speculatively, to see what would happen.

the title of this post is from John Ash’s poem, “Second Prose for Roy Fisher,” page 54 in the volume, The Branching Stairs, published by Carcanet, Manchester, UK, although, England, might be more appropriate, in 1984, and refers to a “missile thrown without anger: speculatively, to see what would happen,” but I was struck by the line because of something that is present in many of Ash’s poems, suspension.

The volume, Disbelief, had a poem in it about suspension bridges. It could not but help recall when talking of suspending bridges on hightension wires suspending disbelief. Belief… disbelief… is one of the things, the human things, Bergson writes of as being elastic, as having plasticity, I have in mind…

…belief of a spiritual nature… …the belief required by convention in order to be upheld (for example, that of a fiat currency for it to retain its value)… …disbelief that anything really bad is going to happen… …the disbelief that anything really bad is going to happen that is really a disbelief in death… …belief and disbelief in the process of trauma, subject to traumatic processes…

Fear transmutes into phobia when it obsessively repeats itself, coding its dread and loathing in a symbolism that may in fact make it more difficult to face real threats.

Catherine Keller says this in view of the tehomophobia of the psalmist who invokes an angry god to smite the people’s enemies. She brings up the tradition of theomachy, struggle with or amongst a god or gods. More than this, she brings up the disappointment at god’s uselessness when confronting enemies of the people, whether these be other people or spiritual or material forces. What these constitute in view of tehomophobia is a fear of chaos, of the chaos that comes to disrupt any given order. It becomes phobic, tehomophobia, when it obsessively repeats itself, or is obsessively repeated, by coding its dread and loathing in a symbolism. This symbolism is not a coating, is not symbolic in the sense of not being real. It is, instead of not real, kryptonite to reality or rather antimatter to the matter at hand. It denies the reality its reality. It does not coat reality with symbols. It displaces reality without replacing it. It displaces it nowhere.

…and the displacement of reality nowhere effected by the encoding of dread and loathing into a more or less pervasive symbolism for me brings up this line of Ash’s addressing what speculatively means, to see what would happen. It does so because threats that are made more difficult to face are threats at hand. They belong to the present so the question becomes is it a nowhere of the displacement of reality or is it a nowhen?

to see what would happen, speculatively. In my last post I had an issue with Rebecca Solnit’s vision of social transformation as a kind of edifice of ideas. In it, Solnit said there were walls and towers. It was a kind of architecture. (I made a play on the arche of architecture, its coming first that an anarchy would be against… but not refuse…) Change happened so that those who were outside the walls might wake up and woke find themselves included, included in the inclusivity of a transforming, expanding social architecture. I said I find this scary. I still find it scary. Horrible to be walled in.

I would rather be anywhere else than in an expanding inclusivity identifying itself as a transforming distending social edifice. Than eaten up by it (Leviathan?) I would rather be nowhere.

I ask, Leviathan? because the symbolism Keller is concerned with as a coding of a fear gone phobic belongs to Leviathan. Leviathan is tehomic. Feminine. Oceanic. Fluid. Chaotic. And ungrounding.

תְּהוֹם, tehom, ungrounds. Tehom unoriginates origin. And it does so from biblical genesis.

והארץ היתה תהו
ובהו וחשך על־פני
תהום ורוח אלהים
מרחפת על־פני

[emphasis added, from here]

terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae super faciem abyssi et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas

And the earth was waste and without form; and it was dark on the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters

…from formlessness, anarchy, comes formation. Keller’s book, The Face of the Deep, counters the tehomophobia encoding a fear of formlessness, of the deep, of the womb, that gives the formula to genesis of a creatio ex nihilo, with a creatio ex profundis. It’s a big job. It’s big because, Keller says, from the creatio ex nihilo, from this arche, comes what else but creation. And what other kind of creation can there be ex nihilo than one that has a single origin from which it progressively extends in a line. It is the point at which linear time starts. And it figures that point each time, for each time there is linear time. Or, that point is the figure of the start of any time considered to be a line, a line of progressive improvement in standards of living, of scientific progress, of technological accomplishment, for example, and a line toward the end, toward any end, whether it reach it or not. So out of nothing grounds all teleology.

Keller argues for a creation from the deep ungrounding all teleology, making the architecture break open, and bringing on new acts of creation, in some cases stalling progress, stopping growth, exploding in an ongoing explosion, of human and all things, elsewhere … or elsewhen.

…and this again is the speculatively, to see what would happen. When is it? then? now?

… not now but suspended …

[and just like that I went out to get some lunch]

Happening now ex nihilo apart from extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, like after the Big Bang, like that but happening now, it is said we are hastening, accelerating towards first anthropocide, suicide on the scale of all human things and then anthropogenic biocide, killing off if not all then most living things… but if then when?

Science is for, enables us to attend with extreme sensitivity, the extreme sensitivity of its instruments, to initial conditions, so that we can say we are moving ever faster towards a significant extinction event or horizon. It is drawing us on, yes, perhaps, but more important than this is the point at which we find ourselves, are found to be, by instruments of measurement, now, in the now. We are somehow fixed here and this fixing is entailed in, presupposes a timeline we are on. The timeline is both of human scale and at the scale of a geological movement, of geological time, and so called anthropocene.

What has happened to speculatively, to see what would happen? This is no time to see what would happen. This is no time for experimentation. It is no time for experimentation not because time is running out but because time is the timeline established by instrumental sensitivity to existing conditions as initiating an inevitable chain of cause and effect, to end in disaster or apocalypse… some version of the disclosure that the closure of time entails.

We know then, now, that something is going to happen along the way. It will be revealed that is. The end will be revealed. But we cannot act otherwise than in the knowledge of what we know. We cannot above all see what happens.

When is there time to?

When is the time to see what happens but in another sort of time?

Speculatively does not mean being displaced from this timeline onto another timeline. It is not possible to replace, unless we are multiverse-believing, one ex nihilo timeline by another. Multiverse-believing, perhaps we can refuse this one and opt for a leap. Such a leap would however come to land and would not be suspended and indeterminate, between being a wave and a point for example. It would have to come to a terminus. It would therefore also start from nothing. It could not from the unoriginating origin of formlessness.

I mean, even if the concept formed from the formlessness preceding it, the prevenient formlessness of the deep, a kind of Big Time, Biggodaddytime, there might be room for other times contesting it but as concept it would not could not be an indeterminate time, neither would it nor could it be both form and formless.

In the Kabbalistic tradition there is a room set aside for such things, the zimsum. God in this tradition is preceded by ein sof. It is not a matter of a preceding state of affairs and one following it that a time cannot be suspended, speculatively, to see what happens. The happening has to be construed a certain way. All I am really saying is that the dominant construction of temporal matters in our time is linear.

Ex nihilo linearity dominates. It is repeated obsessively. Repeated obsessively, timeline-likeness has been coded in a symbolism more or less pervasive, since this is how it is represented.

The timeline in accelerating has become unalterable. The faster we go, the more difficult to break forward momentum. And the greater the accusations in resisting it that we are trying to turn the clocks back, not speculatively but fantasisingly.

…and yet we know we can’t keep up. We know we can’t keep up. We know we can’t do nothing. We know we can’t do anything that’s going to make enough of a difference and time is running out.

Solnit’s answer is that differences are being made. It’s just that we don’t see them at the individual level. It’s only at the level of a million that the differences being made are visible. Then we who thought ourselves outside the walls will find we are inside the walls.

Solnit counts herself among those who have made a difference in making what was previously invisible visible. The previously invisible injustice comes into sight, and, she says, resistance to this structural expansion has most often made recourse to justice. Using the law does not make injustice invisible again. There is it seems a compulsion at work, a dominology.

…speculatively, to see what would happen. The appeal is in the sense of the speculation not having a stake in what is going to happen. It is also in the sense the speculation has no control. Sight itself has no claim, since it’s not for sight or for the sight or for the over-sight. I can imagine surprise.

It doesn’t matter what kind of act it is. It’s a light thing. It has no longer to do with making visible or invisible however. Does it then matter at all?

Well, yes it does. Something, some human thing, has been lifted up to the surface from the deep. It has arisen not like a tower, a wall, a pulpit, concept or moral principle. And if it has been heavy this human thing has gained from being on the surface a share of lightness. And the lightness that has been superadded has enabled it to move once there. I should say, once here. You might ask, can it move in time? No in one sense. Yes in another. Since its happening is only as much as to see what would.

Better to describe it then as a falling object. But one coming from a profound height to which has been added gravity while from it has been subtracted weight. The time it occupies is not measurable but the vacuum caused by an intake of breath.