forty-first part, called “subjective powers XLI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

The funny thing is, we know what the stakes are, yet we do nothing. A sort of collective catatonia has descended. The funnier thing is with the restrictions on freedom of movement imposed globally, in the time of pandemic, that it is given mandate, for the sake of health. The higher principle comes from the depths of sickening, dying bodies.

We elect, select, for this higher principle and it governs our decisions. That is, in the strongest way possible it determines the perception of reality on which we act. And that is in the nature of power, to create reality. In staying home and keeping safe, in taking measures to protect others, maintaining distance, blocking the transmission of aerosols, in suppressing the emission of Covid-Delta particles and of bodily particulates, we are not repressed, we are expressing the reality.

It is in reality that the risk lies that keeps us from doing anything. And in ourselves what is happening? There is a distinct reduction of subjective powers.

And what are these again, as we have enumerated them? Well, the first is impotence exactly, as it applies to a surface which does not effect action. The second is reduction such that a choice is made, a living choice, since it implies an internal relation which has its own life: at its simplest, it is the choice to step out onto the void, void because that is the only support the surface, or stage, has. And we are immediately mistaken to think of ourselves as being upheld by anything else, either of our own resources, like, for example, self-determination, identity, and so on, or of an institutional… perhaps architecture is the best word, meaning to identify the surface with a pre-existing structure, a symbolic one or a discursive one, like, for instance, a stage in the institutional architecture of a theatre.

The third we named as the condition for the other two: that we are always on a complete surface insofar as time is concerned and insofar as it is of indeterminate duration. The report made on it, since it is a centre of reception, will always be complete. In a beautiful phrase of Bergson’s, “the past presses up against the present and draws from it a new form, incommensurable with its antecedents.”

The time, this indeterminate duration we are talking about, is complete not when the action is complete. The subjective power of not effecting action restricts action to movement; movement mobilises the surface: movement confers on the surface the mobility that time has in going past, in passing. It is the mobility we do it for: and now the best word for this is change.

A fourth dimension was added when we said that perception cut off from action, and the impotence of the surface to act on what is outside itself, in the shape of change or pure mobility was in contemplation of itself—and this led to knowledge as a subjective power. Knowledge such as we have described it cannot lead to its institutional enactment, or re-enactment, to its being represented by or in an institution. Out of it cannot follow self-knowledge, because it is always moving that self-knowledge forward to a new form, incommensurable with its antecedents. So that from the shape of change or pure mobility, mobility without consequences, in action, and so on, in contemplation of itself, it follows that the self-contemplation is of that form. A new form. And so, a new form of knowledge.

Can we make then of this a higher principle? No, it can never ascend to the heights, and descends from them only to find itself in immanence, on an immanent and mobile and durational surface. Can we say then that this concerns embodied knowledge and involves actual experience, including the experience of the sickening and dying body? No, because it undoes them. In fact, it is a politics without principle.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

If you would like to help it come to pass, and show your support for what I’m up to, please sponsor it: become a patron, here.

If you would like to receive these posts, as they are written, as letters addressed to you, please send me your email address.