Report: Beginning from the Endless End: A Community of Thinking: The Experience of the European Graduate School
“the center of thought is that which does not let itself be thought”
– Maurice Blanchot
Perhaps a community.
A community “risking a fragile resilience” (Philip Beesley).
“Distinguishing the indistinguishable.” “Compatible Incompatibilities.” “The Origin is Empty.” “The path to truth is truth itself.” “More than 1, less than 2.” We are always with without.
I feel rich, calm, a sense of belonging. And loss. In my second year of a PhD program at the European Graduate School, nestled far and away in the Swiss Alps, in the canton of Saas-Fee. It is June, it is chilly, high, quiet, separate. Far from the searing plains of Kansas. Far from my employment, my partner, my children. Far from domestic duties and sustaining (endless) chores. Removed, set apart, drawn up to the mountains, the rivers, the snow. Another language, an other culture, a situation of difference.
Mladen Dolar, following many great others, tells us we must “slow our temporality.” That we can “only do philosophy if we pretend to have all the time in the world.” How could this be done within the everyday?
It feels monastic almost. 30-40 humans from all over the world gathered to hear, speak, inquire and reflect. Many silences. All impassioned by the above – the difficult work, accidental work, error-filled work of “distinguishing the indistinguishable” finding “compatible incompatibilities,” facing the “empty origins,” and setting onto the path that has no end, in the risk of a “bad infinity” – of selecting or creating or imagining impossible tasks and eternally postponing them, finding no conclusions, resolutions, foundations – everything put into question, everything problematized, intervened – “the truth is mediation, a passage.” The happening, the process, of thinking. So we believe. And so we gather. With eminent leaders, guides, mentors (for example, this session: Slavoj Zizek, Helene Cixous, Philip Beesley, Christopher Fynsk, Mladen Dolar, Jean-Luc Nancy, Keller Easterling, Chris Kraus, Alenka Zupancic, Benjamin Bratton, Werner Hamacher, Anne Carson…and more…). We hear from them, we question, we think with them, think FOR other thought drawn toward us (Hegel, Aristotle, Plato, Heidegger, Foucault, Lacan, Freud, Deleuze, Blanchot, Spinoza, Holderlin, Goya, Beckett, and on…). What lives, what continues in our seemingly endless end. What might in-form and unsettle us, what might disturb and enliven us, how we might change-in-relation, again and again and again…
To “take all the time in the world” for 30 days. To read closely. To be overwhelmed. To exhaust. To end again and again, to fail in hopes to fail better. To “start in a bad way, in order to arrive in the good.” The process and problems. Our “selves” in becoming, the one and the two and the many – always with lack. Negativity, absence. “Nothing is identical to itself.” The “greatest order and disorder exist as one.” “Constancy is slipperiness and change.” How do we dwell there and evince. How do we act to find out? There is always the other, another, a lack that we seek. That is nothing, just lack. Drives and desires and neuroses. The community of thinkers.
Some of us question “what is wrong with us?” Why a surplus enjoyment of troubling existence? Why identities founded on nothing? “Philosophy always arrives too late” (Hegel). We can only begin at the ends. Against nothing. Yet toward. And it is here I feel valued. Here recognized. Here is a home. I belong. In a timelessness of knowing in time. An everywhere of nobodies anywhere. Senses replete with mountains and rain. Clear air and short breaths. An absence of tasks. Singular tasks. Monumental tasks (for me). That need all of the time in the world. Are all of the time of the “world”. Senseless letters. Turbulent being. In media res – in the middle of things – when outside already inside, inside where something’s always left out.
My collegiate journals from decades ago are riddled in their margins with: “to be the writer of loss,” “to be the philosopher of grey,” “to compose absence.” A longing for empty origins since thinking began. Repetition.
I walk for the body to process. I dream of sharp thorns in my feet, of lost items, of absence and language and two shades of grey. Rain comes through the clouds in the fog. “The end is in the beginning, and yet you go on,” “My mistakes are my life,” – Samuel Beckett. And so, and yet, I go on. Intensively, demandingly, having “nothing to write, having no means to write it, and being forced by an extreme necessity to keep writing.” – Maurice Blanchot.
I miss those I hold nearest. And I love them – how indecipherable the term – further description annuls it. To say the unsaid or unsayable. I am confused and elated. Inspired and exhausted. Drawn forward through despair. And I love this experiencing. It belongs.
“If nothing were substituted for everything, it would still be too much and too little.”
― Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster