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.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Love in the Ages of Technology

On the lower hem of the robe they made pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen.
Exodus 39. 24

When human beings have finished, they are just beginning, and when they stop, they are still perplexed. What are human beings, and of what use are they?
Sirach, 18.7:8

He looked around them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart.
Mark 3:5

Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic god. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is magnificent, but these organs have not grown on him, and they still give him trouble at times.
Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents

Like taking blood from a vein long concealed from view I want to see what I can draw out of this title. To draw out may mean to extract. If love exists or resides within technology then there is no need to disturb it, unless of course, it has fallen asleep. The Gospel of Mark indicates that anger can lead to grief especially if one’s heart hardens. When the heart is hard, technology couples itself with hatred. When hatred attaches itself to technology, it is difficult to dislodge it. Such a coupling has already resulted in monstrous acts perpetuated against the earth, animals and humans.
To draw out is to extract or excise. To draw out means to treat diseased matter. Is it possible to extract what is diseased within technology by excising the hardness from the human heart? A draw is said in terms of a battle or match that is undecided. The battle has been between love and hate and as long as hate remains attached to technology its weapons will be drawn to coil and recoil in a drawback that will always be a hindrance and disadvantage to genuine progress.
To draw also means to attract. Technology draws us to itself, perhaps in an act of love but as Freud shows, technology also redraws us insofar as it makes us into prosthetic beings. The prosthetic is the artificial add-on. It is the dildo instead of the phallus. The prosthetic is like the twisted linen that the Book of Exodus weaves into a robe. To twist is to spin two or more strands of yarn into thread. The twist combines two into one. The twist forms a union. Technology as prosthetic joins things together; machine or flesh. A twist is the flat part of a hinge. The twist of technology is such that it joins what is human to what is unnatural; such that technology can hold us hostage much in the same way that a door is held hostage by the attached to a wooden frame.
Twist also means to distort, to contort and to go awry. Many examples show how technology has caused things to go awry. The list includes genetic mutations, socio-political and environmental degradations. The technological garment with which we have adorned ourselves has been ill fitting and strict. The Latin strictus means to draw together tight. What is drawn tightly becomes rigid as it strains under the breaking point. Such is the action of hate. To contract also means to draw together. Can there be a contract between love and technology without the strain of stricture and without the rigidity and rigor mortis of the machine? Can hate be strained out of the human heart so that it is no longer twisted? Twisted evokes that which is perverse and peculiar. Can love twist technology away from hate? Would such a move be peculiar? Peculiar from the Latin peculiarus means one’s own property. It is related to the word pecu meaning cattle. Peculiar not only engages what may be monstrous it also questions what may be appropriate and proper? Is it proper for human beings to be treated as cattle; in other words, cultivated and prepared to receive what corporations deem necessary?
Technology as it slides on the scale between love and hate forces a choice to either be possessive or compassionate. Technology strips down and lays bare. As it strips down and lays bare, technology can either have the attitude of love or hate. Both love and hate lay bare and expose what is in the human heart. Hate strips down in order to destroy whereas love strips down in order to build up. Technology is the stripping down that adds auxiliary organs. As Freud points out though these auxiliary organs make us appear magnificent, they give us trouble. The Book of Sirach expresses this trouble nicely, “When human beings have finished they are just beginning, and when they stop they are still perplexed. What are human beings, and of what use are they?” Technology promises a finishing but as long as technology is without love and compassion, the question of what human beings are will never be answered, discovered or uncovered. What will be discovered is the extent to which human beings can be used like cattle. This use places technology within the sphere of hate.
To take measure of love and technology, to measure its length and circumference, hollows, planes and surfaces is already to play the card of abstraction. To speak of love is to already assign a limit to that which is beyond any limit; that is, if the mystics can be believed.
To speak of love is to be confined within the technology of speech and writing; to be ground down in the gears of discursive machine that travels too fast. To understand the relationship between love and technology requires slowing down and taking time so that the landscape can be surveyed.
The band of their opposition binds love, hate and technology to each other. Can these ands be unbound so that we finally learn what love is without having to refer to hate? Can this opposition lead us to re-think love and technology according to what Jacques Derrida calls the aporia of the no-way-out? The aporia is the place where we are halted at the same time being the place we must move beyond. For example Derrida shows that if forgiveness exists it must forgive even the unforgivable. In the same vein it may not be a question of learning to think what love is by excising hate from it. Rather the aporia of love may direct us to the startling phrase already spoken by Jesus, namely that love must love what is most hateful if love is to exist. This is the Christian legacy worth retaining.
Tied to the passions of both ignorance and hate as Plato has taught us in the Symposium and Phaedrus love remains the dearest and most obscure of words. Dear, because it is the word we long to hear even if love may cost us all; obscure, because we do not known what we mean when we use the word. Here I think that analytic philosophy in the Carnapian tradition can teach us very little other than to say that love contains four letters. Can the poets or playwrights provide us with any insight? Shakespeare writes these lines:
Here’s much to do with hate but more with love. Why then, O brawling love, or Loving hate. Romeo and Juliet, Act1. Sc.1. 180

Love as Shakespeare shows is linked with hate. Can love stand on its own without referring to examples of hate that have made the earth into a mass graveyard with the help of technology?
In Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Kant wonders about the radical “perversion of the human heart” (Book 1, Sec 3). But this is old news. Countless examples show that what has been done in the name of love has perverted the essence of love. We can read of these examples in the newspaper and watch them on the evening news. For example, a father who is supposedly a good husband and family man suffocates his infant son because the child would not stop crying. A gang professing to love its own guns down eight of its members.
In this preliminary study I want to explore the relationship between love, hate and technology by utilizing the insights of theology, psychoanalysis and continental philosophy. I do not pretend to be able to analyze these issues fully. But I may point out things that might count as fragments of an answer. To give these questions a preliminary answer, section one, will explore and explain the theological concept of “embeddness.” Section two, will analyze the psychoanalytical notion of Being-Stripped-Down. Section three, will investigate the philosophical concept of “nakedness” in an extended analysis of the prosthetic in terms of what is added on, what is taken away, and what is left over.
I wish to understand whether or not a certain aporetic love and faith might engender a technology that allows for a universalizable culture of singularities. In other words, would such a love following Jacques Derrida lead to the emergence of an event that would puncture every horizon of expectation?

One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment, saying, Lie with me! But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.
Genesis 39. 11-13

Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves.
Song of Solomon, 3.1

They went to bed, for they all were weary because the banquet had lasted so long. But Judith was left alone in the tent, with Holofernes stretched out on his bed, for he was dead drunk....Soon afterwards she went out and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, who placed it in her food bag.
Judith, 13.2:10

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Matthew 8.20

Jesus’ techne or art of love confronted the technology of the Roman Empire. Empires are built through power, domination and hatred. Jesus confronted the technology of the pharisaic law and was executed by the technology of the Roman Empire. In his age of technology he teaches a new way to love. The carpenter’s son, who through both his father’s, has become an expert on surfaces, depths, textures and joining will preach “ Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...If you love those who love you what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them”. (Luke 6. 27:32) Here Jesus shows the aporetic love that must love one’s enemies if it is to be love.
The concept of being-bedded travels on the fosse-ways of both sexuality and spirituality. The fosse-way was one of the four great Roman Roads of Britain. These roads had ditches on either side. The Latin for ditch shares an affinity with the Greek word bothyros or pit. Bed originally meant a sleeping place dug in the ground. Here we see the link between beds and graves; between empires that caused many fall into graves and religion which promised a rising or bodily resurrection from the grave.
The bed can be a site of love or a place for discord and violence. The bed can be a space for rest, sleep or dream or a space where nightmares, anxiety and terror keep one from achieving rest. The bed as Lacan shows is the place where we “squeeze each other tight” (Encore, 3). Squeeze is related to the word queasy, which means, "to wound, hurt, make uneasy”. Lacan is here implying that there is no love without hate.
The quotes chosen for this section all point to the complex notion of being-bedded. For example, his Egyptian master’s wife lures Joseph to bed. He leaves his garment behind as he es-capes (literally to leave one’s cape behind). The lover in the Song of Solomon longs to bed the one whom her soul loves. Judith severs Holoferenes’ head as he lies on his bed drunk and asleep. The Gospel of Matthew shows Jesus lamenting his lack of bed. How should we read this lament? Soldiers and mercenaries have ditches to sleep in hide in during times of war. Foxes have holes and birds have nests. Yet, there is no place for Jesus to rest his head. He will tell Pilate that his kingdom is not of this earth. With his spiritual technology, Jesus promises an end to all bodily embeddedness. In geological terms, the word embedded refers to fossils in rocks. Jesus promises the end of bodily fossilization through the resurrection of the body. No longer will bodies implant themselves on the earth to be fixed and set securely in the bed of the earth; they will take their place to occupy the many rooms that Jesus has prepared in his Father’s house. Here we see Jesus as a spiritual architect that can build mansions for resurrected bodies in a heaven we cannot see.
Turning to our ancient Greek heritage from where the techne or art of thinking was first brought-to-birth in the Western world, we can examine Logos and its relation to the word Legen which means to “lay down” or “lay before”.
Legere is where we gather to rest. This word leads us to ask, What does it mean to lay and to be laid? 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 young girl in the mountains of Hercegovina gathers her flock to shelter them from the wolf. A young father gathers his family to fly off to a land of freedom.
Lovers gather to each other in a 21st storey apartment to shelter themselves in an embrace. We gather to witness a game, to watch a movie, to hear a lecture, to give adoration to our teacher, to have a drink together in the shelter of our conversation. We are gathered to what is addressed.
The world that 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 or with our mimetic devices. We need to undress the superstitions from ourselves; to be freed from absurd technological claims of immortality through cryonics or cloning. Both technological and religion give the promise of rest. Jesus declares himself to be the ultimate bed, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. (Matthew 11. 28:29). Jesus shows us that love leads to rest while the technology of the Roman Empire with its restless quest for power engenders hate that strips us down.
Stripping Down

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
Genesis 37.23:24

But morals die, and are laid low; humans expire, and where are they? As waters fail from a lake and river wastes away and dries up, so mortals lie down and do not rise again.
Job, 14. 10:12

All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied.
Ecclesiastes 6. 7

The law of the heart, as I have said is a bigger nuisance than paranoia.
Jacques Lacan, “Position of the Unconscious”

One can strip down to engage in acts of sex and love; sadism and torture. Hate can strip us of our humanity but this supposes that altruism is the foundation of our being-human. To strip is to plunder, to despoil and to unclothe. Joseph and his brothers show us what is at stake. Full of jealousy and hate they throw him into a pit. Joseph is naked. There is nothing to add on. The prosthetic robe given to him by his father is gone. In his abandonment he learns what love means and that forgiveness must forgive the unforgivable. Joseph is stripped and thrown into a pit. His brothers did this to him. They were jealous and full of hate. Long before Aristotle’s apostrophe, “ O my friends, there is no friend”, the Book of Genesis developed the aporia, “ Oh my brothers, there is no brother”.
Strip is also a narrow piece of cloth or band that is used to constrain. The Book of Job laments that the fossilization effect is the fate of mortals who are “laid low, and do not rise again”. To be laid low is to lie flat. Both sleep and death flatten the body. The word low from the Old English hlowan means to make noise like a cow. Job in his suffering resembled an animal that was tormented by loving God in league with hateful Satan. The work of Job’s hands and loins was taken away. Deprived of sleep and mental peace he was rest-less. His Sabbath or day of rest was over-taken by his God. To be stripped down is also to lose faith. To loose faith means to question how a loving God can inflict suffering on his creation and then answer that such a thing is not possible. A loving God cannot inflict suffering. A loving God cannot hate. The Book of Job shows otherwise. Job was laid low when he lost all but he did not remain lying down in his despair. Love makes Job rise again. It makes him satisfied. Love is not an appetite to be filled.
It is simplistic to suggest that freedom of the will is responsible for suffering, evil and misery. This is precisely the suggestion found in Ecclesiastes where we read, “ All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied” (6:7). The word toil means to labour but it also means hunting, snare, cloth and web. This leads us to ask the question, in what sense is human work and technological invention a toil that snares. How is the work of creation or God’s work to be understood differently? Human toil according to Ecclesiastes is for the mouth. The mouth is like a cave, cavern or pit that devours what is placed in it. Because the mouth must devour and the stomach digest and the anus excrete, human appetite is not satisfied.
Lacan shows us that appetites are a nuisance. He writes,

I can tell you a little tale, that of a parakeet that was in love with Picasso. How could one tell? From the way the parakeet nibbled the collar of his shirt and the flap of his jacket. Indeed the parakeet was in love with what is essential to man, namely his attire. The parakeet was like Descartes to whom men were merely clothes (habits)...waking about...clothes promise debauchery when one takes them off...But this is only a myth.... To enjoy a body when there are no more clothes leaves intact the question of what makes the ONE, that is the question of identification. The parakeet identified with Picasso clothed. The same goes for everything involving love. The habit loves the monk as they are one thereby. In other words, what we call the body is perhaps but the remainder (reste) I call object a. (Encore, p.6)

Lacan here shows how love can be misdirected and seduced when it is caught up in a prosthetic trajectory. Think here of how one “falls in love” which is basically a falling for or identifying with what the person is not. One can fall for the woman who wears a pearl necklace or for the man who wears black. One can fall for a fragrance rather than love the man or woman who wears it. Lacan attempts to show that the person stripped bare is rarely loved. Having fallen for the prosthetic simulacra there can be no falling for what remains to be authentically loved.
Appetite from the Latin adpetere means to go to, to seek out, to have desire towards. This type of un-ending desire is a nuisance as Lacan rightly points out. The cycle of seeking out, obtaining, becoming bored, seeking out again is what the Buddhists call samsara. Technocracies call it innovation while the religions of the Book promise a time in which there will no longer be toil, provided of course that our appetites of drives be directed toward God.
We may be driven out of paranoia. Para-noos means beyond the mind. Love may be such that is leaves us beside ourselves or outside our right mind. Lacan shows that the other is turned into an image, an idea, and an object to be enjoyed in a certain way. We treat the other as breast or phallus. We set the stage for an oral love affair where the other becomes an object to cling to, to suck, to demand, to reject, to lick, to play with and spit out. We adopt an anal approach to the other when we fall or drop in love. We flee once the object of our love reveals itself to be something that smells, complains or withholds.
We become blinded by the prosthetic image when we are love struck. We remain deceived as we continue to deceive others through manipulative games, language and letters. We reduce the other to a voice that groans or screams ecstatically or otherwise. When this voice remains silent, we are under the compulsion to hear it just one more time (encore) as if on an answering machine. Such a love risks the danger of being delusional especially when on falls in love with the object or with what is added to the person. Such a love is delusional because it is misleading. A delusion is false belief accepted as true. This prosthetic love driven by technology strips the person of body and transforms them into and image that speaks on the telephone or types on the Internet. This delusional love can become a nuisance. Nuisance from the Latin nocere means injury, hurt and harm. Related to nuisance is the word noxious from the word nex or slaughter. In Greek neks is a dead body. Such a delusional love kills. It devours to leave no trace of its presence. What is it that we love? The sparkle of the eyes, the radiant glow of a made up face, corpse like fresh? We love the image and the imaginary with the outcome that the singular person is not loved.
Lacan writes, “It is clear that in everything that approaches it, language merely manifests its inadequacy” (Encore,45) In other words the saying, “I love you” for Lacan, is already an abstraction to which one could respond “until when?” or “so what” or “I love myself through you”. In Lacan’s words,
We see in what sense these effects agitate, stir things up and bother speaking beings.... It must with the help of this feeling lead, in the end to the reproduction of bodies. But isn’t it possible that language may have other effects than to lead people by the nose to reproduce yet again in the body to body. (Encore, 46)

There is deception and agitation within the body to body fusion; but two has never become One. Thus for Lacan the problem is “how can there by love for an other?” since, “the ONE everyone talks about all the time is, first of all, a kind of mirage of the ONE you believe yourself to be” (Encore, 47)
The ONE you believe yourself to be, is not the ONE that you are since you are an Other reduced to what the Other wants you to be for them. So the remainder or the leftover, which is what remains REAL is ignored; in plain view but not seen, as it circulates between these two trying to become ONE. For Lacan, it is best to avoid the declaration of love since that for which we seek cannot be found in the Other’s body.
Without a Stitch

And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and he clothed them
Genesis 3.21

I have sowed sackcloth upon my skin, and have laid my strength in the dust...Even when I cry out, “Violence!” I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice.
Job 16. 15, 19.6-7

Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.
Song of Solomon, 6.7

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
Mark 14.51. 52

The fall into flesh beginning with Adam and the resurrection of the glorified flesh of Christ’s offers an occasion for reflecting on the concept of skin as we weave between Old and New Testaments. We have seen how technology strips down the body in an effort to attach prosthetic devices onto it. While Technology does help to cover the body, its coverings are simulacra. Love according to Proverbs, “covers all offenses” (10:12) The covering that love provides is one of forgiveness and protection. Love is the sheer garment that gives nakedness without shame and fear. The stitches of technology add bits of prosthetic clothing and devices to the body in an attempt to hold death at bay. These devices can be pacemakers or simple nitroglycerin patches.
The stitch knots, binds and fastens. A stitch is also a sudden stabbing pain. Stitch from the Old English stician means to pierce, to stab, to remain embedded. As technology continues to stitch itself onto flesh, it is harder to dislodge. The stitching of technology tattoos the flesh. It covers, hides and conceals while declaring that such a state must continually advance until all flesh is eliminated and replaced by cybernetic mechanisms. This is the view of Donna Haraway. We can contrast technological stitching with Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew where he speaks of the nakedness without shame:
Consider the lilies of the field; how they grow, they neither toil nor spin yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you- you of little faith. (6:28:30)
The clothing that God will provide is the new glorious body without organs to be given at the resurrection.
St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians admonishes “beware of those who mutilate the flesh” (3:3) With Christ the believer can be naked, bare and complete. There is nothing to be hidden. With love, we become sheer and absolute. Sheer means exempt or free from guilt. Such a love is Absolutus because it sets free, loosens and acquits. Jesus performs what love does. He acquits and forgives: “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2) Jesus’ techne of love makes all things new and sets things free, “ Woman you are set free from your ailment” (Matthew 13:12) The becoming new by setting free is in direct opposition to what technology does to the body. Technology takes what is new and attaches it to what is old. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives his criticism of the prosthetic stitch:
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins, otherwise the skins burst, and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed, but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. (9, 16:17)
I read this quote as a criticism of human ingenuity that fails to think things completely through. Our best inventions are half measures and are ill thought out as “putting new wine into old wineskins. Perhaps we err due to the hold that hatred has on us. Hold from the Gothic word Haldan means to tend, to keep and to watch over cattle. Again we see the reference to live-stock. Technology has a hold on us. Plugged into the Internet, living virtually in electronic domains on the World Wide Web our signatures are under constant surveillance. We are like cattle in the field. Technology holds us on a leash. We assume that we are held up and buoyed, but the hold of technology differs from the hold of love that does not choke, suffocate or drown. Psalm 119 cries out, “ Hold me up, that I may be safe”. (117)
It is in the domain of the thinking mind where love can guide the techne or art of thought. Perhaps then communication can become communion and information can become transformation.
In our age, technology reduces the word to bits and bytes and data streams. These streams struggle to control, to dominate earth and sky, space and time.
The trajectory of compassion that both Jesus and the Buddha taught is taken over by the trajectory of satellites that can link up with so called smart weapons aimed to destroy weapons of mass destruction only to end up tearing off the limbs of children; to multiply prosthesis upon prosthesis. In this new but old cruelty, technology spreads death and unleashes destruction in the name of both God and love.
The passion of ignorance is allowed to spread with the result that we use things without really knowing how they function. As prosthetic beings, we know how to manipulate things in the world. Our manipulation always stated in the name of progress reveals itself in a cascade of scientific and ethical incompetencies. Not bothering to think for ourselves, our minds are handed over to so called technological gurus in an act of faith. These experts tell us how great the future will be. Our now is being eroded but this matters little as we are enclosed in virtual reality systems in the so called safety of our homes which are no longer sanctuary’s but show-cases for the latest Liquid Crystal Display Televisions, DVD players or camera phones.
This technological interiority leads us to the question of listening, surveillance and what is veiled and surveyed. To survey is to extend the interior to the exterior in an attempt to destroy the secret. Submarines exists that tap fibre optic cables on the ocean floor, presumably not to decipher the conversations of dolphins. Space is therefore policed around this policy of limitation.
To become responsible within the space of domination is to see the home as haunted. The word haunted comes from the Old English word hamettan- which means domicile and from the Old Norse word heimata or to bring home. To haunt is to visit often. To haunt is to linger such that it can also mean to trouble. Love has troubled us. We have invented words and images to deal with our troubles.
The pomegranate is chosen as the fruit that symbolizes love. The poet in the Song of Solomon compares his lover’s cheeks to halves of pomegranates. Pomegranate literally means the apple with many seeds. While symbolic of love the pomegranate is the fruit whose seeds resemble fragmentary bombs. Within the human being there is always the possibility for either love or hate; for either a hateful love or a loving hate. The Gospels teach that love or hate depends on what kind of seeds is sown. It is a question of what we will bring to fruition; what the fruits of our labour will turn out to be. Frui means to enjoy while uti means to use. Will this distinction developed by St. Augustine continue to pit us against each other? To pit is to set against. The pit is the hard seed or kernel. The pit is where cock fights and dogfights were held; the cockpit of a fighter plane that drops fragmentary bombs full of jellied gasoline to incinerate those below.
Jesus speaks of fruits and seeds and declares, “ You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16) In our time, the genetic engineer will answer “but of course, we can manipulate the gene so that grapes can be gathered from thorns and figs from thistles”. With technology, seeds that are sown on rocky ground can take root. This transformation into monstrosity is done for the lure of wealth alone but always under the guise of compassion. Jesus has a take on what the monstrous heart creates, “ Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” (Matthew 15 17-18) We can be haunted by what has come out of the human heart. To be haunted is to be afflicted, troubled, and restless; to be visited by apparitions. It is love that haunts us: “But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified”. But this love that haunts replies, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”. (Mark 6.49:52).
Haunting concerns how we go living on in the midst of our difficulties and anxieties. How do we go living-on (survivre) once the crypt or mass grave has been unearthed? What worth do foundations, corner-stones, places, sites, families, guests or strangers hold when the room becomes the tomb and the house becomes the death site? This question is one of compassionate vigilance.
How do we remain vigilant? To keep vigilance is to prevent ourselves from sleeping. Vigil comes from the Latin vigilia or watch on the eve of a religious festival. Vigilia is akin to the Latin vigere- to be vigorous or to flourish. To keep vigil is to keep watch. To keep vigil is to spend time in prayer and devotion. It is to keep awake at times when sleep is customary. The vigil must never become an oppressive observation like the all-seeing video eye which is only a vigilante or guard. The vigilance I am tracing here, to develop further one day, would be the way a mother watches her child as it falls asleep. The mother’s vigilance goes beyond Plato’s guardian in a trajectory of absolute compassion.
The mother’s vigilance is the vigia or the mark made on a nautical chart indicating a dangerous rock. Vigilance leads us to uncertainty and undecidability but it allows us to carry on in the abundance of steadfast love. Within these states without border, we are called to keep care and to be careful. When technology has taken hold of us can anything be done to lessen its grip? Can we escape its negative effects to run off naked like the young man in the Gospel of Mark?
To escape means to get out one’s cape or to leave a pursuer with just one’s cape. Technology promises more than it delivers and perhaps this excessive promise is what links technology to religion. New technologies such as cryonics promise to overcome death. Jesus promises that death will be overcome when the body is resurrected. Neither technology nor religion can accept the finality of death. In a pessimistic passage reminiscent of Schopenhauer the Wisdom of Solomon declares, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades.” (2:1) Is it enough to learn to abide in love? Will this abiding help us to face the tragic sense of life that Unamuno so eloquently describes?
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians states, “ The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (15:26) Technology attempts to defeat death through innovation. Religion attempts to defeat death through faith. We see Paul continually using his talents to strengthen the faith of the early Christian communities. Where they also filled with a great doubt? He upbuilds the community in Corinth with these words, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (15:12-15) Paul continues, “ But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” 15:20) Paul speaks of seeds and sowing, “ to each kind of seed its own body” (15:38), “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable” (15:42) Paul then makes the following distinction, “ If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body” 15:44) Paul is the Christian technologist who would have us place faith in the virtual while ignoring the actual.
Paul continues, “ Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (15:50) In the same way, technology and its virtuality will transform the future. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the future because they are perishable. Since the flesh is perishable our becoming a cyborg body-without-organs is the only option.
The dead according to Paul “ will be raised imperishable….For this perishable body must put on imperishability and this mortal body must put on immortality” (15:53) Notice here Paul’s reference to putting on new clothes which are designed by the religious technologist who sews the prosthetic garments for the resurrection that will happen “ in the twinkling of an eye” (15:52)
The religious believer can declare, “ Death has been swallowed up in victory”. But of course, the evidence indicates otherwise. We can gather for Easter Service to sing the praises of Jesus who supposedly resurrected. Yet all we can do is to point at an empty tomb which following Lacan is the object a. The object a like the empty tomb is the void- perverse, enigmatic and inadequate. It is the impasse and aporia that halts us in our tracks, constricts our throats and makes us choke. Notice also the reference to swallowing. Faith is said to take away the sting of death. Is this too much to swallow? In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians we read, “ For the love of Christ urges us on…(5:4) Urge from the Latin urgere means "to press hard, push, drive, compel. It is related to the Greek ergon or "work," and to the Greek word orgia or "religious performances”. The etymology of urge leads to an interesting association of words such as O.C.S. vragu "enemy;" Gothic wrikan "persecute," the Old English wrecan "drive, hunt, pursue”. What is the urge if not to overcome death? Both religion and technology drive us, push us, compel us to work for the day when death will be overcome; for the day when death will no longer be the enemy that persecutes, drives, hunts and pursues us. We are taken hold by this desire to live forever. Hold from the French word prise means a taking, seizing, holding. Can there by a sur-prise that releases us from the hold of both faith and technology and the mirages they have engendered? Sur-prise means an unexpected attack or capture," "a taking unawares”. Perhaps this is the faith that avoids all declarations of war: let there be a rapture of the real which we would name true love.