Sunday, June 12, 2022

Kisses on the Feet of a Metalhead: Some Indices on Standing

[published in X 1 (2022): www.x-n1.com]

[photo by José Castrellón]

You are not on earth as you believe, but lighting, fleeing its proper place, never sped so fast as you, going back to yours.

 – Dante, Paradiso

 

To know everything in a flash takes an eternity in the illusion of time while you gradually die to yourself.

– Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing

 

There’s restless joy in standing watch and waiting!

– Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

 

 

The question is where to stand (?)

 

“Love means that you remain standing close to your Beloved, when you would be deprived of your attributes.”[1] So said Hallāj, whose decapitated “trunk remained erect for two hours [after] the head fell between his two legs, repeating a single phrase ‘Only One! O Only One!’”[2]

 

To stand is to remain standing, to fall with whatever falls, fly with whatever flies, to flash with the fastest stillness of the soul, which is “whole and undivided, at once in the foot, in the eyes and in every member,”[3] especially when your head falls to your feet. To stand is to hang out with the question where it answers itself, to hold the line or horizon where “severing is also a joining and a relating.”[4]

 

The modern question mark derives from the medieval punctus interrogativus, which indicates the rising intonation of the question with a line resembling a flash of lighting suspended above a point.[5] A/the question seizes with the continuity of a thunder strike, a stroke connecting being and doing, head and feet, heaven and earth, cause and effect. Feel the heavy metal shock of being struck by the question of oneself as another pointing back: “What is this that stands before me / Figure in black which points at me?”[6] Of being seen by the other of one’s own vision, “you in whose eyes I have become a question to myself.”[7] Who withstands standing in the infinite current of their own event? Are you (not) someone “who is struck by his own thoughts as if from outside, from above and below . . . who is perhaps a storm himself, pregnant with new lightning[?]”[8]

 

The form in question reflects the infinity of individuation’s depth charge, a force hidden within the absolutely asymmetrical crack connecting oneself to everything. Is one or is one not intrinsically one with Reality? Is one’s will other than that which is creating, preserving, and destroying the universe – yes or no!? What fact can the fact that one is oneself – summit of impossibility – not make to tremble? As Meher Baba explains, the cause of this whole multifarious cosmic mess without and within oneself – not the universe or a universe but this one, today – is the unaccountable whim of the eternal or divine Reality to know itself, which operates as the universal dialectic from ‘Who am I?’ to ‘I am God’, generating en route, in the spiral of evolution and involution, all temporary beings as provisional answers: ‘I am stone’, ‘I am plant’, ‘I am human’, and so on.

 

“Beyond the sphere that circles widest / passes the sigh that issues from my heart” (Dante, Vita Nuova). “Beyond the sphere passeth the arrow of our sigh. Hafiz! Be silent” (Hafiz, Divan). To speak without speaking, just breathing the word(s), in passing. To inhabit language, the so-called “house of being,” like a passerby or prison escape artist, just standing there.    

 

“We became enamoured of travel, intoxicated / with the sensation of movement . . . We must go somewhere where we will not find ourselves . . . More time to consider the lily in another's heart? / to watch the leaf-bud and flower putting-forth of our own?”[9] Fleeing what? And what the hell had to happen for a three-staked instrument of torture (trepalium) used to punish runaway serfs/slaves to become our name for going somewhere (travel), not to mention labor or useful/productive activity (trabajo)? On the one hand, “The imperative of collecting people, settling them close to the core of power, holding them there, and having them produce a surplus in excess of their own needs animates much of early statecraft.”[10] On the other hand, “Travelling is a fool’s paradise . . . I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”[11] Between fleeing and being forced to stay there is standing, only way out. “Escape,” says Levinas, “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].”[12] Only the lonely. Good luck to you. O way of being the way!

 

Flames of sun fall to earth. Earth melts matter into fire. Fire burns heart into light. Light flashes mind to ash. Ash condenses into star. Star . . . Love loves you (so do I) without any care whatsoever about whoever you are. “That the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belong without any representable condition of belonging (even in the form of a simple presupposition [cogito ER/GO sum]) – that is what the State cannot in any way stand [tollerare].”[13]

 

Why do you want them to answer your question???

 

Rogare, to ask, derives from rog-, to stretch out the hand (cf. reach), a variant of the root reg-, to move in a straight line. This is also the root of ergo, therefore, in consequence of. ER/GO: To stand in the reach of the question which points to everything as its answer. To touch everywhere by not reaching anywhere, holding on to the hem, reaching into the roots of oneself with closed hands, asking nothing. To play the one game, every game, the infinite game of question and answer, by standing, taking the only possible, the infinitesimal shortcut (from here to Here), precisely where there is none: “With the infinite question, there arises also the infinite answer. The infinite question is infinite unconsciousness; the infinite answer is infinite consciousness. But the infinite question and the infinite answer do not simply annul each other and relapse into the original unity of the Beyond. The two aspects have now descended into the primal duality which can resolve itself only by fulfilling the entire game of duality and not by any shortcut.”[14]

 

See how the world, this society we co-create, wants you to keep moving, shifting, likes you unfirm, choosing, without a proper place to stand, always towards the next thing, the hopefully yet never quite?[15] Ergo they cannot stop offering new opportunities to repeat ourselves, to do the same thing in novel guises, educating us in the opposite of being where one is. Stop and look, but keep moving. Stand – in line. Browse (a word that means to graze on young shoots and buds, cf. breast). Whatever you do, don’t stay. Instead, stay distracted, not where your body is, like January shopping his mind for May in The Merchant’s Tale: “Many fair shap and many a fair visage / Ther passeth thurgh his herte night by night; / As whoso tooke a mirour polisshed bryght, / And sette it in a commune market-place, / Thanne sholde he see ful many a figure pace / By his mirour.”[16] At least as it passes . . . you may skip ad in . . . I can “try to take seriously how advertising never tires of repeating itself.”[17]

 

Not milk but its mother’s milk is what a baby needs, food of the one whose mouth puts me wherever she wants, makes me walk on air.[18] My intellect is a straying kitten, a babbling infant whose life feeds and grows strong in becoming more and more centered, stilled in satisfying desire – Et erit tamquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarium (Psalms 1:3) – not in being promiscuously passed around, but in nursing (from sna-, to swim), swimming the ocean-flow of love via the sucking, sapient depth of all-consuming interest: “Truth cannot be grasped by skipping over the surface of life and multiplying superficial contacts. It requires the preparedness of mind which can centre its capacities upon selected experiences and free itself from its limiting features . . . Such whole-hearted concentration and real interest is necessarily precluded when the mind becomes a slave to the habit of running at a tangent and wandering between many possible objects of similar experience.”[19] Ergo, the real problem of distraction as inevitable imperative to remain (become more and more) distracted by something that all distractions distract from, to distract distraction itself. To think from one’s feet.

 

“The feet, which are physically the lowest part of the body, are spiritually the highest. Physically, the feet go through everything — good and bad, beautiful and ugly, clean and dirty — yet they are above everything. Spiritually, the feet of a Perfect Master are above everything in the universe, which is like dust to him.”[20]

 

What is their stance, they (whoever) for whom market is mother, touchpad their mouth, browser the breast? In what sky do their thoughts swim, what horizon their hearts rest? Where the earth in which their body or soul nests? “Unless a man takes his stand against the world of a dying civilization, / unless he stops discriminating the patterns of shadow / and turns his face to the Sun . . .”[21] Ergo: ground yourself by touching the blessed feet of a cherubic breast-fed metalhead, charged with standing in the light of that which never has to be brought from anywhere, which fills the world by staying where it is.

 

It seems not so much that one stands somewhere, as that standing is the place where place happens. Here and there, inner and outer, silence and language, spin around the axis of standing, this ground zero of the horizon that, pointing to itself, makes all other indications possible. But who wants to think about that? Why bother guarding the stance which guards thinking? “Pointing can only be done from a standing location. My standing location matters because I am in the midst of things, in media res . . . We are in a place where we can point at the hand and at the mountain; we are among them. We can therefore think about what is around us.”[22]

 

Back off (stay proximate), all you posers who want position (not stance), who crave identity (not birth/death), who like to take pictures with your eyes (not X). Ergo, what is the photograph, as materialization of an image of an instant, but a projection of the standing question, the question of standing, an indexical capturing of the what-is-this-that-stands-before-me (figure-in-black-which-points-at-me)?

 

Photography as science devoid of – before/after – project. The photographed, gaze-species of something invisible, as an objective not-seeing of someone-who-stands, i.e. the in-stans itself, a gesture of time’s likeness to eternity or imaginal place in which being becomes. Ergo, photographer as reflector of the standing that the photograph abstracts into concrete image.

 

“[P]erhaps it is from the most obscure and the most irreflexive depth of the body that the photographic act departs . . . from a stance rather than a position . . . ‘Stance’ – this word means: to be rooted in oneself, to be held within one’s own immanence, to be at one’s station rather than in a position relative to the ‘motif’.”[23]

 

Verbless language. Silent speech. Motionless gesture. Each thing simply a pointing to everything through itself. Speak now – after there is something to say: “God made sense turn outward: therefore / man looks out. Now and again a daring man / looks back and finds himself. Now and again / after becoming God he speaks.”[24]

 

Better to point (by not pointing) than burp a word. “The universe is deictic or indexical, and therefore demonstratives are better equipped than substantives to deal with it, and ultimately to provide some sort of account of it.”[25] Dixit insipiens in corde suo: Non est Deus (Psalms 13:1). The fool hath blabbed to himself, hath spoken as a substantivist. What are you talking about?

 

Better that one “s’ascose nel foco che li affina” (Purgatorio 26.148), put oneself away (abs-con-dere) in flame, staying in the fire which life never stops being a birth-like leap from and into: “To be born is both to be born of the world and to be born into the world.”[26] Better to stand on the threshold between prepositions, wearing the sandals of the sacred, and there remain more and more a white hot black metal head. For it is precisely and paradoxically the iron’s passive power or strongest weakness to resist omnipotence, the all-powerful impotence of its inability to be consumed by fire, in other words, the metal’s remaining itself or intensive standing in the midst of all that strips it of whatever it appears to be, which is the groundless ground of becoming all fire or liquifying in the love of . . . .[27]

 

Standing says: I am that I am. Man walks upon earth, but she stands in universe.

 

To stay means to remain where you are by being in your being, to stand by withstanding the heaviest-lightest weight of things. Not to be someplace but to insist on the in-stance of existence, which “has no purpose by virtue of its being real, infinite and eternal.” To stand is to dwell in staying without purpose, to step into what, “being everything and everywhere, cannot have any direction,” to insist on not taking the first step of creating a false goal, for the “Goal of Life in Creation is to arrive at purposelessness, which is the state of Reality.”[28]  

 

Stand up and say what you truly think. Do what you really want. Stay. Stop being mobilized, for life, against death, vice-versa, always on this side or that, never out of position, never without project, lost between ends and means, in line. Everything has already happened, and it will never happen again, because nothing ever happens. Except this. Says Rosenzweig, “The womb of the inexhaustible earth ceaselessly gives birth to what is new, and each one is subject to death; each newly born waits with fear and trembling for the day of its passage into the dark . . . Man should not cast aside from him the fear of the earthly; in his fear of death he should – stay. He should stay. He should therefore do nothing other than what he already wants: to stay.”[29]

 

But my God what the hell on earth is the human waiting for?

 

“Damned I also call those who must always wait – they offend my taste . . . Indeed, I too learned to wait, and thoroughly – but only to wait for myself. And above all I learned to stand and walk and run and leap and climb and dance. But this is my teaching; whoever wants to fly someday must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance – one cannot fly one’s way to flight!”[30]

 

ER/GO: To stay as to wait without waiting, to stand as waiting to wait. Here is a kind and degree of waiting that starts by escaping the boring/excited egoism of waiting (waiting as my waiting), an order of waiting that offers at once the best and the worst way to wait, as per the three-fold meaning of waiting to wait, which bears 1) the flat sense of superadded waiting, waiting only to wait more, where to refers infinitively to the activity one is waiting for; 2) the intensive sense of waiting as means of its own end, where to signifies the instrumentality of action (in order to, so as to); 3) the paradoxical sense of waiting that does not wait at all precisely by deferring or postponing it, that waits to wait, waiting, yes, yet not yet. Waiting to wait in this triple way is graspable as a form of eternal waiting, keeping in mind the word’s double reference to the timeless and the sempiternal, now and forever. Tying together, like head and tail of the ouroboros, a waiting that never ends and a waiting that never begins, eternal waiting unites the opposite senses of waiting to wait around the middle sense of the present moment of waiting per se. As the anagogic sense of medieval exegesis proverbially gives a ‘foretaste [praegustus] of paradise’, finding in the suspended moment of reading the palpable presence of a truth or reality that is non-futurally to come, so is waiting to wait, far from being anything that need ever arrive from anywhere else, simply the immediate elevation of simple waiting, a flight of the ground where waiting waits.

 

Neither thinking (cogito) nor being (sum), but the flash of what links them (ergo) and not even that because it is that itself. I.e. a standing in the current of what joins by severing the link between thinking and being.

 

To stand or wait eternally, waitlessly, for all that is here and now (nunc stans). Therefore . . . 



[1] Louis Massignon, The Passion of Al-Hallaj, Mystic and Martyr of Islam, Volume 3: The Teaching of al-Hallaj (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), 11.

[2] Louis Massignon, The Passsion of Al-Hallaj, trans. Herbert Mason, 4 vols., Bollingen XCVIII (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 2.18.1.

[3] Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, trans. and ed. Maurice O’C. Walshe (New York: Herder & Herder, 2009), 341.

[4] “[A]uch das Trennen ist noch ein Verbinden und Beziehen” (Martin Heidegger, “Logik: Heraklit’s Lehre vom Logos,” in Heraklit, ‘Gesamtausgabe,’ Bd. 55 [Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1970], 337).

[5] See M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

[6] Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath,” Black Sabbath (Warner Bros., 1970).

[7] Augustine, Confessions (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951), X. 33.

[8] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 174.

[9] Francis Brabazon, Stay with God: A Statement in Illusion on Reality (Woombye, Queensland: Garuda Books, 1959), 96–124.

[10] James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 151.

[11] Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in The Complete Essays and Other Writings (New York: Modern Library, 1950), 165.

[12] Emmanuel Levinas, On Escape, trans. Bettina Bergo (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 55.

[13] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 85, translation modified.

[14] Meher Baba, Beams on the Spiritual Panorama (San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented, 1958), 9-10.

[15] “And everybody, in their shallowness, praises movement! Political, religious, educational, social, in the family, let’s do something, let’s go somewhere, let’s act, as if action is salvation, instead it is ruination. Where are you going to find one human being, where are you going to find one man or woman who will say, just a minute, what are you talking about, praising physical, mental, emotional movement as if it is a virtue in itself. I’ll repeat the question, where are going to find someone who will question it? . . . The cry, the wail of the human mind is: give me something to do so that I won’t have to think intelligently about what I am doing.” (Vernon Howard, https://nuncstans.tumblr.com/post/30991647359/and-everyone-in-their-shallowness-praises-movement).

[16] Geoffrey Chaucer, The Merchant’s Tale, lines 1580–5, in The Norton Chaucer, ed. David Lawton (New York: Norton, 2019), 291.

[17] Emanuele Coccia, Goods: Advertising, Urban Space, and the Moral Law of the Image, trans. Marissa Gemma (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018), 28.

[18] “Who can ever know God? I don’t even try. I only call on Him as Mother. Let Mother do whatever She likes. I shall know Her if it is Her will; but I shall be happy to remain ignorant if She wills otherwise. My nature is that of a kitten. It only cries, ‘Mew, mew!’ The rest it leaves to its mother. The mother cat puts the kitten sometimes in the kitchen and sometimes on the master’s bed” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna [New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942)

[19] Meher Baba, Discourses, 6th ed., 3 vols (San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented, 1973), I.151.

[20] Meher Baba,

[21] Brabazon, Stay With God, 118.

[22] Hilan Bensusan, Indexicalism: Realism and the Metaphysics of Paradox (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021), 14.

[23] François Laruelle, The Concept of Non-Photography, trans. Robin Mackay (Cambridge: Urbanomic, 2018), 12.

[24] Brabazon, Stay With God, 124.

[25] Bensusan, Indexicalism, 16.

[26] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 1962), 527.

[27] “All love is a fire, but a spiritual fire. What a corporeal fire does for iron, the fire . . . does the same for an impure, cold, and hardened heart . . . The whole mind becomes white-hot from the igniting of the divine fire; it flares up and, at the same time, liquefies in the love of God” (Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity, VI. 2, in Trinity and Creation: A Selection of Works of Hugh, Richard, and Adam of St. Victor, eds. Boyd Taylor Coolman and Dale M. Coulter [Turnhout: Brepols, 2011]).

[28] Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing (Beacon Hill, Australia: Meher House Publication, 1963), 62.

[29] Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, trans. Barbara Ellen Galli (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), 9-10.

[30] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. Adrian del Caro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 156.


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