Archive for the ‘death’ Category

“When I become death” according to Levinas

July 3, 2007

Emmanuel Levinas’ La Mort et Le Temps (English translation in God, Death and Time) opens with a reading of Heidegger´s Sein und Zeit, a reading that evolves around the themes of the carnival, the essence of time, the nature of death, the type of questions to which answers are not the right answer, and finally – literature as a masking process (rather than a revealing one).

[But maybe I’m wrong. It could well be that Levinas says nothing of the above themes, and that it is my own philosophical delusions, the consequences of my posts here on Foucault, Lyotard, Barthes, Deleuze, and Burroughs.]

Emmanuel Levinas

The Carnival.

The carnival represents the absolute assimilation of a human being with the role assigned to him/her by the system. Yet by this assimilation the human being ceases to be a human being, for being a human is to continuously question “Being”, i.e. to be a critical being towards Being, constantly reassessing the possibilities of an always changing existence. This is when Levinas uses the term ek-sistence – existing from the outside (and it is also where the two reasons of the first Emmanuel – K. – are fully present).

The critical spectator stands behind the curtain, looking inside the theater, considering her options on stage. This cannot be done while on stage, while wearing the mask of the carnival.

And yet. “Behind the curtain there is nothing to see… nor beneath it”, says Deleuze, following Foucault. The critical being is therefore not to be imagined out of stage; s/he is not to be imagined as a passive spectator. Rather, the critical being is assimilated into the system’s role, while continuously challenging that role. Indeed, says Deleuze, behind the curtain there is nothing to see, “but it was all the more important each time to describe the curtain”. So we are in the carnival, but we don’t play wholeheartedly. We’re aware of the play, and we improvise whenever we see fit.

The Question.

The question of being is a question to which answers are not the right answer, the first trait of Being, being the mark of that Question. Barthes maintains that those questions of Being can only live within Literature, but he also maintains that Literature is a carnivalesque mask. The only way to cope with these contradictions is to follow Foucault’s advise: “We have to move beyond the outside-inside alternative; we have to be at the frontiers. Criticism indeed consists of analyzing and reflecting upon limits.” (What is Enlightenment).

Cain: marked by the Question of Abel’s death – a bookmark on Cain’s Time axis.

Time.

Time, explains Levinas, is the Other. The infinite time is the antipode of the finite human, the Other remaining necessarily out of our reach. Time, therefore, represents all possible Otherness.

Time is the Other. What a strange sentence. The Rhizome of the nomadic others is a Rhizome of Time Capsules.

Ich und Du.

The Other, through his facial movements conveys a message to the spectator, who is consequently responsible for processing the message, and of providing an answer. We can therefore say that Communication creates responsibility which, in turn, creates individuality: “I” is responsible for this and that person, because there are communication links between us.

We’ll see next that communication is a mask; like literature it does not reveal [things from behind the curtain], but rather conceals [the true essence of being]. Facial movements are answers. But Being is being a Question.

What does the nomadic Rhizome mask? What does Time mask? Is Time the Curtain?

As for Death.

When I become death

As for Death – death needs time for what it kills to grow in. Death needs the Other, just like “I” needs it. But why does Death need Time?

Think of Death as a bookmark, engraving a point on our time axis. This point, says Levinas, opens a gate to a communication-free world – the end of exchanging answers. Finally, we, the dead, can realize our human potential of being a pure question. The cover story of our life, the Literature told by our face, by our facial movements is finally completed. The End.

When we become death, death is the seed from which we grow – the seed of the pure Question.

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Burroughs’ Death needs Time

March 8, 2007

William S. Burroughs

“Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in”, William S. Burroughs, Dead City Radio, Ah Pook.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about this phrase “death needs time for what it kills to grow in” trying to figure it out. Interpretation-wise, this is a dangerous game, as Burroughs is known for using cut & paste techniques, trying to destroy any rational thought. And yet, from a modern perspective, the potential randomness behind the order of the words shouldn’t and even must not persuade us in the futility of giving it a sense. After all, that’s exactly what life is – random events to which we try to give some meaning.

Time

There are several possible viewpoints about Time: Time as a continuity and unity; Time as a collection of independent Time Capsules, a label aggregating all those capsules together.

Time as a continuity and unity allows for better Control – there’s time to order things in Space. It may also lead to either an indifferent position in the spirit of what has been will be again, or to a satisfied one, in the spirit of the problem is solved; there’s nothing more that can be done.

Time as a fragment of Time, as an endless recursive fractal, is what I read in Foucault’s Modernism, which prefers seeing Time in its particularity, in its decomposition. A Time Capsule: just born, already dead.

The Time Capsule

What’s inside the Time Capsule?

Everything, I suppose. I’m thinking of any Time Capsule as a cosmic Monad where the fight takes place, where a human tries to redefine… Space. Modernism tries to redefine Space within a single, ephemeral, insignificant, derisory Time Capsule. And Space is us. And so Deleuze can righteously call Foucault “the historian of the present”, for there’s an Entire Life inside the Time Capsule.

Or am I wrong? Maybe it’s not Life inside the Time Capsule, but rather…

Death?

See my previous post on the death of Baudrillard, where I quote Deleuze from his lecture on Leibniz and the nature of the Monad (I’m rephrasing [remixing] everything):

To be born is to start dying.
To live is to be dying.
To die is to complete living.
And so to die is to complete to be dying.

Again:

Birth=to start dying;
Life=to be dying;
Death=to finish being dying.

Our mission here, in this Space, is to die.

But, wait! Beware! all this happens inside a single Time Capsule. Don’t get depressed – you’ll be restarting the whole process of dying in just about a moment.

Death needs Time for what it kills to grow in. Death grows inside the Time Capsule. The Time Capsule is the container of Life. Death grows in Life.

Jean Baudrillard Just Completed the Act of Living

March 6, 2007

Via Jahsonic I have learned about the death of Jean Baudrillard. It was a strange sensation, watching the image of this man, knowing that now indeed the image communicates absence, an absolute void. RIP.

Jean Baudrillard

I thought what could be said more, and remembered a short Deleuzean reference to “La Mort”, or Death as it is called.

(free style English trans. follows)

“Ce que vous appelez mourir, c’est achever de vivre, et ce que vous appelez naître c’est commencer à mourir, comme aussi ce que vous appelez vivre, c’est mourir en vivant. Vous n’attendez pas la mort, mais vous l’accompagnez perpétuellement”.

English:

“What you call to die is completing the act of living, and what you call to be born is to start dying, just as what you call to live is to die while living. You don’t wait for death to come; rather you are its perpetual companion”.

(Taken from Deleuze’s lecture La Taverne [on Leibniz])