Monday, October 13, 2008

An Imagination that Escapes Imagination

Who imagines us? I can't yet permanently dispel the thought of a phantom imagination, an imagination whose function would be to make animal forms. Am I not animated? How has that come about? I don't think I can begin to answer this line of questioning on my own. Irigaray says:

We want to have the entire world in our head, sometimes the entire world in our heart. We do not see that this gesture transforms the life of the world into something finished, dead, because the world thus loses its own life, a life always foreign to us, other than us.

Thus, if we precisely grasp all that makes the springtime, we would without doubt lose the wondrous contemplation in the face of the mystery of springtime growth, we would lose the life, the vitality, in which this universal renewal has us participate without our being able to know or control where the joy, the force, the desire that animate us come from. If we could analyze each element of energy that reaches us in the explosion of spring, we would lose the global state that we experience by bathing in it through all our sense, our whole body, our whole soul.

We sometimes, at least partially, find this state again, I would say this state of grace, in which the spring puts us, when we are immersed in a new landscape, in an extraordinary cosmic manifestation, when we bathe in an environment that is simultaneously perceptible and imperceptible, knowable and unknowable, visible and invisible to us. We are then situated in a milieu, in an event that escapes our control, our know-how, our inventiveness, our imagination. And our response to this "mystery" is or could be astonishment, wonder, praise, sometimes questioning, but not reproduction, repetition, control, appropriation.

(Between East and West, p. 121-122)

Do I believe in a life of the world? Well, not as a precept but I remain open to the possibility. (A life in the world but not of the world must be imagined.) Perhaps believing in the life of the world would be like believing in the life of phenomenality. The horizons in which things appear are certainly not dead as far I can fathom. We might want to object to a reduction of the world to horizons, but if this is yet another way of talking about how the world is lived we might want to expand our own horizons and let the thought be thought through. It may be that the world has a structure of openness, a source of ambiguity worthy of respect. Yet it's difficult for me to sort these two out, life and world. What exactly is meant by saying "life" remains unclear to me; it seems to be said in at least two senses when talking about the life of the world, implying one sense in order to say explicitly another. Perhaps life itself hesitates to settle on a meaning, and the world's openness and the ambiguity we feel in our encounter with the world's openness are echoes of this more primordial hesitation.

In talking about an imagination that escapes imagination I'm playing with at least two senses of imagination. (I'm committed to this play with imagination, possibly at the risk of playing with commitment.) Imagine an imagination that excludes itself and then imagine as its other an imagination that includes itself. Now imagine an imagination that excludes its other and an imagination that includes its other (a thought similar to }∅{, perhaps, or simply the tao of imagination): are these two imaginations one? With respect to Irigaray's thoughts on the life of the world, would an all-inclusive, absolutely or exclusively inclusive imagination lack a necessary power of imagination, a power not to be included? In short, does the power of escape work reflexively? Does the power of escape work both ways and absolutely at the same time? Can I be open to a world that isn't already open? What does it mean to surpass, to transcend? Where do you go when you transcend? Another world? Another imagination?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:44 AM.


Anonymous Lloyd Mintern said...

It seems to me the mystery of life consists in it's radical incompleteness. Your quote from Irigaray depicts a phoney wonderment of a naive and neutral totality that isn't true to experience, does not in fact reach towards truth or religion, or the limits of thought. Nor is it the working imagination. To me, imagination consists in the variable, unreliable but affective, content of a person's reaction to the world, which has the express power of resupplying the world with strangeness and even greater mystery.

October 14, 2008 10:39 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I like the idea of an express power of resupplying the world with strangeness.

Actually I think there is the germ of truth to experience in Irigaray's words. You might read my response as a criticism, in the abstract, if you wish, though I am of course working out my own problems, following my own path.

Generally speaking, Lloyd, I find the accusation of naivete to be triply suspect. It suggests a vaunted estimation of the accuser's own sophistication. It risks placing to much value on sophistication at the expense of simplicity and plainness. It speaks to a lack of generosity in interpretation, or even a sour disposition that spoils thinking. That said, I note your disapproval of this passage.

October 15, 2008 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Lloyd Mintern said...

Fido, I appreciate your gentle reprimanding, but isn't my point simplicity itself? It may involve responsibility for the speaker and the reader, and vigilance to the task of awareness, but there is no assumption of sophistication in the blunt message that life is incomplete and may be (triumphantly) dealt with as such. In fact, I was trying to cut through what I see as obfuscating, complex thinking.

Of course I should read more of Iragaray--before adopting what I guess is a lecturing tone. But aren't you questioning him yourself? And doesn't his language represent the limit of intellectual posturing? (Despite, or rather on top of, its being content neutral?)

October 15, 2008 10:30 AM  
Blogger Andrew Louis said...

This is a bit of a lateral thought (as I haven't absorbed this yet), but I'm reminded of something Pirsig stated in ZMM:

"...Mark Twain's experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty...."

October 20, 2008 6:35 PM  

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