child at play

Posted on January 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

Αἰὼν παῖς ἐστι παίζων πεσσεύων· παιδὸς ἡ βασιληίη.
Aion [eternity] is a child at play, playing draughts; the Kingship is a child’s.

Lucianus, Vit. auct. 14. Context:–And what is time? A child at play, now arranging his pebbles, now scattering them.


In the 1996 Time Burton movie, Mars Attacks! (based on a baseball card series from 1962 of the same name) all the aliens speak in a smack-smack repetitive baby babble talk. All the sounds seem to be the same mak-mak-mak over and over again. How can that possibly convey any information? But entering the film (a spoof on the genre), we emerge, like most of Burton’s films, into a child-like syncope. Faltering rhythms and animation drop us out from the real world into a cartoon world, fit and yet not-fit for babies. Vast instrumentalities are represented in a humorous way – the same as with the world of babies and childhood in general. We embark on a voyage into an uncanny valley, and in the case of childhood, the formation of startling chreodes which gradually, with time and persistence, wear into grinding patterns of familiarity: adulthood.

But for a short period we are witness (and participants only as second order audience) to the animated remains of a once glorious kingdom (the threshold now available only through extensive and sophisticated technical means); a mysterious communication of non-sense with action: the place of gesture as precedent to language, where objects, gesture, ritual become so deep they appear disconnected from contemporary bare life, language floating around incantatorily, performatively: phantasms increasingly severed from the intimacy of gesture and place (a severance which has been in motion since the beginning, but perhaps now within creased velocity).

It is a place which has dropped out of sight so far from ordinary experience (which, in a way, is dropping from sight also) that its fabulousness, this kingdom of hidden presences, seems to be entirely one made from a frayed, thread-worn, and gossamer cloth, spider-web cloth, melting in the noonday sun, the only entrance now through our machines; which brings it (this uncanny abyssal which is continually cracking underfoot) back with a terrifying immediacy, an otherness … but with yet a strange familiarity to it. The mak-mak-mak syncope of childhood aligns with the disappearances of children into the mysterious hill over yonder, abduction by fairies, aliens, now everything slowly coming into sync with the technical alien.

To Heraclitus we are perhaps all babies on that eternal beach, caught in yet a higher order swoon, an arhythmic hiccup, waiting in vain for some vaster presence to pick us up, to stop the crying, to salve the wounds, to point out another hill over yonder (techne) which we can enter and disappear for an aion or two.