Monday, March 02, 2009

Haute École: Laffy Taffy

Lefebvre writes:

One could reach, by a twisty road and paradoxically beginning with bodies, the (concrete) universal that the political and philosophical mainstream targeted but did not reach, let alone realise: if rhythm consolidates its theoretical status, if it reveals itself as a valid concept for thought and as a support in practice, is it not this concrete universal that philosophical systems have lacked, that political organisations have forgotten, but which is lived, tested, touched in the sensible and the corporeal?

(Rhythmanalyis, pp. 44-45)

We should be critical of our concrete universal, put it through its paces. In his discussion of dressage, which he says bases itself on repetition, Lefebvre notes that repetition, while apparently being simply mechanical in animals, is ritualized in humans (p. 39). Perhaps ritualization would explain why so many thinkers attribute transformative powers to repetition. Our transformations are, however, not beyond scrutiny. "Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world," yada yada yada. Undo repetition and the world comes undone. The person is lost, barely a person at all. Should we then be surprised to find that belief in repetition is strongest among the highly educated? Surprise. Lefebvre says, "Dressage fills the place of the unforeseen, of the initiative of living beings" (p. 40). Improbably one day surprise will not consort with spontaneity, nor spontaneity with initiative. Recognizing such an improbability is a first step in reclaiming initiative. There may be no end to surprise, foreseeable or otherwise. What is the transformative power of reclamation? What power do we have, really, to transform surprise or spontaneity? Yet initiations are surely within our power–unless we have given it over in advance somehow to repetition. A paradox: even our reclamations from repetition would base themselves upon a method, a dressage, certain ritual movements, numerated or numerative movements–yes, sooner or later we are going to have to get down and dirty with ordinality, and that may hold a surprise for us if we are holding fast to a certain figure of mind-body unity. Can initiation even be said to begin without ordinality? A cop out: initiation is undertaken in rhythm with ordinality–and why not? We don't know whether ordinality is a purely noetic function that could possibly exist at a remove from kinesis. Lefebrvre argues that each segment of the body and each organ has its own rhythm which is in accord or discord with the others (p. 38). Let's keep that in mind as we ponder whether ordinality yields rhythm, or whether rhythm yields ordinality–surely these are concepts of different orders, they could be explained if only properly ordered. But in fact I'm not so sure. In the same way repetition may be said to be an abstraction from concrete rhythm, rhythm may be an abstraction from a more concrete polyrhythm. By a twisty road we learn rhythm from polyrhythm. Or so we believe. My heart beats without my thinking about it, yet I put it through its paces, and can exercise some smidgeon of control over it, set one rhythm in accord with another. Is this smidgeon enough to sustain an illusion that I have mastered rhythm instead of merely succumbing to it? Is ordinality itself a succumbent gesture? (And so we begin to peel away initiative from spontaneity.)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:09 AM.


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