First: a farewell to my longtime headbutting partner and champion yogurt-eating cat, who passed away yesterday morning at the approximate age of 12 or 13 years old. I'll miss you and our winter nights basking in front of the woodstove. I'm sorry I wasn't there to nuzzle your forehead one last time.
A short reading list from the last few days:
Three Philosophical Concerns
If love with/of another (romantic love, specifically) is, as I have often thought, a continually interrogative mode of being-with-the-other/being-for-the-other, then what is the love of another that is never given voice in the dialectical movement of reciprocity and mutual recognition? Is so-called unrequited love deficient - an "inauthentic" love? Here I am thinking "unrequited" not as the advance that is rebuked (although this certainly figures in, as does everything),but loves whose trajectories pass one another or which are out of joint when superimposed on each other. Are these not valuable in their own right? To whom do they speak?What do they say in their own voices? Are these loves not different intensities that speak care in splintered tongues? Are they even fragmented in comparison to the love expressed in the classically formulated romantic relationship? "I love you, but we pass each other at a proximity that is an irreducibly vast non-distance." This resonates on its own lines: to use Deleuze and Guattari's vocabulary, they are assemblages. Different speeds - not slower or faster, but adjacent or parallel, secretive and playful, mournful and syncopated. Different speeds. What do I say to you? I must circumvent the old roads and reach you across an ellipse, finding other lines of articulation. Not saying, but showing in sayings. Traversing the surface of you-us-me, skirting its borders and scaling its walls; showing the fissures at which other non-deficient intensities resonate and inherit the word "love". Confounding the chivalric-platonic-romantic-fraternal-familial-sexual grid by never coming to rest at any of its points ... loves whose movements elude capture because their arcs are arrested in all directions before reaching a destination. The arrest creates retreat and reorientation - but only momentarily. Multiplying lines, re-deploying utterances and acts in new ways. Do these intuitions feel familiar to anyone but me?
Why do I do this? Because life is terrifying. It feels like I can only outrun in writing what I am headed for in reality. Life's routines and events are not terrifying, it's the sense of indeterminacy. That haze at the limits of what you can predict and what you can remember, that feeling of disjunct between what you have been and what you're not sure you'll be. Those days when you can't even make the world look smooth and sensible (if those ever really happen). Writing does that: simulated stability. Living confusion expelled onto the page as dead sense. But is it not only momentary? Thus the desire to write further, to go back and revisit and rearrange what won't leave us alone. At the same time, writing prolongs one's sojourn on earth in advance. We set aside fragments of ourselves that will survive our passing. If writing from the living consists of small pieces of death, then writing from the dead consists of small pieces of life. "To live without a lifetime––likewise, to die forsaken by death ... to write elicits such enigmatic propositions" (Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 136).
On Names (Preliminary thoughts to a larger project)
I suspect that names operate schematically (Kant). The name of a person provides not only the signification that calls into view the site at which the person (as some kind of subjectivity: more or less unified, continuous, and more or less intentionally acting) functions, but also the content that is schematized/synthesized by that person-function. This includes not only a person's current mode of being-in-the-world (Heidegger), which is indicated by his/her age, tastes, relationships, cumulative history, and so on, but also all of the former arrangements of that mode (in the form of memories/memory-images as well as tertiary memory-markers like a photograph, a physical scar, a gift, a love letter). Also accommodated by the name is the already-prepared structural openness of that site at which the person occurs, thus allowing the possibility of future modes of being (given our assumption that the person -embodied and in the world- identified by his/her name will persist in the world beyond out ability to predict his/her cessation).
How else can we describe the way in which the name operates? I am led to suggest that the name is a conceptual space/site. When I perceive myself, I do so conceptually. I synthesize myself as a whole retrospectively, according to things that have already happened to me. Even then, when I perform this synthesis (and here we might digress into a discussion of the will, but we will not), it is somewhat approximate: I do not call to mind every single aspect of my life up to this point. Furthermore, I may appear quite differently to myself (as well as others) under different circumstances and different times. Thus, every view of myself is a concept of myself. How do I think myself now? How did I do so ten years ago? The same event in my life can mean two different things from two different vantage points. I am in no more of a position to see myself outside of all possible bias and confusion anymore than anything else in the world. What I mean is that I am not certain of myself; I am opaque, even to me, even when I am living interrogatively (Merleau-Ponty).
Returning to the name: what role does it play in my
self-conceptualization? It seems to me that my name is the flashpoint, the site at which I am assembled as "myself". This holds not only for the proper name "Matthew" but also for the pronouns "I" and "me". Additionally, how attentive am I in saying "I" - thinking myself? It seems that every instance of this is partial; thus, the non-occurance of my totality as a self appears again.
I've often been troubled by the apparent uselessness of my chosen career, while also being troubled by the fact that I do not think that it is useless. Only as I've gotten older and started to think more about the uses of words have I seen the problem with judging this activity or practice 'useless'. In a day and age in which "use" refers mainly to "instrumental use" (that is to say, the means-end employment of tools and resources), certainly the practice of philosophy is useless. It's indirect. It can only have any effect on anything through the lives of those who practice it, and even then it may not be immediate. The way in which we generally think about "the self" and the self's engagement with the world in every day life is largely Cartesian; his ideas took a few hundred years to become as deeply ingrained as they are. Even though they are being academically disputed today, their replacement(s) may not become our ontological backdrop for hundreds more years. The point is that even though I love what I do and take it very seriously (and not as an opportunity to 'talk big' or 'look smart' or be condescending to people, which I see in a lot of people in my field; those people should just join a debating club and get it over with, as far as I'm concerned), I have to continually resign myself to the fact that any contribution I make will be a raindrop in the ocean. Any ripples I create (if there are any) won't be felt until after I'm dead. The only possible immediate effect I can have is on myself, in the form of constantly problematizing and reconfiguring my attitudes towards the world and the people around me. Heidegger writes that "philosophy is essentially untimely because it is one of those few things that can never find an immediate echo in the present. When such an echo seems to occur, when a philosophy becomes fashionable, either it is no real philosophy or it has been misinterpreted and misused for ephemeral and extraneous purposes". I'm inclined to agree. Particular philosophical doctrines can only be the product of philosophy itself, which is far less determinate. I guess that's why it bothers me when people refer to themselves in terms of a particular school of thought. It kind of misses the point. Anyway. Yeah.
A short playlist:
Whatever little time we live, time
in the end, adds up to no time at all.
Sadly and gladly there are things
to be seen in the sun and missed
in flight along the way.
We take to wing, fly a while, ponder
all that circles below us and descend
to earth. We look up to see where we've been. We measure the spaces
we inhabit inside, out and about.
The ground beneath our feet
is our foothold for as long as we
can stand and hang on. The sky
is where birds and angels dwell. We've all been visitors there and come
back home to the back yards of Heaven
The sky is where we've been when
we've gone to sleep undreaming
or been wide awake, night and day
alert to our own mortality.
But however low below the slow clouds
we strive to thrive, the sun burns above.
And keeps on burning.
-Al Pittman, "Rites of Passage", from An Island In The Sky: Selected Poetry of Al Pittman (Originally published in Thirty-for-Sixty).
Before I die, I want to do philosophy like Al Pittman.
"What does this mad myth signify?"
- Milan Kundera
This daylog is a stylistic homage to my man cab!