on dying. A vague shift in emotional registers, slipping by almost unnoticed.

I do not normally try to focus on dying, whatever this might mean. Diastole/systole. While screwing with templates, a post on Lacoue-Labarthe's, "The Rythm of the Subject," has been lost to junkspace heaven. All that remains is a photograph of Harpo Marx. Just as well; it was a disappointing, somewhat lame exercise, faithful (but hardly interpretive or transformative) at best, and more likely merely smug and accusing. LL Cool P will have to wait.


The "Primal Scene" passage in The Writing of the Disaster - foolishly remembering how it was ignored entirely, in my masochistic, tortured and amphetamined attempt to wrestle with this book (largely on my own) last spring. Others having asserted, convincingly, that it constitutes nothing less than the fulcrum...but of what? Blanchot's ethics? What are those? A need for a certain going through that is at once a retention of, and break with one's childhood? An inexperience-able event, a primary narcissism (an 'irreducible secret'), a sliver, a shade of which remains, somehow open? Not at all sure to have begun understanding these phrases. And yet they distracted (and distract) me without end - these grander themes - and particularly from the simple and precise moments of sudden comprehension that had indeed occured, usually unexpectedly, and often only after having read a passage many times through. While cooking, perhaps. And yes, it was all suddenly less profound, and infinitely more intimidating. Perhaps one meaning of Blanchot's phrase (but is it his?), "the apocalypse is disappointing."

Unfortunately, as I wrote, through several nights, weeks (and break-ups) last spring, I constantly fell back upon and mimicked Derrida's own hard-earned language, as a way to avoid having to understand Blanchot myself. (It didn't help that I had only ever been a sociology and English major, reading philosophy almost entirely on my own.) During my final years of college, far too many professors allowed me to get away with this uncomfortable charade, a grotesque many of them never having read Derrida for themselves (although this didn't stop them from scoffing of course). But eventually, as one's appreciation matures and deepens, it becomes impossible to ignore how Derrida's writings themselves resist such mimicry. In fact, they do not allow it. Like many others, I now owe to Derrida the gratitude of having been awakened to a great many voices, cadences and rhythms. Others I would have been unlikely to have ever read, or at least begun to attempt to read well. And yet I am still writing in his shadow - these being the very words Derrida uses to pay tribute to Blanchot. It is a discomforting shadow, extremely difficult to escape, my love for it deeply entangled ("always already") with my desire to affirm a will to break free (oui, oui). A narcissistic shadow ("well.. no doubt"). Perhaps it has always been there, yet without - and this is the point, is it not? - ever being something naturalized, merely.

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