Posted on September 16, 2009 in messianic age

The Age of Living in the Crack

I came across a quote from the film director Jean Renoir to the effect that “A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.” It could well be said (and has been said well) that the same is true of books and ideas: most writers and thinkers have one book and/or idea which they massage variously in a life-long career. I was thinking recently as I was working on a bit of writing that that is surely the case with me. Although looking over whatever meager production I have done in installation art or writing or sound production has all veered in the same direction — although when called to state the connections between the pieces and the way they move together (like , say, when one is asking for money to do something), I become a little flummoxed since, to some degree, it defeats the purpose of a more subterranean approach. There is no necessity for so corraling events except under the duress of money — which can be a considerable pressure these days.

At any rate I was re-reading The Political Theology of Paul by Jacob Taubes and came across a long quote which Taubes attributes to Carl Schmitt (within the quote at the end Schmitt quotes Kierkegaard) which seems to address much of what I’ve been concerned with, in however feeble a manner. In reading the quote over several times it strikes me as to how much the bifurcation spoken of therein spreads out to many other contemporary artistic, cultural and theoretical concerns:

Precisely a philosophy of concrete life must not withdraw from the exception and the extreme case, but must be intersted in it to the highest degree. The exception can be more important to it than the rule, not becasue of a romantic irony for the paradoxical, but becasue of the seriousness of an insight that goes deeper than the clear generalizations inferred from what ordinarily repeats itself. The exception is more interesting than the norm. The normal proves nothing. The exception proves evrcything: it not only confirms the rule; rather, the rule exists only through the exception. In the exception the power of real life breaks through the crust of a mechanism that has become torpid by repetition. A Protestant theologian who demonstrated the vital intensity possible in theological reflection even in the nineteenth century stated: “The exception explains the universal and itself. And if one wants to study the universal correctly, one only needs to look around for a true exception. It reveals everything more clearly than does the universal itself. Eventually one grows weary of the incessant chatter about the universal; there are exceptions. If they cannot be explained, then the universal cannot be explained either. Generally, the difficulty is not noticed because one thinks the universal not with passion but with a comfortable superficiality. The exception, however, thinks the universal with intense passion.”

It’s interesting to think that this may a sort of theological notion (think: the resurrection, miracles), albeit one which underlies much of secularist modernism in its administrative overflow (see G. Agamben’s recent work for elucidations).

Although it could be argued that actually LIVING in the exception could be difficult, perhaps that is exactly what living in a messianic age would entail: coping incessantly with the exception. And after all what is the current idea of the coming Singularity but exactly that? It would certainly be something close to impenetrable.