textatics

a note on human agency

Hochuli, Hoare and Cunliffe write that the social order has been “entrusted to lawyers, activists, remote governmental experts on transnational commissions, central bankers, technocrats, the market, CEOs… not to ordinary citizens” and that how production functions, is organised and distributed is left to “supply chain managers, investors and trade negotiators, not unions or politicians.” [see here]

Roles, the actions of actors or of agents with agency, are not characteristic of contemporary communications society however. The network is.

Contemporary society does not divide along class lines. It does not divide at all. Its entanglement, the entanglement of social and power relations that society comprises, constitute its control.

Roles do not characterise our kind of social political organisation but relations. Ordinary citizens are as much a part of the indivisible entanglement of control society as investors and trade negotiators, as well as unions and politicians. There is no division.

Power is relational. So is agency: as such, power is implicative.

The power of an agent to act is more than inextricable from the rest, from the totality of relations of power functions, it is implicated in the totality of the network of all of them.

The network materialises not as the totality of power relations, for example at the institutional or individual levels. It does not materialise neuro-bio-logically. Rather neurological and biological, ecological and social and psychical networks are built epistemologically on the model of material communications, the nondiscursive material network of a mathematical and computational imaginary. Yes: both material and imaginary, otherwise known as an hallucination of the totality.

It is imaginary because invented, a matter of pure invention. It determines the future and the future of human social organisation, so that it is a form of knowledge, a form of generic knowledge replacing all other forms.

Wrongly called science or the scientific worldview, in this determinative function of a knowledge, impending over the future, it is better called speculative.

The name for this network with its power functions and totality of relations is the market.

A speculative, implicative and nonhuman reality, or brain. Onto it are projected our real material conditions of an agency and roles that abrogate them both, preferring to our own, artificial intelligence.

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“the past is a fire that eats up the present”

“Our vast imaginations pull in the opposite direction from our small, frail bodies.” – from here

Consciousness covers itself.

Consciousness covers itself with abstractions, with the abstract, as much with materialities, in the pragmatics of everyday life.

In the pragmatics of everyday life, the “social absolute”–Seitaro Yamazki’s fossils of the future.

Reminds me of “not the relativism of truth, the truth of relativism”–Deleuze and Guattari.

A critic questions the absolute. Is it capitalist? Is it not so much absolute as absolutising?

Is it relativisable? for example, through historicising what was thought absolute, see if it has been constructed, when and how. Then it can be made relative to historical circumstance, some determinations some accidents.

Is this deconstruction? No. Deconstruction starts from what is already there in the construct, the social construct, the epistemic construct, that is always at work to undo it: deconstruction has to do with an inner contradiction, a tiny difference and an infinitesimal crack in the foundation which will be singularly responsible for bringing the edifice down.

To see how it has been made so that it can be unmade: how the trick was done to undo it. It is usually words and their effect on institutions: is this Foucault’s genealogical method?

Yes, first is showing the social absolute is not absolute, but not by using the critical method. Not by using the critical method because the critical method is also historicisable, is too timely.

Another absolute is called for… this is a bit like Alex Hochuli, George Hoare and Peter Cunliffe‘s suggestion that leaderless political movements are ineffectual; especially so when looking at anti-politics. Anti-politics has its leaders, leaders whose appeal is of a different quality than political, that is mythic, iconic and demagogic. (probably why political dirt does not stick to them)

Social absolute covers: a social self.

Yes, social self is individuated: the Other is an individual. God is. Absolute is.

…so the individuation has a timeline that it is relative to, so what? Critic of the critic asks.

Consciousness, political consciousness, covers itself in its timely exercise: in the pragmatics of everyday life.

Under consciousness is not the time of the social absolute but the individuating absolute, an internal time. An infernal time: the past is a fire that eats up the present.

knowledge is a determination of the future: use it

(&&&[Deleuze])=-1...
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the end of the end (of history) is not the end of the purpose (that declared itself in 1946)

Dani Rodrik’s policy trilemma holds that “democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.” – from here.

I just misread that as politics in the (twenty-) first person

D. writes to me the foregoing, under the subject-line, Re: Anti politics at work,

He includes this example of Sovereignty Versus Trade, here.

Re: Anti politics, a twerk, my reply:

how does it devolve onto (or into) the trilemma otherwise than with a shift back or retreat into national sovereignty? National sovereignty has not been at the top of minds (the Carl Schmidt buzz notwithstanding) for decades, since, I would say, 1946. It has not been because it is dirty and guilty of ethnic cleansings, genocide and holocaust. In other words, it is human.

With the bruited, louder than it is real, turn from outrightly and forthrightly neoliberal policy, national sovereignty reemerges, but in what form? Does it reemerge in the clash, in the antagonism, between politics and economy, that is inside political economy? The Mexican example would seem to say so. But then, that is in a poor, a tabescent form: hardly fit, agile or having the resilience of entrepreneurial culture, the verve of it, and its clean hands, while the burnouts fall like Satan.

Is it then as economic self-determination that national sovereignty reemerges? It is in that case inside the state. That sounds serious, that sounds like serious division, but politics is still not thinking, is not thinking yet, because this political problem is really a matter of hypocrisy, subterfuge and covering, covering for a financial system of globalised free markets conducting their business in the abstraction layer of the technical apparatus the purpose of which is not to need politics. Its purpose is not to recognise exactly national sovereignty, as its purpose is also to avoid what is human, with its obvious pitfalls.

This is what The End of the End… is lacking, but I will wait and see, as I read further.

If you are reading this and have not read The End of the End of History, I recommend you do.

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Sequoia Nagamatsu, How High We Go In The Dark

He imagines people on the street looking up from their phones and into each other’s eyes–Hello, how are you? Why are you so sad? How can we do better?

— Sequoia Nagamatsu, How High We Go In The Dark, 2022, p. 232

Why read this book?

For the reason it fails, certainly, that it is cracked and a little corny, the links between, like those spiders Kundera talks about in Testaments Betrayed, a little hinky, but that it faces away from convalescence and makes a glancing attempt on the present.

Nagamatsu’s present presses on the sore point, the part about what has been done, the damage that has been done, being past undoing. The damage dealt with is due to climate change and massive loss of human life from pandemic.

Publishing details show that important chapters appeared as separate stories as long ago as 2013. In his endnote, Nagamatsu says by the time of publication it had been in his head for ten years. Like Station Eleven, there is some prescience here. I think it has to do with the sore point: that is, with an adequate diagnosis of the present moment, the long present, its start difficult to date. Deleuze says in an interview, in Desert Islands (2002/2004), “The artist in general must treat the world as a symptom, and build his work not as therapeutic, but in every case like a clinic. The artist is not outside the symptoms, but makes a work of art from them, which sometimes serves to precipitate them, and sometimes to transform them.”

It is at personal risk that the artist engages the present, and this present may be so in very different guises. It may be present in the autofiction of Rob Doyle, as in Threshold, or in that of the South American writers that I love, who seem to have a knack of putting themselves at risk.

They after all call on truth before art. (I am thinking of Mario Levrero’s disgust with Flaubert, in contrast with his love for Thomas Bernhard, whose work, being so intensely and minutely personal, achieves grandeur.) In practice, it means to give the truth your personal guarantee.

This is so far from speaking one’s truth as to make it laughable. What is best in Nagamatsu is there in relation to an impersonal truth he is no more than schematic link to: a truth in general got from pushing on the sore point of the world developed from aspects of his personal history, as if these provided him with keys or emotional cues, that, followed, lead out onto a future history in general, activating a virtual future history, a diagnosis.

What is worst in Nagamatsu seems to be what he has been most lauded for, the humanity, redeeming human qualities he finds. My feeling is that he buys his redemption at below cut price. It is too cheaply bought. Still, the darkness stands.

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headfucks & shitstorms, writing prompts:

DBC Pierre in Release the Bats:

  1. Nothing is at it seems. Show what really is.

3. The taste in your mouth is ultimately what you’re writing out. Whether you know what it is or not: trust it.

4. What would you write if you weren’t afraid? Write that.

[similar to: Joe Lansdale’s “Write as if everyone you know is dead.” the epigraph to Charlotte Grimshaw’s memoir; not to be confused with Kate Zambreno’s “To write as if already dead.”]

6. ‘The tigers have found me, and I do not care.

[see 16.]

[a quote from Charles Bukowski (here)]

8. It’s far easier to improve crap than to originate brilliance. Love crap.

10. Thomas Wolfe had to stand naked fondling his genitals in order to write well. Do what you have to do.

13. Headfucks are symptoms of an underlying mass. We don’t lose it, we move it.

[surprisingly helpful.]

16. Events don’t arise from purposeful steps. They arise from walking through accidents.

[a good one. Before you try writing out the trauma, write through it. Or Lacan, traverse your fantasy… for fantasy, while holding onto it, substitute identity. When you think about it, not too far from Joseph Campbell’s Follow your bliss.]

[links to and how to understand 6. ‘The tigers have found me, and I do not care.‘]

17. The human immune system is at its most effective against the ideas of others.

25. A fifty-two-hour meat stock doesn’t gel till the last ten minutes. Simmer your work until then.

[Anthony Bourdain would agree: when you can, always cook meat on the bone. Same for writing. It has more flavour.]

to:

31. Writing down an idea for a story is like planting its seed.

[there’s a line from Lessons of Darkness, Werner Herzog’s 1992 documentary (here): the firefighters have finally extinguished the burning oilwell; a moment: “Two figures are approaching an oil well. One of them holds a lighted torch. What are they up to? Are they going to rekindle the blaze? Is life without fire become unbearable for them?… Others, seized by madness, follow suit. Now they are content. Now there is something to extinguish again.”]

32. A shitstorm looms. Get writing.

— still from Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, 1992

Most of Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel is taken up with what he calls a narcissistic monologue or is the record of the narcissistic monologue in which his relationship to his computer and past publishing projects consists. He attempts to decipher a section of his past. He says,

That whole section of my past is a cryptogram I need to decipher. The narcissistic monologue is working on a higher level. I mustn’t condemn it or reject it as pure pathology, because there are many different routes back to where I need to go. And I mustn’t forget that where there’s no narcissism there can be no art, and no artist.

— Mario Levrero, The Luminous Novel, translated by Annie McDermott, 2021, p. 161

There exist I would think two narcissisms, at least two. One of these narcissistic conditions is not at all aware of itself as such. I am thinking of cases that I know of. Both of them follow the same pattern, since it is their mothers they ascribe narcissism to, not themselves.

Both of them describe themselves as having a sensitivity to others of empathy that borders on being painful. Yet neither of them is aware of the pain they cause others in the slightest degree. A young woman hurt by one of them burst into tears the other day. The one who had inflicted it on her followed her into the toilets, refusing entry to anyone, as if, on the pretext of managing the situation, holding her captive, or hostage. In fact she was being held for the exclusive attention of the narcissist so as to prove to herself, if not others, how empathetic she is.

The other sort of narcissist, the one who engages in narcissistic monologue, like Levrero, the narcissistic artist, resembles the figure in the case of false recognition described by Henri Bergson. Bergson shows what is perceived to be false recognition of an event taking place that is doubled. On the one side there is the experience of the event taking place; and, on the other side, the impression simultaneous with it of a kind of foreknowledge of it; or, another way of putting it: even though it seems to have happened before, it is actually taking place at the same time.

That is, the knowledge of it seems to come before the event. Yet this knowledge is contemporaneous with the event; it is not true foreknowledge, therefore called false re-cognition. Or else, the event seems to have taken place before, yet occurs at the same time as this impression arises.

The figure is of a split. The one who experiences this split is divided between being an actor in the event and a member of the audience, an audience of one, who seems to know what is going to happen next. This feeling of a repetition happening in the same instant as what is being repeated is familiar to artists whose material is often their own experience. As a relation to self, it resembles, in fact it is, since it involves a kind of bewitchment with one’s reflection, narcissism. It does not however, despite the image of the self-absorbed artist, equate with any decrease in sensitivity to others.

The two types of narcissism can coincide in the same person. They can, and do, because of the split, go on doubling. Meanwhile, the second type, of the narcissistic artist, goes along with finding out what happens as it goes along.

Bergson gives another view of the split to be that occurring in the figure of time in the present between past and future. Consciousness, which is largely that of the past, of memory, impends over the future. The present treads on the future which recoils from its advance.

[recoil, here]

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HVA DET BETYR AT VÆRE MENNESKE

(What does it mean to be human?)

— HVA DET BETYR AT VÆRE MENNESKE (What does it mean to be human?) starts @18:35

…“a peer of the Norwegian pessimist Peter Wessel Zapffe [argued] ‘against Zapffe’s view that life is meaningless, that life is not even meaningless.’”

— Rob Doyle, Threshold, (London, UK: Bloomsbury Circus, 2020), 75 [unless otherwise indicated all quotes following from this source]

The peer in question is Herman Tønnessen. Is one the peer of the other? If so, Arne Dekke Eide Næss, responsible for the term deep ecology, allegedly on the inspiration of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, is also a peer.

Here are their dates:

Peter Wessel Zapffe, December 18, 1899 – October 12, 1990: Zapffe called himself a biosophist. He defined biosophy to be thinking on life. He “thought that man should and will perish to exist [sic.]. The only thing we should do before we go is to clean up our mess.” (Perish to exist: sounds right. It’s from here.)

Herman Tønnessen, 24 July 1918 – 2001. His works appear to be out of print. Although the article “Happiness Is for the Pigs: Philosophy versus Psychotherapy,” 1966 is available here. The title is strikingly reminiscent of Gilles Châtelet’s To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies, 2014 (original work published 1998). A small excerpt of this latter work’s epigraph is worth citing: “And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being.” This is from What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari, whose notion of shame provides its motivation: hence the ignoble, responsibility before the victims; in turn from Primo Levi (and Emmanuel Levinas, although he is not cited). I would add that this thought stands distinct from either Tønnessen or Zapffe’s meaning. Having shame, the shame of being human, as one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs, this thought does not arise exclusively in philosophy, except inasmuch as philosophy and thinking are practices among other practices, including film-making, theatre, painting, sculpture, writing and expression in all its forms and modes in what I have elsewhere described as the inhumanities.

Arne Dekke Eide Næss, 27 January 1912 – 12 January 2009. His notion of deep ecology correlates with deep time, illustrated by Robert MacFarlane’s Underland, 2019. Næss’s article “The Shallow and the Deep: Long-Range Ecology Movement. A Summary” is available here.

Rachel Carson, May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964. Her Silent Spring, 1962, drew attention to the effects of chemicals, particularly pesticides, on the natural environment. She is credited, along with being perhaps the best ‘nature’ writer of the twentieth century, as being an ecologist before ecology and before the ecology movement. (I have put ‘nature’ in scare quotes because in contrast to the nihilism of human existence, its negativity, nature should not be thought of as being entirely positive: nature might be said to be outside the human, in the same way as it is for Spinoza Deus sive Natura (God or Nature), and that this is for Deleuze immanence.)

We have what Deleuze and Guattari call thought as distinct from what Zapffe calls meaning, when he says that life is meaningless, and from what Tønnessen calls meaning, when he says that life is not even meaningless. Having thought as being rare is one of the rare cases Deleuze (or Deleuze and Guattari) give credit to Heidegger. We also have it that the rarity thought is is in the responsibility the practices take for themselves: they are practices of the inhumanities, for which “man should and will perish to exist.” [sic.] Thought stands outside the human; inasmuch as it exists, this is its existence.

(For this notion of practice, see Minus Theatre: scenes | elements; for moving-image as such a practice see here; for writing as practice, here.)

…anyway, as much as we might say, not meaning anything, Rob Doyle writes Threshold, an autofiction (the question, why put yourself through the fictional process is a good one), and not the book on (of or about) Emil Cioran (Cioran looks like Eraserhead, possibly for good reason) that he talks about in it, the book he intends. Does he write Threshold instead of that book?

Doyle introduces Zapffe (and Tønnessen, without naming him) in view of Cioran and the book on Cioran Threshold in a way (not meaning anything) chronicles either the gestation of but not the nativity. (Zapffe is identified as an antinatalist, not for his abandonment of children (unlike Jean-Jacques Rousseau) but for his abandonment of hope in light of the birth of new (human) life. He writes: To bear children into this world is like carrying wood into a burning house; and: In accordance with my conception of life, I have chosen not to bring children into the world. A coin is examined, and only after careful deliberation, given to a beggar, whereas a child is flung out into the cosmic brutality without hesitation.

(Of his own nativity, he says, “The synthesis ‘Peter Wessel Zapffe’ was formed in 1899.”)

I read Threshold some time ago. And I read Cioran much longer ago, in The Stiffest of the Corpse. This volume selects and collects items from the magazine, Exquisite Corpse, where Andrei Codrescu, who edits the collection, was also editor. 1989, Leonard Schwartz translates:

Standing, one admits without drama that each instant which passes vanishes for ever; stretched out, this obviousness appears so unbearable that one desires never to rise again. (Cioran)

When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes. The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence. (Zapffe)

I had the misfortune to read in MetaFace (call it that) a comment someone whose name I did not recognise had appended to a photo of Leonard Cohen. The poster of the photo usually posts art, paintings, photos, images (why, they are not hers? another good question). This time she had posted a photo of Leonard Cohen, standing in his dressing gown, in a galley kitchen, at home, possibly, possibly an apartment (New York, why not? in the older style, white tiles in the kitchen, a sink; no appliances visible, but not spartan, a shelf with things both decorative and useful), and she had written above it something like, I’m not used to seeing Leonard Cohen in a domestic setting.

In addition to the dressing gown, he has a beard. He holds a mug of coffee. The possibility of coffee is further suggested by the cigarette in his other hand. He is staring into the camera, straight at the viewer, as if he has been surprised and he too is not used to being captured in a domestic setting. A flash might have been used.

Leonard Cohen holds the mug in his fist, at waist level. It is level with his dressing-gown cord, tied in a tight bow. The dressing-gown is full but not over-large, with vertical stripes, that could either be navy blue of black. Since the photo is in black and white, we cannot tell, but my guess is blue; and the material appears plush, soft and warm (whether it is velour or velvet, but not whether it is velveteen, this useful resource addresses (here)). Its broad long collar crosses his chest diagonally, completely covering it, while going down as far as his ankles, his pale thin ankles, his feet in slip-on slippers.

In his other hand the cigarette stands at an angle erect, between index and middle finger. (The shape of the hand is as is usual for a blessing.) As is (also) usual, his elbow is crooked, his upper arm against his torso, and his lower arm describes a similar angle to the cigarette, a sequence of angles. The cigarette has just been lit.

The comment was: (it went something like) I had a friend who loved Leonard Cohen, he listened to him all the time, and he committed suicide. No, it was stranger still. I went to some trouble to find it and I have found it now.

“I had a friend in college who worshipped Leonard Cohen and his music. My friend has since committed suicide, no thanks to Cohen’s depressing and warped view of the world. I truly despise and have a distaste for this man who so many venerate as a great poet.”

The original poster replies in a friendly way (this also is verbatim; when I relied on the resources of my memory to recall what she had said, all I came up with was: Yes, and what about those others people call poets, Nick Cave and _____?… She cited another name. It escaped me, hence my reason, although it took some time, to go back to find out exactly what she had said, to find out the name of the other person, poet, artist, song-writer, whom people so wrongly worship; and of course to see what the commenter actually had written.): “well, we can agree to disagree. John you of all people know my views re Palestine, the occupation, & Zionism!
That said I own one record by Cohen, unlike those worship at the alter of any musican/song writer, artist is a fool.The Nick Cave & Dylan worshipers are the worst!

And then:
“Also if we remove from the Arts, all of the people whom conducted themselves in shitty ways, personally, politically etc, it would be a very bland landscape indeed, that said, it seems to me that is what is desired by a self professed bunch of white middle class, liberals, who have appointed themselves the gate keepers of what is & is not acceptable, without context etc, a polemic I refuse to buy into at any level!”

It was worth going back to find out the exact wording of both the comment and the reply made by the poster of Leonard Cohen’s photo, to quote them accurately and in full, and not only for comic effect (worship at the alter? and so on), but also to get the other name, of the one Leonard Cohen called Mr Dylan, whose worshipers, alongside those of Nick Cave, are not only worse (I think this is the intended meaning) than Leonard Cohen’s (and we should think here of the commenter’s friend in his worship) but the worst. They are the worst for believing something is great when it is execrable.

Then, while the commenter rates Leonard Cohen’s expressing his depressing, warped world view, that is he says worthy of being despised, highly enough that the worship of Leonard Cohen can lead to death, the poster splits her angsting two ways. She splits it between the worship, of Nick Cave and Bob Dylan, and the judgement of the self-professed white middle-class liberals.That they are self-appointed to pass judgement she cannot buy at all.

The issue here is not gate-keeping so much as its disavowal, its enthusiastic disavowal, from the poster. Yet the commenter is, no less enthusiastically, slamming the gate in the face of Leonard Cohen, and his poetry, art, song-writing, expressing his warped, depressing worldview. He will not be getting into heaven, and it is to be regretted that he ever made it into the tower of song.

He is no better than the lousy little poets going round trying to sound like Charlie Manson; and his followers are as misguided as well. This is, as Leonard Cohen sings, the future (here). It is the future when everyone is self-appointed gate-keeper.

Emil Cioran (8 April 1911 – 20 June 1995, Deleuze died later that year, in November, allegedly throwing himself out of the second storey window of his apartment, 84 Avenue Niel in the 17th arrondissment, in Paris: he could, according to Dan Smith, because of his pulmonary condition, have been trying to get a breath, trying to catch his breath. Smith talked to a specialist in pulmonary diseases who, asking what floor Deleuze lived on, said we never put them on the second floor or ever anything above the ground.) (I admit, I have not yet watched the above documentary, but I wanted to hear Cioran’s voice.), he is often associated (and note the long lives of these famous pessimists. A commentator, echoing the common wisdom on Deleuze’s death, writes “this flight from the window and illness was not one of pessimism, but affirmative action”, (here) as if it could have been anything but), with contemporary writer Thomas Ligotti, born on 9 July 1953, and at the time of writing still alive.

Madness, chaos, bone-deep mayhem, devastation of innumerable souls—while we scream and perish, History licks a finger and turns the page. (Ligotti)

Is Ligotti another lousy little poet trying to sound like Charlie? (here) (John Moran’s Charlie Manson opera is here. It is worth a listen as a celebration of some of the themes I am handling of in this post.) Ought we despise him for his outlook on life?

As for procreation, no one in his right mind would say that it is the only activity devoid of a praiseworthy incentive. Those who reproduce, then, should not feel unfairly culled as the worst conspirators against the human race. Every one of us is culpable in keeping the conspiracy alive, which is all right with most people. (Ligotti)

Thomas Ligotti explains to what extent his pessimism, nihilism and antinatalism is due to his medical (some would say chemical) condition. He suffers from anhedonia, broken by periods of hypomania, during which he writes (he says here). Ligotti uses the technical terms, to describe his bipolar disorder, as if they name artistic techniques; and I think they do.

Anhedonia, incapacity to experience pleasure, hypomania, phases of over-excitation and irritation, bipolarity, depression, chronic pain, frantic activity: these are all tools. Rather than explain why they tell how Ligotti writes. Writing itself can equally be considered, along with these, to constitute a technology and this technology to be a writing-with or writing-through these means.

Can the work of Zapffe, or Cioran, or Tønnessen, who wrote it is not that human life is meaningless, it is that it is not even meaningless, be explained as Ligotti does his own, in terms of emotional or physical illness? Can we accord to science, brain chemistry or medicine the pessimism of Zapffe, the nihilism of these, in the one who diagnosed nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche, or give a medical causation to the warped depressing worldview of Leonard Cohen?

Can we give a medical or scientific meaning? Can we say it is brain chemistry, or even an aspect of neurodiversity, leading these men, as all of them are (is it hormonal?), to the conclusion the human being is a tragic animal, to a tragic view of life? We should note that it is a tragic view of life unalleviated by the slightest heroism, an unmitigated disaster, and not meaning, not even not meaning, anything.

The problem is not that to give a diagnosis drawn from brain science or medicine is reductive. The problem is that it explains nothing. It explains nothing, unless it is, as it is for Ligotti’s work, a tool or technique of that work, a way of making and writing.

What motivates this thought that is nihilism is neither its meaning nor its meaninglessness. It is found elsewhere. There is a voice.

The voice says to find justification for living or the purpose of life, or its meaning, is just more loot to come home with.

“Sitting opposite me on the Métro was an impossibly chic woman who was reading a book by Félix Guattari. In Paris, you could have been forgiven for reaching the conclusion that the printed word and literature as we know it were not issuing their death rattle. People read, often in public, on the Métro or alone in cafes. And their choice of reading material was generally not the bloodbath bestsellers and child-wizard fuckery to be seen on the metros of other capitals, but books by authors whose very emblem of authority was their unreadability. I had already spotted a pretty teenager burying her face in Levinas’s Totality and Infinity as her boyfriend tried to plant kisses on her neck, and a tiny woman who looked to be pushing one hundred thumbing through Derrida’s The Archeology of the Frivolous while wearing an expression of indulgent scepticism.” (Doyle, 79)

Doyle on Cioran:

“One of the constraints I had set for myself when I decided to write about Cioran was that I would not quote his work, the reason being that it was too quotable. If I quoted one passage, I would want to quote another, then another, and many more, until I was not so much writing about Cioran as presenting the reader with his entire body of work”… (82-83)

“Having already decided that I would write about Cioran without quoting him, it now seemed would have to write about him without even writing about him.” (83)

“What had Cioran ever given to my life, other than pessimism and discouragement? He had exacerbated the very tendencies in myself I had spent my whole adult life trying to curb: withdrawal, cynicism, nihilism, despair, spleen, derision, scowling, indifference, resentment, defeatism, contrarianism, torpor, detachment, provocation, rage, arrogance, insolence, bitterness, hostility.” (83-84)

“Nous sommes tous au fond d’un enfer dont chaque instant est un miracle.” (Cioran, at 87)

“She said: ‘We are all deep in a hell, each moment of which is a miracle.’” (88)

And this:

“Imagine this. Even if the most extreme pessimism accords with how things are, and existence is a nightmare, and consciousness is a chamber of hell, and Western civilization is awaiting its coup de grâce, and we’re all adrift in the Unbreathable, or the Irreparable, or the Incurable, or all these things he writes about; what if, in spite of all this, the very articulation of this pessimism was so exquisite, so profound, that it redeemed our moments here in the nightmare? What if the writing itself, the beauty of it, not only pointed towards but provided reason enough to stick around a while longer? Wouldn’t that be strange?” (87)

What if that beauty were not only an accident but also ephemeral and fleeting, in flight from one void to another?

Says the Tao Te Ching: nature never hurries, yet everything gets done.” (90)

… “I was alone in Asia, with no real reason to be there other than an aversion to what other Westerners I met called real life, which seemed to mean doing what you did not want to be doing.” (101)

“The Vajrayana account of the afterlife … was hardly reassuring. Next to it, Western annihilationism seemed an easy way out, rendering not only death but life, too, weightless and without risk. The Tibetans believe that in the bardo following death, when one peers into ‘the mirror of past actions’ and the moment arrives to decide the nature of the next rebirth—hellish or exquisite, brilliant or debased—it is no external agency that issues the judgement, but one’s deepest self. The idea struck me as terrible, profound and, in some sense, true.” (107-108)

“Terence McKenna, who remarked that ‘the notion of illegal plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous’, insisted that government bans on psychedelics are motivated not by concern that citizens may harm themselves while under the influence, but by the realisation that ‘there is something about them that casts doubt on the validity of reality’.” (299)

Doyle on DMT:

“You can still be an atheist up to forty milligrams”… (310)

What is strange about the metaphysical shock of DMT is that it upsets the technoscientific framework of human reality and its anthropocentric presumption, … “there is categorically another consciousness present AND they have better computers than we do.” (310, my emphasis) (Note the Kantian categorical.)

We can overcome this meaningless world order by constantly letting two become one and over and over again until the last human dies out. (Zapffe)

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on transcendental experience … after Mario Levrero

Mario Levrero begins The Luminous Novel… he is a writer from Uruguay, was. An unnecessary detail, perhaps. Alejandro Zambra, a writer I admire, Chilean, as it happens, or happened, like Bolaño, yet very unlike him, writes about Levrero that we cannot, we readers, we cannot hope to understand that mythical beast, that chimaera, that the literature of Latin America is, without taking in the part Levrero has in it. He says something like that.

And we might for a moment consider the chimaera. Mythical, yes, but also a fish…

…although to call it a fish is to dismiss the inventiveness that’s gone into it. …but also man-made, the chimaera:

…here pictured as a kind of babble of bodies.

Chimaera is mythical, fish and … here made by Kate Clark:

Or, consider the following, in view of literature, from E.V. Day:

The chimaera is also a work of conscious and deliberate construction. Matching chicken and lion, bird and reptilian parts. To put on display, and this is the key word, don’t you think? display.

4222 years ago, the Egyptians weren’t engaging in the earliest known taxidermy for the sake of producing chimaera to display. Embalming and processes of corporeal preservation, of animals, including humans, was conducted not for the living but for the dead on whom these practices were being used. Unless we consider that the exhibition of the dead was not as we understand it but for religious purposes.

Was the intended spectatorship some kind of cosmic audience?

Probably not, because the way out into the cosmos was back in through the world, a world of living deities and cosmic entities present rather than having to be presented, not requiring elaborate rituals, for example, in order to be presented, but already there, in attendance. And these were waiting to see themselves join the throng of the dead.

Their embalming and preservation must have seemed like having to join the queue, for the afterlife. Death.

And now they see themselves sail the stygian waters of the Nile into the omphalos of night. They don’t leave their bodies… no Judgement will have to restore the lucky ones who got the winning ticket to their discarded corpses.

Embalmed, taxidermied, they wait in line, the living gods, and travel over into death beside themselves, beside themselves, if everything has gone well with their preservation, beside themselves in the same way as we might think of an other world being beside this one. An early multiverse.

It is also the Egyptians we tend to thank for our first glimpses of chimaerae. (The word itself is something like a chimaera.) The Sphinx, whose riddle is herself. The bird-headed people, the dog-headed, and the alligator-headed dog.

When does this all change?

Is it at the birthplace of the human individual that Siedentop announces with the advent of early christianity? When, he maintains, before a subsequent crackdown by the institutions of a priestly caste, there were just as easily female communities and communities in which women were considered individuals as they were male… children, individually, born with a relation, a corporeal relation, to the living body of Christ, and, to life everlasting?

So Larry Siedentop maintains in Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism, 2015.

If you bear in you this inner connection, in your living body, this special relation that is special to you, would not the display of the dead pass to individuals to behold? Would you not already have in hand your ticket, to join the queue…?

General exhibition would be a thing institutions might want to have some say over, so restricting entry to an other world, and cutting out the ones not worthy for being somewhat… chimaerical. Raising ticket prices, and so on.

Cutting out animals entirely. Women. Naughty children. Saving them who’ve not had time to sin. Little angels. But all would press against the gates, to see… the exhibition.

Instruction enters. Education, and edification. Now it is on how to live beside yourself, next to your immortal part: the real you. It is no longer the practice of separating to be rejoined in the afterlife.

Until we consider resurrection in the body. Then we have to consider which one the dead part is: and it is clear. It is the body of the animal to which the soul is glued on, by cosmic taxidermy. Well, not really. More by transcendental taxidermy:

the human soul stuck to the body of a corpse… and which the afterthought? For the afterlife, the latter.

…Is resurrection in the body metaphorical? or… virtual?

This would make sense. I mean: it would make sense. The rational part of sense, to which the soul is the best proportion, the perfect ratio. … And freed from the body takes off, like this:

Pause.

What part is the insubstantial again? and what the rendered insubstantial? the de-prioritised?

It’s that old body of the animal again, of which the chimaera is the perfect example: a constructed thing.

A mechanical thing, even, that David Bentley Hart rails against with such seriousness. Seriously. (In a nod to Hart I wanted to say, with such wanton solemnity.)

A book I am reading. Roland is a dog. He talks to the narrator on serious subjects like the dismissal of the transcendental experience (of living beside yourself, body and soul) by the mechanistic world view. The book’s success will be in the measure to which Roland separates himself from the views of Hart, the narrator.

From instruction, edification, tutelary and educative purposes, to … entertainment, would seem to be the path followed by chimaerae into modernity. Entertainment and art, that is. And we ought to think of those lesser souls belonging to lesser bodies, bodies more chimaerical, like those, classically, of women. And of the children who are yet to be edified and educated; and of non-whites, yet to be colonised, indentured, and given a mission.

Too embodied, these ones.

Will Hart allow his dog, Roland, to be one of these?

And what of the bodies of literature, like Latin American literature? The chimaera of …?

I don’t think Zambra really uses the word, chimaera. χίμαιρα is the female form of χίμαρος, meaning, in Ancient Greek, male goat: female goat.

– Jacopo Ligozzi, c.1600

I said female goat… but we do have here the fire-breathing part, and the querulous lion: is this masculinisation concessionary?

We can ask the same of literature, of course, as well as we can whether it is non-concessionary.

Mario Levrero begins his novel… this happens in the first two pages… by relating the sort of psychologism that Hart might reject.

Levrero tells us that he had a transcendental experience, which he told a friend about in the form of an anecdote. Why an anecdote? Because the etymology of anecdote is clear: it means unpublished account (ἀνέκδοτος = ἀν- not + έκδοτος published. έκδοτος derives from έκ- out of or ex– and δίδωμι, which is the first person singular of the verb to give).

Levrero’s friend says he must write it down. It would make a great novel. A great and luminous novel, perhaps, like we have here in our hands.

And Levrero says no. Impossible. Impossible to recapture the transcendental experience, to do it justice, in anything more substantial than an anecdote. End of discussion.

Except that it’s not, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

Levrero forgets, and this is the important point: he forgets the friend’s instruction, the friend telling him what he must do; he has, afterall, rejected it. And, anyway, it turns out they are no longer friends.

He forgets it. Levrero says, of course, what he is in fact forgetting is his resistance to his friend’s advice. And from this resistance comes the whole problem. The problem that is The Luminous Novel, in its published form. Because his opposition to the idea inflames it.

He tries again and again to write down the anecdote in which he relates his transcendental experience. And he dismisses each effort, and destroys it. But, the next important point: the urge and urgency to pursue the idea no longer comes from the friend, the friend who is no longer a friend, but from Levrero himself. It comes from inside him.

He attributes to himself, to his inner being or core, or soul, if you like, the demand, the commandment to write … and even tells himself it was own idea. It came from him…

And what is he doing, then, the poor man, torturing himself, when every effort to write down the story of the transcendental experience is in vain?

One thing is for sure, he can’t write his way out, he can’t write himself out of this problem, because he is the problem!

He is the problem and the cause of the problem and he can’t cut himself into two halves, even if they are unequal halves, returning to himself once he has cut himself off from or cut out the criminal part. The corpse, if you like. The animal. He can’t claim transcendence by following the only part that is transcendental.

As I said a psychologism, or a psychological ghost story. And, like Hart’s, a spiritual one.

The friend is ghosted, dead to you, and you tell yourself it is you yourself who told you what you must do because of what you had done.

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

on movement

Why is there misapprehension? is it out of malevolence? Is it out of malevolence your signals are misunderstood? that they are taken for meaning something far away from your actual desire? And the desired meanings, they have somehow been wrested from you.

Now they are being used to control you, so you should suppress them. You really ought to exercise self-control. And is it with a kind of malevolence then that you turn on yourself, practice austerities on your own libidinal economy, at least inasmuch as the messaging is concerned? And isn’t it with sadness you look at the comments, take literally the feedback, which might not be unkind, might be of the kindest sort and might have the best intentions behind it, but feeds back by a closed loop into the structured economy of your identity, exercising a control which becomes a suppression?

Must suppress internal difference, you don’t think it, you do it. Especially the most internal difference of all, sexual difference is given over to the comedy of mistaken identity. That is, it is identified with the symbol for it, with which one should, such is its morality, identify oneself.

Fraudulence—what is its source? Well, in play are the symbols, each one of which, like the smallest gesture, expresses a world. But what has happened to the choice of world? What has happened to its decision? And what has happened to the cut?

It’s a craze, a frenzy, we have said, and a froth, buried under layers and layers of similarly mobile surfaces. A metastasis, we have named it, belonging to a metastatic temporality. For each particle of the subject, all the human parts are instantaneously reassembled. And the sign itself is left outside, so each one, static on its surface, is like a doughnut. Each expands with such rapidity, internalising its outside, the hole, externalising structure, so avid for expansion, it goes unnoticed. The misapprehension of the crowd is like a yeast working from the outside and froth of oil slicking and lubricating the surface of the public comedy, the local slapstick.

Each has these three mythic parts… then why misapprehension? because the symbolic is exactly that which cannot grab hold of them, only gesture towards them, either inwards or outwards, centrifugally or centripetally …having the structure of a subjective economy: this goes for the whole socius; identity, given the economising motif of its lack, its in-the-hole-ness; and a toroidal, or doughnut-shaped feature of completion and continuity, throughout society: the famous circular economy. The famous circular economy stands here for the myth. The myth stands for the foundation. This is human in that it feeds back, to the extent that power here is circular.

Misapprehension, the flaw in the myth, goes from crowd to individual. Individual is mobilised. But this does not account for the apprehension of, the feeling of not being understood, that, introjected, spirally, becomes, I am a fraud. We might here be describing false consciousness, reinscribing the individual into the ideological state apparatus, except that what we are describing is the object of it, its outside. Where? …the hole… and if we could only join up, not the fatty tissue of inflating yeasty dough suspended in bubbly grease, but the holes, we should see fissures and cracks start to form.

Going from the crowd into the individual, in fact, all shame is from the social institution. The very same can be said of the foundation myth. So there is shame in marriage in the same way as there is shame in the self. Shame in theatre: we have seen before, in the beginning actor, in her hesitancy and indecision, as to what to do; but more powerfully in the confusion of the audience with the action onstage.

In the consciousness of one’s shame being asked to participate, or being required to, by the direction the show has been taken in, one is like anybody before, we might say, the law. But such is the mythic law, the human, and the sad; and not the natural law that would address why it is we are made sad by what should make us happy. In the unhappy consciousness, shame, turning-away, self-suppressing, desexualising at the same moment it auto-oedipalises, we see human consciousness being, acting like the rehearsal for public shaming, turning away, and so on. And, yes, this is its role, given the shape of the symbolic and thrice-greatest foundation myth that is subtractive with being contracted, signed up for the social contract. That this is its role public misapprehension implies, from which private shame draws its inference.

Yet, if the role of consciousness can be seen to be in rehearsal its place is in the invisible work, and the inaudible. Being overheard here on the little stage of the self, the void which makes up that hole, comes before structure, the structure of character, the role, the play, the show and self-display. It prepares it and comes before the production. Only confusion would lead one to invite an audience in to hear one’s private thoughts, and then to take a seat among the spectators. This human participation would be the opposite direction to go in if we want to avoid shame, sadness and misunderstanding.

Should we want to increase joy we might respect the process, attend to the production in ourselves of what is not yet a human subject, overhearing the animal cries and invisible vegetative states, the stony stares, of us, and move from one to an other. We can move by way of fractions, degrees of difference: time fractures the natural surface, it is fractal. In movement, changing the subject, the myth may be undone; because, in turn, founding the myth, we have the dream of being human: to which art is antidote.

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.

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

on movement

The distinction we would make is not that between illusion and reality, or, as Deleuze does, between the virtual-intelligible and the actual-sensible which proceeds from it. And we are in no place to impugn artificiality, the artificiality of symbols, say, and praise the naturalness of stones. But here is the difference: the myth of the stones is charming and remarkable; the myth of symbols is always at our expense. So we would distinguish the artifice, art, illusion, the nothingness of thought and the public or private virtue, from that artifice, art, illusion, appearance of the sensible, and actual public, private and subjective powers which use the myth to maintain their power, their power and our subjection.

The power has to be doubted that needs to enlist myth in its support. And this is the strategic task we are engaged in here; not to distinguish good myth from bad: perhaps, more adequately, good theatre from bad, although the formula rests on a moral distinction. We should ask how symbolic myth makes us indebted, how it takes away from our enjoyment of life, social and individual, if this question were not already substantially answered by Marx: it does so through the medium of capital.

The change I think which has occurred from Marxist analysis is that the mobilisation of capital has led to the mobility of the medium itself. It has metastasised. From it come the metastases of the manmade, that is, the symbolic form as a subject of synthesis. This is what we have talked about in terms of synthesis contracting or synthesising symbolic entities, but we can perhaps see it more clearly in the metastases of for example plastics in the environment: the synthesis which is of plastic particles in living flesh.

Plastic—not a symbol, you will say: yes, but a commodity: the commodity form is the symbol-thing and, converting one into the other, makes them completely reversible. The non-fungible token is so through the fungibility of thing-person-signature-sign-and-symbol as an economic unit. We can’t attack mobility directly, however, and will have recourse to the symbolic reference, not in the thing, person, author, artist, meaningful sign referred to, but in the myth.

Movement changes the subject, moves it from where it has been fixed by an established power. Establishing power are what we had as three subjective powers. These have their use to power and are its founding principles, for as long as they are animated by another world, since they are at once mythic principles.

Symbols turn to face them, and we gain from these the sense of our own desire being animate, autonomous and automatic: our own desire is animated, given autonomy, becomes automatic by virtue of subjective powers made founding principles, establishing and emblazoning their power, maintaining subjection as that that we have chosen for, the three myths. They are, of a structural economy, identity, and just causation. The latter we had formerly identified, specifically because of its symbolic character, with a poor excuse.

How are these founding myths? To take the second, identity: it describes the personalisation of desire. If we consider ourselves compartmentalised, this part human, this other part too, that one sexual human, then over here, a human consciousness, a social unconscious that is human, then, in part deriding all the parts, and ruling over them regardless, no, not the limbic system, but desire, the system of desires distributing the parts, accounting for them: why am I like this? because of desire.

It was instilled in me. And, therefore, like a genetic inheritance, it is what I must choose. But is this the choice in which we found for a kind of freedom?

No. The movement here is all inside. A full inside. A bound inside, bound to oneself, and, in this way, what one is bound to do.

If Oedipus has any part in power, it is here. What we have in the myth of desire being a governing principle is not it was always like this but I am a fraud. And with all the more avidity, I will bind myself up in a destiny, not the brave destiny of Oedipus, but one of auto-oedipalisation. What else can I do?

I am bound to do nothing other than choose the soft-furnishings over the hard. And shift them around the deck, like private prostheses publicly displayed. Making myself comfortable, or, practicing austerity, faced with the inevitable.

The law of desire is binding inasmuch as it cleaves to the stage and is obedient to it. However, due to the mobility of the surface, auto-oedipalised immobility, in stasis, follows the mob—traversing desire at once in every direction. We should listen to that ‘at once’ because it is a clue to there being a static time, a time of war, of drama and movement. We don’t tend to hear it, or listen to it without hearing it. As if we don’t want to hear its judgement.

Instead the misapprehensions of the crowd, travelling in every direction, as we have said, at once, go to the individual. And the self is groundless. Or these are bits of the self demanding synthesis, demanding its contraction, of which it is no longer capable. They go to the self inside it. We have also claimed theatre to be a good way of addressing the inside.

The mobile swarm of public opinion, symbolically expressed, with the mobility of signs, across the void, out onto which, sooner and later, an individual steps, fill the space. We might consider space here to signify a time, and this temporality to occupy a pure spatium. But what do we do with all these signs, gestures, symbolic of the mythic constructions of others?

We attempt their synthesis. Hence the pulling apart of the self, its fragmentation occurs according to a time, on the timeline traced along the surface: to live each day. To endure the at times unendurable passage of the hours. Cleaving to the stage, its surface escaping us, leaving signs the only mark of passage. Down to minutes, seconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, a metastatic time: this time corresponds to the mobility of the surface, a temporality where the movement of subjects in which every bit of time is synthesised is indiscernible and there is only speed: a temporality of the metastases of synthesis. And no longer audible is the clicking of tongues, but a human hum.

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

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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.

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.

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