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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Whence the Revolutionary Ardor?

Society is a Social Body, but
The Body is also a Society of Cells,
And the Soul a Society of Selves.
Every Cell has its own Body.
Every Self its own Body.
The Mind is the State governing
Body and Soul, Body Soul and Soul Body.
The Ego can be Prime Minister or President,
Autocrat or Tyrant, or Philosopher King,
Socialism begins as a State of Mind.
In which Thoughts are the Democratic
Representatives of every Cell and Self
That forms part of our Body and Soul, and
Our State Mind is one that allows to recognise
In each and every Member of Society, an
Embodiment of that Secret Society of the Self
The Self that is our very own Soul.
- Peter Wilberg

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Have a Good Day!

If, once upon a time, we publicly pretended to believe while privately we were skeptics or even engaged in obscene mocking of our public beliefs, today we publicly tend to profess our skeptical, hedonistic, relaxed attitude while privately we remain haunted by beliefs and severe prohibitions. Therein resides, for Jacques Lacan, the paradoxical consequence of the experience that "God is dead":
The Father can efficiently prohibit desire only because he is dead, and, I would add, because he himself doesn't know it - namely, that he is dead. Such is the myth that Freud proposes to the modern man as the man for whom God is dead - namely, who believes that he knows that God is dead.

Why does Freud elaborate this paradox? In order to explain how, in the case of father's death, desire will be more threatening and, consequently, the interdiction more necessary and more harsh. After God is dead, nothing is anymore permitted.
In order to properly understand this passage, one has to read it together with (at least) two other Lacanian thesis. These dispersed statements should then be treated as pieces of a puzzle to be combined into one coherent proposition. It is only their interconnection plus the implicit reference to the Freudian dream of the father who doesn't know that he is dead that enables us to deploy Lacan's basic thesis in its entirety:
"The true formula of atheism is not God is dead - even by basing the origin of the function of the father upon his murder, Freud protects the father - the true formula of atheism is God is unconscious."

"As you know... Ivan leads [his father Karamazov] into those audacious avenues taken by the thought of the cultivated man, and in particular, he says, if God doesn't exist then everything is permitted. Quite evidently, a naive notion, for we analysts know full well that if God doesn't exist, then nothing at all is permitted any longer. Neurotics prove that to us every day.
The modern atheist thinks he knows that God is dead, what he doesn't know is that, unconsciously, he continues to believe in God. What characterizes modernity is no longer the standard figure of the believer who secretly harbors intimate doubts about his belief and engages in transgressive fantasies. What we have today is a subject who presents himself as a tolerant hedonist dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, but whose unconscious is the site of prohibitions - what is repressed are not the illicit desires or pleasures, but prohibitions themselves. "If God doesn't exist then everything is prohibited" means that the more you perceive yourself as an atheist, the more your unconscious is dominated by prohibitions which sabotage your enjoyment. (One should not forget to supplement this thesis with its opposite: "if God exists, then everything is permitted" - is this not the most succinct definition of the religious fundamentalists predicament? For him, God fully exists, he perceives himself as his instrument, which is why he can do whatever he wants, his acts are redeemed in advance, since they express the divine will...)

It is against this background that one can locate Dostoyevsky's mistake. Dostoyevsky provided the most radical version of the "If God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted" idea in "Bobok" his weirdest short story, which even today continues to perplex its interpreters....

- Slavoj Zizek, "God in Pain: Inversions of the Apocalypse"

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lynchean Love

The Unconscious is outside, not hidden by any unfathomable depths...1
- Slavoj Zizek

1 - The Lacanian notion of quilting fundamentally concerns the problem of the "subjectivization" of reality, that is, how does the historical and social reality one inhabits become internalized and experienced? In what way does the social world in which I am become something comprehensible to me, something that has identity or unity for me, an individual experiencing the world in which I am. And here, the Lacanian answer is the reverse of the "commonsensical". Ones' first response might be to say that socio-historical reality takes on unity and identity because of something "in" that reality, because of "meanings" already there, which one then integrates into an already existing "i", thereby creating a connection between self and world. The Lacanian answer, according to Slavoj Zizek, is differently directed: socio-historical reality is this formless morass (the "real" as it were), there is no there there, nothing in it that has a coherent essence or form, it's a bit like the child before he sees his image in the mirror and becomes through the image, an ego. In order for self and a reasonably coherent world for the self to emerge, the "signifier" has to act on "reality" for the subject, has to reach into reality to recreate as something meaningful for the experiencing subject (who, too, comes into existence as a particular kind of subject through that operation). This operation is "quilting."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Opposite of Existence is NOT Nonexistence, but Insistence...

In his unpublished seminar on anxiety (1962-63), Lacan specifies that the true aim of the masochist is not to generate jouissance in the Other, but to provide its anxiety. That is to say; although the masochist submits himself to the Other's torture, although he wants to serve the Other, he himself defines the rules of his servitude; consequently, while he seems to offer himself as the instrument of the Other's jouissance, he effectively discloses his own desire to the Other and thus gives rise to anxiety in the Other - for Lacan, the true object of anxiety is precisely the (over)proximity of the Other's desire. That is the libidinal economy of the moment in "The Piano Teacher" when the heroine presents to her seducer a detailed masochistic scenario of how he should mistreat her: what repulses him is this total disclosure of her desire. (And is this not also perfectly illustrated by the painful scene from David Fincher's "Fight Club" of Ed Norton beating himself up in front of his boss? Instead of making the boss enjoy it, this spectacle obviously provokes his anxiety.) For this reason, the true choice apropos of historical traumas is not the one between remembering or forgetting them: traumas we are not ready or able to remember haunt us all the more forcefully. We should therefore accept the paradox that, in order really to forget an event, we must first summon up the strength to remember it properly. In order to account for this paradox, we should bear in mind that the opposite of existence is not non-existence, but insistence: that which does not exist, continues to insist, striving towards existence (the first to articulate this opposition was, of course, Schelling, when, in his "Treatise on Human Freedom" he introduced the distinction between Existence and the Ground of Existence). When I miss a crucial ethical opportunity, and fail to make a move that would 'change everything', the very nonexistence of what I should have done will haunt me forever: although what I did not do does not exist, its spectre continues to insist. In an outstanding reading of Walter Benjamin's "Thesis on the Philosophy of History, Eric Santner elaborates Benjamin's notion that a present revolutionary intervention repeats/ redeems past failed attempts: the 'symptoms' - past traces which are retroactively redeemed through the 'miracle' of the revolutionary intervention - are 'not so much forgotten deeds, but rather forgotten failures to act, failures to suspend the force of social bond inhibiting acts of solidarity with society's "others"':
symptoms register not only past failed revolutionary attempts but, more modestly, past failures to respond to calls for action or even for empathy on behalf of those whose suffering in some sense belongs to the form of life of which one is a part. They hold the place of something that is there, that insists in our life, though it has never achieved full ontological consistency. Symptoms are thus in some sense the virual archives of voids - or, perhaps, better, defenses against voids - that persist in historical experience.
Santner specifies how these symptoms can also take the form of disruptions of 'normal' social life, like participation in the obscene rituals of the reigning ideology. Was not the infamous Kristallnacht in 1938 - that half organized, half-spontaneous outburst of violent attacks on Jewish homes, synagogues, businesses, and people themselves - a Bakhtinian 'carnival' if ever there was one? We should read thist Kristallnacht precisely as a 'symptom': the furious rage of such an outburst of violence makes it a symptom - the defense-formation covering up the void of the failure to intervene effectively in the social crisis. In other words, the very rage of the anti-Semitic pogroms is a proof a contrario of the possibility of the authentic proletarian revolution: its excessive energy can be read only as a reaction to the ('unconscious') awareness of the missed revolutionary opportunity. And is not the ultimate cause of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the Communist past) among many intellectuals (and even 'ordinary people') of the defunct German Democratic Republic also a longing - not so much for the Communist past, for what actually went on under Communism, but, rather, for what might have happened there, for the missed opportunity of another Germany? Consequently, are not post-Communist outbursts of neo-Nazi violence also a negative-proof of the presence of these emancipatory chances, a symptomatic outburst of rage displaying an awareness of missed opportunities? We should not be afraid to draw a parallel with individual psychic life: just as the awareness of a missed 'private' opportunity (say, the opportunity of engaging in a fulfilling love relationship) often leaves its traces in the guise of 'irrational' anxieties, headaches, and fits of rage, the void of the missed revolutionary chance can explode in 'irrational' fits of destructive rage...
- Slavoj Zizek, "Welcome to the Desert of the Real"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Escaping the Dream Weavers

I've Got Heartburn! ;)
“Si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l‘autre; vous êtez foutus.”
- Gilles Deleuze

Monday, January 13, 2014

Self Reliance

"Ne te quaesiveris extra*"

"Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."

Cast the bantling** on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.
- Emerson (1841)

I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (opening of essay following poem above)

*“Do not seek outside yourself.”
** A young, illegitimate child

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Another Regretful Goodbye

In Memoriam - Aaron John Ragasa (1957 - 2014)
Blood Brothers - Forever!
California-Hawaii, 1975

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Run Rabbit, Run!

from Wikipedia
Walter H. Thompson's TV biography "I Was Churchill's Bodyguard" rates the song as Winston Churchill's favourite as Prime Minister; also, Jock Colville, Churchill's private secretary during much of the war, mentions the Prime Minister singing part of this song.

An Exhortation to Nietzsche's Red Cheeked Beast

O BLUSH not so! O blush not so!
Or I shall think you knowing;
And if you smile the blushing while,
Then maidenheads are going.

There's a blush for want, and a blush for shan't,
And a blush for having done it;
There's a blush for thought, and a blush for nought,
And a blush for just begun it.

O sigh not so! O sigh not so!
For it sounds of Eve's sweet pippin;
By these loosen'd lips you have tasted the pips
And fought in an amorous nipping.

Will you play once more at nice-cut-core,
For it only will last our youth out,
And we have the prime of the kissing time,
We have not one sweet tooth out.

There's a sigh for aye, and a sigh for nay,
And a sigh for "I can't bear it!"
O what can be done, shall we stay or run?
O cut the sweet apple and share it!
- John Keats, "O Blush Not So!"