Monday, November 24, 2014

Scribing the Next Grand Narrative

The Gunfighter from Eric Kissack on Vimeo.

One summer evening (led by her /Nature/) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams
- Wordsworth, "Prelude"
In the traditional metaphysical approach, art is about (beautiful) appearances, and science is about reality beneath appearances. However, today's sciences focus more and more on the weird domain of autonomized appearances, of phenomenal processes deprived of any substantial support; no wonder, then, that, in a symmetrical counter-movement, modern art is more and more focused on the Real Thing. Is not the most succinct definition of modern art that it is art "beyond the pleasure principle"? One is supposed to enjoy the traditional art, it is expected to generate aesthetic pleasure, in contrast to modern art causing displeasure-modern art by definition hurts. In this precise sense, modern art is sublime: it causes pleasure-in-pain, it produces its effect through its own failure, insofar as it refers to the impossible Things(1). In contrast to it, beauty, harmonious balance, seems more and more the domain of sciences: already Einstein's relativity theory, this paradigm of modern science, was praised for its simple elegance-no wonder that the title of Brian Greene's best-selling introduction to string theory is The Elegant Universe (Greene 2000).
- Slavoj Zizek "Burned by The Thing"


FreeThinke said...

"I think this Voice WANTS us to kill each other"

I have to agree, -- IF, as I suspect, -- "The Voice" is meant to represent the ENEMEDIA.

That's precisely what THEY (IT?) have been trying to get "us" to do for at least the last fifty years -- probably longer.

the why of it may still be open to further research and "interpretation," although I think I may know.

FreeThinke said...

Thank you for introducing me to "Prelude." It seems to reveal a dark side to Wordsworth I never knew existed, not that he should ever be called The Pollyanna of Poets. ;-)

Also, "Prelude" appears to be remarkably like a modern prose poem -- very rare in pre-twentieth-century poets. The imagery, however, is as wonderfully evocative as any of his more traditional pieces.

I m not perceptive enough, however, to see yet any specific connection among the savagely satirical film clip, Wordsworth's Prelude, and Zizek's commentary.

FreeThinke said...

How stupid of me to call Wordworth's Prelude a prose poem when in fact it is so artfully contrived in blank verse (traditional iambic pentameter) the artifice is virtually undetectable when one is searching for the meaning behind the imagery and within the evocative nuances!

When the "drama" overtakes, obfuscates and dominates the necessary calculations in trying to produce Art without violating them, that might be the highest compliment one could pay to the artist.

Unfortunately, too much of the Modernist Movement was primarily ABOUT "violation" and little else.

FreeThinke said...

Zizek says,

"In the traditional metaphysical approach, art is about (beautiful) appearances, and science is about reality beneath appearances."

I beg to differ. I have a deep and abiding belief that what-I-consider true Art has always been about finding and revealing the innate BEAUTY behind and beneath the surface appearances that indicate otherwise.

If this were not true, why else would we want to experience the cathartic effect Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, the boundless brilliance, complexity and intensity of the St. Matthew and St. John Passions,the great organ works of Bach and the epic grandeur and exaltation of the Music Dramas by Richard Wagner?

Zizek seems to commit the common error of confusion mere PRETTINESS with true BEAUTY.

As I'm sure you know BEAUTY probes far beyond an agreeable surface appearance.

Somewhere my determined faith tells me Science and Art will meet and discover they are in essence ONE and the SAME.

Cynicism is not Science anymore than slavish devotion to an agenda-driven political ideology could be called Science. That, of course, is why the debate over "Global Warming" continues to rage on and on. It should ever be the role of true "Science" to remain OPEN to the broadest spectrum of possibilities, because -- as surely we ought to understand by now -- THERE is no END to LEARNING and KNOWING.

Joe Conservative said...

Perhaps I need to add Zizek's "subsequent narrative"...

It is clear what "effectively happens" in this episode: the young boy was here victim of an optical illusion: "When he rowed away from the cave the boy had fixed his gaze upon the top of a ridge, behind which there initially seemed to be nothing but the sky. As he rowed further out on to the lake, however, a more distant peak, behind the ridge, came into view. The further he is from the shore (and his first instinct is to row faster: "I struck, and struck again") the more he can see of the mountain; it therefore seemed to be growing still in stature". There is, then, an extremely rational explanation for what the boy sees. His imagination, however, transforms the mountain into a "living thing" which "strode after me". This is how a "thing from the inner space" emerges. All the ingredients of a fantasy-staging are here-the noumenal "shines through" in what is "effectively" just an optical illusion. That is to say, far from being a simple descendant of the Kantian Thing-in-itself, the Freudian "Thing from the Inner Space" is its inherent opposite: what appears as the excess of some transcendent force over the "normal" external reality, is the very place of the direct inscription of my subjectivity into this reality. In other words, what I get back in the guise of the horrifying-irrepresentable Thing is the objectivization, the objectal correlate, of my own gaze - as Wordsworth put it, the Thing is the "sober colouring" reality gets from the eye observing it:

The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality

-Slavoj Zizek, "Burned by The Thing"

We hear the narrative of our own thoughts constantly, like in the Wordsworth poem. Not only is there an "optical" transformation resulting from a shifting perspective, but there is also an "emotional one as well, as feelings of pleasure and desire evolve into feelings of "fear" ala Kantian "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime".

Now imagine we could hear G-d's thoughts, his "grand narrative" in addition to our own. His Words would not "evolve" for His "feelings" would remain constant. So would we be left with the "silence" of "reality"?

Joe Conservative said...


Lacan's discussion of the "Thing" constitutes one of the central themes in the seminar of 1959-60 (L'̩thique de la psychanalyse Р"The Ethics of Psychoanalysis"), where he uses the French term la chose interchangeably with the German term das Ding. There are two main contexts in which this term operates: Word-Presentations and Thing-Presentations

The first context is Freud's distinction between "word-presentations" (Wort-vorstellungen) and "thing-presentations" (Sachvorstellungen). The distinction is prominent in Freud's metapsychological writings, in which he argues that the two types of presentation are bound together in the preconscious-conscious system, whereas in the unconscious system only thing-presentations are found.

This seemed to some of Lacan's contemporaries to offer an objection to Lacan's theories about the linguistic nature of the unconscious. Lacan counters such objections by pointing out that there are two words in German for "thing": das Ding and die Sache. It is the latter term which Freud usually employs to refer to the thing-presentations in the unconscious, and Lacan argues that although on one level Sachvorstellungen and Wortvorstellungen are opposed, in the symbolic level "they go together".

Thus die Sache’’ is the representation of a thing in the symbolic order, as opposed to das Ding’’, which is the thing in its "dumb reality", the thing in the real, which is "the beyond-of-the-signified." The thing-presentations found in the unconscious are thus still linguistic phenomena, as opposed to das Ding which is entirely outside language, and outside the unconscious.

"The Thing is characterised by the fact that it is impossible for us to imagine it."

Lacan's concept of the Thing as an unknowable x, beyond symbolisation, has clear affinities with the Kantian "thing-in-itself"

And what would G_d see, is not the Thing-in-Itself?

Joe Conservative said...

The video is also very "Brechtian" because it demolishes the "wall" between the actors and the audience. It deliberately "artificalizes" the situation (through the narration - which they and the actors apparently hear) and forces the audience to participate.

At one point, the gunfighter proposes that the narration is a "Good" thing that could make the people "better"... deifying it, in a way. Even though it promises to be a Malevolent influence, goading the characters into a "bloodbath".

Joe Conservative said...


Thersites said...

The beyond surface appearance...

Jen Nifer said...

Happy Thanksgiving, FJ! A day early, because I'll be cooking all day tomorrow. :-) Take care!

Thersites said...

You have a Happy Thanksgiving, too!

nicrap said...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thersites said...

Thank you, nicrap! I'm upstate NY this weekend at my sister in laws. Snow, snow, snow.

FreeThinke said...

Hope you were able to make the journey safely and with relatively little impedance, Thersites?

I spent my undergraduate years in upstate New York, and know full well how fierce the winters can be in that region.

Hope your sister doesn't live in or too near Buffalo? Over SIX FEET of snow must have been all-but impossible to deal with even for the folks brave enough to inhabit that part of the globe.

As for "Reality," don't you think it is so enormous, so complex and so fraught with untold layers of mystery that no one could possibly understand more than a tiny facet of it, and never that as it must relate to the whole?

After all each of us experiences reality through his own unique "prism," so even when we are studying the same thing at the same time in the same light from the same angle or level of audibility, no two people see or hear precisely the some thing.

That's one of the reasons I persist in my belief in God. Only HE (the male pronoun merely being a convenient term of reference) could possibly grasp Creation in its totality.

Suppose the Cosmic Egg really does exist outside the realm of speculation, and our Universe is contained within an enormous physical "shell" of epic proportions?

Instead of suggesting that everything is limited and finite after all, the idea says to me that it may be possible that all we now suspect exists could be no more than an "egg" in a "crate," or on a "shelf" in a realm so gigantic it lies beyond the power of human imagining.

Hardly an original thought, I'm sure, but one that never ceases to raise goose bumps whenever it crosses my mind.

The delicate beauty and infinite variety within the context of the consistently hexagonal pattern of snowflakes alone tells me there MUST be an organizing creative principle at the heart of Creation.

However, in truth I don't KNOW a thing. Science and Philosophy seem to get all tripped up in their metaphorical underwear trying to explain these things. Often I feel their work may do more to OBFUSCATE than to CLARIFY since I have great faith in power of Intuition.

I suppose that makes me "anti-Intellectual" in some circles? If so, I can't bring myself to apologize. (:-s

Has anyone yet been able to prove conclusively that Reason is NOT the slave of Passion?

nicrap said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nicrap said...

I am glad, my friend, that you are surrounded with family on this season of festivities ... isn't snow too an important part of it, though? at least ever since Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol? ;)

Anyway. The weather is very good in my part of the world with fine crisp mornings followed by sunny days. My own family is gathered together nowadays, and the days are usually spent sitting out in the sun, sipping tea, and chewing the proverbial fat. In fact, we were wonering yesterday how this may have been the norm for people in 'the good ol' days' rather than a once-in-a-year ritual as it now — the world has gotten smaller, i am told, but all i see are fathers separated from their sons, brothers from brothers — progress, indeed!

Thersites said...

@ FT - Owego, but with side trips to the airport @ Syracuse to pick up my daughter.. There's only a foot of snow here, but it's a heavy-wet snow that sticking to all the trees, despite the wind.

And yes words are inadequate to the task of describing reality. I enjoy the thoughts of scientists and philosophers, despite their inadequacies.

Antiintellectual? Perhaps "skeptical" would be a better term. Skeptical of "expert" opinion, especially in araeas outside the "experts" field. ;)

Thersites said...

@ nicrap. We have too many distractions, indeed. I'm glad that we're still able to gather as families. At least there is still a connection to the past, even if only infrequent.

nicrap said...

Indeed. :)

Freedomnow said...

You always were a crazy pseudo-intellectual...

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving FJ!!!

-FJ said...

With an emphasis on the pseudo! Thanks, FN. I did. Hope you had a great one, too!


nicrap said...

With an emphasis on the pseudo!

...with "p" silent, like in psychology, pneumonia, psychiatry, etc. etc. ;)

Thersites said...

The 'p' pretends to be "invisible", doesn't it?

nicrap said...

...very "p"seudo, if you ask me. ;)

Thersites said...