a disgust I have learned to ignore, I propel myself among these pre-staged
personalities, among these unending dependabilities, male and female humans,
dogs, schools, mountains, quotidian and faded terrors and thrills. For a few
thousand years now you put forth this axiomatic humanoid of Oedipus, propagate
it like an obscurantist epidemic, the castration complex man, the man of the
natal trauma, upon which you prop up your amorous encounters, your occupations,
your neckties and your purses, your progress, your arts, your churches. I
detest this natural son of Oedipus, I disdain and abjure his pre-established
biology. And, if this is so because man is born, then all that is left for
me is to abjure birth, abjure any axiom even if it boasts of the appearance
of a certitude. Upholding like a curse this quotidian psychology-consequence
of birth, we will never unearth the potential of bursting into the world extrinsic
of the natal trauma. The man of Oedipus deserves his destiny.
Luca (rendered from Romanian by Julian Semilian & Sanda Agalidi)
Borges tells us, in "The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim",
of a novel, or rather the second edition of a novel - the first edition of
which, he hastens to add, he suspects to be superior - written by a Bombay
lawyer about a Bombay law student, who "falls among people of the vilest class
and adjusts himself to them, in a kind of contest of infamy." Amid the men
and women of this vile crowd surrounding him, our protagonist detects - he
is a seeker - a gesture that shocks and surprises him, "a tenderness, an exaltation,
a silence in one of the abhorrent men". "It was as though a more complex interlocutor
had spoken". Our seeker resolves to devote his life to seeking out this "more
complex interlocutor". Along his journey towards Al-Mu'tasim, in his "insatiable
search for a soul by means of the delicate glimmerings or reflections this
soul has left in others", the student detects "at first, the faint trace of
a smile or a word; toward the last, the varied and growing splendors of intelligence,
imagination, and goodness." The novel of which Borges speaks about ends abruptly
with the student drawing a curtain of beads leading to Al-Mu'tasim's quarters
and, stepping forward.
In other words, we are presented with, and our
curiosity is piqued by a gallery of skeuromorphs - albeit an increasingly
impressive one - but Borges, or Borges's writer Mir Bahadur Ali, holds back
from us the original we crave. About to step forth into Al-Mu'tasim's abode,
our seeker gazes at a glowing light, and is enjoined to enter by the "incredible"
voice of Al-Mu'tasim. We don't know whether it is the light emanating from
Al-Mu'tasim, or merely a lamp, or whether Al-Mu'tasim himself is light. We
are never told. Al-Mu'tasim is presented to us, the readers, no further. Borges
goes on with the story, concerning himself with matters other than those I
wish to reflect on here.
I furtively wondered - feeling stupid, fearing
perhaps it was inappropriate, what I am saying is I felt hesitant to rummage
through Borges' s purposes, as though stepping into a territory forbidden
to me - why Borges did not paint a more specific picture of Al-Mu'tasim. Why
we didn't meet Al-Mu'tasim. Is it possible, I wondered, to portray enlightenment
convincingly? In a story belonging to the realm of literature perhaps it is
fruitless to attempt to render the glory of such a promising original, especially
in light of the fact that the immediate predecessor to Al-Mu'tasim is a Persian
bookseller "of great courtesy and felicity" and that the man preceding the
bookseller is a saint.
For an instant, while reading the story, during
that palpitating flash when we are told the student draws back the curtain
of beads and steps in at the bidding of Al-Mu'tasim's incredible voice, a
multiplicity of my own molecules filled with light. Perhaps that is enough.
Yet I felt myself longing for a more lasting effect, for "intelligence, imagination,
and goodness", and I kept asking myself, if I were to portray the original,
how would I do it? Is it possible that a word or a series of words could have
been rendered, mantra-like even, to explode me out of the realm of literature
and into the transcendent realm? Perhaps this is not even the point of the
story and as I said I don't wish to box with the purposes of someone like
Borges. Still, I stunned myself with my own intransigent reaction, the intransigence
of my craving to meet Al-Mu'tasim. How un-post-modern I am, I remarked, hypnotized
like a simpleton by the mystery of the story and wishing for nothing but the
apparent enlightenment the story promised at the outset. Did I hope perhaps,
goddess forbid, that Al-Mu'tasim would burst into Whitmanesque verse, something
like "Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
all poems", or "You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
from me,/You shall listen to all things and filter them from yourself."?
I questioned myself as to the reason for my
reaction. I thought of the novels of Hesse I read avidly when I was in college,
and tried to recall the last person I had met who "emanated light". Borges
is Argentinean, Hesse German; both have placed their seekers in India, because
as we all know, that's the place enlightenment was originally invented; the
last time we westerners had seekers was in the fifties and sixties (when we
effortlessly borrowed ideals from the east): the beatniks and their heirs
the hippies, who were beatniks on LSD. That was the last time I know when
you count on the kindness of strangers. The beatniks were preceded by the
hoboes, who in turn owe their obscure etiology to student travelers and troubadours
of the Middle Ages. To be alone or with a lover at midnight in the open air
where all free poems are conceived and all heroic deeds, as Whitman would
don't think I know anyone in my immediate surroundings willing to undertake
the arduous journey of the law student in Borges, to seek an original identity.
Whitman's "call to arms", to take to the open road sounds inviting while I'm
yawning with a nice glass of port, stretched out on the couch after a day
at the office. But to take to "the long brown path before me leading me wherever
I choose"? In case you didn't notice, the long brown path before me has morphed
into a six-lane freeway, leading from one shopping mall to another. Free poems
and heroic deeds in shopping malls indeed!
Why would I want to go on living, why would
I prize my own life, if there is nothing out there which reinforces its essence?
Why would I want to leave my couch? Even the erotic which, according to Freud/Marcuse
is at the core of my motivational strategy, is re-formed by advertizing, in
other words is given "form" by ad men without any concern for what my own
specific forms are. Thanatos vampirising Eros. What life do I have which is
my own, what do I have which is not merely formed by demands of the shopping
mall? We have become no more than mannequins to hang designer clothes on.
The shopping mall, the corporation now claims
our bodies, that is, the exterior, and the interior is claimed by the medical
profession: your guts feed entire chains of killer pimp doctors and their
whores the nurses, of state validated drug pushers in kelly green scrubs.
Our gestures and our intestines are plugged
into the life support machine of others' purposes, others whose purposes we
don't admire, others whose purposes are not our vocation, or call us from
the abyss, the lovely abyss of a goddess who adores us and whispers us poems:
we would return to that abyss if our gestures were not trapped in flesh's
birdlime, forced to perform according to straighjacketted gesticulations,
in the service of the forces of manufacture, forces whose function we do not
admire, whose function frightens us, whose function we loath; prodding us
to march against our true sense of ourselves. And this is our present destiny,
to place our restricted gestures in the service of manufacture; the manufacture
of objects which are unnecessary, made from materials we could not love, foam
which disgusts, in other words which our senses are revolted by; and our anxiety
is caused by our recognition of the inferior purposes and materials which
blend up to make up our mutual mundo; yes, our gestures, functions of our
bodies, whose motions do not belong to us any longer, but to the corporation
whose meaning is a stranger to the abyss that would love us. We have been
cloned by the corporation into clowns dancing in the service of purposes foreign
to our purposes which originally gush out of the abyss; we have become marionettes,
robots, mannequins for the purposes of the corporation. Body = corpus = corpses
Still, one conjectures that inner life does
exist but to what extent does one pay attention to the delicate eddies of
feeling and thought unless ad men sell it to you as an emotional disorder
to exhort you to buy the prescription drugs to fix it? Borges speaks of a
threshold which lasted as long as a beggar visited it and faded from sight
when he died; it is the same with our inner life. And those who are still
poets, those who should point out to us those internal eddies and winds, who
should be extolling them for us, edifying them, are primarily concerned with
being published, making a splash at this reading or that, playing politics
with possible publishers. And what good dadaism, or surrealism? Are they powerful
enough now to restore our sense of inner identity? Do we have enough faith
in poetry anymore now that the poets are all writing copy for advertising?
Gherasim Luca leaps in the Seine at 80; his suicide note reads that there
is no longer any room in the world for the poet. And the art institutions?
If they don't nurture ad men, they train you to scratch filigree frills on
stainless steel, emboss arabesques on plastic. The same hippie poets who traveled
the long brown path in the sixties are now selling us the clothes we should
wear when we are to profess to ourselves that we're born to be wild while
riding the open road in SUVs. Can the Gap ever be bridged back again, Allen?
The solution I think is simple and I am surprised
no one thought of it before me. I would get rid of the body. The body is fine
and I endorse it as erotic contour, shaped by the imagination; otherwise it
serves no purpose at all. To engage the body in a world wide network of incessant
production for the single purpose of feeding it, gaining it shelter and maintaining
status for it? Absurd!
There has got to be a way of freeing the body
from the demands of the stomach, the need for shelter, from the demands of
utility. The body as imagination only. Marcuse called for the reducing of
production to a minimum so that human beings are free to follow their erotic
destiny. But he lacks vision in his compromise with the body, thus he still,
albeit willy-nilly, endorses the forces of production. But imagine if you
will, a body made of imagination only, free to pursue its desires unrestricted!
Free to pursue and fulfill all erotic imagination! The body de-sausageified.
A society, a world freed of the demands of the stomach! I could easily give
up my status as a restaurateur for that! The flesh liberated of its coprophiliac
predestination. Food? Who needs it when my body is made up of erotic intensities
only? The tongue liberated to formulate words and give pleasure. The flesh
And why maintain status when enslaving or being
enslaved could be so much fun? Borges speaks in "The Babylon Lottery" of the
delirious exhilaration of plumbing the vicissitudes of terror and hope, of
a lucky drawing to drown you in the river of delights, or condemn you to the
intimate custody of "the woman who began to disquiet him and whom he never
expected to find again".
Yes, an immanent eroticism extending into all
social affairs. A ceaseless erotic war between male and female, where prisoners
are taken. The human being loosed of the constriction of playing the male
and female roles. The woman freed from the demands of motherhood and family,
unrestrained in pursuit of her erotic fulfillment. Eroticism freed of the
genital concentration, infusing and pervading now the totality of the being.
Incessant betrayal as erotic play. The body liberated of family restrictions,
of social restrictions, of theological vows to unproven male superegos, colonels
of mass blindings; military incursions as erotic play; architecture and furniture
incessantly constructed and deconstructed by imagination, a nomadic life freed
of the search for state; betrayal as socially acceptable erotic behavior.
The body eternal, experiencing neither birth nor death, neither illness, nor
old age. The body eternally youthful, more graceful and fluid than a ballet
dancer's or a pantomime's. Eros sans Thanatos.
Here I must take a detour to speak about sex
liberated from its reproductive duties, ascending to its erotic mission. Or
rather returning to eroticism. Borges says, quoting Bioy Casares, that "mirrors
and copulation are abominable because they reproduce men. I could speak, certainly,
of a new manner of reproducing ourselves, science has, as you well know, not
been dilatory on this matter, a new manner which could resolve the the time
worn argument of copulation for procreation versus eroticism in the service
of pleasure; perhaps it's here that the core of confusion lies, and it is
here that the solution lies as well. And I am suspicious of eroticism for
both procreation and pleasure. (Certainly I am aware there are those slavishly
drooling middle way mediators who claim that it is to be used for both, but
they are to be discounted.) Let us look then at for a different manner of
duplicating ourselves, if duplicating ourselves is what we need to do. I for
one am not sure. Where we falter is to imagine that we need to reproduce at
all, this worship of the man of mud demiurge who exhorted us to go and procreate.
The east on the other hand has held for ages that life is eternal, that there
was never a time when we were born and never a time when we die.
Yes, I opt for this eternal body, the body as
an assemblage of intensive principles, the body destratified and destraightjacketted
of male superego significances and restrictive borders and boundaries, armadas
of functionality, maternal imperatives, blinding logic of massmamalias and
Descartes demarcations, freed of the subject/object separation ("here the
profound lesson of reception".) The intensities that circulate through me,
through space, without the separation between the two, no separation between
desire and fulfillment of desire in its pure form; a Spinozian infinite substance;
I see you or you see me, I wish to possess you or to betray you, or to be
possessed or betrayed by you. All is fulfillment, all is intrigue, all is
idleness and endlessness. The endless play of a goddess. Our gestures, actions,
formulations, all planes of intensity. Finally, a veritable global community.
How would you make a body like that? The ancients
proclaimed our bodies are made of the four elements of earth, water, fire
and air. (Heraclitus countered by proclaiming we are made of fire only, which
I like, fire and conflict, a fire that heats but won't incinerate, a fire
flecked with algoric viridescence, a fire in its original, poetic state -
here I must divagate to rage against Prometheus the Pyromaniac who in a feat
of reverse alchemy reduced the essence of fire to mere arson and pyrotechnics.)
To the four elements the Buddhists added the void. The void, the abyss, is
really a misnomer as it is not void of content, just as dreams, which are
insubstantial, immaterial, are not void of content. The void then is a virtual
state where all the substances exist in their potentiality, their immaterialness,
but they do exist, like a spring of incessant life. What we need to do is,
by some new (or old) alchemy, return our material bodies to the eternal state
How do we learn, or re-learn this alchemy to
transmute us back to our original state? This state I might add that we crave,
that we wish to return to.
But first let me itemize more of its benefits.
A divine Eros. No, not that. An erotic divine,
rather. (Not that Eros was not originally divine, until they put him in the
porno shop.) So the materials of the world I propose are materials infused
with Eros, but Eros without Thanatos, an erotic abyss, an insubstantial substance
which contains and engenders all substances, yes, the attributes of all substances
immanent and inherent, a field of consistency, pleasure without discharge.
A general pervasive sense that we are ourselves
but at the same time do not belong to ourselves, we relinquish all responsibility
for ourselves into the gentle arms of the goddess, that each of our gestures
are the fulfilling gestures of the goddess, that we are one with her purposes,
that we are her purposes.
Each motion we commit ourselves to, each gesture
we indulge in, is a slow deliberate abandonment, there is no purpose, no alarm
clock, no one to save, no reason but the abandonment itself.
Each particular gesture is invitation to levitation.
All surfaces are erotic. The internal organs that we believe sustain the body
are non-existent. No one wants anything, not because they've given up but
because they have everything. Each action, unwilled, leads to fulfilment.
Realize that my ideas are not so different than Spinoza's.
The prayer each of us would utter each day to
the goddess: I abandon myself to the sleepwalking abductions of your fingertips'
purpose; I live each day as though ceaselessly capitulating to an abducting
quicksand of silk and enigmas.
We have two apparent choices here, to produce
this body of Spinozian Infinite Substance:
1. To involve science to help us create another
sort of a body. I am sure with the development of computer sciences, the internet
and virtual reality someone must be already working on it. Bioy Casares expressed
a similar sentiment in the "Island of Morel", though much less satisfying,
in my opinion, as his envisioned life, though perpetual, is repetitive, and
lacks the element of surprise, of abduction. Be that as it may, we must move
forward and not be thwarted by old fashioned ideas of nature. Perhaps there
is no such thing as nature; (what is nature anyway? a backlit landscape, with
a clearing in foreground, trees in the background, a shepherd, some sheep.)
And perhaps evolution itself, Hegel's process, leads from "nature" to scientific
manufacture, since the human is the teleology's end. And if we were created
in the image of god, we can't help imitate the old man. The good book never
tells us how he created the world, what exactly sort of "science" he possessed;
this is where the great lie lies, and the source of our confusion: this concept
we have grafted to our core, gesticulating through life without questioning
it: creation of something out of nothing: the belief that there is a force
which has made us but who forbids us to find out how, not just forbids us
to find out, but forbids us to ask the question how: and the literatures concerning
themselves with this question supporting those beliefs by portraying tragic
ends for those impertinent souls who make the attempt. And the corporation
is nothing but an extension of that form of belief, drawing its power from
our fear of questioning at the core of our perception of life, something concealed
and occult we must avoid attempting to discern.
And we must certainly relinquish this self oppression
that we subject ourselves to, not to question His purposes. (I only wrote
his with a capital H to make a point, to make myself understood, not out of
fearful respect, let that be understood.)
Still, since science is the tool of the corporation,
I do not trust the sort of bodies it would make, the sort of purposes it purports
to pursue, the sort of codifying these corporation created bodies would be
branded with, infected as the present corporations are with His exhortations.
I could itemize some of the horrifying concepts that occur to me but I've
had a bad bay, it's too hot, the traffic is heavy, global warming clearly
kicked in today, and I'm sure as you read these words some of these concepts
are occurring to you too. Let's go to number 2.
2. To train ourselves so that we can psychically
transmute our flesh into a substance which is less fleshy, less demanding
of maintenance, "the incoherent and vertiginous matter" that dreams are made
of; I am thinking here of Borges's dream man in The Circular Ruins, or his
hrˆnir, from Tlˆn, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius; a flesh made not of gross
meat - really a very bad idea from the start - here I have to blame once again
the bad temper of the mean-spirited old man credited with creation for charging
us with eating flesh, he makes clear his sympathies when he opts for Abel's
offerings (burnt flesh) but turns down Cain's (wheat, vegetables). And for
centuries now everyone tightens a jaw and sneers at the sound of Cain's name.
I am well aware that these ideas I propose do
not stand me well in this myrmidon community contaminated with the tumor of
the man of mud worship. Of he who told them to go and reproduce. I also understand
that the Hades family - pronounce Heydz - yes, the Hades family, virulent
front-runner of mass produced intimate attire in service of reproduction,
finances - but in secret, a secret everyone knows - the Institution, the so
called "art" Institution that finances the sustenance of my flesh. At times
I indulge in solitary relish of this ironical stand-off. While I bear the
aspect of one immersed in waywardness, of hobbling in contretemps, a stunning
vendetta obsesses me incessantly.
The demiurge they worship in these parts, if
you spelled his name backwards and read it out loud, you would get something
close to "sausage". That figures, if you figure that dad is "dog". I hope
you get my meaning. Next to the corner worship establishment where hymnals
to their "sausage dog" blast out on Sundays - there is one on every corner
- is a little cafe that boasts on a peeling wooden sign: "the best sausage
dogs in the world". You'll understand if I can't commit myself to clarifying
this matter any further. With glance askance I spy on the crowd at the meat
counter of the local deli where I shop: more and more take on the aspect of
stuffed sausages. Some are peppered with bits of humor and other similar spices
so as to give you the illusion of intelligence, of courtesy, even of metaphysics,
like a smile carved out on a dead turkey.
I stroll the empty steets at night and can only
hope that the baroque turns of phrase I wield with my shadow tongue will make
my thoughts incomprehensible to those who would pry into the penumbra of my
personal events, those already wary of my intimate activities, activities
I have camouflaged by having mastered the candid uttering of stirring language
formulations birdlimed in a cloying doxology.
Until I have masterminded my alchemic abscondance,
I need this source of fleshly sustenance. My contract with the Corpse brings
me but little gain.