Michel Foucault: “Speech Begins After Death”

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..does the pleasure of writing exist?  I don’t know.  One thing I feel certain of is that there’s a tremendous obligation to write.  This obligation to write, I don’t really know where it comes from.  As long as we haven’t started writing, it seems to be the most gratuitous, the most improbable thing, almost the most impossible, and one to which, in any case, we’ll never feel bound.  Then, at some point – is it the first page, the thousandth, the middle of the first book, or later?  I have no idea – we realize that we’re absolutely obligated to write.  This obligation is revealed to you, indicated in various ways.  For example, by the fact that we experience so much anxiety, so much tension if we haven’t finished that little page of writing, as we do each day.  By writing that page, you give yourself, you give to your existence, a form of absolution.  That absolution is essential for the day’s happiness.  It’s not the writing that’s happy, it’s the joy of existing that’s attached to writing, which is slightly different.  This is very paradoxical, very enigmatic, because how is it that the gesture – so vain, so fictive, so narcissistic, so self-involved – of sitting down at a table in the morning and covering a certain number of blank pages can have this effect of benediction for the remainder of the day?  How is the reality of things – our concerns, hunger, desire, love, sexuality, work – transfigured because we did that in the morning, or because we were able to do it during the day?  That’s very enigmatic.  For me, in any case, it’s one of the ways the obligation to write is manifested.

This obligation is also indicated by something else.  Ultimately, we always write not only to write the last book we will write, but, in some truly frenzied way – and this frenzy is present even in the most minimal gesture of writing – to write the last book in the world.  In truth, what we write at the moment of writing, the final sentence of the work we’re completing, is also the final sentence of the world, in that, afterward, there’s nothing more to say.  There’s a paroxysmal intent to exhaust language in the most insignificant sentence.  No doubt this is associated with the disequilibrium that exists between speech and language.  Language is what we use to construct an absolutely infinite number of sentences and utterances.  Speech, on the contrary, no matter how long or how diffuse, how supple, how atmospheric, how protoplasmic, how tethered to its future, is always finite, always limited.  We can never reach the end of language through speech, no matter how long we imagine it to be.  This inexhaustibility of language, which always holds speech in suspense in terms of a future that will never be completed, is another way of experiencing the obligation to write.  We write to reach the end of language, to reach the end of any possible language, to finally encompass the empty infinity of language through the plenitude of speech.

Another reason why writing is different from speaking is that we write to hide our face, to bury ourselves in our own writing.  We write so that the life around us, alongside us, outside, far from the sheet of paper, this life that’s not very funny but tiresome and filled with worry, exposed to others, is absorbed in that small rectangle of paper before our eyes and which we control.  Writing is a way of trying to evacuate, through the mysterious channels of pen and ink, the substance, not just of existence, but of the body, in those minuscule marks we make on paper.  To be nothing more, in terms of life, than this dead and jabbering scribbling that we’ve put on the white sheet of paper is what we dream about when we write.  But we never succeed in absorbing all that teeming life in the motionless swarm of letters.  Life always goes on outside the sheet of paper, continues to proliferate, keeps going, and is never pinned down to that small rectangle; the heavy volume of the body never succeeds in spreading itself across the surface of paper, we can never pass into that two-dimensional universe, that pure line of speech; we never succeed in becoming thin enough or adroit enough to be nothing more than the linearity of a text, and yet that’s what we hope to achieve.  So we keep trying, we continue to restrain ourselves, to take control of ourselves, to slip into the funnel of pen and ink, an infinite task, but the task to which we’ve dedicated ourselves.  We would feel justified if we no longer existed except in that minuscule shudder, that infinitesimal scratching that grows still and becomes, between the tip of the pen and the white surface of the paper, the point, the fragile site, the immediately vanished moment when a stationary mark appears once and for all, definitively established, legible only for others and which has lost any possibility of being aware of itself.  This type of suppression, of self-mortification in the transition to signs is, I believe, what also gives writing its character of obligation.  It’s an obligation without pleasure, you see, but, after all, when escaping an obligation leads to anxiety, when breaking the law leaves you so apprehensive and in such great disarray, isn’t obeying the law the greatest form of pleasure?  To obey an obligation whose origin is unknown, and the source of whose authority over us is equally unknown, to obey that – certainly narcissistic – law that weighs down on you, that hangs over you wherever you are, that, I think, is the pleasure of writing…

…I’m not an author.  First of all, I have no imagination.  I’m completely uninventive.  I’ve never even been able to conceive of something like the subject of a novel…I place myself resolutely on the side of the writers [in distinction – Roland Barthes – from authors] those for whom writing is transitive.  By that I mean those for whom writing is intended to designate, to show, to manifest outside itself something that, without it, would have remained if not hidden at least invisible.  For me, that’s where, in spite of everything, the enchantment of writing lies…I’m simply trying to make apparent what is very immediately present and at the same time invisible…I’d like to reveal something that’s too close for us to see, something right here, alongside us, but which we look through to something else…to define the proximity around us that orients the general field of our gaze and our knowledge…

So, for me, the role of writing is essentially one of distancing and of measuring distance.  To write is to position oneself in that distance that separates us from death and from what is dead…I’m in the distance between the speech of others and my own…In exercising my language, I’m measuring the difference with what we are not, and that’s why I said to you earlier that writing means losing one’s own face, one’s own existence.  I don’t write to give my existence the solidity of a monument.  I’m trying to absorb my own existence into the distance that separates it from death and, probably, by that same gesture, guides it toward death…

I’dd add that, in one sense, my head is empty when I begin to write, even though my mind is always directed toward a specific object.  Obviously, that means that, for me, writing is an exhausting activity, very difficult, filled with anxiety.  I’m always afraid of messing up; naturally, I mess up, I fail all the time.  This means that what encourages me to write isn’t so much the discovery or certainty of a certain relationship, of a certain truth, but rather the feeling I have of a certain kind of writing, a certain mode of operation of my writing, a certain style that will bring that distance into focus…

Foucault saisi par la révolution - Vacarme | Michel Foucault | Scoop.it

The Writing of the Disaster

You think twice.  You plan.  I do these things.

Finally incapable of mind over matter.  The capacity of drunkenness.  Full experience.

The body.  The lust and wanting.  The work to let it alone.  To surpass or supersede.

Supplant desire with will.

Language works with, on and in the body.  Larynx, lung, tongue and movement.  Gut, brain and blood.

Without satiating muscle.  Without exhausting the possibilities.  Without terminating lust.

I think twice.  I plan.  You do these things.

Intention.  Commitment.  Decision.

“I will transcend the body.  I will overcome desire.  I will compensate and supplant urges with verbs.  Consonants will become my flesh’s contact and content.  Interoperation with world will equate to traversing its languages.  To write will be my sexuality.  Language my intimate other.”

I will compose my satiation.  I will think my end.  I will language my undoing and completion.  I will create what I need.

Still the body rises.  Erects itself.  Rushes and longs.  Aches.

I rub language all over it.  Stroke it with breath and sounds.  Caress every part with a term.  Toy and pleasure each hollow and tense with tongued noise.

It wants.  It desires.  I want.  I desire.  I long for what it says without diction.

 

Be Drunk

Charles Baudelaire, 1821 – 1867

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

Language.  Alcohol.  Language.  Alcohol.  To void and satiate the body.  To provide full experience.  Pair satiating self.  Ache and desire.  Want and sensation.  As a whole – the desire to be drunk – to fulfill – saturation of pleasure and knowledge – perception/sensation and abstraction/thought – TO RESPOND.  Shower the body, challenge the mind.  Work the muscles.  Lingua the self.  Tickle with letters and edges; heat, fill, temper and calm  salve and sensitize the skin and organs – flood the whole: language and alcohol.  Avoid depending on kind, species, occasion.  Avoiding dependency.

How might an human organism satiate itself?

I dreamt language.  I imagined correspondence, intelligence, sexuality, the wide-openness of commerce between one human and another.  Particularity, difference, biology, culture, knowledge, capacity undoes this.  Incapacitates convergence.  Ruins union.

Intimacy with other = impossible.

Intimacy with self-system = ?

Language.  Alcohol.  Immaterial / Matter.  Body-mind.  Embodied mind.  Enminded body.  How solve desire?  Lust, want, biology, sociology, anthropology (and so on) – the logoi of BEING HUMAN.

Be wild and crazy and drunk with Love,

if you are too careful, Love will not find you.

~Rumi

 

Love depends on Other.  Love depends on converging, connection, call / response / return.  Love is impossible.  Cohesive mingling.

To say the unsayable.  The reach beyond.  The experiment, invention, imagine.  Commerce with species and kind, taking it in (language), absorbing and transforming seeds, spewing it out (language).  Giving / Giving Back.  Receiving / Offering.  Language – perfect intimacy seed.  Perfect contact and context differentiating and responding each to each, body to body, mind to mind… sans orgasm, sans drunkenness, sans satiety… regardless of ecstatic fullness.

This is the disaster.

Unfillable.

Insatiable (body)

Satisfied mind.

This is the disaster.

 

Laramie Poeticus

Laramie liked to think himself a poet.  One attuned, natural, native to his world(s).  He liked to think he had unique feelings, perhaps an “insight,” an acute attention – that maybe he saw just a little bit more than others saw.  And was able to say so.

A farmer-cowboy type from the upper Midwest, he played a lot of sports and performed muscled labor – at times enjoying the solitude of pasture rides and the company of large mammals.  He felt a “care,” not sure for what, suspect he’d call it a kind of “connection” – with crop growth, animals, the waters and the skies.  And felt he could say so.  And he could sing.  Musician, farmer, cowboy, son.  Husband, scientist, laboring man.  Father, friend, and “poet” (he might say).  Laramie James Backstagger, dearly known to Alias.

“When you’re making it – forming words or music – do you feel somehow that you’re ‘getting it’?” Alias might ask, as they ambled the fields chopping at thistles, remedying fence.  “Do words add to experience or just chop it up?  Diminish?  Reduce?” Alias chimed.

Laramie would go silent, plodding along, smelling and listening.  Looking.

At times they’d play basketball, tennis (this was all in their youth, Alias having blown out his knees at the pigskin).  And careful.

They both went on to cities: education, enlightenment, the ‘experience’ of cultural promises.  They still had their debts to pay.

“I mean, when you ‘see’ it, or ‘hear’ it, are immersed – it’s not seeing or hearing or sensing – am I right? It’s just being – and then – ?” Alias prodded, “and then – what happens?”  “You hear language, or find it or forge it, dream times or ‘intuit,’ you consider ways you’d be able to MARK it – note it down (letters or score) – recount or recreate it – even extend or rescind it – and that all seems like media to me: communication: expression or history or talk…but reduced.  Reduced to what YOU can comprise or compose – not the ‘same’ as the moments, trembling in the web, and borrowing, borrowing, borrowing – from the wind and the trees, weather and bees, family and learning, working and friends – and our culture! – all funneled and cored to some desiccated fraction of bone – eviscerated – ‘HERE LIES LARAMIE’S TAKE’: some words or an etude or painting.  Even action.  Even sowing or reaping or pruning or care…’HERE LIES LARAMIE’S TAKE’ – wow!  Really?!  Amazing!  One moment made this?!  AND WHAT CARES?  WHAT MATTERS?  WHAT PURPOSE OR POINT, BENEFIT OR CONSEQUENCE…the next ‘now’?!”

Alias could go on and on like this.  Often doing what he’d just described or decried.

And Laramie’d slow, maybe stop, often sit, and stare out.  Have a smoke (he didn’t smoke, but pretended – his children and wife didn’t like it).  And Alias would drink and get wiser.  A little calmer and sad.  And all might go quiet, save the world always humming.

Laramie Backstagger sighed.

“Well?  Whadda ya think?” challenged Alias – “how is it for you when you speak, feel or sing?”

And how would he know, ailing Laramie?  Been too many years of conflicting events and results and mixed feelings.  Too many miles that worked out without working, or failed for the working too much.  “I’m uncertain,” he said, “I’m uncertain.”  “But you’re pushing at something in me.”

By now Alias was off on his own like a mammal, had concocted a scent for to trail.  Maybe the ache was for sharing the thing they were sharing: agreement.  Maybe to get through the whole business at once, simultaneously.  Maybe to not be divided and different or just pieces of things – to be doubled or tripled or multiple?  Harlequin – pieceworked and patched, back then and now and some future.  An assemblage, a collage wanting melding.

“All uncertain,” Laramie said.  “I can’t know, just I do it and feelings will follow.  New ones.  Pains from smashed understandings, joys from promising starts, aches at the poorness I lend them – but something goes on, carries forth – it don’t end with the birds and the breeze.  The words have it too, and the voices.  The shapes and the meanings and lines.  Even tones.  It goes on, both the good and the ill, and I’m part, or it seems such.”

“How ‘bout you?” Laramie wants to know.  “Why do you carry on and keep blabbing,” he taunts.

“Just to borrow,” Harlequin murmurs.  “Just to steal.”  “To have something to say.  To keep silent.  To wish that it might carry on.”  “It’s what we’ve got, all these things.  Try as I might, I don’t know what else to do, and at times feel compelled, god dammit.  Like Foucault or Blanchot or Spinoza.  Or Buddha or Christ, Kafka or little Jane,” (little Jane was the crazy old lady – lived two miles from the Backstagger’s farm – she’d sparkle to company no matter the cause and just cackle and croon – mixing nonsense and stories, opinions and facts, just talking and talking and talking.  No one knew if it ceased when they left, it never stopped within range of the hearing).

“I hear you” said Laramie, “I see.”  To which Alias always replied “But you don’t – I don’t know that.  Have no method of saying it’s true.”  And they’d keep walking on…toward night.

 

Ecriture – ‘I write’ – Why write?

ecstasy - st therese

Nihilism – Melancholy – Language – Silence

No meaning (no matter)

                                            Sorrow (fail again)

                                                                                Speak (try again)

                                                                                                             Silence (fail better?)

A darkness.  Immersion.  This life.  The living it.  Ever to and toward a pointless death (again, another, also).  To be.  To be (as human).  To wish.  To wish for otherwise(s).  To IMAGINE.

Music.  Vision.  Feeling.  Sound ~ Meaning.

I am (one) capable of crafting a fine sentence.

And so – ?

She sings, birdlike, wind-like, tree-like, animal, a hiss of land.

He cavorts shapes, models, architecture – opportunities of space – perhaps, perhaps not yet, perhaps becoming.  In progress…

That one strikes a chord: says.  Plays.  Possible resonance.  Possible possible.  Manufacturing potential.

I am forlorn.  Shorn.  Shriven, stricken, silent.

Working within the arranging of existing things – without vision – mathematician with its figures, logician with axioms, linguist syllabic syntagms.  Utilizing signs.  Pre-existing me – letters and language – scratches and symbols – touches and sights – emotions and thoughts and exhaust…

Minima Philologica

“Very little…almost nothing”

A signal, a marking, a shape inferring sound

(above some hopeful/hopeless void)

And yet…

Organism ~ orgasm.  Biologically an entity capable of immersive ecstasy.  What can, might, has the potential to be – la petite mortweakening of consciousness, swoon, a likening unto death.  This life.  The living it.  Ever to and toward a pointless death (again, another, also).  To be.  To be (as human).  To wish.  To wish for otherwise(s).  To IMAGINE.

As much or as often as possible.  Regardless of structure, import, complexity, complication or difficulty, even desire – BODILY – as organism ~ orgasm FEELS whole, full, exceptional.  Pain, lack, abuse, obtrusion, power, inequality, mystery, vanish, abandon…and yet… the body in orgasm is ecstatic – a weakening of consciousness, swoon, a likening unto death.  Ecriture.

Without meaning

Without import

Without portent

Without purpose

Try (again), ask for (fail again), achieve (fail better)

Anyway, anyhow, silence.

THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH TIME!

The rest go hang – come undone – fail, fall, try harder, wish, hope, imagine – make sense, sensibility, concept, meaning – IN ANY CASE: organism ~ orgasm – more pain and more pleasure will come, will follow upon, will remember, remain – time and consequence – a weakening, a swoon, a likening unto death.

Orga(ni)sm doesn’t care.  All impact an add-on.  Intellect / emotion / sensation / cognition / perception – derivative, invented – and yet – orgasm is an organismic moment.  La petite mortEcriture.

Generative?  Reproducing (or not).  Informative (or not).  Act, study, behave (or not).  And then…NOT.  Organismic gathering toward totality for a moment.  There is living, there is dying (and death) and they (in fact) are indistinguishable.  This life.  The living it.  Ever to, in, toward pointless death (again, another, also).  To be.  To be (as human).  To wish.  To wish for otherwise(s).  To IMAGINE.  Being orgasmically.

To live.  To die.  (breathe out).

It is windy.