Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Figure Skater

Jean-Paul Sartre traces a figure eight with his finger and he sees an eight, as if ink poured out of his finger and the figure hung before his eyes. He has a kinesthetic impression of the figure, and an affectivity towards it, but the kinesthetic impression is feeble in comparison to the visual image which totally dominates his consciousness. The differences between Sartre's imagination and my imagination are so great that I question whether anything can be determined about the imagination in general. To begin with there's the proposition that in actuality movements, knowledge and affectivity are one in the imaging consciousness (The Imaginary, p. 92). The image is a synthetic consciousness, not composed of parts like a physical mixture, but equally kinesthetic, affective and intellectual. Perhaps the image shows us a "a certain way that an object has of being absent within its presence" (pp. 72-73). In Sartre's work there is no unconscious, but rather a profusion of consciousnesses, and a metaphysics of presence (and absence). "If we start from knowledge," he says, "we see the image born from an effort of thought to make contact with presences" (p. 67). I'm unsure of whether my imagination will confirm this, or confirm anything Sartre says about the imagination.

I trace a figure eight with my finger, and I don't see an eight as if ink poured out of my finger. I keep tracing. I feel the eight. I see a young woman skating a figure eight, but she is not directly superimposed on the eight traced by my finger. From this angle she looks like she's skating a figure of infinity, though the image is unstable. She skates towards me. She appears vague to me, but I can make out little pompoms, the blue lines of the design on her sweater, the edge where the skate cuts the ice, her powerful calves. It is Terpsichore. I hear her skates. I cease tracing the figure eight with my finger. The sound of her skates persists. It is slow to fade. I can still see a figure, her hands moving behind her back. Just a blur. She becomes more vivid if I shut my eyes, but she fades. The whole of the image, anything but stable, anything but given all at once, fades into the snow. I can still feel the eight in my arms. Hours later I can still feel the eight in my arms and it helps me recall the sound of her skates. I am skating vicariously, and I feel it in my muscles, and in my sense of balance.

Why is it that Terpsichore smiles upon me and not, apparently, upon Jean-Paul Sartre? Is it her being as a presence I contact in my hearing, in my sense of balance? It feels more like she contacts me. The effort is hers, not mine. My effort was misdirected. Sartre's muse did not come to me when I needed to imagine a figure eight. Sartre says that "the existence of a psychic phenomenon and the meaning it has for consciousness are one" (p. 19). Here we must distinguish between the image of Terpsichore and the muse herself. How is the muse's presence like the presence of anything else that appears to consciousness? I may grant that muses are psychic, but are they phenomena? What could they themselves mean? What knowledge can I have of the muses? Their moods are mysterious to me. They come and go as they please, like and dislike whom they will. Perhaps they have a way of being absent in their presences, but I couldn't say what that might mean. The muses are neither consciousnesses nor unconsciousnesses, neither to nor of nor from but perhaps for consciousness. They are visitors with stories of travels far and wide. The best one can do is to be hospitable, to cultivate a hospitality of the imagination.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:11 AM.


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