Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Rhythm of Loss

"Deprived of world," "weary of fruitless attempts to identify with something on the outside," "death infecting life," "the outside-of-meaning," "engulfed" in a loss "for want of the ability to name an object of desire": these are not the words of Lars Svendsen describing existential boredom, but rather Julia Kristeva describing abjection (Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez, Columbia University Press, 1982). There are some notable differences between the two. "Essentially different from 'uncaniness,' more violent too, abjection is elaborated through a failure to recognize its kin; nothing is familiar, not even the shadow of a memory" (p. 5). If abjection differs from Unheimlichkeit, it nonetheless involves a rupture with the sense of place. "[T]he space that engrosses the deject [the one by whom the abject exists], the excluded, is never one, nor homogeneous, nor totalizable, but essentially divisible, foldable, and catastrophic" (p. 8). The deject is a stray whose existential question is not "Who am I?" but "Where am I?"

"The abject is the violence of mourning for an 'object' that always already been lost" (p. 15, my emphasis). We might think of boredom as a kind of violence, something for which we would rather substitute dialogue, but boredom doesn't feel quite like a violence, not the way abjection does. The deject has swallowed up, instead of maternal love, "an emptiness, or rather a maternal hatred" (p. 6). "The 'unconscious' contents remain here excluded but in strange fashion: not radically enough for a secure differentiation between subject and object, and yet clearly enough for a defensive position to be established" (p. 7, Kristeva's emphasis). There is material here for an existential essay on the mood, the disposition, of dejection. Kristeva, however, draws us into the psychology of a condition and its literary and cultural elaborations, an essay on abjection.

Jacky Bowring asks, perspicaciously, whether loss has a form. I will ask, rather boringly by now, whether loss has a rhythm, and whether its rhythm could other than a brutal pulsative function. "The time of abjection is double: a time of oblivion and thunder, of veiled infinity and the moment when revelation bursts forth" (p. 9). So abjection has a pulse. It also becomes rhythm. Kristeva tells us that the abject is repeated. (I'll leave aside for the moment the problems of Kristeva's eternal return and of repetition;) One can bring abjection "into being a second time, and different from the original impurity. It is a repetition through rhythm and song, therefore through what is not yet, or no longer is 'meaning,' but arranges, defers, differntiates and organizes, harmonizes pathos, bile, warmth and enthusiasm" (p. 28).

Kristeva adopts a Freudian stance to the problem of abjection. She believes it causes a "sad analytic silence to hover above a strange, foreign discourse, which, strictly speaking, shatters verbal communication (made up of a knowledge and a truth that are nevertheless heard) by means of a device that mimics terror, enthusiasm, or orgy, and is more closely related to rhythm and song that it is to the World" (p. 30). The approach leads me outside, or rather off, my ambit, but I will let Kristeva call the tune because I am curious about this strange discourse more related to rhythm than to the world.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:00 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think these paragaphs address this topic.

We are all profoundly unhappy and depressed at the core of our being.
Ragged, ecstatic, uncaused Happiness is taboo.

Western culture is all about identification with the gross meat-body. The meat body is literally a death machine. It is not merely going to die sometime in the future, it is patterned to die. It intends to die, and even progressively brings itself to death.

Thus, from the moment of its birth, the gross physical human body, in and of itself, is not about life, but about death. Therefore, to truly be about life requires a unique and profound disposition.

Having identified with this dying body we are bound to a "cultural" program which is really about death and the fear of death.

The common human world is now characteristically, and altogether, invested in this gross disposition of identification with the seemingly separate gross physical body, and, therefore, the common human world is becoming overwhelmed with the "culture" of death.

This "culture" of death, which is, in actuality, an anti-culture, is not merely the result of some philosophical "taste" for the idea of death. Most fundamentally, the "culture" of death arises from the universal ego-act of identification with the apparently separate gross physical body. The inevitable result of this ego-act is that consciousness becomes identified with the patterned "program" of death and fails to generate, or even allow for the possibility of, any greater philosophy.

The usual exoteric religiosity cannot really be believed by the separative body-mind. Nor can it offer a truly effective counter to the "program" of death, because it is generated by the same separative meat body, that wants to believe it. The negative force of the death "program" with which we have identified is always much more powerful than any and all postive affirmations or intentions.

The presumption of subjective identification a meat-body is the same as believing, and hence acting on, the presumption of matter only, or materialism. It is a philosophy of the dead.

Both the "culture" of materialism and exoteric religiosity is identified with a fundamental, and, in its implications, disastrous, misunderstanding of the nature of Reality.

The much vaunted mind is a beginningless and endless program of opposites. Therefore, the use of the mind, no matter finely honed, never, in and of itself, results in the Truth or even Happiness.

The pattern of opposites is simply an automatic play upon "point of view". No Truth, and also, no Happiness, or even any fundamental understanding of anything, ever comes as a result of any engagement in, or study, quantification, or analysis of, that pattern. To involve yourself in the pattern of opposites is to be commited to and endless struggle and purposeless drama.

Is their any solution to this seemingly endless tragic drama?

Yes, it must come in the form of a death-transcending culture of life itself, which is necessarily a culture of Spiritual Practice, and ultimately the Culture of Divine Life.

How does that occur? By a Divine-Grace-Given Awakening and the necessary counter-egoic response to that freely Given Divine Grace.

Where? How? What? Who? When? Where?

September 19, 2007 9:56 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

"Thus, from the moment of its birth, the gross physical human body, in and of itself, is not about life, but about death. Therefore, to truly be about life requires a unique and profound disposition."

There are ways of looking at the body as dead but living bodies are eminently alive, and there are ways of looking at the body as alive, and ways of "living" the body instead of merely having a body. Here I am not talking about a subjective identification with a piece of meat.

I might say that to truly be about life requires unique and profound dispositions--perhaps there are as many such dispositions as there are living beings, and then some.

Kristeva speaks elsewhere of depression, and Svendsen takes some pains to distinguish boredom from melancholy (the word "depression" doesn't figure much). The topic of loss does seem related to depression too. I think it goes too far, however, to say that we are all depressed.

You should check out Zombo.

September 20, 2007 8:06 AM  

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