Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Ghost of Nancy's Intrus

The narratable self that listens to her story, and is one because of the familiar, narrative structure of memory, transfers this irreflexive unity, even in the most manifest fragmentarity of the text. Moreover, it is above all the autobiographical impulse of memory that produces discontinuous and fragmentary texts, which, although untrustworthy and elusive, can nonetheless never be exchanged for someone else's story–as happens in the magnificent textual games of Jorge Luis Borges. This everyday certainty of the self, which comes from sensing oneself to be 'this and not another,' indeed continues to resist both the inimitable pleasure of Borges' inventions, and the more refined enticements of contemporary theory–which continue to impose upon the self the pleasure, if not the necessity, of the infinite dissolution of her internal and multiple alterity.

Signigicantly, with this spontaneous resistance–which seems, at first sight, to be based upon the banality of good sense–the narratable self ends up doing a good service for philosophy. Indeed, philosophy ought to be more cautious in playing around with the endless game of the other. By continuing to transport the category of alterity into the intimacy of the self, contemporary philosophy in fact produces the inevitable consequence of impeding every serious naming of the other in so far as he/she is an other.

As Arendt teaches us, a unique being is such only in the relation, and the context, of a plurality of others, which, likewise unique themselves, are distinguished reciprocally–the one from the other. The story of a unique being is obviously never the monotonous and monolithic story of an idem, but is always the unpredictable and multi-vocal story of an ipse. Although it changes in the course of its life and in the course of its story–even to the point of no longer seeming or feeling the same–this ipse, like Oedipus, is 'this and not another' from the beginning to the end of this life and this story.

(Relating Narratives, p. 43, Cavarero's emphasis, my bold)

Nancy's intrus has been haunting me. As I've been doing physical exercises the body I call mine has been changing. What makes this body a body, what gives it the consistency of a body? The heart–but Nancy's intrus haunts me, stands between me and the heart–and yet I feel the heart grow stronger. It doesn't feel disembodied, yet I can't precisely give it boundaries. I drink water prodigiously. It feels like water is also my body, woven in with my muscles. Pumped. A realization about my watery body came to me Monday night after forgetting to take my meds. I couldn't sleep. It was as if a demon possessed me, the mirror image of a beast that comes to me sometimes in nightmares. The beast is not exactly familiar, since it always frightens me, surprises me, it takes many forms, and still I am familiar with its force and its anger, its refusal to lie down. It feels like I'm repressing a tremendous rage, and also something more vital. Joy perhaps. Who is this person who refuses to sleep? How can I have an everyday certainty of the self in this situation? And is it really so unusual to be uncertain about the self? Whose thoughts are these? I don't imagine I'd want to give Nancy a big wet kiss, but I take his words (translated mostly) and put them in my mouth, allow them to circulate, allow them to go to my head. I read a description of psychasthenia and think oh yeah, this too describes a reality. Under the right set of circumstances it could be my reality. The psychasthenic self would be no less of a self than Cavarero's narratable self with its everyday certainty. In counterpoint to this certainty of self, Cavarero notes an unpredictability and a multivocality of the self. Could my familiarity with my unpredictable and polyvalent ipseity be anything but a desire? If I recognize the uniqueness of existents I wouldn't want to say that estrangement draws its boundaries in and around me exactly as it does in and around you. The boundaries of estrangement are negotiated in the context of a plurality of others. In our life together there is the remains to be seen. I have my doubts about the exposure of the existent, chief among them the sense that the existent is exposed in an instant, or already always exposed. If there is a desire for narration of one's life story, perhaps there is also desire for the remains to be seen. Oh yeah, and ghosts.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:33 AM.


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