Monday, March 12, 2012

That it vanishes, makes it no less real.

I sat down the other night to read about Camus and Sartre. I don't recall the title of the essay or even what it was exactly about. I do remember that Camus and Sartre developed a very contentious relationship later in their friendship and that this eventually lead to a complete falling out over a scathing review in Satre's journal of one of Camus' later books. (Maybe it was La Chute. Maybe). This article I picked up was about some small detail of conflict between the theories of the two men.

I am very interested in theory and the history of ideas, and the way that they mirror us; and the way that they delineate the possible varieties of human experience; and the way they are concealed in everything we do from the meals we prepare to the ways it is acceptable to torture and kill one another. But when it comes right down to it... there is always something else on my mind.

I was in my studio chair reading. The winter sun was coming in through the window. I set my laptop aside for a second. And there,  in a magazine I was cutting up to make “paint,” beside the technical and intricate analysis I was reading, was a picture of a girl in a summer dress.  The sun was hitting everything just right...

I lost all interest in who said what on page whatever about whatever. I stared at the table and relished the warmth of the sun, and the uneasiness of longing over a chimera.  I snapped this picture.

Bataille said something like the problem of philosophy is that it is too divorced from life. And maybe also, the problem of life is that it is too divorced from philosophy.  For instance, the aesthetic pleasure of that moment isn't merely pleasure. 

This picture is propaganda. It's selling an idea of femininity, an idea of want and consumption. It is also positing the basic and contradictiry ideological requirement of capitalism: that you are not good enough – which is to say your desire will never be satisfied; and that you deserve to satisfy all of your wants; and that you could if you were rich enough, smart enough, famous enough, beautiful enough, etc.; even worse, over time, you will require more and more to give that you that semblance of fulfillment.

But this picture is also beautiful. Not innocent. Also beautiful. It is a promise of all those things you lack – power, agency, creativity, status, freedom, etc. And that might be at the roots of all beauty/ desire. Without this lack, without The Fall, there is no desire. Without desire there is no suffering. And thus, also, there is no life resembling the life that we know; there is no art, or theory, or science, or god;  and also, no war and strife and hunger and exploitation.

In an other post I said that in the object of desire I see a tragedy waiting to happen. I also just see a tragedy.  But that tragedy brings with it everything that is meaningful about being alive.

That all of it vanishes, makes it no less real.


  1. Tony Hoagland writes, "As long as there is desire, we will not be safe."

  2. "Can I say it again,
    that I wanted to punch her right in the face?
    Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness.
    As long as there is desire, we will not be safe."

    It's interesting to me that this is about a rejected lover and a will to violence against the object of desire who denies access to the entrance of her body:

    "when at the crucial moment, the all-important moment,
    the moment standing at attention,
    she held her milk white hand agitatedly
    over the entrance to her body and said No,"

    I especially like that it speaks to the power and violence of that desire; and that tenderness can only result from the authenticity of that violence.

    Thanks for turning me onto this poem. And your blog.