sixty-sixth part, called “on movement LXVI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

on movement

Clarification might be needed. Clarification is always needed, not necessarily to avoid confusion. And not necessarily to avoid the confusion of what we have called misapprehensions around symbolic connectivity. Clarification is not needed in the way of a clearing made and for there to be communication. Clarification is always needed to let in a little air. …Although, the question of air is immediately perilous: how polluted is it?

First, it seems, we must clear the air. We must clear the air of what we have done to it. But look at us.

We have this pretense we speak the same language. We come to the same point on the page, presupposing we’re on the same page. A sentence runs out of breath.

And, with an intake of air, we start again. At least, we try to. What for?

What for, if not to be understood, to have clearly before us… and to ask for clarification… of the subject…? Or should it be, simply to connect? Yes, to connect fills me with apprehension. Does it you?

I mean, as if clarification were necessary, I am filled with apprehension about the task at hand, or would be, were it, if it is, for the sake of connection. Those office minds who say, You can’t write a book that noone will read! It’s like they’re infected with business.

You can’t eschew connection. Unless you at once admit—and commit to it—that you have a pathology; that you have concurrently undergone. We all feel a little that way sometimes.

How much?! How much is it just about breathing? And here clarification would mean a little life. Not such a big demand. Life seeking to expend its energies… as Nietzsche writes.

Alphonso Lingis, Al. Are you there? In a beautiful passage you are standing at a supermarket checkout counter. You are in a country where you don’t understand the language—just like us?—and you have gone there in the vacation, in a break from academic life.

You have bought the plane ticket you could afford. Your criteria were preferably a country where I neither speak, nor understand the language, and price. You don’t mind spending your whole pay, to be somewhere where you have never been before. Perhaps it’s Mongolia.

In front of you in the checkout queue is a woman. I think she has a coat on, and right now you wished you’d worn something warmer. She doesn’t look to see what’s in your basket. She doesn’t look you up and down, assessing what you’re wearing, or say You’re not from around here are you. She looks you in the face and in her eyes you see a spark of recognition. Before saying a word, that anyway you wouldn’t understand, not giving you a chance to shrug apologetically in incomprehension, you both break out laughing.

What sort of connection is that? It is one of mutual recognition but recognition of a minimal intent: you and she both intend to go on breathing, are both in this climate, which isn’t exactly hot. You’ll each need to eat at some point, and take a drink. Isn’t that why you came to the supermarket? And now you’re both standing in this checkout queue, seeing each other for the first time and recognising in each other the minimal elements, the minimal requirements of life.

It’s not a need or a desire you recognise. It’s an imperative you each see in the other, and recognise. Like a spark that each in the other you would shelter with your hands. And so you burst out laughing.

If I should seek to clarify this, it’s in that spirit: what is it at stake in the symbolic? And why ‘symbolic’? Wouldn’t a better word be semiotic? seeing as how Guattari writes about the present phase of capitalism being a semiotisation, and this semiotisation permeating social life, suffocating it?

What I have in mind is that the signs semiotics studies have a gestural part, a working part, which Guattari also calls asignifying. He is theorising a semiotics of the asignifying that for us is caught up in, is the gesture. You recall it: that gesture of which the smallest is a world.

Having a gestural part the signs, produced, reproduced through, as Guattari writes, semiotisation as the current form of capital, can be taken to be symbolic gestures, gestures with a symbolic, mythic quality, invested gestures. What Guattari calls the asignifying part, the gesture, puts the sign to work in a way that is symbolic, mythic. Causing it, the gesture-sign-symbol, to be invested, is what is at stake in the symbolic. That is, desire.

The question of the symbolic is: what then are the myths animating desire, in the current era of its semiotisation? It is in service of these myths that there is and will be symbolic production and reproduction. We know the prompting, eliciting of desire to serve production, through something which is called consumption, but that through its semiotisation has become significant, has become sign and is sign-production, or straightforward production. The asignifying and the signifying work together, in the symbol.

Yet there has to be a will to desire. For it is required a myth of the personal. For it the myth is the personal, where we can ask such questions as, Should we abandon desire? As if it is ours to be taken on its word or to be given away.

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