Thoughts from a Forest of Fallen Trees : The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Side of Existence

(If a philosopher falls in the forest who really cares?) Critical Theory, Deconstruction, Ethics, Religion and other such Things.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Phantom Limb Sabotage

Phantom Limb Sabotage
Marko Zlomislic

For S

Has Mother Earth become Humanity’s Phantom Limb?
Paul Virilio, Open Sky

“If you’re caught in the dream of the other, you’re fucked”
Gilles Deleuze

The blue layers, retina that separates the full from the Void, but the fullness of the earth is overflowing with waste. Pollution that we layer into subdivisions. To dig and disturb the underground that props up our lives. Another world is possible but the same flavor is re-gifted.

We will become responsible for our own erasure when the earth will glow like a sun.
Then the horizon will vanish and along with it the zones of human after taste.
But the real will still be taken, a burr that hitches itself to a Data Suit sabotaging the birth of the event.

The phantom limb our Cartesian heritage, the ghostly effect that affects what remains.
What was there though cut off is still felt to be there. The no longer there is still here.
We are Virilio writes, in a state of perpetual dependence on the unseen but still felt.

The imaginary is the human domain, the gap where we find the still bleeding wounds of our dead gods. The shock of the crumpled future if Nietzsche is correct, can be received with a joy that shatters the test sites of global consumption.

Satellite networks of the monstrous Leibnizean monad, windowless, unable to see the other screaming. It is the uneven that cannot be tolerated. The surface jagged with the new and unique must be planed down, flattened on Procrustes’ bed. Taste what is at the core of the empty space occupied by the Master. He baits you with Coke Zero and aspartame delight.

To see with the same Oedipal eye is already an imposed mutilation.
To cauterize the bleeding is to unplug from the network.
To get off from the grid rather than to get off on the electronic satisfaction it provides.

St. Jerome declares, “ The world is already full and no longer holds us”.
So we remain dependant on the Master’s promise of digital lobotomies.
Corbusier claims, “The house is a machine for living”. He wants to fix the standard and with passion, “create drama out of inert stone”.

Wittgenstein wants the method that is, “the strictly correct one”. These rectal desires want the straight edge to be secured such that we live in the tension of two orders of ethics
Correct as the right heart, correct as the rectal heart, that eliminates the foreigner with murderous discontent.

Fake a prayer in the face of death as the nameless African children are posted, offered up to keep the pennies in the Halloween UNICEF boxes rolling into the Hague. Bailout for the capitalists who cannot live by the rules of their own game.

Hunger and famine for the third world. They are filmed but not fed. We wish to leave the confines of this paralysis to find the primordial encounter. But this is a trip into Nature, into the predatory chaos.

Cry to heaven as the ground beneath your feet spirals into trauma. Worn down by the glacial grind, a skateboard trick that defies gravity, that seeks escape velocity from the funbox ramp. My son is five, he is on his board without fear. He is free gliding on wheels, turning on the half pipe without a cord.

Some await the drunk messiah who splits the sky with a jagged impulse. Ahab’s leg in the belly of the whale becomes the prosthetic, multiplying its monstrosity onto dry land.
Only a Hancock can save us now, while Hannibal continues to feed.

The digital focus of the viral eye chipped from Descartes spirit leg. Embalm it like Bentham’s corpse to preside over the meetings of the World Bank. Civil lies, civilize. This system a train wreck with built in safe guards to fund its own mistakes.

Who is appointed Lord and Head? You anoint him with your labour only to be baptized with fear. The still birth of your madness is too feeble to reverse the gears of the pyramid machine that grinds its progeny into the bricks that structure its walls.

Animated it exalts itself. Apparatus of the Rector’s war machine
The smooth space. Marble surface. Where we will have been ground down
To have our ashes as the only mute witness.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Self-Portrait at African Lion Safari

Acrylic on Canvas. 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Philosophy Bored With Itself

Acrylic on Canvas. 2007. Private Collection.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reading Francis Bacon

Acrylic on Canvas. Private Collection. 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007


Mixed Media on Canvas. 2007. Private Collection.

Noah in the Park


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Simulacra of my SouthPark Replica

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Death is it Possible?

I am five years old. My goldfish does not want to swim anymore. I bring it to my mother. It’s very tired she says. It is there that I make the connection between death and sleep and become afraid to fall asleep.
Psalm 89 asks: Who can live and never see Death? Psalm 103 informs us " As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone". What is it in these ancient Hebrew words that troubles us? Has anyone of us actually seen Death? Is it possible to see Death? I have seen living things die: plants, animals, humans but I have never seen Death. Why does the word "gone" frighten us so much?
In his text the Phaedo, the Greek philosopher Plato recounts the conversation between Socrates and his friends in the death cell during the last hours of his life. Socrates begins to explain why it is that a philosopher should look forward to death: "Other people don’t seem to realize that those who pursue philosophy in the right way are actually working at readying themselves for dying and for being dead". The true philosopher, Socrates declares, strives to free himself from subjection to the pleasures of the flesh. He strives to separate body from soul: to purify his mind from the distorting influences of pleasure and pain. Socrates points out, that there is no hope of our attaining to knowledge of anything until we are liberated from the body by death. So long as we live, if we are serious seekers for truth, we must engage in a determined process of purification.
Philosophy for the Socrates of the Phaedo is a systematic self liberation from the influences of pleasure and pain . He has transcended the fear of death and has freed himself from attachment to physical things. Liberated from the obsessive and deluding powers of pleasure and pain, the philosopher can face the worlds as he knows it to be, freed from the desires and fears in which most of humanity are trapped.
Socrates defines death as "simply the departure of soul from body". Being dead, "consists does it not, in the body having been parted from the soul and comes to be by itself, and in the soul having been parted from the body, and being by itself". The body is a hindrance to the attainment of truth. Socrates states: "While we are alive we shall, it would seem, come nearest to knowledge if we have as little as possible to do with the body, if we limit our association therewith to absolute necessities, keeping ourselves pure and free from bodily infection until such a time as God himself shall release us. And being thus made pure and rid of the body’s follies we may expect to join the company of the purified, and have direct knowledge of all truth un-obscured".
To fear death is to be a lover of the body: "Then if you see a man about to die complaining, is not that good evidence that he is not really a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, but what we may call a lover of the body? And probably he will be a lover of riches too, or honors, or maybe of both".
Socrates asks, "What must come to be present in a body for it to be alive?" The answer is: SOUL. The soul always brings life along with it to anything that it occupies So when death approaches a person, his/her mortal part dies, but their immortal part gets out of the way of death and takes its departure intact and indestructible. The soul which is the life principle cannot become its opposite; the death principle.
According to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, to live is not something that one learns from either life or from oneself. The question, "How should I live?" does not receive an answer from life. How should I live is never taught by life. The question to this answer arrives, "only from the other and by death". Why only from the other and by death is this question answered? Learning to live is never something one does alone, all by oneself. Following Derrida, learning how to live would involve,
To learn to live with ghosts, in the upkeep, the conversation, the company and companionship, in the commerce without commerce of ghosts. To live otherwise, and better….And this being with spectres would also be, not only, but also, a politics of memory, of inheritance, and of generations.
For Derrida, it is essential that these ghosts are welcomed. I will consider two definitions. The first is taken from The Ear of the Other. In this text Derrida defines the ghost as "the effect of another's crypt in my unconscious". Derrida provides a rough schematic of how this crypt within me may be formed. For example, if I lose a loved one and fail to mourn properly, the dead person would continue to live inside me, "but as a stranger".
In "The Deaths of Roland Barthes", Derrida provides another definition of the ghost. There he writes,
Ghosts: the concept of the other in the same, the punctum in the studium, the dead other alive in me...
The word punctum taken from Barthes' text Camera Lucida is that which "pierces, strikes me, wounds me, bruises me, and, first of all, seems to look only at me". The studium is my "haunted space", where the punctum of the other resides in me. To be haunted is to be possessed, burdened or in other words to live with accountability and responsibility for the dead other. The punctum according to Derrida, "points to me at the instant and place where I point to it...". The punctum, according to Barthes is that which is "poignant to me". Poignant: intense, powerful, passionate: the eruption of and blaze of the dead other in me, as my mourning is composed together in words which remember.
What takes place in the communication of a funeral oration? It is of course written for the dead other, but according to Derrida, "this is of course a supplementary fiction" precisely because, "it is always the dead in me, always the others standing around the coffin, who I call out to". Calling out to the dead, to the dead in me, to the others who have their dead in themselves, what may be heard except the sound of tears and talk that flow freely? This grave side talk is supposed to teach us the ethics of how to live, finally. Yet how?
In Section 51 of Being and Time the German philosopher Heidegger points out that death understood in an everyday manner is "known as a mishap which is constantly occurring- as a 'case of death'". In our everyday way of being, and through idle-talk, they understand death as something indefinite, in other words, as something that did occur to others whom we read about in newspapers or notices but not something that can or will occur to me now. This inauthentic understanding of death ignores that, "death is a way to be, which Dasein or the being which is there ( which is Heidegger’s definition of human being) takes over as soon as it is.' As soon as man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die", according to Heidegger. Furthermore, in this inauthentic way of talking about death through our idle-talk, "death is understood as an indefinite something which, above all, must duly arrive from somewhere or other, but which is not yet present- at- hand for oneself, and is therefore no threat". Thus, the dying which is essentially my death and my dying "is perverted into an event of public occurrence which the "they" encounters". Furthermore, according to Heidegger, "the dying of Others is seen often enough as a social inconvenience, if not even a downright tactlessness, against which the public is to be guarded". Even if one knows that death is certain, often, we are not "authentically certain" about our own death and dying. In other words, we live inauthentically in our fear of death.
In Section 47 of Being and Time, Heidegger makes a distinction between the deceased, (Der Verstorbene) and the dead person (dem Gestorbenen). Another distinction is made between perishing (Verenden) and ending. We turn to the first distinction between the deceased and the dead person. According to Heidegger, the deceased is that which "has been torn away from those who have remained behind". The second distinction concerns perishing and ending. We never experience the coming-to-an-end of the deceased. We only experience the loss of the loved one. However, according to Heidegger, "in suffering this loss... we have no way of access to the loss-of-Being as such which the dying man 'suffers'" In a certain sense, when another dies we can only be "there alongside". At the moment of watching and waiting and crying we will eventually encounter a corpse, which according to Heidegger is "something unalive, which has lost its life". What remains behind according to Derrida, are memories, impressions, traces, photographs, and the ash of mourning.
In Aporias, Derrida explores the question "My death- is it possible?" He asks whether death can "be reduced to some line, crossing, to a departure, to a separation, to a step, and therefore to a decease?". Derrida asks, "What, then, is it to cross the ultimate border?". Death is precisely an aporia or the impossibility of what cannot pass. Death is the non-passage, the uncrossable border. Throughout our tradition, death has been defined as a border or limit. In Hamlet's words death is "the undiscovered country, from whose region no traveler returns...". The Tibetan Book of the Dead employs the technical term bardo to describe the experience which slides between death and birth. Bardo is a gap. The word bar is defined as that which is in between, while the word do designates an island. What if we are the bardo? Or the landmark which stands between two things? If so, death would be nothing more than losing one's ground. Death means to become ungrounded. To become spectral; to live-on spectrally. Death would be the space without a ground; where no path exists because no path is required to exist.
If Derrida defines death as the aporia as the possibility of the impossible, there might be another definition of death, of being-human, and of living-on. Such a definition would show us that death is not the aporia, we are the aporia, we are the impossibility of what cannot pass-away. We who live spectrally. We who are both guests and ghosts, held hostage in each others arms through our universal mourning. Not the corpse that will have been.
In terms of the physiological self we can notice the following things. Our life is fragile. We do not worry about the present moment. We worry about the future. Perhaps we should develop this attitude. I will die. I do not know when. I do not know how. Death is unavoidable. Nothing lasts. No matter where we look in this world we find nothing that is permanent. Life does not wait. It is like a waterfall that is continuously flowing. Every moment we are drawing closer towards death. We can understand this intellectually but we do not live it. We are like a tree that appears to be growing but is decaying on the inside. We could keep this thought in mind. I have to do something worthwhile. I cannot waste my time. It is a miracle that we wake up each morning. It is said that the difference between being alive and being dead is a single breath. If you exhale and you don’t inhale, you are dead. My death, is it possible? No one can experience their own death. No one can experience the other’s death. We experience our living which is a dying, perhaps.

Womb/Tomb/Fetal Crypt:

The main moral problem of abortion is under what conditions, if any, is abortion morally justifiable? The conservative view holds that abortion is never justifiable or at most, it is justifiable only when it is necessary to save the mother=s life . The liberal view holds that abortion is always morally justifiable regardless of the reasons or the time in fetal development. The moderate view holds that abortion is morally acceptable up to a certain point in fetal development.
At issue is what sort of entities fetuses are and whether such entities have rights. These two questions are known as the ontological and moral status of the fetus. The ontological status of the fetus considers whether the fetus is an individual; whether the fetus is biologically a human being; whether the fetus is psychologically a human being and whether the fetus is a person. Complicating these questions is the meaning of the expression 'human life'. Human life can refer to the biological characteristics that distinguish us from other species for example, a human is not a cat. Human life can also refer to psychological abilities such as the ability to think or to use symbols. Whether one claims that the fetus is an individual organism, a biological human being or a psychological human being or a person, one must specify at what point in its biological development does the fetus attain this status.
The conservative position argues that the fetus has full ontological status from the time of conception. The liberal position holds that the fetus never achieves ontological status while in the womb. The moderate view holds that the ontological statu of the fetus falls somewhere in-between conception and birth. Abortion is simply said to refer to the termination of a pregnancy.
These issues and questions are difficult and complicated. To be ethical we must further complicate the issue and not be content with providing simple answers. Issue will be the word from which we begin our analysis of how to conceive an abortion.
The word issue comes from the Latin exire which means to go out. To issue is to emerge or to exit. Issue is a means or way of going out from something. An issue is a discharge from the body such as blood, tears, sweat, urine, feces. To issue also means to make new currency or money available. That is why money is always dirty even as it is crisp and shines. We wait for the next issue of a magazine. But our waiting for the next issue of a magazine is very different from our waiting for someone to solve the issue or problem. The volcano issues smoke and fire and lava. To issue is to make available. The dead fetus issues forth from the woman's body to be used or thrown away just like a tissue. The issue here is what kind of tissue the fetus is and what is the human?
Human is related to humus which means earth or ground. In this sense all things in the world are human insofar as they are from the earth. Only the human sees itself as being above the ground and so treats other human animals as inferior creatures. What does it mean to be human when the embryo that becomes wrapped in a blue or pink blanket develops through stages that resemble amphibians, fish and mammals until it finally appears as something we name Sally or Johnny? Life is defined as the period from birth to death. With this modern definition anything unborn does not have life. When does life begin?
The issue of the moral status of the fetus asks what rights if any does it have? The conservative view holds that from the moment of conception, the unborn has the same rights that any person has. In this case, abortion denies the unborn not only the right to life but the right to live its life. Liberals would deny the fetus any moral status. According to this view abortion cannot be compared to killing an adult person. In the liberal view abortion is simply the removal or organic material from the body of the woman. Its removal raises no moral problems. Just as no one protests against the removal of an appendix or a gallbladder so too no one should be protesting the removal of fetal tissue. Indeed in this liberal view having an abortion would be similar to blowing one's nose.
We have begun to complicate the issue.
To conceive an abortion- how is this possible? Do not the words conception and abortion disagree with each other like nails upon a chalkboard? To conceive means to become pregnant; to cause, to begin. To conceive always means to think. Many go through their lives without thinking, that is to say without conceiving anything new. The same garbage is recycled in new packaging.
Conception means beginning. In the beginning was the concept. Conception is also related to the word heave which means to rise or to swell. To heave is to struggle. To heave is to vomit. Conception tells us about the struggle involved both in giving birth to tissue and the struggle involved in giving birth to ideas of thought.
Abort means to stop in the early stages. We say the mission to Mars was aborted. The Latin abortus means to disappear. Abortive means to fail to develop completely. Aborticide is the act of destroying a fetus within the uterus. The womb which sustains life also becomes the tomb that can take it away.
An abortion can also refer to something that is misshapen or monstrous. Thus the fascination of birth scenes in science fiction films such as Alien or more recently in the Lord of the Rings where Orcs arise from the womb of the earth. We are fearful of the monster that breaks out of our own bodies. To conceive an abortion- how is this possible? We are abortive. We walking, talking, eating, drinking abortions. We conceive the abortion when we fail to become fully human and not just when we murder what issues forth from the womb, monstrous or otherwise.

Reason and Logos

The Greek word Logos means Word or Reason.
Logos from the word Legen means to lay down or lay before. Legere is where we gather to rest. To lay is to place one thing beside another. To lay your cards down on the table is to show the layers of your luck or skill. To lay down the law is use force. To lay yourself down is to rest.
Legen as lay is also to gather. At harvest time we gather fruit from the soil. We gather grapes from the vine. Gathering belongs to collecting but it points us to what is known as sheltering.
A mother gathers her children to shelter them from the storm.
A shepherd gathers his flock to shelter them from the wolf.
Lovers gather to each other to shelter themselves in an embrace.
We gather to witness a game, to watch a movie, to hear a lecture, to have a drink together in the shelter of our conversation.
Saying and talking lays the world before us.
We are gathered to what is addressed.
The world which is before us is undressed as we address it.
To gather is to see the world as it is and as we are, namely naked.
The cosmos does not need to be dressed with our superstitions.
We need to undress the superstitions from ourselves; to be freed from absurd claims.
To learn to say, to talk, to read, to write, to think what Logos reveals is to communicate where we stand in the cosmos.
The German philosopher Heidegger showed that thinking is a thanking. In Old English thinking (thencan) and thanking (thancian) are related. We are thankful for having been given thinking. The ancient word thanc is what lies within the heart. Thanc gathers all that concerns us. It gathers all that we care for as human beings and can never be reduced to the limits that mere reason or ratio imposes upon us.

Medusa and Narcissus: Porno-Graphology

Medusa was Queen of the Gorgons and daughter of the earth goddess. Medusa was portrayed as a female with wings. She had a round face and flat nose. Her tongue was extended and her large teeth barred. Her hair consisted of live snakes. Medusa had the power of turning all who looked upon her into stone. For Freud, Medusa represented female sexuality that turned men hard and turned them into stone. To be turned into stone is to be petrified. Jesus says to Peter, AYou are the Stone upon which I will build my church@. Peter was petrified. He was so afraid that he betrayed Jesus three times. We are fearful of stones especially if we have ever passed one through our body.
Stone is defined as calculus- a small stone used in calculating. The stone is used in counting. Stone is also a hard material growth found in animals- testis. What does the stone testify? How can stone be witness? The spirit leads Jesus into the desert. There he will be tempted by Lucifer. Forty days and forty nights without food. Jesus was hungry. Lucifer comes to him and asks for a sign: " If you are God's son, order these stones to turn into bread". Jesus ignores the stones and prefers to speak of bread and words: : The scripture says, 'Man cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks'". The message is that we need words that speak the truth. Words that speak the truth are like bread to a hungry person. Words that lie are like stones that sink to the bottom of the ocean even if they can be skipped on the surface for a brief time. Freud=s reading of Medusa links the erotic (eros) with the spiritual which is linked with death (thanatos). As humans we are always between stone and water; trying to link the two together with our sexuality and spirituality.
Narcissus was so struck by his own beauty that he could not take his eyes away from his reflection in a pool of water. Wanting to be closer to his reflection he fell into the water only to drown. The moral of this story if there is one is that the image and the imaginary; how we imagine ourselves to be, while forgetting what is real and natural can have tragic consequences.
The technology of the image deals with what is captured. The image presents what is otherwise than it is. This will be our definition for the image. The real on the other hand is defined as that which is what it is.
The French philosopher Sartre in his play No Exit describes how the look of the Other, who looks at us through eyes that have no eyelids captures our freedom by reducing us to an image. In this sense all images are pornographic insofar as they reduce what is real to an image. This and this alone is the definition of pornography. Pornography has nothing to do with sex, with the fetish, with abuse, with subordination, domination or animation. The image does not smell like the real thing. It smells like the chemical used to draw it out onto the photographic paper. The image does not give us a pure or immaculate perception, rather it shows us a pure or immaculate deception. The image, especially when it is touched, re-touched or airbrushed covers up the stains and stinks of everyday life.

The French psycho-analyst Jacques Lacan distinguishes between the eye and the gaze. The eye that views the object is one the side of the subject. The gaze is on the other side of the object. Lacan says when I look at an object, the object is always gazing at me, from a point which I cannot see it. The question is when we view pornographic images what are we looking at? To gaze at something is to exercise power. Through the gaze we become masters of what is looked at. The image which gazes at us, masters us. We are reduced to a passive observer. The gaze is that which baits us; that which hooks us as we give our freedom to the image. In other words, the porn viewer becomes the porn star. The one who imagines is reduced to an image. This is the perversity of pornography. This is one way we should understand Jesus' words stressed in the Gospels, "They have eyes that they might not see." Might not see what? That things are looking at them; trying to capture and bait them; images trying to make them believe that they are masters when in reality they are only master-baiters, baited by the master image and the image of the Master.

Ant Warfare

Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal and suffering…For just as there is no profit in medicine if it does not expel the diseases of the body, so there is no profit in philosophy either if it does not expel the suffering of the mind.

Physicians and philosophers excel at writing scripts. These scrawls, scribbles and often illegible marks can often only be interpreted by specialists. In medicine it is the pharmacist who deciphers the marks of the physician and then prepares the remedy. This pharmaceutical mixture produces the practical effect of reducing suffering. In the case of philosophy, it is the scholar who professes mastery of obscure passages and difficult texts saying clearly what the philosopher had difficulty expressing. While the physicians’ script tends to alleviate suffering, the script of the philosophers and the sub-script of scholars does not seem to have any practical-existential value. Immersed in the intellect philosophers and scholars fail to grapple with human-animal misery.
Living exclusively in a world of ideas may shut one off from the reality of everyday living. This reality includes such normal activities as earning a wage, paying bills, mowing the lawn, planting flowers, cooking dinner, changing diapers, raising a family, paying off loans etc. This is not to say that such questions as Who am I? What is the nature of the universe, and where does it come from? How ought I to live my life? What are the fundamental principles of knowledge, truth, beauty, morality and religion? are irrelevant. Such questions require direct and exact answers but these answers have either been understood by a select few or have been impractical and nebulous.
Impracticality and conflict have been shouldered with philosophy from the time of its origin. The history of philosophy can be read as a series of conflicts without any final resolution. The history of philosophy can be read not as the birth of wisdom but as the birth of conflict. By wanting to know the truth about the becoming of all things, or in other words why is there something rather than nothing, the pre-Socratics conflicted with the mythologists. Each of the pre-Socratics conflicted with each other over the arche or source and telos or end. Struggle, contest, strife, mourning and grief seem to be unavoidable to the point that one has to agree with the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus when he declares that war is the father of all things.
Our time has witnessed a renewal of hatred, the re-building of walls and barriers, the destruction of houses of worship, warfare and genocide. More persons have been killed or continue to die of disease and hunger in this most scientifically acquainted and ‘civilized’ era than ever before. In the midst of this discontent there continues to be a great resistance in learning how to live in a state of compassion without fear, anger and anxiety. Can philosophy be a way of life that actually revitalizes the way one lives, acts and reacts?
This question came to mind last year while I was in Toronto helping my brother renovate his newly purchased home. There on the ground covered with bits of grass, broken brick and plaster, two army ants were fighting to the death. I was a solitary witness to this event. From my perspective it appeared that this conflict was insignificant. Of course, from the point of view of the ants, the crumbs they were fighting over represented their entire world. The ants were risking their lives for a fragment. What struck me about this event was the thought that humans are really no different. We fight over control of land, resources, air space and outer space while allowing 40,000 children to die of hunger each day. Our skyscrapers and our theories are as high as the dead are deep but our compassion remains run over on the criss-crossed and crossed-over roads that our philosophy, science and spirituality have invented. The sight of the ants struggling for supremacy forced me to consider whether or not philosophy had any practical value. Could philosophy provide a way out of discontent? Can philosophy have more than a negligible role in solving real life grievances and problems?