“When the world is reduced to a network of interchangeable connections, there are truly no more subjects who face objects but only gigantic circulations of energy, products, information, and consumption. Everymore removed, ever less inserted in a situation or a determinate site, technological man more and more finds himself decontextualized, simultaneously integrated and dispersed. The sense of the near and the distant becomes blurred. The oblivion of the Earth is the oblivion of the originally local and regional character of thinking and action.” Michel Haar, The Song of the Earth: Heidegger and the Grounds of the History of Being, p. 5 “…there is no space in general, and everything brings its space with it, a place takes place by itself. Thoughts are not the fruits of the earth. They are not registered by areas, except out of human commodity. Thoughts are clouds. The periphery of thoughts is as immeasurable as the fractal lines of Benoit Mandlebrot. Thoughts are pushed and pulled at variable speeds. They are deep, although core and skin are of the same grain. Thoughts never stop changing their location one with the other. When you feel like you have penetrated far into their intimacy in analyzing either their so-called structure or genealogy or even post-structure, it is actually too late or too soon. One cloud casts its shadow on another, the shape of the clouds varies with the angle from which they are approached.” Jean-Francois Lyotard, Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event. p. 5.
Even shadows take on a certain solidity in the fog, a penumbral presence that bends around corners, plastered to the edges, like a rumour that haunts a certain strictness of being (like Being shadowing being–or vice versa), of language, of discourse, the body politic. The chiaroscuro partitioning of shadow/light forming shifting blocks of truth/falsity–there SHOULD be rigid demarcations (after all, it’s in black and white, on/off), perceptual truth tables. But such ‘truth-telling’ only works at high noon (although artificial light can create the same effect–or affect in that case), after fog/smoke has been burned off and, though there are shadows galore, they are sharp edged, measurable. But even then, even here with the sun overhead, eclipses can happen, something large burns nearby, millions of bits of particulate matter scale the air, rising in the warm, casting a pall, loosening the connections between thing and shadow cast.
Smoke: the inevitable aftermath of catastrophe, the caterpillar’s writing of the disaster, hoving over the cooled remains, cinders, husks left, the last testimony of the dead: mute, toxic witnessing of departed flame. The smoke is always, already (everywhere) rising above the sacrificial altars of the twentieth century, like the augurs and appeasements to the gods which the greeks were constantly seeking: all that is solid turns to smoke (fitting Marxian inscription on the tomb of itself as well as the greco-hebraic gravesite which was/is/shall always be burning: burning at both temporal ends, smoke from the shrines at Eleusis turning up above Edison Electric in New Jersey).
The modern temptation to continually poke through the smoky rubble, finding victims, looking for evidence, is only part of our patristic heritage, our burden of hermeneutics: an attempt to find the match which set the world burning (and in that burning world is where techn resides and best finds its resources: Terminators striding the smoky debris, hunting out the last Living Humans, smoking out the last possibility of metaphor). Like the sublime, smoke hides, mimics the uncanny, perhaps even releases the uncanny under the traumatic pressure of parsing (smoke/cinders) which fast oxidation causes (burden of life in oxygen! : The Original Trauma). Technology: the fastest oxidation possible, so fast that it always seeks to frame uncanny fog within its representational structures, always attempting to make it a theatrical effect, nostalgic and propaedeutic, History and Future the other parsing that technology knows, at the same time. It’s almost as if smoke were dreaming of fog, as if it could conjure up its uncanny Other under the pressure of burning (pressed through a sieve, a net, chora,) as if its sacrificial altars could re-constitute the gods and goddesses, (artificial) life embossed into the smoke.
But, for now, like the hookah-smoking catepillar in Alice In Wonderland, the smoke turns inevitably into letters before dissipating, a metaphor which may be taken to allude to language in general and, in our case, language under pressure of extrusion from global telematic services: within a final puff of smoke the caterpillar is transformed. (We would perhaps not be remiss in pointing again to Walter Benjamin’s wizened theological dwarf operating in conjunction — but out of sight — with the automaton chess player with the aim of installing — or revealing — the “weak messianic force” in techn.) Has the prosthetic hookah aided the transformation? Or has it merely thrown up a smokescreen to hide the transformative process? Whence comes the transformation? The smoke, the internal exigencies of the caterpillar (‘natural law’), the letters (as a sort of kabbalistic incantation), the hookah (as a prosthetic enabler), or the presence of Alice (the x and y of which a certain ontological feminism might beckon, a transformative possibility of a body that an Alex can only observe)?