Friday, February 22, 2008

The Apophatic Detective


Pseudo-Dionysius: "Here, renouncing all that the mind may conceive, wrapped entirely in the intangible and the invisible, he belongs completely to him who is beyond everything. Here, being neither oneself nor someone else, one is supremely united by a completely unknowing inactivity of all knowledge, and knows beyond the mind by knowing nothing" (Mystical Theology, 1.3)

Inspector Clouseau: “I believe everything. And l believe nothing. I suspect everyone. And l suspect no one. I gather the facts, examine the clues . . . and before you know it, the case is solved!" (A Shot in the Dark, 1964)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Funny How? Very Funny

A priceless circular hermeneutic moment from last week's Italian American Lit and Film class:

Me: The depth and significance of the Italian American as buffoon stereotype is perhaps best illustrated by the scene in Goodfellas where the Joe Pesci character simultaneously takes offense at being perceived as funny and turns that offense into a joke. In effect, Pesci both fulfills and kills the stereotype.

Student: But the other characters in the scene are Italian American, so that doesn't make sense.

Me: Must the significance, meaning of a scene be limited to the "contents" of the minds of the characters in it? What about other agencies, artistic, cultural, interpretive, bla bla bla?

Another Student: But we know that Pesci improvised that scene, it wasn't in the script.

Me: So you think that Pesci doesn't know what he is doing, that he's just there to amuse you, that he's funny?

Laughter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beyond Beyond: On High on Fire's "The Yeti" (5th Installment)

Eternal legend survives
ANCIENT TEXT, INFINTE MEMORY. Eternal legend’s survival becomes intelligible as we draw the Yeti into memory as existing on the boundary between temporal and atemporal worlds, between time and eternity. The function of the compact, reductive syntax is to make eternal legend simultaneously signify the eternal legend of the Yeti and eternal legend itself. Yet this polysemy, as polysemy about a being on the boundary of time and eternity, is not simply semantic but both sign and instance of an actual phenomenal coincidence. For just as we cannot clearly distinguish between the temporal and atemporal in the person of the Yeti, so is it impossible to draw a clear line between the temporality within legend and the temporality of legend itself. Readings, stories, narratives—all these are at once of time and in time in such a way that places them at once also outside of time. The time of legend is neither the time in its story nor the time of its story but a third dimension containing them both, the time of the reader. Reading, as all about being held in the suspension between the text’s time and the time it takes, reveals being more generally as the experience of a witness, the one who, perceiving its own being in time and the temporality of its perceiving, stands on the outside of time from within it, just as the actor stands outside of a role, is an actor, only by inhabiting it. Legendary time, the temporality of reading, efficiently figures the triune ecstasy of temporal being, whereby the experience of time goes beyond time, not by going to some magic place where there is no time, but by finding in time what is without it, what transcends coming and going, before and after, succession. As Heidegger, commenting on the temporality of discourse, explains, “Temporalizing does not signify that ecstases come in a ‘succession’. The future is not later than having been, and having been is not earlier than the Present. Temporality temporalizes itself as a future which makes present in the process of having been” (Being and Time, 2.4.68d). So Augustine finds in the experience of language the shadow of eternity: “If there were a mind endowed with such great power of knowing and foreknowing that all the past and all the future were known to it as clearly as I know a familiar psalm, that mind would be wonderful beyond belief. We should hold back from it in awe at the thought that nothing in all the history of the past and nothing in all the ages yet to come was hidden from it. It would know all this as surely as, when I sing the psalm, I know what I have already sung and what I have still to sing, how far I am from the beginning and how far from the end” (Confessions, 11.31). TIME IS ETERNAL READING and legend is eternal, not because it lasts forever, but because it is forever, because it lives in the space where time expands beyond time. “Live more and more in the Present which is ever beautiful and stretches away beyond the limits of the past and the future” (Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing, 37). The Yeti lives in, or more precisely is, such a stretching, such a more-and-more, a liminal projection of the other we already are. This is the Yeti’s human-animal monstrasity (see Derrida), his being a distortion disclosing our truer image, a man-surviving monster demonstrating the “other” side of time and death. “Time is not the limitation of being but its relation to infinity. Death is not annihilation but the question that is necessary for this relationship with infinity, or time, to be produced” (Emmanual Levinas, God, Death, and Time, 19). The eternal legend of the Yeti is the story of real being, in other words, the reading-revelation which is precisely that being for whom its being and the story of its being are perfectly fused.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The fact of our being here is so spiritual

The fact of our being here is so spiritual
That there is no word worse for it than spiritual.

Like the signature of someone walking, the way
You happen to be, now, yourself, is spiritual.

I would never the mind the robes, the haircuts, the beads
If their wearing was not so goddamn spiritual.

Our eternal contract to meet in true friendship
When all is said and done is sort of spiritual.

At the electric limit of my hand, a voice:
The foundation of all touching is spiritual.

Text, entering the eye, opening memory,
Moves lightly like a shadow of the spiritual.

Nicola, forgive yourself for failing to say
As its own negation exists the spiritual.