Monday, August 31, 2009

INDIVIDUATION: THIS STUPIDITY

I will diminish and go into the West, and remain Galadriel—Galadriel
Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf—Gandalf

PROEM & GLOSS

Event of oneself, ongoing primordial,

Without way or opening, a very hard fall.

'Kaspar Hauser: Well, it seems to me . . . that my coming into this world . . . was a terribly hard fall! Professor Daumer: But Kaspar! That . . . No, that's not . . . How should I explain it to you?’ (Herzog 1974). ‘Who am I? How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and the regulations but just thrust into the ranks? . . . And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?’ (Kierkegaard, 1983, 200).

In the beginning, beginning’s very middle,

See my blinding opening, your pure white hole.

‘[S]ometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement—why am I myself? What astonishes me . . . is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about?’ (de Beauvoir, 1974, 1). ‘We now know the location of this narrow passage through which thought is able to exit from itself—it is through facticity, and through facticity alone, that we are able to make our way towards the absolute’ (Meillassoux, 2008, 63). ‘Individuation as such, as it operates beneath all forms, in inseparable from a pure ground that it brings to the surface and trails with it. It is difficult to describe this ground, or the terror and attraction it excites’ (Deleuze, 1994, 152).

Summoned by something making answering its call,

Walking an opening where stepping is trail.

‘This characteristic of Dasein’s Being—this “that it is”—is veiled in its “whence” and “whither”, yet disclosed in itself all the more unveiledly; we call it the “thrownness” of this entity into its “there”; indeed, it is thrown in such a way that, as Being-in-the-world, it is its “there”’ (Heidegger, 1962, 174). ‘When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which comes before and after . . . the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then. Who put me here?’ (Pascal, 1966, no. 68).

Stumbling perfectly, on stumbling, the way a ball,

Deep surface, no opening, feels, cannot, its roll.

‘Just as stone is first presented to the intellect as something in its own right and not as universal or singular, neither is stone first grasped through a second intention, nor is universality a part of the meaning of the concept, but the mind understands the nature of stone for what it is in itself and not as universal or as particular or singular,—so in its extramental existence stone is primarily neither one nor many numerically, yet it has its own proper unity which is less than the unity pertaining to a singular’ (Scotus, 2005, sect. 32). ‘In the abandon in which I am lost, the empirical knowledge of my similarity with others is irrelevant, for the essence of my self arises from this—that nothing will be able to replace it: the feeling of my fundamental improbability situates me in the world where I remain as though foreign to it, absolutely foreign’ (Bataille, 1988, 69).

Will these clauses, unconcluding, speak being’s wheel,

Our anarchic opening, foundation beyond frail?

‘As for the soul being ‘mixed up’ I dare say we’ve the whole divina commedia going on inside us. . . . The real mediation is, however, the meditation on one’s identity. Ah, voilà une chose!! You try it. You try finding out why you’re you & not somebody else. And who in the blazes are you anyhow? A voilà une chose!’ (Pound, 1984, 206). ‘[I]nterpreting is itself a possible and distinctive how of the character of being of facticity. Interpreting is a being which belongs to the being of factical life itself. If one were to describe facticity—improperly—as the “object” of hermeneutics (as plants are described as the objects of botany), then one would find this (hermeneutics) in its own object itself (as if analogously plants, what and how they are, came along with botany and from it)’ (Heidegger, 2008, 12).

Or are they, caught underneath, wax to empty seal,

Signs only of opening, of depths unreal?

‘Even more than the style, the very rhythm of our life is based on the good standing of rebellion. Loath to admit a universal identity, we posit individuation, heterogeneity as a primordial phenomenon. . . . to revolt is to postulate this heterogeneity, to conceive it as somehow anterior to the advent of beings and objects’ (Cioran, 1998, 42). ‘Don Quixote, steeled by his intrepid heart, leapt upon Rocinante, grasped his little round shield, clasped his pike and said: “Friend Sancho, I would have you know that I was born, by the will of heaven, in this iron age of ours, to revive in it the age of gold, or golden age, as it is often called. I am the man, I repeat, for whom dangers, great exploits, valiant deeds are reserved”’ (Cervantes, 2001, 154).

Event of oneself, so perversely actual,

Queerest opening, a sparrow through the hall.

‘Another of the king’s [Edwin’s] chief men signified his agreement with this prudent argument [in favor of accepting Christianity], and went on to say: ‘Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting on a winter’s day with your thegns and counselors. . . . Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it’’ (Bede, 1990, 129). ‘God or the good or the place does not take place, but is the taking-place of the entities, their innermost exteriority. The being-worm of the worm, the being-stone of the stone, is divine. . . . Evil, on the other hand, is the reduction of the taking-place of things to a fact like others, the forgetting of the transcendence inherent in the very taking-place of things’ (Agamben, 1993, 14).

ESSAY

Why am I me? A stupid question. Stupid. Not that one is in error to ask it—though one is certainly wandering. Not because it might be unanswerable, or lead into a bottomless, abyssic tautology. The question is stupid because its brings me face to face with an essential stupidity, with my stupidness, with stupid human being. This stupidity is not simple, not a matter of straightforward inability or blindness. It is complex, intractable, so enrooted as to be almost unintelligible—a kind of radical neural network that flashes within intelligence, stupefying it towards itself: a vision that is blind, a blindness within vision, an ability that is unable, an inability within ability. Accordingly, I know the question, but do not really ask it. Or I sincerely pose the question, and proceed no further. Or I indulge the question endlessly, in all permutations of emphasis. Or I suddenly discover an answer and it does not matter. Or I fail to think the question and wonder why. Or I sleep, or wake, merely staring at its feeling. And so on. I am too stupid to answer this question. And to ask it, just stupid enough.

What is the mechanism of such stupid questioning? I imagine a small organ, neither inside nor outside myself, like a polymelic phantom limb, a subtle psychic appendage implanted at birth behind my crown, during the moment of my coming to be, whenever that was. This organ (or appendix, or tumor), whose painful inflammation is despair—‘despair is the paroxysm of individuation’(Cioran, 1996, 59)—is like a strange supplementary bodily member, intimate and inessential, which I can feel yet not move, barely move yet without feeling. Stupid organ, organ of stupidity. It moves, is moved, like an inalienable shackle, only to reinforce its immobility. Am I to sever this organ, hemorrhage of haecceity, escape it? ‘[E]scape is the need to get out of oneself, that is, to break that most radical and unalterably binding of chains, the fact that the I [moi] is oneself [soi-même]’ (Levinas, 2003, 55). Just who, then, would escape? See Peter Sellers, tugging at a fake beard that will not come off.[1] When you finally free and find yourself, you do not even have the last laugh! Or do I strengthen this organ, exercise it until it evolves and flowers, on the day that today becomes paradise, into a halo? A very special monstrous growth then,[2] means of the apotheosis of monstrosity, something whose troublesome spasm is really the vibrational awakening of a primordially inherited perfection.[3] This stupidity: penumbra of whatever being, like the distorted self-shadow that a lamp casts by its own light.

This stupidity, an omnipresent blankness faced in the mirror of Why am I me?, is a glitch in the system, a malady whose unaccountable advent calls the integrity of everything wholly into question. A bug, something at once alien and endemic to system as such. An infinitely intrinsic whim or non-interpretable decision suspending each entity in its ownmost location, giving its event the inalienable status of an empyrean conspiracy. Whence Scotus’s doctrine of haecceity as the ontic summit of a creature: ‘in those beings which are the highest and most important, it is the individual that is primarily intended by God’ (Scotus, 2005, xxi).[4] This stupidity is a human stupidity, afflicting in one stroke my species-being (why am I not a cat?), the arbitrariness of my identity (why am I not you?), and my being as such (why am I happening at all?). But this stupidity belongs equally to every entity, and also to non-entities, who with respect to individuation are totally people too. Whence I envision Nothing to be the supreme commentator on Heidegger’s interpretation of Why are there beings at all, instead of nothing? as ‘first in rank for us as the broadest, as the deepest, and finally as the most originary question’ (Heidegger, 2000, 2). Nothing notes in the margin, ‘That is a nice question for you, but why am I nothing rather than something?’ Why am I me? arrives as a question at once more originary, more immediate, and more telic. Long ‘after’ and long ‘before’ the existence of anything and everything is accounted for, the one-sided asymmetry that individuation articulates remains, this stupidity whereby whatever is is inexplicably caught being itself. For although Why am I me? meaningfully intersects with Why anything? as its individualization, it is superiorly profound by virtue of being more purely factical. Individuation indicates the incommensurable actuality according to which whatever is is in fact such as it is. Individuation captures the concrete, specific actuality of facticity.[5] It names the invisible and horribly palpable loop whereby everything, even nothing, is anarchically something. Heidegger would trace individuation to time (1995, 80-2). Yet time itself is fatally afflicted or wholly perforated by it, produced as a perfect plenitude of individuation’s hole. Why is it now (whenever) now? Why are we postmedieval?

We who? We is a person immunizing themselves against this stupidity, someone hiding the senselessness of we inside its own repetition.[6] Usually the human we (human as we), or some subset collectivizing itself as universal. Whence the inevitable appearance of the animal as mirror wherein to see this stupidity, ‘sheep [who] do not stand alone or suffer individuation’ (Ronell, 2002, 54), ‘animals [who] are in a sense forewarned against this ground, protected by their explicit forms’ (Deleuze, 1994, 152), a cat who observes that ‘One comes through life and to life, without ever knowing how. At least that is how it was with me’ (Heller-Roazen, 2007, 15),[7] another whom Derrida therefore is (following) (Derrida, 2008, 56). With them, I seriously enjoy understanding this stupidity, staring at it intelligently: ‘Stupidity is neither the ground nor the individual, but rather this relation in which individuation brings the ground to the surface without being able to give it form’ (Deleuze, 1994, 152). But that is not enough. It will not do. I will not submit myself. Not to the cowardice of definition.[8] Not to any community of the question, even/especially one that takes the cosmic egg as its wall. I must do something truly stupid. I will love.[9]

EPILOGUE


Love blazes beyond the horizon of our dreams,
A silence lighting the world and burning what seems.

The taken-for-granted gravity of being, love
Joins impossibly, within, below, and above.

Are they in love or is love in them? No one knows
Why, how, where, when this fact, force, feeling, or form grows.

Discourse dies in the real presence of lovers’ eyes,
A breathless Icarus falling through flaming skies.

Hold firm to love, the only firmness, the real real,
A constant heart-command holding the self’s own seal.

Listen close to love, the secret whispering sign,
A word-sword quietly killing I, me, and mine.

Love tells Nicola this, a bright, dark speaking sun.
Love remembers us, truly friend, not we but one.

WORKS CITED

Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. The Coming Community. Trans. Michael Hardt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Agamben, Giorgio. 2007. Profanations. Trans. Jeff Fort. New York: Zone.

Bataille, George. 1988. Inner Experience. Trans. Leslie Anne Boldt. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

de Beauvoir, Simone. 1974. All Said and Done. Trans. Patrick O’Brien. New York: Putnam.

Bede. 1990. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Trans. David Hugh Farmer. New York: Penguin.

Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. 2001. Don Quixote. Trans. John Rutherford. New York: Penguin.

Cioran, E. M.. 1996. On the Heights of Despair. Trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cioran, E. M. 1975. A Short History of Decayi. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Arcade.

Cioran, E. M. 1988. The Temptation to Exist. Trans. Richard Howard. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia.

Derrida, Jacques. 2008. The Animal That Therefore I Am. Ed. Marie-Louise Mallet. Trans. David Willis. New York: Fordham.

Hart, James G. 2009. Who One Is, Book One: Meontology of the ‘I’: A Transcendental Phenomenology. London: Springer.

Heidegger, Martin. 1988. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

Heidegger, Martin. 1995. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Heidegger, Martin. 2000. ‘The Fundamental Question of Metaphysics.’ In Introduction to Metaphysics. Trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 2008. Ontology—The Hermeneutics of Facticity. Trans. John van Buren. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Heller-Roazen, Daniel. 2007. The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation. New York: Zone.

Herzog, Werner, dir. 1974. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

Kierkegaard, Søren. 1983. Fear and Trembling; Repetition. Trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Levinas, Emmanuel. 2003. On Escape. Trans. Bettina Bergo. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Meillassoux, Quentin. 2008. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Trans. Ray Brassier. London: Continuum.

Pascal, Blaise. 1966. Pensées. Trans. A. J. Krailsheimer. New York: Penguin.

Pound, Ezra and Dorothy Shakespear. 1984. Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear, Their Letters, 1909-1914. Ed. Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz. New York: New Directions.

Ronell, Avital. 2002. Stupidity. Urbana: University of Illinois.

Scotus, John Duns. 2005. Early Oxford Lecture on Individuation. Trans. Allan B. Wolter. St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute.



[1] In the final scene of After the Fox (1966), starring Peter Sellers, criminal mastermind Aldo Vanucci, a.k.a The Fox, escapes prison disguised as a doctor, also played by Peter Sellers, whom he leaves tied up in his cell. A crucial element of Vanucci’s disguise is a fake beard. After clearing the prison gates, he tries to remove it, but it will not come off. He, whoever he now is, exclaims, ‘My God, the wrong man has escaped!’

[2] ‘A being—a face, a gesture, an event—is special when, without resembling any other, it resembles all the others’ (Agamben, 2007, 59).

[3] ‘It does not take place in things, but at their periphery, in the space of ease between every thing and itself . . . This imperceptible trembling of the finite that makes its limits indeterminate and allows it to blend, to make itself whatever, is the tiny displacement that every thing must accomplish in the messianic world’ (Agamben, 1993, 53-5).

[4] Citing Ordinatio II, d.3, n.251 (7, 514).

[5] In scholastic philosophy, the specificity of actuality is worked out via the concept of concreation: ‘The actualness of the created is not itself actual; it is not itself in need of a coming-to-be or a being-created. Therefore, it may not be said that actuality is something created. It is rather quid concreatum, concreated with the creation of a created thing’ (Heidegger, 1988, 104).

[6] ‘Thus one can find a senior scientist and professor of genetics . . . claiming that by knowing our genomes, “we will begin to know ourselves for the first time.” Such a naturalistic perspective of the human sciences typically makes impossible the distinction between the person’s individuation essentially through herself, per se, and through other extrinsic contingent factors, per accidens’ (Hart, 2009, 368).

[7] Citing Hoffmann’s Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (Frankfurt: Insel, 1976), 16.

[8] ‘We define only out of despair. We must have a formula, we must even have many, if only to give justification to the mind and a façade to the void’ (Cioran, 1975, 48).

[9] ‘Seeing something simply in its being-thus—irreparable, but not for that reason necessary; thus, but not for that reason contingent—is love’ (Agamben, 1993, 105).

9 comments:

Dylan Trigg said...

I'm enjoying digesting this greatly.

Thank you,

Dylan

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Thanks! And especially for leading me to your writings on so many objects of common interest. Have you listened to T.O.M.B.? He plays ruins, abandoned artillery factories and the like.

Dylan Trigg said...

Thank you. The T.O.M.B link leads back to me(!). Sounds interesting, though, let me track it down.

Dylan Trigg said...

Tracked them down on MySpace. Yes, good stuff.I liked the video - Bethlehem Steel Works is a great place.

What is interesting, is how "nature" has assumed a redemptive role in Black Metal. And actually, save for Blut aus Nord, I don't think many bands have treated the urban landscape in a similar light - so T.O.M.B is an interesting case. Need to spend more time with the music - it has elements of Raison d'etre, the dark ambient project, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing.

On music inspired by derelict asylums, do you know: Transformalin by Diagnose: Lebensgefahr? Bit of an oddity, but worth a listen.

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Woops, my copy and pasting crossed paths with adding link to your blog. A nice accidental allegory though! Meant to link here.

Perhaps there is a *cloacal* black metal trajectory, urban nigredo, decent into waste. Cf. Stiny Plamenu. And when interviewed about living in NY, Dominick of Ash Pool said "Bloated and powerful, crumbling and self-destructive. It blooms and wilts simultaneously."

Different of course from the visceral death metal gross out. Maybe just a simple opposition of geometries, concave vs. convex: black metal believes in caves, in the truly chthonic, even if they are filled (Xasthur's 'Abysmal Depths Are Flooded') whereas death metal tries to turn things inside out, turn all depths to surface.

See also Absonus Noctis's excellent Penumbral Ignorantia, all about descent and transformation.

Transformalin--makes me think of my slow motion drawing and quartering with plenty of anaesthesia!

Cheers,

Nicola

Dylan Trigg said...

Yes, "urban nigredo." Nicely put. Indeed, I suppose the very idea of nigredo, with its emphasis on teleology and process, is a major theme in Black Metal's distinction to Death Metal.

The "gross out," visceral horror aspect of DM also compounds things. For instance, I'm spending some thinking about whether the supposed nihilism at the heart of some corners of Black Metal, isn't more like a ruse, a pretence which belies a deeper attachment to things. When I listen to Burzum, or something recent like Lantlôs, then I experience the "descent into waste" as more the pathos of clutching to the banks of the river. Alcest are interesting here, given the project's foundations on explicit nostalgia.

Which goes back to the nigredo - if teleology, becoming, eventual unity (even within dissolution), is at the core of Black Metal, then its presentation as pessimistic needs rethinking.

In many way, the "comic" aspects of some Death Metal, together with the absence of any teleology, would seem to render it somehow more nihilistic than BM, at least in a post-modernist way. A surface within a surface. And Death Metal is a very postmodern affair, I think, save for Schuldiner's Death, who always seemed to me sharing more of a Black Metal worldview, and therefore more appealing in many respects.

Hm, sorry for the long comment. Will follow up your suggestions. Any band whose lyrical theme is "sewers" has to be worth listening to!

Dylan

Benoît Barberousse said...

Reading this again, I could only think of Plato's Symposium, where we find Diotima explaining the function of love as "giving birth in beauty both in body and mind." I intimate a rich, vibrant collision between the themes of nativity and immortality there that are bound up with love and your pursuit of this fundamental indicator of our finitude in the anxious question, "Why am I me?"

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Dylan: ruse for a deeper attachment indeed, and of the first order, with a premium on trapping oneself. Cf. DF on Xasthur: "Perhaps this is where any “hauntological” valence in Xasthur might be located: the reapparition, out of its proper time, of such an abyssal mourning for God (albeit in the guise of contempt and loathing), such a profound faith in the potency of the concept of a loving and generous Creator (in whose absence all must surely be waste and horror). In the titles and lyrics of Black metal songs you will find references to religious symbols, concepts and items of liturgical paraphernalia almost entirely forgotten by the wider culture: does not such studious blasphemy betray a perverse attachment to its object?"

Benoit: thanks! I love the vibrant (and violent) collision idea. Regarding birth/immortality, the image of a comet, a feeling of being a comet, frequently comes to mind.

Nicola Masciandaro said...

Cf. Makrothumia's Rit of Individuation!