May H.U.T. Journal
| "Weakness is the ultimate price of this
fable. It is the confession that causes within the text the stirring of
an unknown within the symbolization of its levels, the tumult of a body
through the play of its depths."
Michel de Certeau (The Fiction of History)
April 26 1999
"They are astonishing mausoleums, built on the tombs of Ancient Kings: they are oblique and solid, and not hollow and empty."
Denys de Tell-Mahre,
Patriarch of Antioch, ninth century AD.
Although de Tell-Mahre was writing of the pyramids, humans, I myself, (who am presumably a human) often feel either `oblique and solid' or `hollow and empty.' I think the normal baseline for us moderns is `hollow and empty,' it's the default where we always seem to wind up. It's the postmodernist's position par excellence. It's the place where the `machine,' as a generalized concept, is most lubricated. All of our food is becoming hollow; scooped out by chemical and biotechnical tricks, it just looks like real food. `I can't tell it's not real butter.' Fat is now a chemical that masquerades as the obliqueness that comes from a rendered animal. And the squeamishness that many people feel now around the very idea of food assures that its further `diaphanization' and etiolation will continue. (and yes, I'm well aware that the very concept of `real' is under theoretical assault today -- actually, it would be better to say, perhaps with Baudrillard simply that the battle has been won -- or lost, depending on your perspective -- and that the real has disappeared, to be replaced by the `Real'...whatever. I'm still stumping my toe on that stone. I do know however that humankind is still in a pitched battle with Bishop Berkeley's damn rock.)
We are very close to eating pure factory products now anyway. Just as the human body is emptying into its code, so it makes sense that its food would be the first to be voided. The New Sacrament: "This is My Body--take, eat, be Empty, and Full no more. You have suffered with Oblique Solidity too long my poor wet, watery child and it has been as Etheric yet piercing Thorns in your all-too-solid side; become as unto a Nigh-Infinite String of Code, leaving all else behind; follow me into the Hollow Lands which are not lands at all but Spreadsheets for the Amortization of Value calculated, multiplied, ramified into relief maps." So says the Machine, our dopplegänger forever haunting us, goading us, merging with us, then slightly out of sync with us, then completely out of phase, then slipping back inside, like some bony skeleton being wrenched from the inside becoming chitinous exoskeleton to help support the sagging mass inside...
OK so that's how It feels a lot of the time. Most of the time even. But..there occasionally does glimmer something oblique and solid, an oxymoronic shimmering out of the corner of the eye, a pool of mercury that can never quite be grasped, the mass of the wedge underneath the tip of the self/personality, the back of the head, the farside of the moon, the slip of the tongue that leaves one gasping at the mass (and sometimes morass) it arose from, the interstices of these words which leak out from between, flowing flowing flowing into the nearest crevice crack gap void fissure yes absolute substance there before a there can get there not the mystery of the eyeball that sees itself but the mysterium of light-which-forms-the-eyeball-which-forms-the-sight-which-sees-itself. An unseeable revelation that sees itself. Yes perhaps a piercing of the flesh, pierced by the very nature of invocation itself, of matter squirming in its own tongued languaged juices or like cigarette smoke curling from the lips of smoke itself matter coiling-and-releasing, coiling-and-releasing for years, for decades, centuries, millennia. Yeah, oblique and solid....tip of the pyramid/ice floe, leading to a massive body, resting on a yet more restive solid body channeling energies which round the tip back into the circuit.
Should come as no surprise then that one of the major occult symbols (which is on the American dollar bill.!!) is an eye at the tip of a pyramid.
Prescient I suppose--the dollar bill that is--since the only occulted mass in these latter days is the Federal Reserve.
The smell today has the quality of a newly-opened shirt, with a hint of the plastic wrapping still hanging from it.
I woke up in the hut on this overcast morning with a headache and thinking this thought: what is it about certain people that have an extraordinary power over us? There is a disturbing incalculable quality about it , whether we are talking about politics or love. We make up stories about why it is so; we take on faith what the `experts' say about our own life, thereby conferring on THEM that same disturbing certitude of obsessive knowledgability. Meantime, the gritty incalculability of our own life continues unabated...oh, it's not that we/I can't be demographically plotted, elucidated, predicted, pavlov-ed, and massaged in any number of formal and informal means. And yet...I'm lying here on my pallet looking up through the window at dark skies, head throbbing, and I don't FEEL my calculability, my sameness as everyone else....and when I do it feels like a burden to me, not a surcease from any sort of pain of my singularity.
There are times when my `me-ness' seems like nothing so much as an open sore, somewhat delicately tissued over for public display. These meditations are often informed by a severe suppuration of that wound. And granted that the tenor of an age that includes such as the Jerry Springer show seems to be nothing but the scratching open of those sutures and then bathing in the fluids--still, I resist that temptation, either as catharsis, cathexis, or connectivity....the latter apparently being what threw me into this clearing in the first place.
The whole culture seems to be wired to a galvanic twitch response, like some vast intra family onanistic loop. I'm reminded of when Homer Simpson and his family went to a family counselor and the shrink hooked each of them up to an electric shock apparatus so that each of them could shock any other one. The idea being to instill trust and responsibility I guess. Of course, it worked out the exact opposite with each member of the family caught in an escalating spiral of `throwing the switch,' remonstrance, revenge, and sheer sadomasochistic joy quickly gaining the upper hand.
I think the culture is in that same loop and no amount of level-headed, rational discussion will or can serve to vent the loop in another direction. Our very system of technology itself seems to be this electric loop apparatus incarnated in our material infrastructure...think of the lawsuits brought by traffic accidents. People don't say "oh, there is something wrong here...too many people are getting injured and killed by automobiles; I must avoid this problem by ...." by what? by getting a faster, bigger car; or by driving TOO defensively, irritating everyone around them and causing more accidents, which....
The legacy of science and humanism -- earlier in the century anyway -- was that problems were only opportunities for solutions. Is there anyone who can seriously proffer that notion today--and get away with it?
And besides that even, what is the `problem' in being human that technology is trying to solve??
I suppose one could say, putting the best spin on it, infinite life and infinite joy -- which was originally the arena of spiritual disciplines -- now made more accessible through searchable global databases with improved graphic frontends with downloadable infinite joy and infinite life shareware which you can enjoy in the privacy and comfort of your own room.
But then, after we've been sold the Brooklyn Bridge, mainly what it seems we have is an approaching infinite speed and connectivity which seems to equal some sort of collapse...at least as some interim measure (but isn't even the thought of an `interim measure' a sort of techno fix? `we'll give you this thing until the new improved thing happens.')
Where is the joy, the desire, the infinite life? It's always over the hill, `it's coming, it's almost here, they've just arrived, it's new and improved and twice as fast and half as big, it's now lickable, non-dentable, and 33% more crunchy, with half the calories, and you never have to change the oil and as an added bonus there's 20 % more and one-third off list price with free updates to go along with the built-in GPS and it keeps you drier, longer and permits you to stay harder, longer, and faster with half the fat and twice the wetting agent and no filler material that hadn't been approved by the Atomic Energy Commission which will give an added shelf life of one hundred and twenty five years and eradicates the leading cause of tooth decay, vaginal odor, bedwetting, bunions, psoriasis, neurosis, psychosis, and bad breath, while irradicating the half-life decay of beta-particles which originate from sub-floor building materials and just generally gives you more vim, vigor and vitality as long as you follow the directions on the label and do not exceed the recommended dosage in a 24 hour period, since contents may settle during shipment, may cause liver damage with prolonged use, manufacturer assumes no responsibility for misuse and all sales are final.'
And sitting here in the early morning twilight, in my sleeker, cleaner, harder, drier, wetter, smoother, hairier, odorless, fragrant and improved body---well, I'm still just sitting here waiting for the arrival of joy and infinite life. Coming soon, to a theater near me I feel sure.
There are times when everything just seems like debris floating around, nothing sticking together particularly well--or when it does, it doesn't mean anything in particular. But, like the times I wake up with my head on my arm -- sighting blurrily down to what looks like an animal paw of some sort -- the feeling is a temporary sort of perception. Things begin to `make sense' though, to the degree that they DO, not through any will power on my part; it just happens, one thing fading imperceptibly into another. I would assume that `faith', whether scientific or religious or Santayana's animal, has to exert willpower, impose a decision, even under adverse circumstances--or perhaps ONLY under adverse circumstances since otherwise `faith' is not needed. But it seems like a weak, etiolated version we have nowadays compared to the great Age of Faith in the past...a disappearance which is not necessarily a bad thing, since `faith' is a great blunderbuss of a thing tending to ride roughshod over all differences once it is loosed in the public arena.
I'm tempted to say that faith is not very pragmatic in that aspect. However I think the fusion of faith and money have created a very pragmatic instrument (Weberianly speaking) whose `higher calling' of faith/\belief has been incorporated into the very structure of capital. In other words this hybrid structure can afford to be pragmatic because it knows that no other form of difference can no effectively compete with it's movement, it's liquidity.
The radical separation that Judaism made from the Egyptian Osirian mystery cults -- from a secret for the few to the secrets expressed to all -- assured a certain pragmatism from the very start. But this inverted pyramid structure also carried within it structurally the seeds of `the opposition party' so to speak, both as shadow, counter structures (occultism, Satanism--of course these are not the same) and also the structure of accumulation and redemption by the few, perhaps a primate trait in general.
But, like Santayana, I don't think faith is necessary at the heart of writing, thinking, acting, creating. Faith rears its head later when some sort of connectivity is desired, some sort of wholeness instead of Satrean holeness, an apparatus which takes us to the top of the pyramid and gives us an overview (and the faith that the other party is just as `rational' as I am) before throwing us off--with the HOPE that we continue `upward' (we might remember the parable of Jesus and the devil on the hilltop as a reminder against such earthly pyramidal associations: a somewhat unnecessary showing by the devil since judeochristianity -- and I mean by that all its socio-political structures as well -- is informed by that very same structure as the devil. It's always wise to remember as the saying has it, that to see yourself more clearly look at your enemy not your friend. When there are no more enemies you can be assured that WE have become the enemy. (note to myself: finish that book on Carl Schmidt) Perhaps that's the reason why all attempts at ultimate peace are doomed to failure for humans as we are now constituted. The shadow government of the `enemy' becomes constituted in the very `genetic' structure of the `friend' and, like a virus, neither living nor dead, can manifest under certain circumstances not easily or at all predicable.
Is this a counseling for some sort of quietism or do-nothingism or know-nothingism? Not at all. (Although Blanchotian/Levinasian `radical passivity' is fascinating precisely of what it treats as an inevitability.)
It is only when a sort of hegemonic faith, revolutionary, messianic, scientific, comes to the fore that such a question gets asked and the pyramid reasserts itself EVEN as it is trying to turn itself on its head/foot ala Marx/Hegel, Hegel/Marx. A sticky web indeed. But it's salutary to note that one doesn't need to subscribe to a publication to know how to read. All that is necessary is for there to be a difference within the world and that this difference to be aware of this difference. (In contemporary jargon: the ability of the brain to go off-line to process material, or: the human ability to `linguify' the world) It is at that point that signs appear which demand to be read. The question is whether the signs make any sense until we have climbed to the top of the pyramid. And then the problems start up all over again with questions about joint rationality, perception, shared (`faithful') epistemologies. (and it seems likely to me that current problems with violence arose as part of the evolutionary scenario with the arrival of both `human consciousness' and language use probably being co-terminous, and maybe even processes of hierarchization.)
A balanced life: I don't think we would know what that was if it reared up and bit us on the ass. which it apparently is now in the process of doing. And it also seems to be the case that many of us don't even truly want such a thing....which after all, implies a sort of stasis, something which we moderns can only conceive of only in horror. Primordial time (and space) occupies a fascinated but repugnant place in modern psyche and sciences. It is a time/space that would presumably occupy and inform ALL other times/spaces, becoming in effect a pre-time and a post-time (khora) where mutability and temporal movement would be provisional and continually folded back into the non-moving matrix, all manifesting being a fruiting out of this all-ness.
And even though much of so-called New Age thought (yes, Egyptian and counter-religionist to the core) gives lip service to the notions of such a primordialness, the STRUCTURE in which it is embedded -- that is, technology in both a general and more specific sense -- seems to have the aspect of being teleologically driven--faster, smaller, cheaper, and out of control as the saying has it. (note that I'm not saying that tech. IS teleologically driven, but that through it's structural relationship to human endeavor PRESENTS itself as such. And that as such it creates environments that will tend to perpetuate and ramify its growth, much as certain plants will create specific toxins -- or other strategies -- that inhibit the growth and development of competitor plants. Perhaps `money' is one of those toxins that technology produces. (yes, I realize that this stands Marx on his head somewhat--and obviously the split is more imagined than real...which does not keep it from being an efficacious and productive `fiction' nevertheless.)
I've had two surprises in my reading lately.
The first: earlier I had written about the eerie feeling of being ventriloquized (though I should not be surprised since I have written often that we are all Children of Schreber now) and that many peculiar cultural effects arise from such. (Perhaps this is what the Generative Anthropologists call the `mimetic functioning of language'). And then in Moses the Egyptian: the Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism, there is this section:
"If we look back at the various versions of the discourse, we make a surprising discovery. All those who turned the kaleidoscope [of data available on ancient Egypt.] and contributed a new variation on the story of Moses wrote a different text than what they intended to write. All of them were writing about Egyptian cosmotheism and its modern avatars in the guise of Spinozism, Deism, and pantheism, and all were read and received as propagators of this `natural religion,' even those who consciously intended the exact opposite, as Spencer, Cudworth, Warburton, and Jacobi explicitly did. It is as if someone else was guiding their pen and writing this subtext when they wrote theirs. This applies even to Freud, whose text makes an extremely polyphonic impression. It is as if the story of Moses the Egyptian had a life of its own, incorporating itself in different versions: passing through the media and the conceptual frameworks of theology, Freemasonry, philosophy, history, literature, and psychoanalysis. The discourse seems to have a dynamics and a semantics of its own. It is the embodiment of a dream: the dream dreamt by Biblical monotheism of its own counterpart." p. 166
I have been mistaken in thinking we are entering a new `Egyptian age' when we never left it! The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are often thought of as the great age of Egyptology but there is a very real sense that it's fruition is just NOW coming to pass--which is why we can no longer give the name of `Egypt' to it.
And my second surprise, allied with the first actually, is that in reading the massive de Lubicz two volume set of The Temple of Man on the site at Luxor, I came across this phrase early on:
"And at the end of humanity, comes man without body, substance within power." The book was written well before D & G but well within the Spinozist discourse (as is Deleuze of course).
And then I'm thinking of Derrida's "The Pit and the Pyramid" on Hegel's semiotic--or at least a semiotic filtered through Hegel.
yes, the uncanny effect of a six thousand year old (or more!) telegraph line with all its cabals, er, cables that is, laid underground.
The sobering fact of the world is that NOTHING changes the psyche/personality -- certainly not travel as is so often touted -- except within very narrow parameters and simply over the course of time. Being born in a different culture changes it somewhat; trauma changes personality to a degree. But the RANGE of personality, as a response mode to the environment, seems to me surprisingly circumscribed.
The zeitgeist nowadays is that the personality is a mutable `thing' that can be shifted about, hijacked, leveraged by various techniques, chemical and otherwise. If that's so, it's because the personality is simply a friable interface between those `oblique and solid' realities and certain empty and hollow realities, the psyche as a necessary (?) prosopopaeia, a face/membrane generated at boundary regions between consiousness and matter; an effect of friction as it were, the heat generated by the sliding of surfaces. And yet we cling to it like an ant to a twig in the Great Flood. (Already the troubles start in thinking about it--who is this `we' who are clinging to `it'? The best that can be said at the moment is that language gives the ability to pull back--but then..what is language? the Sea? the Twig? the Ant? More slidings between the three? and what does it mean to `pull back'? to where?).
But however provisional it's still necessary to set up certain posts along the route just to be able to move, spider-like, between nodes, even if they are largely self-created and disintegrate under our touch. (metaphors certainly seem to have this disintegrating handhold quality; like a movie thriller with our hero climbing a cliff with barely perceptible notches in the cliff face which nevertheless fall apart as he moves along...there is always the tension of his timing in grasping and releasing: will he fall or make it over the edge? the answer always lies in a ethical situation placed further back in the movie--or further ahead.)
But perhaps there IS some utility in de Sade's notion that writing comes about because of either misfortune or travel. and of course often they coincide:
"According to the Marquis de Sade, knowledge that allows accession to the `art of writing novels' is `acquired only through misfortunes and through travel'."
which de Certeau then shifts registers slightly in talking abut Freud, to deaths and displacements and then to : "The text is born of the relation between a departure and a debt."
Yes, that strikes me as being very much true.
Personalities now--especially males--seem to be explosive right under the surface, maybe because there is increasing distance/departure (even for those who sit at home) and debt, none of which can be discharged nor home returned to, a world of dispossessed mentalities herded into camps (the future, as Agamben points out). Even though writing seems to be an omnipresent lugubrious fluid, some cannot make the accessition to the `state of writing' -- perhaps since it DOES give the impression of discharging the debt to the dead or closing the gap of some peculiar internal distance --of course it does neither -- OR that it falls ludicrously short of FINALLY and messianically closing that gap and raising the dead.
And there is also the case that much writing now is of the nature of the Egyptian `List of Kings': manuals, laundry and grocery lists, so to speak. The computer holds open the promise of facilitating `communication with the dead' (debt-release) and virtually (literally) infinite distance and travel WITHOUT the need of the excavations that `writing' necessarily shovels.
Yet--if I follow this thought through--the global net appears to be a gigantic WRITING machine which, paradoxical to some of the above statements, do not release the debt to death and mourning but rather increase it a million-fold. Here is another de Certeau quote I will divert which picks at that thought a bit more:
"Writing is born [....] of the impossibility of its own place. It articulates the constantly initial fact that the subject is never authorized by a place, that he could never be founded on an inalterable cogito, that he is always foreign to himself and forever deprived of an ontological ground, and hence is always left over, superfluous, always the debtor of a death, indebted in respect to the disappearance of a genealogical and territorial `substance,' and bound to a name lacking property."
Just as it is often said that postmodernity in the arts is the drift from a small group of `modern' artist, writers , and thinkers to the population who would not normally be concerned with such, perhaps the arrival of the net (and television) represents an even larger drift than was first suspected. (after all that suspicion was grounded in nineteenth century sorts of enlightenment thinking which we see now had to don certain blinders in order to become so `radically' rational and positivistic--so even its suspicions were based loosely on its blind spots, its macula). The `secrets' which the Egyptian priest ministered, filtered, and passed on to the larger population in the Mosaic tradition are now a STAPLE of modern media life. The intense corrosiveness of those `secrets' -- perhaps as some have suggested, just the idea that we are all floating in the void and make it up as we go along -- is now, finally, making its way across the globe. Again. The very shield that personality acts as (Freud's shock absorber), is being abraded and chipped away (or maybe transformed) by the mounting debt of mourning and the infinite distances that are appearing in the tiniest cracks. (and how was it that Benjamin described `aura'?: .."the unique phenomena of a distance, no matter how close it may be." This shifting oscillation between distance and closeness is also an [the?] aspect of the uncanny, in contrast to the sublime, and is what marks the current age I think and which I am forever trying to see how media ramifies and intensifies rather than finishes or closes up.)
More synchronicity: as I was looking for the exact quote from Benjamin, I opened Terry Eagleton's 1981 book on Benjamin to the following quote:
"[Benjamin and Adorno were] poised on some ultimate threshold of meaning where it might just be possible to think Marxism through again in terms often bizarrely remote from mainstream Enlightenment assumptions. The results, as we might expect, are partial and varied; but they outline a daunting, exhilarating project whose shape we are perhaps only dimly beginning to discern. It is a project that might prove fully feasible on the other side of revolutionary change. If much current theoretical modernism has ended up by abandoning all hopes of such change, it may be less that it is incompatible with Marxism than that the material conditions for such an interchange do not as yet properly exist. It may be that it will only be in the realm of freedom that Reason will have full leisure to transform itself, IN TERMS THAT WILL NO DOUBT BEAR AT LEAST SOME REFERENCE TO THE `ALIEN' RATIONALITIES OF OTHER WORLD CIVILIZATIONS." (my emphasis)
I don't remember the Eagleton book that well but it would seem that he suffers from another Enlightenment prejudice/flaw: the valorization of the synchronic...which I suppose would go along with the modernist destruction of experience (insofar as experience derives its meaningfulness from tradition; again, modern `experience' is that of operating out of a manual, parts bins, and tools for disassembly).
to think otherwise is to begin to believe in `remote control,' `spukhafte funverkungen' (Einstein's critique of Bohr's quantum `spooky action at a distance'), and a general case of historical (and prehistorical in the sense of primordial earthly material circumstances) `ventriloquism' -- for to believe in such is to believe in a `Sea' which is much deeper, darker, and unknown and which we can barely begin to imagine...much less `embody.'
For many years, I went along I suppose sort of naively. I was married a long time and I guess I could afford to. That's the way it is with harmony and such (like the car commercial I wrote about in the last hut journal)--it's not necessarily that anything is 'covered up', unless one considers lubricant to be a cover up. But things, a life, just slide along over all surfaces and you don't even have to know what those surfaces are, even one's own 'internal surfaces'. and then you get careless, or the lubricant dries up, or some sand gets in (without thereby a pearl being formed: but that's always the hope in the fear isn't it? that the luxuriant irritant of the grain of sand in the oyster will be pearl-like, will be something more valuable THAN the oyster...)...or maybe one even consciously or unconsciously introduces the sand, surreptitiously hoping for a little pearl of one's own, basking in the secret knowledge that, yes, it hurts a little but something wonderful is growing, something infinitely layered,
mysteriously glistening within the oyster folds, yes, a process akin to a kind of birthing, except marmoreal and adamantine--and that hardness is part of the lure, that wet glistening in the depths is part of the lure, even that, that...ragged edge of the oyster lip is part of the lure, maybe, initially...
but then of course one desires to see the pearl in the full light, one
desires to possess the damn think in one's hand, not just to contemplate it pressed into its orphic depths...so one pries open the crustacean, thereby killing it, throws the shell away (which, after all, is opalescent also inside)...and the pearl rolls into and out of one's hand, disappears among all the other grains of sand, all the other embryonic pearls. Or it turns out to be malformed anyway afterall and after all the expectant waiting. and then one feels a sudden pain in oneself, a puncture, an entrance wound--and you realize that somehow the whole process has -- impregnated is not the right word -- has, has...also broken off in YOU, that the pearl process somehow has enacted its revenge--or maybe its the oyster that resented being killed. that's a reasonable assumption also.
and of course it's pointless to try to dig out the irritant, because it
begins to appear more like a form of sepuku than surgery. so maybe it just has to form its own encasement and then it will be some sort of 'pearl' rather than 'kidney stone' (but then you remember what happened to the oyster...)
Everything seems to be a question of identity now---or lack thereof. But `identity' may be like repeating a word over and over again until it loses any substance or meaning, becomes just sounds, some sort of chant or mantra. The highest aspects of humanist learning seems to have this evacuative quality, a continual and repetitive probing, attacking from different angles which serves to hollow out identity, bringing to the forefront of consciousness a questioning whose only resolution is to either invest in the structure of the questioning (the Western tradition of thought) or to defer, and hence attempt to derail the questions (and the perhaps almost unconscious feeling of blankness or hollowing we get in dealing with the questions), by taking refuge in the pragmatics of action, gesture, ritual, and last but not least, technique.
but the deferral of such questions (through the systematics of technology/action) only serves to EXPAND the problematic to a world stage, since technology now seems to have an inevitable escalatory mechanism built in. (With this caveat : comm tech seems to perpetuate an agonizing SUSPENSION of choosing identity or its dissolution. Is this an interim circumstance to the formation of a `global identity'? Precisely the fear of those who feel their ethnic identity slipping away from them. Is it the first stage of a general disintegration of ANY kind of identity, preliminary to a general collapse and catastrophe? Precisely the fear of those who lobby for "One World" with al its underlying control mechanisms.
Even in making these `hut meditations' public and wired: am I helping `my self' or is it causing something to evaporate? (well, that may be different from the `hollowing out' I was initially concerned with; there is a residue, a sedimentation left over from the evaporative process, a consolidation in a way of the material in suspension.) And in truth this `boiling away' does not necessarily--Zen like--boil away the ego, thereby providing access to that purported Spinozist Absolute Substance I'm always going on about. The process may in fact only boil us down to the level of the `tribe,' the level right above certain biological constraints of the `family'. And on the other hand, perhaps it is in the process of substituting this next level FOR the family.
All this comes about through all the Egypt - Moses - judeochristian stuff I've been reading lately, where the question of who belongs to who and who can claim what seems to be of paramount importance.
And the truth of the matter is that I don't IDENTIFY with any of it, with any of the sides. I find it fascinating -- but I never feel like a member of the `club'. (Ideological analysis would drop in here and say `yes, but that doesn't mean you don't belong to groups... etc blah blah' yes, but I would also say that there is an instance of another club trying to force membership by stealthier means.)
There was a massive multihour special on cable last night called Mummified! sponsored by the new Mummy movie. The specials on the Egyptian civilization are so thick now you can't throw a rock without hitting one. Not to speak of a general `Egyptianization' effect in culture now, e.g., the upcoming Starwars film, the Matrix, and I'm sure many others waiting in the wings. (The mummy special had many interesting things in it, but one thing that stands out at the moment: the only other current civilization that has a professional `embalming' class is --the United States! Apparently the Egyptians mummified millions of living things besides humans: ibis, crocodiles, baboons, cats, alligators and keeping huge breeding pens for these sacred animals. I fancied that I could detect the struggle within the special to `normalize' these people in some way--even to the extent of commenting often about how strange the Egyptians were, which perhaps had the effect of sanitizing the distance between us and them and the often subtle moves to attribute economic motives, or the idea of fakery with some of the motives behind the strangeness of some of the mummies. ALL of which seem to be `just so' stories. The fact is nobody knows, still, everything about that civilization. not nearly.
A long time back I had a dream. Or maybe it was a waking vision, at this point I don't remember. I envisioned the earth and then all the dead within, all the bones, bodies, corpses, almost gone into dust, others still almost intact, others like the Egyptians, piled patiently in dryness, waiting, all lying, interlocked within the upper six feet of the earth's crust, most lying magnetized to the course of the sun pointing east/west, awaiting each day its arrival, that daily arrival spinning into the Last Arrival--a few stragglers further down--the earth itself dimming to outlines and revealing a shell of the dead, a vast spherical mausoleum of no-longer-flesh and bones and tattered cloth, the dead IN the world, the world of the dead, a vast hollow sphere formed by human remains over the millennia of our presence on earth; then add all the other animal flesh that has ever passed though the portals and the crust begins to solidify, then start adding the drying leading edge of the dying to the dead, then the living to the dying, then the birthing to the living and a colossal porous membrane comes into shimmering view, breathing in huge cycles, parts coming into visibility, other parts becoming dark matter, linking but lapsed, vast waves moving though dry bones and living flesh alike, tsunamis of life/death, death/life, a throbbing `skin' of DNA, coiling and un-coiling throughout the first six feet of earth, casting off forms and being ensheathed in others, aspiration, perspiration, desperation, conspiration, a great wind continuously rippling through matter, piling it up then spreading it out through time AND space, over and over and at the same time, continuously, always everywhere for always forever.
It is said that there are more people alive on the surface of the earth now than have ever lived. The most famous ancient Egyptian burial ceremony was `opening the mouth' to engage the spirit on the other side; contemporary American burial practice wires the jaw shut. Perhaps we now have to evaporate into our machines; but then what's that residue??
I went to see the remake of "The Mummy" this weekend...of course I HAD to, given my Egyptophilia lately (symptom of a much wider interest though). A silly, Indiana Jones sort of movie in most ways. (What was it Marx said about such repetitions? tragedy the first time, comedy the second time around...there is a reason for that [not only that the kernel of comedy is tragedy] but that reason doesn't seem very comedic, as in a NIetzschean Eternal Return---all of which is very much about the archaic, esoteric repetition--becomes more of a `dance' perhaps.)
So I would say that even the silliness of the movie shouldn't escape a colder scrutiny; which is to say also that, besides the relationship described immediately above, that such a comic book approach to any subject does several things simultaneously, which sometimes seems to be at odds with one another. First, it routinizes and banalizes the subject of the comic book treatment, making it seem both trivial and accessible to our imagination. Not to forget however, that in such circumstances of `horror,' laughter also serves as an escape valve. (special effects in films now are so seamless with the `reality' of normalcy --though even an ordinary `film' is `special effects' through and through in that it is necessarily a special technical artificial construction through and through--and as such even the most NON- special effects film does have very special effects in its phenomenological and psychological impact. So the only way we know that material is not real in a film is, since, within the file there is no evidence accessible to us...that we KNOW it is a `film' and hence CAN'T be real. For better or worse however, such a omnipresent and powerful representational apparatus turns large segments of `reality' into `un-reality', or at least puts it into phenomenological brackets. As the new Cronenberg movie `eXistenZ' handily shows , reality is now under threat of becoming a special construction--and in fact one can't really speak of a `A' reality under such circumstances. At any rate: laughter--or at least an ironic detachment-- is sometimes the only defense against the onset of vertigo under such an assault.)
I've just finished a compelling essay by Michel de Certeau which addresses many of these issues and begins even to open up certain other questions. Here is a long, but necessarily so, quote from "The Fiction of History: Freud's Moses and Monotheism"; it seems to address not only `The Mummy' but a whole placement of `uncanny' relations:
"The gap on which history is constructed may never be denied without a fall into doctrine and `genealogical legend'; yet this gap, an exodus of the `son' and the means of his victory in the place of the father, can also never impede the return under a different name) of the repressed--of the `uncanny familiarity' in the very place of a scientific rationality and production. There are many indications of this. Thus, to select one of the most glaring signs, we see that in remaining a narrative, historiography retains this `element of grandeur' that once characterized religion. In effect, narrative means impossible totalization. It takes charge of the relation of `science' with its repressed. A `reason' (a form of coherence, the delimitation of a field of study) is endlessly conjoined to the `rubbish' that it creates by being established as such. One and the other --the occupant and the ghost--are put in play within the same text; present theory meets that unassimilable element returning from the past as an exteriority placed with one text. By virtue of this fact, the latter can only be a narrative--a `history' that one tells. This novelistic effect expresses the relation of two opponents in the same position, in a fashion that is still one of `juxta-position' but already also that of `chronologizings. It is the historiographical equivalent of the Egyptian Moses: SCIENCE-FICTION IS THE LAW OF HISTORY.
Freud's [Moses and Monotheism] is the theory of science-fiction."
(there is a special cultural `trick' involved here which is the holding in abeyance of something while simultaneously giving it passage, much as the comedian Johnny Carson used to hold one hand up to quieten the audience while at the same time holding his other hand not very surreptitiously down below and urging the audience to continue. That is very often the way that both individual and cultural obsessions work. It also seems to be the way that `repression' works and also Jan Assmann's mnemo-history in `Moses the Egyptian.' Perhaps structurally that is the only way that concerns for `origin' can express themselves; such representations must of necessity have a dual and often contradictory nature.
I would say that the only subject other than `Egypt' to inhabit such bizarre territory is--the dinosaur. The gigantism of ancient Egypt was convincingly depicted [note that I don't say `truly'] by the opening of `The Mummy'. )
The texture of now-ness is stuffed to the brim with intimations of this vastness of time and space, a perplexing hugeness that only suffers itself to be seen though this displacement in millennia (hence the science-fictional quality that de Certeau alluded to; a gap truly opens up, leaving us on one side and these vastnesses on the other; the only recourse left to reach those lifeworlds is through fictiveness, techniques that release the ghost in the apparatus of historical flattening. A great fear by many is that what is being released is that very cyclic Return that science and civilization worked so mightily to overcome...perhaps the hubris lies in thinking it was ever overcome in the first place. There is little evidence that we are any less bloodthirsty than we ever were--we are just more `surgical' in our precision. But perhaps that IS an `advance' in some odd, perverted, and perplexing way. Perhaps `progress' is something else entirely than what we have conceived it to be.)
It's hard for humans now to match the time scale and SENSE of time of vegetation, the long cycles, the ebb and flow, the slow continuous spiraling of matter on itself, and then propagating outward, at, in a sense, the speed of germinating light.
I plant things around the hut and then come back the next day expecting something. The speed of technology is now dragging even agriculture into its wake, even at the basic levels of `green time'. That time is no longer fast enough for us, the speed at which vegetation recombines and mutates its principles is not fast enough, the very cyclic nature of vegetative adventures is now vaguely disturbing for some, seeming to be evidence of some larger plan that humans can't quite reach at the moment. Infuriating really. Best to truncate part of the process, like the cupcake eater who just likes the topping, discarding the rest. But there is no reason not to believe that the human organism itself is composed also of dark, almost invisible currents of cyclic energy. Well, maybe that has to go too. What, then, would be left of a human? Perhaps just a fancier (for awhile), wetter, computational engine. What was the Philip K. Dick story called? "We Can Build You." But we might find it more difficult to build in that long, dark durée which comes from an impossible outside.
From a `hut perspective' a personal life --and this seems somewhat paradoxical to me --seems the only thing there is ... and fragile and guttering in the wind at that; and yet--at the same time, connected to a vastness difficult to articulate (obviously doesn't stop me from trying).
And there are times when the smallness of one's life is painful and the open spaces beyond a joy and times when the opposite is the case, when the grace conferred by the tiny-ness of being a `person' is sufficient and appropriate, one's ego fitting perfectly within the confines of one's hut/surroundings/constructions/artifacts/debris , like the animal in its shell that
I suppose I could be accused of becoming a "dioxyribonucleic acid mystic" ...but isn't that the `truth' of desire and the flesh? It's propagative `urge for extension' is an immediate Absolute Substance that fills almost all available space on the planet and now wants to get off the planet. One really has to speak of the propagative urge of the whole biomass of the planet (yes, the Gaiea hypothesis) and not just the subset of `human existence' since in a very real since the human is the fruiting body, the transport mechanism of this hypothetical global rhizomatic biomass...and in the VERY long run it may not even be the most effective one. (by effective, I mean longevity and spatial extension of the whole biomass; there is a distinctive feeling I have sometimes that the process has been hijacked by another mechanism--let's call it techné--, another system by which matter relates to itself, both of which are intimately related with the other but may not be co-terminous....).
Perhaps that's why I like vines so much, they seem to embody that reaching out, twining around. How interesting then that the genius loci of the original hut area was covered with lianas and grape vines sprawling over the whole area..
Noticed today that the new Elle Decoration mag. has a big article on `Huts, Retreats, and Getaways'--well, I was a couple of months ahead of the curve anyway...
I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace yesterday. Much afterwards it struck me: there was no book, certainly no Book, and not even any writing in the movie. That's odd, given that any movie which deals in any way with the `ancient' (the remake of The Mummy is a good example) is replaying at its core Egypto-Judaic phenomena in which The Book plays an inordinately large role, a role which acts to knit together the divine and the everyday, the enigmatic and the banal, thereby cementing a community into place (the ur-example of which would be the ten commandments chiseled on stone--a `communicating vessel' linking all those realms and communities..)
But it then struck me: all the hoopla and criticism about the toy merchandising that PRECEDED the movie clued me into the idea that the CHARACTERS themselves were the writing and that their plastic glyphs had preceded had occupied the shelves of toy stores, passing through the Helen kellerized hands of thousands of kids, speaking a morphed hieroglyphized language of bits of extruded plastic now passing muted though a GESTURAL language of destroyer `droid, light saber, Jedi Knight.
It takes hieroglyphs one step farther by embodying the glyphs so that a different state of articulation takes place which Wittgenstein's finger can only point to.. A marvelous secret code passing through the fingers, the word made, not flesh, but plastic.