So I haven’t been writing much lately. Have I been busy? Always, but not as busy as I should be. Have I been sick of dealing with people online? Sure. We’re a pretty wretched, awful species, especially in a cool medium such as this. Have I been in the “bell jar”? Maybe a little. My hope is that I’m like a fallow field. I’m sure y’all learned about it in your highschool history classes. Rotate the crops on a three year cycle and allow certain fields to lie fallow so that they might replenish their nutrients. It was one of the great revolutions of the middle ages, as I recall. Well, when I grow dry– and so much of my sense of self-value is tied up with whether or not I’m writing so I find the blank page deeply traumatic –I like to think that maybe I’m just fallow, that ideas and thoughts and bits of prose are somewhere gestating in me… They’re just larval, inchoate, half-formed. Doesn’t Deleuze somewhere say that “there’s nothing more distressing than ideas that slip away half-formed and unarticulated”? That’s how I remember the quote; and the way we remember things is often what’s most important… Not representation, but the life of an affective response that maybe, if you’re lucky, becomes something else. Ecclesiastes, one of my most important books– alongside Job –said “nothing new under the sun”. True. I soldier on with the belief that everything is worth repeating because not everyone has heard it (the materiality of the signifier, it must travel), and that there is no such thing as a faithful copy.
Here I take heart from evolutionary theory. The greatness of evolutionary theory is that it is anti-hermeneutic. Rather than tracing back everything to an origin or a model (the species as ideal, eternal form), where it then measures the individual asymptotically in terms of how closely it approximates the model (fascism, idealism), it instead shows how every “copy” is a unfaithful and how this very lack of fidelity is what creates the new. Yeah, I stole this from Deleuze too, but he was right. Had Darwin been clever he would have entitled The Descent of Species, The Deviation of Species. Of course, you dope (referring to myself), he never wrote The Descent of Species. The title of that book was The Descent of Man. The Deviation of Man would have been a fine title as well; especially for the Lacanian or cultural critic. Anyway, that’s how I remember the title– again with the unfaithfulness of copies –as The Descent of Species; a nice slip of the tongue or act of forgetting. That should have been the title. I don’t know about you, but I perpetually suffer from the terror of repetition, from the horror of finding something I thought I thought (note the reflexivity) in the next book or article I pick up, and it absolutely paralyzes me; when it comes to writing anyway. How, after 250k years and 6k years (at least) of literate culture, can anyone pick up a pen… Or a typewriter… Or a keyboard? I place my faith in the power of the unfaithful; the unfaithful copy. That’s as good a reason to write as any. I leave uninterrogated why my sense of self-worth is so bound up with writing.
But in these moments where I’m not writing and feel dark and full of despair as a result, I like to think that I’m also a fallow field. I like to think that while my writing slips away every time I resolve to resume again, every time I egotistically and arrogantly believe I might address the larger world– what else is an inscription on paper or an act of speech? –and yet fail to resume, that I am fallow, building up new reserves of nitrogen– or in my most delirious Fast and the Furious fantasies, that I’m building up nitrous or pure and endless thought and prose that burns like white fire –and that what’s really taking place is that my unconscious is working through all sorts of questions, thoughts, and new concepts; that it’s developing new styles of expression and building new prose, metaphors, and examples. That fantasy prevents me from pulling my hair out in despair and allows me to think that maybe I’ll think again, that maybe I’ll compose again, that maybe I’ll have the great joy of the adventure of new sight. And yeah, I say this all with humor and irony; a little anyway.
When I’m in these places I find myself reading “inspirational literature” or works that might give me faith once again in the world and the point of it all. Believe me, that’s hard for an atheist and an anarchist. It’s easy to lose faith in the point of it all when your honest, analyze the social world from the standpoint of immanence, and eschew all myths and eschatologies. It’s hard when you no longer believe that history is inevitably progressing, though you believe it could progress. No angels. No saving events. No romances. Just the idiocy of existence and the sad idiocy of human history. A real materialist refuses the satisfaction of the children’s stories of dialectical materialism. Of course, there’s always hope. Yet for the student of sociology and psychology, it’s also hard to hope.
So what is inspirational literature within such a bleak context? Right now I’m reading d’Holbach’s System of Nature. He’s not as great a thinker as Spinoza, but he’s pretty great. He makes me think of times (a myth) when we fought for things and weren’t confused about everything. Then there’s Jonathan Israel’s A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Origins of Democracy. Israel reminds me of things that are fine and teaches me of those who refuse to compromise to the exigencies of “pragmatic realism”. Then there is Warren Montag’s Althusser and his Contemporaries, who teaches me of the alternative histories of structuralism, how rich the debates were during this period, of engaged and committed thought, of magnificent debates that had meaning, and who reminds me that often what I know of the thought of the continent is like a static filled radio broadcast that I try to piece together and that– as Serres teaches –becomes something different as a result of the noise. I look forward to reading Montag’s book on Spinoza’s materialism. And finally I’m reading Kristen Ross’s May of 68 and its Afterlives which mirrors, I think, Israel’s work. Books of immanence. Books of people creating new worlds. Books of people somehow finding the transcendence to depart from the world into which they were born and in which they grew. The sin of the historian is to find continuity or precedent in everything. It’s a way of thinking that stinks to high heaven. It’s a way of thinking that wants every consequent (note the language of logic, not causality) to be found in a premise. It has no belief in the creative power of a thesis and the procedure that follows form it. It has no faith in the deviant or queer.
I had expected to write about neurology, ecology and what it means to think ecologically, and other things this evening. However, I think this will do for the moment as an attempt to resume.