Archive for the ‘time’ 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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Trading Time in InterZone

June 23, 2007

 

You hit Interzone with that grey anonymously ill-intentioned look all writers have.

“You crazy or something walk around alone? Me good guide. What you want Meester?”

“Well uh, I would like to write a bestseller that would be a good book, a book about real people and places…”

The Guide stopped me. “That’s enough Mister. I don’t want to read your stinking book. That’s a job for the White Reader.” The guide’s face was a grey screen, hustler faces moved across it. “Your case is difficult frankly. If we put it through channels they will want a big piece in advance. Now I happen to know the best continuity man in the industry, only handles boys he likes. He’ll want a piece of you too but he’s willing to take it on spec.”

“The Name is Burroughs”, from The adding machine by WS Burroughs.

Burroughs, Interzone

The writer comes to Interzone looking for something that will help him create a world for his book, something that can be arranged by the Continuity Man. Interzone is not a normal place, and neither is that something wanted by the writer. Such deals smell Faust.

So what is it that the Continuity Man can offer?

Maybe it is this alien, yellowish parchment of continuous time on top of which the writer can engrave his space-less story?

In Condition for a postmodern Time travel I have offered an interpretation of a Lyotard’s paragraph, depicting stories as parallel worlds that have different time axis – not only because the story’s time does not correspond with our time axis, but also because it is architected differently, the time of the story being space-less and continuous, making the story incompatible with the process of memorization and accumulation [of facts], a feature that turns the story into a world whose relevance is always the pragmatic present.

[It’s strange how Lyotard can explain Burroughs’ Interzones and Continuity Men, and how all these posts eventually encounter each other…]

And see “When I become death” according to Levinas for more on Time.

Condition for a postmodern Time travel

June 17, 2007

I don’t think we want to live in a never ending carnival – that place where we all put masks on our faces and play the carnival’s roles; that place where the distinction between real and fantasy disappears; that place where reflection and auto-reflection are irrelevant; where the eye of the beholder is cut out; that place having its own, peculiar Time span; that place where we become signs.

Maybe Baudrillard thought that we have entered into a carnival and that then a lock-down has occurred, leaving us trapped inside, our masks on, for good.

Carnival

Distribute in space, order in time – that’s the rule by which Control operates, and this operation, explains Lyotard in the Postmodern Condition, uses time as a parchment, continually engraving the memory of the things and their whereabouts on time. Control needs time, for time is the paper on top of which Control memorizes its territory, its subordinates.

There are, though, endless places where Control is helpless, where its engraving operation on time is blocked. Actually, I should rephrase and say that there’s only one place where Control operates and that is the everyday’s world – that which is the subject matter of science. But there are endless worlds in which Control malfunctions, in which it has no foot in the door. These are the worlds of the stories; the world of the carnival.

These worlds, written on invisible parchments, are architected to be forgotten. Memory cannot nail them down, says Lyotard, for they are having a unique distribution in space – a compact, condensed distribution that leaves no spaces between the things of those worlds. And memory needs space in time – a space for writing down orientation instructions, location coordinates, inventory lists and so forth. Yet, the space in the story’s world is fully occupied. One cannot order things in time, for there’s no time left in the story’s world.

Hurry up, than, for there’s no time. Go to the carnival – lose control; read a book – lose control; hear a podcast – lose control.

No matter which story the carnival tells – the story is always anchored in the present. The past and the future – these are scientific concerns; stories don’t bother with time. They are hosted inside a time capsule – a time machine.

If you want jumps in hyper-space; if you want to move along parallel worlds – all you need to do is to skip from one book to another. Place each book exactly near the other book, leaving no space between the two, thus making sure Control is incapable of writing on time.

[But I don’t like losing control; I don’t want to stay in the carnival. I’ll have to give up than.]

For more on Time and books see Trading Time in InterZone

This book could reign

June 9, 2007

This morning, while preparing myself to leave home, I scanned the library shelves looking for a book that will call me. Finally I fetched one, thinking “What is it that you want to tell me?”

On the road, I had this silly thought that all those books in my library are equal: you can’t tell by their physical appearance or location which is “more important”, sacred, classic, Nobel Prize, Plato or Philip K. Dick; which is holy, which is profane. All the books, in the space of my library, are equal.

But my books are certainly not equal in time. For in this particular moment my attention is devoted to this particular book which I fetched from my library earlier this morning. One book for a Time capsule.

The poor book: a world opened up for only one person inside a specific time capsule – such a waste of book’s power. I wonder what would it be like if millions of us open up the same book inside the same time capsule? It’s sort of Flash mobs, only with a specific book.

This book could reign; this book could shine.

This Book Could Reign

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.

Gilles Deleuze – La durée: A Multimedia Poem

February 3, 2007

Sometimes there’s an inexplicable match between a state-of-mind and a sensory input.
This is what happened to me while listening to this fragment by Gilles Deleuze about the Duration – La durée (Click the player to listen).

 

 

What happened is that I processed the whole piece as a potential DJ Spooky track: a musical intro; Deleuze’s voice full with fluctuations, insistence, repetitions; a chaotic background noise; and finally phrases that can be cut from the entire piece and still survive – this entire Spooky complex placed me in a different emotional state.

The Deleuze piece is in French, I hope, though, that non-French speakers can enjoy it too. You can listen to the following piece several times, and each time get something else out of it. What I heard was a poem, much like the following:

Gilles Deleuze – La durée

La durée c’est ce qui se
décompose
Ha!
La durée c’est une
défection . La durée c’est,
tomber en poussierrrrrrrrrrr.
Oui, oui.
C’est Flaubert. C’est Flaubert.
Et. Et.
Si ça dure, ça se décompose.
[silence]
Ce n’est pas du tout Bergsonien.

 

deleuze.jpg

“Un jour, peut-être, le siècle sera Deleuzien”, Michel Foucault