Paul Tillich finds hope in The Courage to Be when he writes: “The vitality that can stand in the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning” (177).
Jean Baudrillard finds despair in The Ecstasy of Communication when he writes: “Everywhere one seeks to produce meaning, to make the world signify, to render it visible. We are not, however, in danger of lacking meaning; quite to the contrary, we are gorged with meaning and it is killing us. As more and more things have fallen into the abyss of meaning, they have retained less and less the charm of appearances” (55).
Baudrillard laments the loss of the charm of appearances in our all-too-visible, hyperreal world. Today we can’t let Nothingness be. We deny silence the right to remain silent. There once was a time, Baudrillard suggests, when the secret essence of things remained hidden, but today we’ve stripped the world of its profound illusion.
Melancholy, through writing, is Baudrillard’s last defense against madness.
Back to Tillich: “Even in the state of despair one has enough being to make despair possible” (177).
Baudrillard, in his despair, has enough being to make despair possible. The depth and vitality of his enigmatic writing invokes a silent resistance within and against the ecstasy of communication. A silent resistance destined, like all forms of (radical) thought, to fall into the abyss of meaning.
Jean Baudrillard: “Cipher, don’t decipher.”
Translation: Keep to yourself. Keep something of yourself for yourself. Keep something of yourself from yourself. Commit silence.
How shall we write silence? How shall we write in silence? In what tone does silence not-write?
Knot-writing. Bound books. Unsafe words. Writing is seen as emotional release. It’s first and foremost a building of tension. Writing complicates. Writing frustrates.
If you must write a memoir, don’t spill your guts. Deflect reflection. Let sleeping Freudians lie.
Engage like a mistress in tease and denial. Put a hand over your mouth. Hand over your mouth. Muffle your dreams.
On February 23, 2008, close to 200 volunteers flushed, at coordinated intervals, every toilet and urinal at newly built Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to ensure the pipes could handle the load.
Imagine a moment when everyone in the world with a cellphone sent each other a smiley face emoji at the same time—not to test the limits of all the networks, just for shits and giggles. Put yourself in that micro-second between everyone hitting send in unison and the possibility that no one would remain on the planet afterwards to respond. Are we not right now suspended between the fantasy of synchronized global suicide and its fulfillment via technology?
Humans are all equal before the Law of Communication. We’re compelled to send and receive information—useless information. In fact the more useless, the better. Just do it. Just speak.
Technology actualizes every possibility. If our ultimate wish is to destroy reality, technology will make it happen.
The most efficient way to eliminate reality is to realize every fantasy. Realizing every fantasy, however, destroys the symbolic power of fantasy itself. We’re left with a literal translation of every metaphor, a logical explanation for every random thought. No more latent content to our dreams–every secret must be dragged out of our minds like a false confession and streamed “as is” in real time. Data infestations, digital plagues: such is our new manifest destiny.
The most radical message left for us is to say nothing at all.
Until then imagine a moment when everyone on the planet with a cellphone refused, at the same time, to send a text. Or a moment when everyone on the planet flushed a cellphone down a toilet. Dream up a fantasy so spectacular it threatens to end the world and then, for the sake of fantasy, make sure it never happens.