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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.
i want never to encounter work I wish to edit
I am extremely honored and anticipating studies this summer with the guidance and instruction of Simon Critchley. If you attend to this interview, you will probably notice the many resonances and ideas I “sense” and look forward to engaging…
I was going to type a long set of excerpts…but so much nicer for you to get some of the full sense yourselves… if you have the time… it’s worth it – to interact with a resource external to yourself and see how that creates what we commonly think of as “cognition”… like my hands typing this message that you are going ‘outside’ of yourself to utilize toward meanings….
“Every reading act is an event, or a transaction involving a particular reader and a particular pattern of signs, a text, and occurring at a particular time in a particular context…the reader and the text are two aspects of a total dynamic situation”
(click to read full article)
“Writing is always an event in time, occurring at a particular moment in the writer’s biography, in particular circumstances, under particular external as well as internal pressures…the writer is always transacting with a personal, social and cultural environment”
If David Weinberger is to be believed, the Internet hasn’t just changed how we access information, it has altered the very meaning of ‘knowledge’. In a recent interview with The Atlantic, Weinberger claims that “for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument.” Supposedly, the networked, collaborative, and social nature of the Internet has changed our very understanding of knowledge to the point that knowledge is no longer tied to concepts of truth, objectivity, or certainty. Instead, as Weinberger argues in his recent book, Too Big to Know, “knowledge is a property of the network” (p. xiii). That is, the Internet has profoundly changed what it means to be a fact, to be true, or to be known. This book has been making the rounds among librarians, so I thought it might be a good idea…
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“Whether one form of inscription is more efficient or more easily learned than another (the asserted alphabetic advantage) may be less consequential in its cognitive consequences than if a society has developed a large bureaucracy, literary culture, philosophic tradition, technology, commerce, and educational system using whatever form(s) of inscription it has historically developed”
“The world we know, think about, and act within is saturated by and structured on the texts that travel from place to place and have some durability over the years. The built symbolic world on which we have elaborated new social meanings and relationships and that is the object of our thought and attention as we try to live our lives as successfully as we can within it, in that we find the consequences of literacy.”
-Charles Bazerman, Social Implications of Writing-
research education, academic writing, public engagement, funding, other eccentricities.
Essays & Criticism of Contemporary Poetry and Literary Fiction
teacher, edu-nerd, learner
Decolonization in Theory & Practice
"La seule vie qui soit passionnante est la vie imaginaire." Virginia Woolf
"As for me I reduce everything to a tumult of words" - Clarice Lispector
On attachment, detaching, and ordinary life.