Friday, November 28, 2008


" . . . ninety-nine percent of human suffering is not necessary. Through obstinate ignorance people inflict suffering upon themselves and their fellowmen, and then, strangely enough, they ask, 'Why should we suffer?' Suffering is generally symbolised by scenes of war: devastated houses, broken and bleeding limbs, the agonies of torture and death; but war does not embody any special suffering. People really suffer all the time. They suffer because they are not satisfied--they want more and more. War is more an outcome of the universal suffering of dissatisfaction than an embodiment of representative suffering" (Discourses, II.170).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Becoming Spice, paper abstract

“Becoming Spice: Commentary as Geophilosophy”

Nicola Masciandaro

First, the Phoenix, according to Lactantius, after immolating herself in a nest of spices and before returning to Paradise, “encloses in an ointment of balsam, and in myrrh and dissolved frankincense, all the remains of her own body, and the bones or ashes, and relics of herself [exuvias suas], and with pious mouth brings it into a round form [conglobat], and carrying this with her feet, she goes to the rising of the sun” (Carmen de ave phoenice, lines 118-21).

Item, in the Talmud it is written that “Scripture is as salt, the Mishna as pepper, and the Gemara as spice” (Masekhet Soferim, 15.2).

Item, Rabbi Hanina claimed that “were the Torah, God forbid, to be forgotten in Israel, I would restore it by means of my dialectical arguments [pilpuli, from pilpel, pepper].”

Item, “the Spacing Guild and its navigators, whom the spice has mutated over 4,000 years, use the orange spice gas, which gives them the ability to fold space, that is, travel to any part of universe without moving . . . He who controls the spice controls the universe” (David Lynch, Dune).

Item, “the O.C. [Orange Catholic] Bible and the Commentaries permeated the religious universe” (Frank Herbert, Dune).

Item, “everything swarms [fourmille] with commentaries” (Montaigne, Essays).

Item, “These souls are there bathed in the spices of Paradise, and behold all that is within their capacity to behold” (Zohar, 11.15.181).

Item, “opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mattthew 2:11) . . . “They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices” (John 19:40).

Item, “Feeling intimately for the world is predicated upon a capacity to devour it. In eating the world, boundaries between subject and object are broken down and in another way rigidly maintained. In the poetics of spice, however, a utopian space is imaginable in which boundaries between subject and object evaporate, as they are not predicated on a dialectic of consumer and consumed” (Timothy Morton, The Poetics of Spice).

Item, “And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter” (Revelation 10:10).

Item, “it behooves you to eat the book with Ezechiel, that the belly of your memory may be sweetened within, and thus as with the panther refreshed, to whose breath all beasts and cattle long to approach, the sweet savour of the spices it has eaten may shed a perfume without” (Richard de Bury, Philobiblon).

Item, “Item, be it known that spices pass through several hands in the islands of oriental India before they reach our country . . . Twelfthly, those who use the spices buy them of the retail dealers, and let the high customs duties profits be borne in mind which are levied twelve times upon the spices, the former amounting on each occasion to one pound out of every ten. From this it is to be understood that very great quantities must grow in the East and it need not be wondered that they are worth with us as much as gold” (Martin Behaim, beginning and end of spice island gloss from his copiously annotated terrestrial globe, made in 1492).

Travelling into the improbable beauty and truth of a deep intersection between the terms of this unfinished inventory, my paper will trade in spice as a figure-concept that holds the nature of commentary as geophilosophical practice, as the textual form of philosophy’s belonging to the earth.

(thanks to poetkiosk for pic)