It’s no secret I enjoy French philosophy. Recently I noticed a pattern in the thought of a few of my favorite writers. There’s a feeling that life, at its core, is full of lack. Lacan writes that desire is lack, in the sense that I want something I don’t have. In order for desire to continue, I must never actually get what I want. Lyotard writes that meaning is always deferred. When we speak of an object we have its word and the concept for it in mind, but we never get to the object itself. Baudrillard thinks that the world is simulated and the Real has become so real it isn’t real anymore.
Inherent in these thinkers’ approaches is a belief that nothing is as it seems. There’s an illusory quality to the world they sometimes fear, sometimes revere.
Most people don’t find value in discussing what’s missing in our lives when we’re surrounded on all sides by people and stuff. Studying big ideas, even when they illuminate our shortcomings and insecurities, gives me a sense of purpose. I appreciate the mystical qualities lurking behind Appearance, the poetry operating beneath the steady unfolding of the world.
But I can’t take these abstractions to heart in my daily life. Yesterday I met again with a woman I really like. Sitting across from her in a downtown café, I saw her face, heard her voice, sensed the fullness of her being. Were her private thoughts inaccessible to me? Of course. Was she in her body interpreting her world separate from me? Of course. But she was still right here in front of me.
Thoughts about Lack and Deferred Meanings and Simulated Reality were the furthest from my mind. I just wanted to reach out and hold her hand, to submit to the whims of her Mystery.
The essence of Being shines brightest in the presence of someone you care deeply about. It’s the beauty of conversing with a woman you yearn to understand, knowing all along you’ll never know her completely. But trying nonetheless.
Filed under Life, Philosophy
dumb & full
I see myself
in you I say
a film strip
in the palm
of her hand
in the making
c b snoad
I’m a real grammar hound.
Billy Bush wonders
on live TV
if Bieber’s wearing
in his Calvin Klein
With the naked
eye it’s clear.
The little shit’s
always been a
c b snoad
In 1969, the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s ideas, though it might be retooled as, “The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” It seems an appropriate response to a new condition in writing today: faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists. I’ve transformed from a writer into an information manager, adept at the skills of replicating, organizing, mirroring, archiving, hoarding, storing, reprinting, bootlegging, plundering, and transferring. (Kenneth Goldsmith; quoted in Jeffrey T. Nealon, Post-Postmodernism, 2012, p. 166; emphasis added)
Goldsmith is on to something here. He’s the author of The Weather, Sports, and Traffic, a trilogy that as Nealon (p. 165) explains, “consists of straight transcriptions of eleven o’clock news weather reports (a year), a baseball game (every word of a single Yankee game radio broadcast), and traffic reports (a full day of traffic reports, ‘on the 1s’).”
Is this the future of writing? What happens when poetry turns into data manipulation—search engines determining word choice, spreadsheets functioning as figures of speech—the artist transformed into a smooth operator stripped of Goldsmith’s ironic detachment?
People wonder if computers will eventually think like humans. I foresee a world in which humans think like computers. The end of Art signaling the end of Man. Life as intelligence gathering. Love as business transaction. What’s your number? exchanged for What do the numbers say?