And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just Another... Dancer

Step out into the Indian dust
I can feel the cracks in my spirit
They're starting to bust.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bigger Tools

WHAT was he doing the great god Pan
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed the great god Pan
From the deep cool bed of the river;
The limpid water turbidly ran
And the broken lilies a-dying lay
And the dragon-fly had fled away
Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sat the great god Pan
While turbidly flow'd the river;
And hack'd and hew'd as a great god can
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short did the great god Pan
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith like the heart of a man
Steadily from the outside ring
And notch'd the poor dry empty thing
In holes as he sat by the river.

'This is the way ' laugh'd the great god Pan
(Laugh'd while he sat by the river)
'The only way since gods began
To make sweet music they could succeed.'
Then dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed
He blew in power by the river.

Sweet sweet sweet O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die
And the lilies revived and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan
To laugh as he sits by the river
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain¡ª
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds of the river.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Friday, November 22, 2013

Heads Up!

Update- The comet ISON has not survived its' close encounter with the Sun.
Update 2 - Correction - Something DID survive!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Re-Booting Marriage

The heart can think of no devotion
Greater than being shore to ocean -
Holding the curve of one position,
Counting an endless repetition.
- Robert Frost, "Devotion"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vivat Mascarillus, Fourbum (?Forum?) Imperator!

Nicolas Mignard, "Molière" (1658)

MASCARILLE: Oui, je te vais servir d'un plat de ma façon.
Fut-il jamais au monde un plus heureux garçon?
Oh! que dans un moment Lélie aura de joie!
Sa maîtresse en nos mains tomber par cette voie!
Recevoir tout son bien d'où l'on attend son mal,
Et devenir heureux par la main d'un rival!
Après ce rare exploit, je veux que l'on s'apprête
À me peindre en héros un laurier sur la tête,
Et qu'au bas du portrait on mette en lettres d'or:
Vivat Mascarillus, fourbum imperator!


MASCARILLE: Yes, I you'll serve a dish of my way.
Never was it to the world a more happy boy?
Oh! that in a moment Lelie will be joy!
His mistress in our hands fall in this way!
Receive all his good where it awaits its evil,
And become happy by the hand of a rival!
After this rare feat, I want that one prepares
To paint me as a hero a Laurel on the head,
And at the bottom of the portrait we put in letters of gold:
VIVAT Mascarillus, fourbum imperator!
- Moliere, "L’Étourdi, ou le Contre-Temps [The Scatterbrain (or The Bungler)]" (1653)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Great Americans

If one were only an Indian, instantly alert, and on a racing horse, leaning against the wind, kept on quivering jerkily over the quivering ground, until one shed one’s spurs, for there needed no spurs, threw away the reins, for there needed no reins, and hardly saw that the land before one was smoothly shorn heath when horse’s neck and head would be already gone.
- Franz Kafka, (posthumously, between 1903 and 1907)

After Wicked...

Kiamo Ko

"And there the wicked old Witch stayed for a good long time."
"And did she ever come out?"
"Not yet."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dance On, My Dear, Dance On!

In Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes, an impoverished young woman puts on a pair of magical shoes and almost dies when her feet won't stop dancing. She is only saved when an executioner cuts off her feet with his axe. Her still-shod feet dance on, whereas she is given wooden feet and finds peace in religion. These shoes stand for drive at its purest: an 'undead' partial object that functions as a kind of impersonal willing: 'it wants', it persists in its repetitive movement (of dancing), it follows its path and exacts its satisfaction at any price, irrespective of the subject's well-being. This drive is that which is 'in the subject more than herself': although the subject cannot ever 'subjectivize' it, assume it as 'her own' by way of saying 'It is I who want to do this!' it nonetheless operates in her very kernel. As Fink's book reminds us, Lacan's wager is that it is possible to sublimate this dull satisfaction. This is what, ultimately, art and religion are about. - Zizek, "Love Beyond Law"

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Feelings of Anxiety...

What causes anxiety is the elevation of transgression into the norm, the lack of the prohibition that would sustain desire. This lack throws us into the suffocating proximity of the object-cause of desire: we lack the breathing space provided by the prohibition, since, even before we can assert our individuality through our resistance to the Norm, the Norm enjoins us in advance to resist, to violate, to go further and further. We should not confuse this Norm with regulation of our intersubjective contacts: perhaps there has been no period in the history of humankind, when interactions were so closely regulated; these regulations, however, no longer function as the symbolic prohibition - rather, they regulate modes of transgression themselves.
- Zizek on the age of anxiety
Anxiety is the only emotion that does not deceive: all other emotions, from sorrow to love, are based on deceit… The feeling of guilt is a fake enabling us to give ourselves over to pleasures - when this frame falls away, anxiety arises. It is here that one should refer to the key distinction between the object of desire and its object-cause. What should the analyst do in the case of a promiscuous woman who has regular one-night stands, while complaining all the time how bad and miserable and guilty she feels about it? The thing not to do, of course, is to try to convince her that one-night stands are bad, the cause of her troubles, signs of some libidinal deadlock - in this way, one merely feeds her symptom, which is condensed in her (misleading) dissatisfaction with one night stands. That is to say, it is obvious that what gives the woman true satisfaction is not promiscuity as such, but the very accompanying feeling of being miserable - that is the source of her “masochistic” enjoyment.
- Zizek on pleasure and guilt: "The Puppet and the Dwarf"

Sources of Sleeplessness

"There is no final solution on the horizon today, Capital is here to stay, all we can hope for is a temporary truce. That is to say, undoubtedly worse that this deadlock would have been a pseudo Deleuzian celebration of the successful revolt of the multitude. The hard kernel of today's global capitalist universe, its true Master Signifier is Democracy. And the latest statements of Negri and Hardt are a kind of unexpected confirmation of Alain Badiou's insight."
- Slavoj Zizek, "The De-Sublimated Object of Post-Ideology"
"One should bear in mind Lacan's lesson here: accepting guilt is a manoeuvre which delivers us of anxiety, and its presence signals that the subject compromised his desire. So when, in a move described by Kierkegaard, one withdraws from the dizziness of freedom by seeking a firm support in the order of finitude, this withdrawal itself is the true Fall."
- Slavoj Zizek, "Anxiety: Kierkegaard with Lacan"
"When one determines that the phallus is signifier, and Lacan shows that this is Freud's truth, castration has as its foundation the apprehension in the real of the absence of the woman's penis. What follows then is what he calls, following the analytic doxa, a feeling of female inferiority in the imaginary plan."
- Jacques-Alain Miller, "Reading Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do You Believe in Belief?

Niels Bohr, who gave the right answer to Einstein's "God doesn't play dice" ("Don't tell God what to do!"), also provided the perfect example of how such a fetishist disavowal of belief works in ideology: seeing a horse-shoe on his door, the surprised visitor said that he doesn't believe in the superstition that it brings luck, to what Bohr snapped back: "I also do not believe in it; I have it there because I was told that it works also if one does not believe in it!" What this paradox renders clear is the way a belief is a reflexive attitude: it is never a case of simply believing - one has to believe in belief itself. Which is why Kierkegaard was right to claim that we do not really believe (in Christ), we just believe to believe - and Bohr just confronts us with the logical negative of this reflexivity (one can also NOT believe one's beliefs...). 1

At some point, Alcoholics Anonymous meet Pascal: "Fake it until you make it.." However, this causality of the habit is more complex than it may appear: far from offering an explanation of how beliefs emerge, it itself calls for an explanation. The first thing to specify is that Pascal's "Kneel down and you will believe!" has to be understood as involving a kind of self-referential causality: "Kneel down and you will believe that you knelt down because you believed!" The second thing is that, in the "normal" cynical functioning of ideology, belief is displaced onto another, onto a "subject supposed to believe," so that the true logic is: "Kneel down and you will thereby MAKE SOMEONE ELSE BELIEVE!" One has to take this literally and even risk a kind of inversion of Pascal's formula: "You believe too much, too directly? You find your belief too oppressing in its raw immediacy? Then kneel down, act as if you believe, and YOU WILL GET RID OF YOUR BELIEF - you will no longer have to believe yourself, your belief will already ex-sist objectified in your act of praying!" That is to say, what if one kneels down and prays not so much to regain one's own belief but, on the opposite, to GET RID of one's belief, of its over-proximity, to acquire a breathing space of a minimal distance towards it? To believe - to believe "directly," without the externalizing mediation of a ritual - is a heavy, oppressing, traumatic burden, which, through exerting a ritual, one has a chance of transferring it onto an Other...

When Badiou emphasizes that double negation is not the same as affirmation, he thereby merely confirms the old Hegelian motto les non-dupes errent. Let us take the affirmation "I believe." Its negation is: "I do not really believe, I just fake to believe." However, its properly Hegelian negation of negation is not the return to direct belief, but the self-relating fake: "I fake to fake to believe," which means: "I really believe without being aware of it." Is, then, irony not the ultimate form of the critique of ideology today - irony in the precise Mozartean sense of taking the statements more seriously than the subjects who utter them themselves?

In the case of so-called "fundamentalists," this "normal" functioning of ideology in which the ideological belief is transposed onto the Other is disturbed by the violent return of the immediate belief - they "really believe it." The first consequence of this is that the fundamentalist becomes the dupe of his fantasy (as Lacan put it apropos Marquis de Sade), immediately identifying himself with it. From my own youth, I remember a fantasy concerning the origin of children: after I learned how children are made, I still had no precise idea on insemination, so I thought one has to make love every day for the whole nine months: in woman's belly, the child is gradually formed through sperm - each ejaculation is like adding an additional brick... One plays with such fantasies, not "taking them seriously," it is in this way that they fulfill their function - and the fundamentalist lacks this minimal distance towards his fantasy.


Let us return to our fundamentalist: the obverse of his turning into a dupe of his fantasy is that he loses his sensitivity for the enigma of the Other's desire. In a recent case of analytic treatment in UK, the patient, a woman who was a victim of rape, remained deeply disturbed by an unexpected gesture of the rapist: after already brutally enforcing her surrender, and just prior to penetrating her, he withdraw a little bit, politely said "Just a minute, lady!" and put on a condom. This weird intrusion of politeness into a brutal situation perplexed the victim: what was its meaning? Was it a strange care for her, or a simple egotistic protective measure from the part of the rapist (making it sure that he will not get AIDS from her, and not the other way round). This gesture, much more than explosions of raw passion, stands for the encounter of the "enigmatic signifier," of the desire of the Other in all its impenetrability. Does such an encounter of the Other's desire follow the logic of alienation or that of separation? It can be an experience of utter alienation (I am obsessed with the inaccessible obscure impenetrable divine Desire which plays games with me, as in the Jansenist dieu obscur); however, the key shift occurs when, in a Hegelian way, we gain insight into how "the secrets of the Egyptians were also secret for the Egyptians themselves," i.e., into how our alienation FROM the Other is already the alienation OF the Other (from) itself - it is this redoubled alienation that generates what Lacan called separation as the overlapping of the two lacks.

And the link between these two features of the fundamentalist's position is clear: since fantasy is a scenario the subject builds in order to answer the enigma of the Other's desire, i.e., since fantasy provides an answer to "What does the Other want from me?", the immediate identification with the fantasy as it were closes up the gap - the enigma is clarified, we fully know the answer...
- Slavoj Zizek, "With or Without Passion: What's Wrong with Fundamentalism"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Age Viagra Ethics - You Must Because You Can!

The superego inverts the Kantian ‘You can, because you must’ in a different way, turning it into ‘You must, because you can.’ This is the meaning of Viagra, which promises to restore the capacity of male erection in a purely biochemical way, bypassing all psychological problems. Now that Viagra can take care of the erection, there is no excuse: you should have sex whenever you can; and if you don’t you should feel guilty. New Ageism, on the other hand, offers a way out of the super ego predicament by claiming to recover the spontaneity of our ‘true’ selves. But New Age wisdom, too, relies on the superego imperative: ‘It is your duty to achieve full self-realisation and self-fulfilment, because you can.’ Isn’t this why we often feel that we are being terrorised by the New Age language of liberation?
- Slavoj Zizek, "You May"