Thoughts From World 3

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A fool can offer words, a creator can offer worlds

An academic can show you a world, a dreamer invites you into it

Consumers of knowledge are everywhere, generators of knowledge are the rarity

Anyone can summarize the great thoughts of others, yet not simply anyone can have great thoughts

An English teacher can beat a word into submission, a wordsmith can heal its wounds

A protector of doctrine can outline a concept, a lover of the world asks the concept why

A Truth can be hard/concrete or it can be Truth

The beginning of truth is the end of knowledge

Prose can show you the road, only poetry can create it

History can give you a story, the future must give you a home

You can audition for the world or you can make the world watch your audition

God can be your cage or God can be gateway

If God is love than love is our ultimate concern

The letterbox is the world, what do we drop into it

We can use our imagination or we can die thinking we see

Why be busy learning the story of others when you can write the story yourself

Meaning can be learned…might it be better created

Pain cannot be written, it can only be felt

Silence has a voice heard in its speechlessness

Vision is not what you see it’s what happens when you close your eyes

Love is unspeakable; it is the language of her stare

It is not happiness to write, it is sadness to quiet it

Longfellow turned to words, why must you then turn to Law

Thoreau found himself in the woods, after he was lost

Poe saw beauty yet we confuse it with madness

Freud thought the unthinkable and we remain thoughtless

Lacan dared write the real and we confused it with his words

Jesus is the son of freedom and we have preached a gospel of sadness

Faith is never certain and certainty cannot be faith

If you fear nothing than for what do you live

 

 

 

 

 

God is a Dumb Idea

zappas quote

It is fashionable nowadays to hate on Christianity and theology.

Any idiot with a keyboard thinks themselves a philosopher because they can debate an evangelical who’s extent of biblical, philosophical and theological nuances is the dictum “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

SMDH.

It’s not that Christianity, or the vehicle of its transmission, theology, is above reproach. It certainly should be reproached, but not in the remedially cultural way as such is found on all sorts of social media and in popularly published books by the world’s favorite anti-religionists. Just because Dawkins says something doesn’t make it gospel, and just because a person believes in God doesn’t make them a victim of a logical fallacy. Oh how many “scientists” and lovers of empiricism would make David Hume, Isaac Newton and Galileo, roll in their collective graves over their trashy arguments and shallow thinking.

As if contrarianism is the new sign of intelligence.

If you’re gonna bash idols people, you better know what you’re picking up.

So what’s the beef? What seems to be the objection to doing Christianity, to doing theology, to…*hold your breath…gonna say the “g” word* to do careful thinking while simultaneously employing the term “GOD.” God is the problem, right?

To some, God is the Illusion or Delusion. Of all the problems religion has, God is the biggest…so let’s just chalk God up to the big nothing, dismiss why this word is operative, and claim superiority because we are not naïve.

In other words, the problem that seems to plague theology is a problem of metaphysics and God is about as metaphysical as it gets.

But is this warranted? Should we, SHOULD YOU?, dismiss it simply on the grounds of our, YOUR, presumed ideas of God and metaphysics?

The objection that theology, and Christianity, offers a rank metaphysic is true. To a degree this is true, but only to a degree is this true, but only as this question, the metaphysical one- continues to look for the answer to the primordial question of “what is.” Metaphysics is often speech about the ridiculous, using conceptions that border on laughable, using certainty that doesn’t exist…but such does not have to constitute all metaphysical speech…or speech that is concerned with the question of “what is.”

The pre-Socratic and Socratic traditions gave different answers than Christian theology to the question of “what is” yet it seems they do not experience the same sort of denigration as any form of metaphysical reflections encountered today, especially a metaphysic grounded in the conviction that there is a transcendent otherness that is at work in the creativity of the universe. Randoms acts of good matched by equally random acts of violence that creates newness in its wake.

Thales doesn’t seem to take near the flak that Christian theology takes. His questionable hypothesis regarding water as the standard constituent element of the question of “what is” is apparently redeemed because he is also the beginning of modern philosophy with his dismissal of mythology as a the first reasonable assumption one must make before beginning philosophical inquiry. After Thales, nearly all philosophers had succumbed to his critique of mythology and had to account for substance, flow and flux, apart from mythology.

Yet Thales is a man that would not make an “A” in any standard philosophy class today writing a term paper defending water as the ultimate metaphysical reference point. For a postmodern protestor, water cannot be the ultimate element for all elements are equally acceptable because they refuse ultimacy.

The real kicker is this, however: The pre-Socratic philosophers provide insights into the role of logic and modes of correlation between reality and experience, and also the ineffable transcendent character of the world that cannot be reduced to a metaphysical naturalism as is so easily done today by those who claim to be the empirical rationalists that believe and apply the scientific method (as if there is a singular thing known as such).

The very idea of science being hegemonically valued over theology as if to critique theology via realism is failing to understand its founding conceptualities. It is like critiquing Aquinas’ biology with 21st century knowledge. It simply cannot be done nor is it fair to the logical coherency of Aquinas’ positions nearly 800 years ago. It cannot be a fair critique because it does not critique the coherence of his logic and the ideas as they stand within their own intellectual current and context. It is simply too easy to critique a wholly other idea with a definition that is utterly foreign to the concept itself.

So yes, theology is a metaphysic but as such this does not imply a particular metaphysic, nor does it preclude other forms of knowledge whereby “what is” may be ascertained and neither does it imply that thinking this way will make poor thinkers, for indeed, academic theology is so broad in the fields of the humanities that one would be hard pressed to find another discipline that requires so much of our intellectual efforts to be done responsibly.
Theology is not the simple act of quoting scripture or rottenly defending dogma with an appeal to an invisible authority. Theology is not the act of asking inelegant questions that have preordained answers.

To the contrary, theology is the act of asking “what is”, “what is truth,” and then foraging the markers of humanity that have asked this very question.

Good theology will not stop at the bible nor will it bashfully start there. It will press into what a priori ideas have already been received and integrated into our schematics that make reading the bible possible at all. Why do we even receive the bible and how do we read it? It will engage thinkers that few dare to handle, Nietzsche, Cicero, Eckhart, and Bertrand Russell to name a few. ..Marked opponents to theo-logic. It will also engage more congenial thinkers such as Augustine, Wesley and even Jesus, in an attempt to bring in the nihilistic and the mystical into divine cooperation as historical revelations of what it is we seem to be thinking when we think the idea of God.

But all this cannot be said without being spoken and written…without theology acting semiotically.

Theology is a semiotic, a construction. And as such it is never given, foundational, or fundamental. It is always conditional. It is always a statement that expands the historical, lyrical, philological, architectural, genealogical, philosophical and literary condition of its timefulness. Theology is never simply revelation; it is foremost imaginative creation.

Theology does not in totalitarian fashion claim to epistemically finalize our speech or ideas…on the contrary, and following the arguments of Rowan Williams, proper theological speech simply opens up the possibility for more text, more life, more acts, more speaking.

So it may be en vogue and a cultural marker of intelligence to announce open hostility to theology and its objects, but to this I would say, those that object do not understand the object of their objection. Neither do they understand the origin of true philosophy they seek to invoke when lumping all of metaphysics, theology, philosophy, genealogy, and Christianity, etc., into the same odorless vapor.

Because Theology is not saying everything; it is saying many things, and it is not the positing of a supreme metaphysic that is outmoded by scientific empiricism, not a revealing of an ontological thing we call God that is physically somewhere out there.

What theology says is that the place from which the primordial question even comes is from a place that transcends us, surpasses our humanistic love affair with ourselves and that that place of reflection is best captured in theo-logic around the symbol of God; this is why you should study theology.

Theology does not ask you to believe and think of God filled with God, it asks you to think the symbol of God creatively. Theology is the renaissance of ideas around the ultimate question of substance, flux and change and we just happen to call the regulative principle of its discourse God.

God might be a dumb idea, but its the best word we have to try to captivate the reality that we are all dumb anyhow…we just refuse to believe it.

Drinking Coke with Lacan: the quest for THE can

soulmate can

The Coca-Cola company’s recent advertising campaign is nothing short of brilliant. Drink not just any coke, but drink the one made for you, your friends, even your soulmate. Brilliant. Nothing brings the world together like the combination of aluminum, acidic water, and high fructose corn syrup.

In one fell swoop, they have conjured up an attachment to American Corporatism, our own sense of subjectivity, and religion in a singular summer campaign that is as original and as appealing as the primordial stories of the Genesis narrative…stories that we continue to tell ourselves because we are still looking for ourselves.

An attachment to American Corporatism in that this campaign has tapped into the younger generation’ s preference for personalized products that make them feel unique, special and appeals to their sense of self. The brilliance: making us think we had something to do with the design and target of this product. The reality: we’re just having our selves sold to us in the name of our personal preference. The genius continues as nearly everyone from young adulthood to seniorhood can join and not feel excluded. How many advertising campaigns can accomplish this?

An attachment to our subjectivity in that is asks us to pursue the product made just for us. It appeals to a product with which we are familiar, but now wholly unfamiliar because now this familiar taste is labeled with our distinct form of being toward one another, our true identity marker, our name. Find the can that was made for you, then, find your friends can and you are inextricably linked in your bond of sugary, watery, goodness. Its shiny outward appearance doesn’t hurt either.

An attachment to religion because this is the real exploitation going on here. What is life but a quest for ourselves? For Meaning? For finding something that we can tangibly taste and finally find fulfillment within?
We walk into the convenient store, see ourselves pulled toward the façade of the glass covered forest of soft drinks that vie for our attention, even as the colors and wrappers distract us, and we stick our hand in the cooler, foraging around the forest until we find ourselves, our can, the one that will satisfy our thirst. And like religion, we grab the one we want, the one that helps us find ourselves, we drink, and then find we are still thirsty. Looks like we better go back for more because our thirst is never fully satisfied. Coke, the drink that satisfies without quenching. Religion, where we look to satisfy our thirst and locate ourselves in the ocean of creation. Only this coke campaign is so much cooler than religion because Coca-Cola is tapping into this unconscious reality we carry with us, rather than boringly preach it from pulpits.

But what is it that holds all these strings together? Wherein might we combine the corporate, the subject and religion into a coherent understanding that binds them all and makes this campaign so effective?

And make no mistake, it has been effective. We have yet to see the 3rd quarter results of the campaign here in America and Britain, but we know in Australia when the campaign was rolled out (2011) the sale of coke products increased among young adults by 7%, garnered 18.3 million media impressions and injected an 870% increase in Cokes Facebook following. Correspondingly, #shareacoke has been used more than 29,000 times on Twitter and early statistics for the global impact show that sales of Coke are up 6.8% to date.

This is an impressive campaign. So what holds it together?

While many media outlets want to continue to see this phenomenon as a pure marketing gimmick, appealing to the needs of a younger generation of consumers, this fails to consider that a huge spike in impressions, sales, and usage of the product cannot be created by single use/purchase history of consumers. People are not just looking for their Coke once. We are looking for it over and over again, looking for our friends, even looking for the elusive BFF or Soulmate designation that in a single can taps into our inner desire to find happiness and finally suppress our existential angst. What makes this campaign work is something that goes to the core of human constitution; it’s not as simple as “consumers like X so let’s make X.”

It works because at an unconscious level humans are continually looking to fill what Lacan calls the Lack in their own constitution, their own being, the gap created as soon as we are speaking beings born into the symbolic order. The Bible calls this “fallenness,” but perhaps Heidegger’s notion of “thrown” and Tillich’s idea of “Fall” is closer to Lacan’s idea of Lack than the of rottenness of our humanity bequeathed to us from St. Augustine.

The can is something we seek, but the reality is that the real object behind the object that is the can, let’s give Lacan some play and call the can the “O Object” (as he would), is never found. It remains hidden, out of our grasping, yet constitutional of our sense of “we’re missing something” in our life that continues to push us deeper into the field of objects we think can satisfy us yet always keep us thirsty…you know, kinda how you feel after you drink a can of coke and are thirstier than ever.

lacan-object-a

This O Object is central to the constitutionality of us all as subjects. In other words, the Can of coke is always already ontologically linked to who we are and how we create meaning, even as meaning is always still sought. The only thing that changes is the “o,” the object that symbolizes our desire for more than we have, and thus, is representative of the lack. The lack always remains with us, even though the object can change.

Today it is a can of Coke with your name. Tomorrow it may be the ring you give your lover, the car of your “dreams,” the child you’ve always wanted or even the Sports team into which you have poured all your energy. These are just “o” objects, remnants of the eternal symptom of our humanity to want more, be more, and find absolute truth in our lived experience…yet the lack remains. We need a bigger ring, a newer car, a child of a different sex, and one Super Bowl simply begets the desire of another. Nothing fills this lack, not even the living water of Jesus that requires us to return weekly in order to be served perpetually.

But where does this “o” object come from? The O represents the loss we have in our lives, and it’s not the “god shaped hole” if that is what you are thinking.

Constitutional of humanity is an originary loss. Christian theology talks about this loss as the fall from grace, the irreparable damage done by our pre-diluvian ancestors that marks the lack of God in all of us that has now been filled with a “sin” nature. What Lacan is getting at is a little more exact, observable and more empirically linked to our human relationships. It’s not the story we tell to ourselves to explain ourselves (via Genesis); it is rather the story we have lived.

At first the loss is between child and mother, child and father, as these relationships begin to stretch and sever one another at various points of a child’s development. We have all seen this, as a child moves away from fusion that the child desires to separation. Distance that is the goal of parenting and it begins to be sharpened as we speak and take in the field of objects now available to us in place of the relationship we had with our parents. Loss marks our entrance into the symbolic order of language, custom and construction of the world. Thus, life is marked by this attempt to again find wholeness and oneness that is now taken away from us in that originary unified oceanic experience that brought us into existence and nurtured our lives. Life is marked by trying to bridge that gap, between separation and unity, incomplete and complete, that creates us as subjective entities and a sense wholeness that is now only known because of the lack between ourselves and fulfillment.

Following this line of logic, Alexandre Leupin describes the possibility of “o” objects, objects of desire that fill the lack that cannot be filled, when he states, “Inasmuch as all objects of desire will later be substituted for these primary metonymies (voice, gaze, breast [of mother]) the o object is the cause of desire. Given the infinite number of objects human desire aspires to, o may be almost anything.”

The O object is not real. It is encased in the symbolic order of reality as representation of what we want and are missing in the world; it is masked as a egotistic projection. Thus, the object is both that which is external to us and also created by us as a projection of what sort of desire can actually satisfy us and give us ourselves back to ourselves. As such, these objects are inherently narcissistic. If there is one thing we can say about this Coke campaign, it is certainly that narcissim is central to its success. The objects that attempt to placate our desire, however, are always already partial objects. They can never fully fill the task that creates them. They can never satisfy desire. Or in the words of Lacan, the object is so lacking to fill our lack that it is the alienation of desire itself, pushing it further from its fulfillment. “The object is failure.” You can find your can, but you never really find you can. It’s your name, but not really. It acts to fill a need, yet it exacerbates it.

Desire is the symptom of our larger problem, of a larger truth for which we continually quest. This does not mean that truth can never be found or that the quest for truth always ends in the repetitive cycle of desire. What it does mean, however, is that truth is hidden, its clues given in the object as symptomatic expression of our lack, a lack that makes us human…and even filling the God shaped hole with Jesus won’t keep us from being drawn to cans of coke with our existential names on them.

So what makes us want the “can” with our name…the can that is better than all others and whose contents are more satisfying than any coke before them? It is that these Coke cans, who name us even as we name ourselves through them, are representative of the infinite symptom of what we all lack and are also always seeking. It is the idea that we pursue because this idea both consciously, and unconsciously, helps us construct our sense of selves and give us purpose to navigate the world, at a level of both honesty and dishonesty.

And there is nothing that does this better than finding the can for which we have been looking, only to find that we are still thirsty.

And this is the brilliance of the Coca- Cola Company. It has sold us something old, with something older, and tapped into the need we have to look for it over and over again.

*Statistics for this blog may be found at the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/jul/24/share-coke-teach-brands
*Text used as reference Alexandre Leupin, Lacan Today, (Other Press: New York, 2004), 4-8.

Sex is Divine: Zizek, Jayadeva and the radicality of Incarnation

Jayadeva

When the falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for oursake tells us: “I want nothing from you!” fails miserably – we should not forget that these are the exact words used by the Priest to designate the court in Kafka’s Trial: “The court wants nothing from you.”  When the falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for our sake tells us: “I don’t want anything from you!,” we can be sure that this statement conceals a qualification “…except your very soul.”  When somebody insists that he wants nothing that we have, it simply means that he has his eye on what we are, on the very core of our being.

 

Wondrous dwarf, when you cheat demon Bali with side steps

Water falls from your lotus toenails to purify creatures.

You take form as a Dwarf, Krishna.

Triumph, Hari, Lord of the World.

 

The incarnation is the perverse core of Christianity and the perverse core of the perverted god’s that desire the absolution of a person for the sake of their own divine egos.  The incarnation has historically been the doctrine of the divine overtaking the human form in the person of Jesus and using this medium to exact divine revenge and quench the thirst for the apparent ontological masochistic necessity that the God of the Bible seems to display.  What sort of God is this that takes over our way of being, the form of our human flesh, and uses it to appease his own ineptitude of not securing a tree in the Garden that would not be violated?  Could we not have saved our flesh had this God not created this obvious temptation?  This is what a pervert does and this is the practice of perversion.  The pervert sacrifices the innocence of another person in order to gain something from them, typically sexually.

Sex and violence have always been partners.  How useful is a doctrine of the incarnation if it is continually used to reinforce a theology of perversion and furthermore place the object that it sacrifices, humanity, into
the debt of the God that asks for the sacrifice?

This is the string that is attached.  Christ has died, and in this required death, we are in debt, even though God does not need our currency.  If this is the case, than why require the currency of flesh?  Sigmund Freud was right, we do owe death a debt.  Only the debt we owe, as so finely articulated by Zizek above, is the debt of our being, our flesh, because the Christ figure has given us his being, his flesh.  There must be an alternative way.  The divine has always been playing games that have not limited their play to the fertile crescent.  Jayadeva also plays similar games of violation and psychologically twisted debtful obligation.

I will argue below that by reading the incarnation through the work of Zizek and Jayadeva, one is left with the incarnation as a sexual ethic that is embodied between two people.

Zizek argues for the end of the incarnation as a transcendent referent and for a more embodied discourse that takes on the Pauline insistence of ethical living.  Jayadeva makes very clear that the incarnation is the articulation encounter one has had with the Big Other (read God) that typically occurs under the auspices of a sexual encounter.  While the encounter that Jayadeva describes is thoroughgoing sexual, one needs to penetrate beneath the sexuality to the core that pushes the encounter to occur in the first place.  This is known as the drive or Freud’s Trieb, even though this methodology may be a trifle anachronistic (we all read from somewhere).

The trieb is not only the locale that cannot be localized, it is also the thing deep within oneself that longs for the fulfillment and rest that can only occur, according to Jayadeva, in the encounter with Hari.  When the trieb is left empty, it is sorrowful and lacking.  It is the mourning Rada.  The body demonstrates outward signs of mourning, until the Divine, or Hari, once again comes home from wandering and offers a temporary place of rest.  Then the ankle bracelets may resume their ringing, though briefly.

Jayadeva unmistakably articulates the necessity of sexuality for human being/becoming in relation to the divine, particularly as that experience that is best known as jouissance, or painfully pleasurable arrival…or what most Christians call heaven.  Thus, the incarnation is a sexual ethic that is to be lived between people, between two subjects that might not know one another exist.  This is evident in the amount of failed relationships that occur, not because love and sexuality is not present, but because an incarnated sexual ethic is not embodied.  If Jayadeva were writing/righting today, perhaps he would suggest that the only Big Other (read Lacanian sense of Other that is not oneself i.e., structure of language, trauma, or the feminine) that is left is the other of the person.

For Zizek, questions of divine culpability go to the heart of the Christian God.[3]  For this reason, Zizek argues for a radically different approach to a doctrine of the incarnation than may be found in Athanasius’ De Incarnatione.  Zizek spots the perverse core of Christianity, and in so doing the pervert Christianity historically calls God, and calls for the forging of a new direction not located in transcendence.  For Zizek, the incarnation is not a statement about the importance of transcendence, but a statement about the importance of the body, the immanent reality of living people caught in living structures of truth seeking and fulfillment.  God needs the world and drains transcendence in the process.  Jesus, known as the Christ, is the desublimation of the transcendent God of Judaism.  Judaism could never bring God to where it was/is, thus it negated any sort of anthropomorphic identity to the Supreme Creator.  Zizek argues that this negation of anthromorphic concepts, however, necessarily places Judaism on the road to making God man, on the road to Christianity.

Zizek describes it thus,

“it is the Jewish religion which remains an “abstract/immediate” negation of anthropomorphism, and as such, attached to, determined by it in its very negation, whereas it is only Christianity that effectively “sublates” paganism.  The Christian stance is here: instead of prohibiting the image of God, why not, precisely, allow it, and thus render him as JUST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, as a miserable man indiscernible from other humans with regard to his intrinsic properties?”

For Zizek, what occurs in the incarnation is not the propitiation of sins in the form of a human being or the restoration of the divine image that was lost at the fall, but the handing over of the world to humans.

When Christianity asserts that the divine THING has come in/as Jesus of Nazareth, the THING that is beyond, known as God, is shown to be absent because Jesus is present.  Zizek interprets Jesus as a figure within the symbolic order or the drive/thing/law schemata, wherein the drive toward rest is always directed toward the thing that is supposed to give rest, i.e., God, but such rest is always prohibited from fully resting because of the prohibitions from the Law separate a person from the THING or destination.  Jesus, however, traverses the Law and makes the divine present and therein ends transcendence.  He makes the destination of the drive apprehensible, thus offering a place of rest and an end to the excess of sin that is produced in seeking the relationship with the divine via attempts at becoming divine.

This means that the event of the Christ is not an event that brings one into relationship with the BIG OTHER God.  Christ does not do our work for us and pay our debt through his divine threshold of pain.  Rather, the incarnation, the coming of God to humanity, the shrinking of transcendence, is the event that gives us the chance to be free from our excessive quests for the unattainable THING, God, for in Jesus, says Christianity, God is with us.

Yet, Zizek writes, “Christ is not the contingent material embodiment of the superasensible God: his “divine” dimension is reduced to the aura of pure Schein.”

The Incarnation, therefore, is a statement about the end of transcendence into immanent transcendence in the Christ figure, Jesus.  Jesus as the incarnation is not the living apprehension of an ontological other, but the dismissal of that Other and the freeing of humanity from its haunting and obsessive quests toward something else.  In turn, Zizek argues, this freedom from the excess of looking for the THING that is present in Jesus allows a person to love and act ethically.

What is most important in the incarnation, therefore, is the possibility to embody agape and to act in loving ways toward the opposite sex, abolishing all sexual barriers.  The power of the incarnation to release one from metaphysical whims produces a reality wherein there is no Jew, nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.  No wonder the “Christ was a traumatic scandal.”

Zizek offers readers an alternative reading of the incarnation.  In so doing, he offers readers a different kind of incarnation resulting in the adaptation of an ethic of agape that destabilizes dominant worldviews and begins a constructive theology.  The incarnation is the event that makes true ethical behavior possible because God is (us) with us.  Jayadeva will finalize this embodiment for us.

While Zizek and Jayadeva could be juxtaposed,  together they provide a coherent synthesis and ground upon which incarnation can be expanded to the embodiment of a sexual ethic.

This essay began with the quote, “You take form as a Dwarf, Krishna.”

Krishna, like Jesus, is an embodiment of something.  Both are individuals that come from elsewhere.  Both are individuals that interact with humans and seek to satisfy the excess of the human quest for the place from which Krishna and Jesus come.  Krishna is the coming of the THING.  Unlike much of Christian tradition that places a Law between the THING and the person, Jayadeva is the wall effacer.  There are no restrictions in Jayadeva that could prohibit the person from experiencing the THING of God, except God’s wandering ways and lustful lies.  Jayadeva wants to make St. Teresa’s “coming” a reality, but in so doing one realizes that one cannot really “come” because Hari is never always there, he is always already never there when he is there.

 

When Hari and Rada are together, their experience is beatific and mystical, yet, it is one that does not last.  It leaves both Rada, and Hari (even erstwhile he is promiscuous) wanting for more.  If they had found fulfillment in one another, then the trieb of Hari would be of no consequence.  One cannot help but notice as the poem moves that Hari must be dreaming of others, which he does in fact pursue, “The wondrous mystery of Krishna’s sexual play in Brindaban forest IS Jayadeva’s song.  Let its celebration spread Krishna’s favors.  At the end, however, Krishna exclaims, “Glance at me and end my passion’s despair.”

The poem may be read as the story of unquenchable desire that simply exhausts the ability of the other to end passion whatsoever, particularly the passion of the god’s.  Who/what, after all, can quench a divine libido?

Therefore, one is left with an incarnation of Jayadeva as linguistic explanation after the encounter one has with God or one can argue that the incarnation is the ethic that is not expressed in Jayadeva, thus reading against the texts sexual obtuseness, while at the same time reading with it.  If the incarnation allows for a real ethic, as proclaimed by Zizek, this ethic must look different than is described in Jayadeva, particularly in that Zizek challenges Jayadeva’s insistence on questing after the suppression of passion by attaining the THING, Krishna, God, one’s rest!

If Jesus as incarnation is the power to free one from the excess of trauma, than what does this say about being free from the traumatic effects of the relationships the gods have with people, particularly Rhada?

Reading Zizek alongside of Jayadeva indicts the Gitogavinda for its sexual hierarchy, yet it does locate the place of heaven and incarnation as being between two peoples in sexual encounter.  The sexual encounter is brief and simply complex, but the insistence on its placement in the development of Krishna as a God, and Rhada as the subject receiving the impalement, testifies to the inability to fully describe a REAL sexual encounter, one that is ethically responsible and fulfilling for both parties regardless of the passions that are quenched.  The dialectic is that the moment initiates more moments in hopes of finding the real one.  Rhada and Krisha fall together, they fall apart and then back together again, but they never arrive.  Zizek, however, suggests that this arrival is already here making the journey null and void.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hapless Nihil

hapless nihil

Those moments when you want to write, but feel lost in the sea of your own non ideas…As if every ounce of inspiration has been siphoned from your soul leaving you with nothing but a hollow spirit with clanging walls and cold diameters. And this is the nothing that is everything…the nothing that so stigmatizes your soul that it becomes what is…while the space that was once filled with vibrancy and lumination has become the cavern of respite and indifference…the nothing that weighs everything and the nothing that is absolutely the heaviest thing…that can lodge itself in the consciousness of a human being. How can we shake this cold hard absence? How can we embrace rigor mortise before it makes all resurrection impossible?

It’s easy to stare across the wasteland of intention and see nothing but parched land and tumble weeds. Intention is just that, an unrealized act, an unrealized event…the realization that the realized is pure potential without any form or content other than its own absence. How strange it is to feel this space and emptiness in one’s self. To see passersby occupy this same space, to try to lead them through it, to try to make a friend, only to be dismissed as something you are not.

…and the earth simply becomes more parched…unflinchingly absorbing tears as soon as they plummet to the earth in quiet despair. To be in this place and have absolutely no power, yet it is your place. This is Hell. To scream so loudly that no one hears you. To lift the weight of the world with your soul only to find your soul is simply the custodian of the burden. It’s going nowhere.

How, with your head cocked and fingers longing to be free to touch and feel again, how long does one sit in this squalid silence? To want to stand up and move. To want to be in relation with another anything. But feel pressed down by the force of a gravity you did not create nor can you negotiate. To feel absolutely helpless. To remain silent because you can do nothing else.

A cascade of ideas is not enough to pierce this earth and pry back its cracked ground…and force water into the crevices. A cascade of will…this nothing scoffs at. A cascade of desire sits at the fray of this nothing that is more chaotic than all the things created…and desire just sits…lonesome, knowing her other half is most likely never returning. There will be no homecoming.

The nihil is. When all else seems to fail and the great questions of our day are asked…meaning will simply be reduced to a reduction ad absurdum…laughing at us through its slanted eyes and cursing those of us who long for more than a world that is hapless before darkness. It is so difficult to live a new creation when the old one has been remade without our permission.

When Writing is Impossible

Derrida quote

Words, like statuesque monuments of brick and mortar foreclosed by economic eras past, struggle in vain to rise out of the rubble of their origins…stretching to the surface to breath, like Pauline prayers of souls that can only speak with moans.

Recently, I have found that it is difficult to write, difficult to even produce this sentence or write in ways that synergistically combine my passion and intellect with words that can convey more than themselves.  When it’s difficult to write, maybe writing about why it is difficult to write is the right place to start writing.

So I write why it is impossible to write, hoping I may actually write in my non-writing.

There are moments when the subject and object of our writing makes speaking of itself impossible…when the act of writing simply fails to comprise its subject.  To reference theological discourse, these are moments when we speak of silence and tranquility as we stare into the eternal gaze of the numinous object of our incredible urge to speak.  Our words fall short.  We write to transcend our place, seeking to be carried off by words, but words are simply the substitution for something far more mysterious and real that lies underneath them.

At moments like this, when we realize the disconnect between what we write, and what we write about, and that writing about it is an infinite impossibility that will only produce words that continue to mangle our imaginations even as it gets us close enough to never see it…at moments like this we write, we speak, but we know our writing will never get it right.

We write as a response to the infinite; not in an attempt to encase it.

Yet, this is what makes writing impossible as an act.  Writing feels impossible at moments, at seasons, because it is our attempt to span the chasm of the genesis of our internal echoes into paradigms of symbolic exchange that might somehow bring meaning from the abyss of our deepest subjectivity.  And this is impossible.  It feels impossible because it is.  Nothing can be written only because the only thing we can write is nothing. This is why theological, philosophical, lyrical, and narratival imagination is necessary for the writer.  Without imagination the subject and object of writing is betrayed by prose that falls empty and shoddy, derelict of any contoured image that might make writing worth writing at all.  Writing comprehends itself as the inability to satisfy the imagination with traces of its content, even as it leaves its true meaning behind, lost in the relation of its symbols.  The only way to suppress writings urge to speak nothing is to imaginatively portray the place from where it comes…to look back on itself via a linguistic inversion and see from where it was thrown.

But this conundrum of writing is inherent in the task.  The theory and nature of language is one that refuses its purpose, and thereby, becomes its purpose.

Martin Heidegger in his On The Way To Language delicately describes the balancing act of language and its inability to speak.  He writes, “There is some evidence that the essential nature of language flatly refuses to express itself in words – in the language, that is, in which we make statements about language.  If language everywhere withholds its nature in this sense, then such withholding is in the very nature of language.  Thus, language not only holds back when we speak it in the accustomed ways, but this its holding back is determined by the fact that language holds back its own origin and so denies its being…”

What Heidegger is so accurately portraying and defining is that language itself always holds itself back by its very nature.  It can never contain the whole of its occasion, of its purpose.  Writing occurs at the intersection of origin and community, an originary act to create community and speak within the boundaries of language games yet also knowing that the game is that what we speak will never be spoken because our own medium of speaking, language, is never capable of speaking past its own medium; its very nature does not allow it to say what it means to say.  It is only capable of being a trace of an expression that seeks to be said but as soon as the expression, idea or passion is seen via words or heard via language it loses itself as it enters the symbolic order in which language and words make sense.

To draw illusion to Lacan, one could say that language, writing it, speaking it, is not real; yet language is because the real exists.

And this is not to be nihilistic about language; rather it’s just a simply discussion about the very nature of language itself.

Writing language further confounds the writer because the real of its subject matter, whether it be God, beauty, meaning, truth, passion, story, etc., is always ahead of the medium in which it is communicated.  Just because writing is never occurring as an act of definition that actually says what it means to say, does not mean that what precedes writing is not real or truthful; it doesn’t mean that which gives language and writing occasion doesn’t exist.

But our speaking, our writing, the incessant drive to communicate something that swells within us and claws at our insides peering outside our pores into a world it thinks longs to receive it, always follows what we are saying.  The said is not what is trying to be said but it is all that can be said.  It is always removed from it as said.  Not only does language (& its medium of speaking or writing) itself refuse encapsulation to speak itself, but it is most clearly the incarnation of following language.  The said never catches up to language because language cannot “overtake” what it is attempting to take into itself via its speaking.  To do so would mean to remain in silence because silence would be the only thing that puts us close to saying anything without removing ourselves from it.

So writing doesn’t just seem impossible at times, but it is impossible, the most ludicrous act in which humanity engages.  Our prose fails us.  Our sentences languish.  We rewrite and re-edit.  We try to say it just right knowing that can never happen.  All that can happen is a vacillation around the kernel of the originary moment from which writing comes, a place so deep within the speaking and writing subject that access to its recesses is to plumb depths that are too real to even exist.

The revelation of the revelatory nature of language leaves us hapless.  No wonder speaking is so difficult.  No wonder meaning is so elusive.  No wonder that intense moment inside of us never satisfactorily emerges into a meaningful expression.  The very nature of language, of the things we attempt to speak about, not to mention the hearing and reading part of our language, is to disrupt and betray itself…to exist in wistful repetition hoping that saying it repetitively will take it from there to here.

This reality is what manifests itself when writing is impossible.  This is what happens when one simply can’t write.  This is what is happening when your hands and your mind do not make the agreement that is necessary to produce something worth reading or worth saying.  We are coming up against the very nature of language and we are not able to transgress it and extract our demands from it.

These are the moments when you stare at your screen…screaming in silence words you want to commit to the page, but when you go to write you are trapped in your own ideas of saying nothing because you have everything to say, which means, of course, that nothing is what you have wanted to say all along.  And at the end of the day we will have said nothing as we must say it again and again, hoping that speaking it often enough will affirm its illusory nature.

Writing mocks us because we are bound to language, even as we think we have tamed it with our crafty literary techniques.

This is what is happening when writing becomes impossible.  In dialectical fashion, it is this existential angst rolled up in our inability to write, or speak, which is also a manifestation of writing itself, communication turning in on itself an becoming incommunicable writing that communicates everything it cannot say by saying it.  We stand in the face of our unspeaking, of writing chasing language and language that cannot be harnessed that says more than we can ever say by wishing we could say it.  This negation of language that is language is the speaking of truth even as it must first speak a lie…since lies are all that can be spoken via words that never speak truthfully.

As we stare blankly at screens, our minds racing and anger building at the sights of fingers that cannot move to the rhythm of meaning or hands that cannot write otherwise than themselves, we experience first-hand the impossible possibility of language, of speaking or writing it.  Thus, we should not lose heart when we remain speechless.  The very need to use speech at all will render us all speechless at various intervals.  The Gospel of language is this: Language produces its own speechlessness.

So when is writing impossible?  Always.

It’s not that writing ever becomes impossible; it’s that writing is impossible…always already impossible even in the most lucid prose…and it’s in the moments of profound difficulty wherein that impossibility is simply made more acute.

In the Beginning was the Word.

God is Nothing: Lacan Wrestles with Thing 1 & Thing 2

thing one and two

“In the symbolic order, the empty spaces are as signifying as the full ones; in reading Freud today, it certainly seems that the first step of the whole of his dialectical movement is constituted by the gap of an emptiness”

-Jacques Lacan in his “Response to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s ‘Verneinung.’”

Everyone wants something.  They strive for something…some-thing.  We as a society are fixated on the things, the little ‘beings’ or objects to which our attention is directed and for which our work is given.  When we look at the world we see it through the lens of things, of a bunch of somethings, and we turn all of our ideas, hopes, aspirations and longings into various things that we can pursue, participate in or master.  The world is full of things, and as Hannah Arendt is apt to tell us, we have given the world around us the thing nature that it is; the world and its things are “thing-ified” (if I can so gently make that word up) because we have taken the world from what it is and we have conceived of the contents of the world within the limits of what constitutes thingness…what constitutes possession for only a thing can be possessed.

We work for homes, for cars, for piles of things.  We work to secure our lives through the things of our investments…we secure our relationships by the things we invest in them and we derive all meaning from the fact that we are able to take our ideas, generate an imaginary world and then divest ourselves of what is real in search of the always illusive thing.  This quest keeps us questing, keeps us defining, keeps us pursuing the thing/things.

We have made the world so dependent upon the idea of thingness that we cannot even conceive of anything that is not a thing.

I am here reminded of Dr. Seuss’s story The Cat in the Hat.

In this quaint little tale, all of everything (the state of affairs within the children’s home if you will) are fine.  Everything (which is really nothing if you remember…more on this in a few more paragraphs) is fine.  UNTIL someone comes into the life of the children and begins to give the room a “thing” nature.  The Cat in the Hat releases “things” into the house, which ironically disrupts everything (which was really nothing as the Mother left the children alone).  The Cat brings in the thing nature…even brings in real characters known as Thing 1 and Thing 2…and they do things, they play with things, they value the fun they are having with “every-thing” and it is this chaos of thingness that is valued…that even the children valued.

For a short while the “things” happening were a new creation, a new way of being, a new diversion from the nothing they were really experiencing.  They valued this new “thing” and they did not listen to the goldfish swimming in his bowl that was full of nothing and going nowhere, yet somehow the fish in the nothing place that goes nowhere was able to see what happens when “things” get out of control and usurp the space of nothing.  These things were valued, that is, until after several attempts by the goldfish sternly reminded the children that these “things” need to stop and “everything” needs to be cleaned up and ordered aright once again.  In other words, we need to get back to the real that is nothing.

The releasing of everything and its chaos into the nothingness of the empty home wreaked havoc even as it also preoccupied the children for a short time with new “things” to watch, see and do.  Into a room of nothing, everything was created…and everything that was created was shown to be nothing more than a diversion from the Real of life that happens apart from “thingness”…the  mundane space which conditions who we are…the space that is more determined by nothing than by the false ontology of thingness.  The children thought the “things” were fun and properly teleological in orientation, yet by the end of the story they discover it is a teleology that goes nowhere and does nothing more than distract us from what really conditions the spaces inhabited by our lives.

We have not given the world a thing nature for purely entertaining reasons as these children were so apt to do (though we have done this), but this thing nature has occurred because of our misdirected sense that what is and what will be is constituted more by the presence of a/the thing, than by nothing.  We have filled our worlds with things to rid ourselves of the nothing…yet the joke is on us.  We cannot rid ourselves of nothing even with the thing as Lacan so aptly notes above.

We have done this, not only in regard to the physical things we enjoy, but also into those metaphysical realities to which we give allegiance and service.  Of course, in our late capitalist culture, the world has taken on the very nature of the thing.  That is why we live.  But why has the thing nature also dictated how we think our faith, our God and the meaning of our lives?

Because we have so thoroughly conceived of the nature of reality as the nature of the thing, it seems that God, Jesus, faith, the ecclesiastical community, our salvation, etc., have all become nothing more than a long list of things; a long list of possessions that give us identity.  They are things that are, things that matter, things that will be…God is nothing more than the thing to which I pray or the thing I fear.  The church is the thing I do on Sunday to ensure I am in proper relationship with the Thing I call God so that this God will bless me with another thing.  My faith is the thing that makes me who I am and conditions how I engage the world…and my salvation is the thing I have because so long as I have it this thing is mine…and because I have all these things, I AM SOMETHING.  To be without these ultimate metaphysical things, things that are grossly conceived as all other things in our language and habits, is to mean that I am nothing, no one, not a something.  These things make me who I am.

I can “see” them.

I can “feel” them.

I can experience them.

I can “touch” them.

I can think them.

These things have become concretized into our thing schematization because we can think the world only in relation to the thing.

But this is where we are wrong.

The thing does not make us who we are or create our worlds.  The thing has no ontological purchase of its own; its only purchasing power comes from us who invest the currency of the thing with value.   The thing is not an end and it is not a beginning.  Thingness is not realness and it is not absoluteness.   We think our lives, worlds and faith(s) are all about being properly directed toward the right thing, but what Lacan discloses to us is that it is not the thing that shapes who we are or where we are going; it is the nothing that does all this.  We want to think there is something, yet our lives are all really the result of the reality of the nothing…the nothing that is disguised as some-thing via the thing that is really nothing apart from the nothing that makes it a thing.

All that may sound a bit circular, confusing even.  I promise I am not writing to confuse.  So let me break this down and then argue the point a bit further:

There is not anything other than nothing.  Nothing is…there is no such thing as a thing apart from the nothing which gives rise to the world in our vision, though this is a world that rests its things on nothing; it’s not a world that ends nothing with a world of things.

We have so conceived of the world via a thing nature, or a particular type of ontic character, that we have left behind the role that nothing plays in making us everything we are…even as this idea of absence and nothing is still nowhere to be found.

Nothing conditions how we speak, what we value, what we pursue, those “things” we are fearful to pursue.  Nothing is what places us where we are and it is only relation to that nothing that meaning can be created or generated.  This is one of the main thrusts of nihilistic philosophy.  It is not a philosophy that argues for some sort of black hole abysmal reality where there is no meaning; on the contrary, it is only because nothing is that everything can have meaning for a thing only has meaning in relation to nothing.  Apart from this frame of reference, a thing is lost in itself without any analogous referent from which it may make sense.  Apart from nothing a thing is not even a thing…and therefore, apart from nothing we too are nothing.  Thus, nothing is.  So while we strive to forget nothing by thinking everything, we lost in the process an important part of ourselves and what makes us who we are.

Lacan goes well beneath Heidegger’s own idea of Geworfenheit here…

Lacan notes, “But the subject has a no less convincing sense if he encounters the symbol that he originally excised from his Bejahung.  For this symbol does not enter the imaginary, for all that.  It constitutes, as Freud tells us, that which truly does not exist; as such, it ek-sists, for nothing exists except against a supposed background of absence.  Nothing exists except insofar as it does not exist.”

He goes on to the quote at the beginning of this essay, “it certainly seems that the first step of the whole of the dialectical movement is constituted by the gap of an emptiness.”

What Lacan is observing in his response to the famous psychoanalyst Jean Hyppolite is that our lives are negotiated more from the gaps of nothing than by the imaginary worlds we have built for ourselves.  Nothing is the condition of meaning because the symbolic order rests on this negation of things in order for meaning to be construed.  It is only  because there is an absence that a presence appears.

The bejahung that Lacan mentions is Freud’s term for our original primordial inception into the symbolic order.  It is the original affirmation that we did not affirm.  Our place in this order, an order which does not exist but exists apart from itself, is really nothing…it’s a place we cannot place anywhere, it is nowhere, yet its constitution as nowhere means that it is the nothing that is somewhere.  The bejahung is our inception into that order (language, symbols, sounds, meaning, body language, ideas,etc.), an original inception that is no longer available to us but surfaces in us at moments of repressed desires, visions, déjà vu, dreams, etc.  It is the place into which we are plunged and emerge with the symbolic, with language, yet we cannot recount the making of the symbolic or its highs or lows.  We are people of symbols yet the genesis of the symbols have long been lost in ek-sistence of the bejahung that’s nothingness allows for the existence of other symbolic things, which really do not exist.  Or as Lacan notes, “Nothing exists except insofar as it does not exist.”

Thus, our worlds and the things we fill them with are really nothing and they reside nowhere but the places we have granted them to reside.  The emptiness of our minds, the places where we do not think but where we really are, is more indicative of our condition then are all the things we create and all the imaginary’s we fabricate.

So if our worlds are really conditioned by nothing and the foreclosure of our language into a specific symbolic order, what does this mean for those things that mean most to us…those things that we can place our in our hands, our heart and our minds?

It means that we are not driven from or toward the places we can grasp, but we are perpetually the creation of what has grasped us even as it has nothing to grasp us with.  The gap between there and here, where and there, is the gap and nothing that makes us as much who we are as all the fabricated things we have created to hide from the gap that is nothing, yet has made us everything.

These spaces that are nothing are really the spaces that fill our lives…it is the nothing of the lives we wish we could have that surface in our consciousness and produce the world we think we see.  Only because the fabrications of our worlds do not really exist, because they are nothing, do they present themselves into the symbolic order as an imaginary thing.  The fact that things appear to us in the present and we aim for them in the future, only do so because they are nothing and do not exist anywhere, thus our very “thing” nature of the world is really driven by the world we do not see toward the place we do not know with “things” that aren’t really there…meaning they are the things that are not really us or the real that remains allusive.

If the thing nature of the world we have created is merely that which has taken us away from the place of nothing, and nothing…or that which is no longer available to us, is that which constitutes our moving, thinking and being, than what does that say for our faith and its objects if we continue to call them things?  Perhaps, to begin this conversation aright…we should begin not by saying all those things that are things and then seek about defining them in our possession…but perhaps with Lacan, we should take a more apophatic approach.

For if as a people of faith we claim that God is where we come from, where we are and where we are going…perhaps we are not discussing a thing known as God…

Perhaps what we are saying is that God is nothing

Zizek reads the Bible: Thoughts on Incarnation

nietzsche quote/

The incarnation is the perverse core of Christianity and the perverse core of the perverted god’s that desire the absolution of a person for the sake of their own divine egos.

When the falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for our sake tells us: “I want nothing from you!” fails miserably – we should not forget that these are the exact words used by the Priest to designate the court in Kafka’s Trial: “The court wants nothing from you.” When the falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for our sake tells us: “I don’t want anything from you!,” we can be sure that this statement conceals a qualification “…except your very soul.” When somebody insists that he wants nothing that we have, it simply means that he has his eye on what we are, on the very core of our being. (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 170).

The incarnation has historically been the doctrine of the divine overtaking the human form in the person of Jesus and using this medium to exact divine revenge and quench the thirst for the apparent ontological masochistic necessity that the God of the Bible seems to display. The recent History Channel Series on the Bible shows at least this much…but let’s ask a few questions:

What sort of God is this that takes over our way of being, the form of our human flesh, and uses it to appease his own ineptitude of not securing a tree in the Garden that would not be violated?

Could we not have saved our flesh had this God not created this obvious temptation?
This is what a pervert does and this is the practice of perversion. The pervert sacrifices the innocence of another person in order to gain something from them, typically sexually. Sex and violence have always been partners, even when it comes to ideas of salvation.

How useful is a doctrine of the incarnation if it is continually used to reinforce a theology of perversion and furthermore place the object that it sacrifices, humanity, into the debt of the God that asks for the sacrifice, while simultaneously setting it up? This is the string that is attached. Christ has died, and in this required death, we are in debt, even though God does not need our currency.

If this is the case, than why require the currency of flesh? Sigmund Freud was right, we do owe death a debt. Only the debt we owe, as so finely articulated by Zizek above, is the debt of our being, our flesh, because the Christ figure has given us his being, his flesh. There must be an alternative way.

For Zizek, questions of divine culpability go to the heart of the Christian God.

Zizek writes, “God as omnipotent is a perverse subject who plays obscene games with humanity and His own son: he creates suffering, sin and imperfection, so that He can intervene and resolve the mess He created, thereby securing for himself the eternal gratitude of the human race.” He later asks, “For which authority above Himself – is God himself forced to sacrifice his son?” (The Fragile Absolute, 157-158). For this reason, Zizek argues for a radically different approach to a doctrine of the incarnation than may be found in Athanasius’ De Incarnatione. Zizek spots the perverse core of Christianity, and in so doing the pervert Christianity historically calls God, and calls for the forging of a new direction not located in transcendence.

Zizek’s questions are strikingly difficult, emotionally stressful and piously challenging…yet the questions remain despite our incessant need to hide behind the pages of scripture that actually raise these questions through an honest reading of text.

For Zizek, the incarnation is not a statement about the importance of transcendence, but a statement about the importance of the body, the immanent reality of living people caught in living structures of truth seeking and fulfillment. God needs the world and drains transcendence in the process. Jesus, known as the Christ, is the desublimation of the transcendent God of Judaism. Judaism could never bring God to where it was/is, thus it negated any sort of anthropomorphic identity to the Supreme Creator. Zizek argues that this negation of anthromorphic concepts, however, necessarily places Judaism on the road to making God man, on the road to Christianity.

Zizek describes it thus,
“it is the Jewish religion which remains an “abstract/immediate” negation of anthropomorphism, and as such, attached to, determined by it in its very negation, whereas it is only Christianity that effectively “sublates” paganism. The Christian stance is here: instead of prohibiting the image of God, why not, precisely, allow it, and thus render him as JUST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, as a miserable man indiscernible from other humans with regard to his intrinsic properties?” (The Fragile Absolute)

For Zizek, what occurs in the incarnation is not the propitiation of sins in the form of a human being or the restoration of the divine image that was lost at the fall (contra St. Athanasius) but the handing over of the world to humans. When Christianity asserts that the divine THING has come in/as Jesus of Nazareth, the THING that is beyond, known as God, is shown to be absent because Jesus is present.

Zizek interprets Jesus as a figure within the symbolic order or the drive/thing/law schemata, wherein the drive toward rest is always directed toward the thing that is supposed to give rest, i.e., God, but such rest is always prohibited from fully resting because of the prohibitions from the Law separate a person from the THING or destination. Jesus, however, traverses the Law and makes the divine present and therein ends transcendence. He makes the destination of the drive apprehensible, thus offering a place of rest and an end to the excess of sin that is produced in seeking the relationship with the divine via attempts at becoming divine. This means that the event of the Christ is not an event that brings one into relationship with the BIG OTHER God. Christ does not do our work for us and pay our debt through his divine threshold of pain. Rather, the incarnation, the coming of God to humanity, is the shrinking of transcendence, is the event that gives us the chance to be free from our excessive quests for the unattainable THING, God, for in Jesus, says Christianity, God is with us.

Zizek writes, “Christ is not the contingent material embodiment of the supra-sensible God: his “divine” dimension is reduced to the aura of pure Schein.” (On Belief 95).

The Incarnation, therefore, is a statement about the end of transcendence into immanent descendence in the Christ figure, Jesus. Jesus, as the incarnation, is not the living apprehension of an ontological other but the dismissal of that Other and the freeing of humanity from its haunting and obsessive quests toward something else. Zizek is basically arguing that freedom from the excess of looking for the THING (God) that is present in Jesus allows a person to love and act ethically. When we are no longer looking for the BIG OTHER, we are free to look at one another as Christ does his disciples. What is most important in the incarnation, therefore, is the possibility to embody agape and to act in loving ways toward others. The power of the incarnation to release one from metaphysical whims and produce a reality wherein there is no Jew, nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. No wonder the “Christ was a traumatic scandal.” (The Fragile Absolute)

In reading the incarnation as such, Zizek offers readers an alternative reading of this important theological concept. He offers readers a different kind of incarnation resulting in the adaptation of an ethic of agape that destabilizes dominant worldviews and begins a constructive theology. The incarnation is the event that makes true ethical behavior possible because God is with us…and for Zizek we are therefore released from God. Perhaps the mystics were right. The only prayer we should fully pray is “God rid me of God” so that I can be released to myself and the world…Just as Christ was so released into humanity.

Dialectical Thinking is Paranormal

Hegel-dialectic

When it comes to thinking, dialectical thinking IS definitely paranormal.  There is no other philosophical method that has the ability to show us that what we consider normal is actually not normal at all…that alongside the normal trapped in its web is something more true, more normal yet also allusive.  Dialectic is the constant reminder that what we think we see in our world is actually not what we’re seeing…it truly is thinking about the world in such a way that another reality begins to emerge from the stable reality we have created and assumed for ourselves.  What makes it most paranormal is that we have seen it and lived amongst it even while we have never noticed it.  In short, dialectical thinking contradicts our ideas from within our ideas…no liberal science necessary.

Dialectic is one of those great philosophical words/concepts that is often thrown around but very little understood. Perhaps this is because most folks just don’t see the world dialectically…paranormally.  Dialectic doesn’t have any practical import in our daily lives in order for it to be a concept that makes sense; at least this is the perception. For many, the world is not something that requires dialectic to understand it rightly. The world is plain and flat; it’s black and white. The world is what we see and what we see is what the world is. All the while, this view of reality is very much dependent upon seeing the world from “somewhere,” from “someplace,” a “where” and a “place” that we did not create ourselves…a where and a place from which we cannot so easily move. To use the language of Martin Heidegger, we have been “thrown” here against our will and we have been silly enough to think it was our “choice”. We’re such good Americans.

The basic premise that what one sees is what is…and that our sight is the full production of ourselves is itself one of the greatest lies of modernity. It certainly doesn’t consider the place from which our desire to know and understand comes (i.e. The Real)…the place that cannot be assimilated into the symbolic order of our language. It doesn’t take into consideration that no one has chosen the language in which they participate and how that language is organized, which in turn leads to being able to see and interpret what one sees …and it certainly doesn’t take into account that the very premises we all hold dear are also susceptible to corrosion within the ideas themselves.

Phenomenology and Dialectical thinking brings all this to awareness.

As Sean Homer writes in his book on Lacan, “the paradox of dialectic is that the positive always turns into a negative.” But naturally, most people do not want their positive ideas of things or opinions being turned into a negative or shown to not be true. We like to be right and we don’t want to find out that our “right” is really wrong. If this is the case for you, stop reading now.  What dialectic does, at its basest most functional level, is couch the ideas of the world that we have (think religion, politics, economics, society, etc) within a paradigm of logic that dares to take logic to its ultimate ends.  Dialectic shows that ideas are never the whole story, that under the idea is a another more true idea or form yet to be seen because it lies just beneath the surface, encouched in what we can call dialectical tension.  This is a tension that, ironically, once it is discovered, forces us to realize it has really been on the surface all along…thus, revealing the world we apprehend and see to be totally other than what we apprehend and see.  At bottom, dialectic is a way of seeing the world as it really is, not a way of seeing the world as we think it to be.

To take this step just a bit further, dialectic is the process whereby all of reality: its concepts, ideas, structures, etc, are displaced in the very ideas that make them what they are.  In other words, the very thesis of an idea or an object also contains the counter-idea that shows the initial thesis to be nothing and empty. This may seem like the foundation of nihilistic philosophy, and to a degree it is, yet nihilism actually stretches at least as far back as medieval Christian theologians such as Miester Eckhart.  Nihilism, or the nothing that dialectics generally discloses about the structure of the world, is not a philosophy of crude, critical scholars who want to have their cake and eat it too; it is a philosophy that sees nothing in every idea because every idea is inherently unstable in its logic. Ideas (and the worlds built around them as all worlds are) are not impregnable or absolute.

Dialectics is a natural philosophical fit with phenomenology because phenomenology posits that nothing exists functionally apart from the idea of the thing. Idea and object go hand in hand. Phenomenology is the premise that objects do not exist independently from the perception of those things in human consciousness. This was the basic premise of the entire work of Edmund Husserl; it is the attempt to simplify the material world by saying the phenomena we encounter matters.

A classic example of this is Hegel’s “Master/Slave dialectic.” The idea of Master and Slave are lost in reciprocal relationship. In order for the Master to be as such, he must be recognized by the Slave for this signification and vice versa. The Master is then free to live life as Master because he is recognized by the Slave as Master. But dialectics disrupts this “universal truth.” For since the Master needs the slave’s recognition for his identity he can never be a free Master, whereas the slave doesn’t need the recognition of the Master to be a slave because the slave’s status is affirmed through something else: his work/labor as a slave. Thus, if the slave’s identity is independent the recognition of the master for his identity it is not the slave who is enslaved to the Master but the Master to the slave. Subsequently, it is not the Master who is free; rather it is the slave who is free. So the Slave is really the Master; the truth is really a lie.

With dialectics, one does not need to deconstruct an idea to show that it is nothing; its own deconstruction is inherent in its very existence and definition. I hope you can see how this proposal and idea of dialectics can offer a whole other world of theological inquiry than the one that is “mastered” to us via orthodoxy. I’m not so sure what this means about the very famous words in the Gospel of John, 8.32, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” but it probably means these words don’t mean what they seem.

I wish to utilize Hegelian dialectical philosophy as theological method because of the seriousness with which it approaches the material world. Many theologians and biblical scholars avoid dialectics but such has not always been the case.

Dialectic has traditionally been employed within theological circles in very benign, though helpful ways. Indeed, it was the dialectical theology of the mid 20th century that paved the way for neo-liberalism and post-liberalism, two very necessary movements that have shaped theology into the present. A school of dialectical theology was reinforced by larger than life theologians such as Karl Barth, Emil Bruner, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Rudolph Bultmann and to a degree even Paul Tillich. But this mode of dialectics, with the exception of Paul Tillich’s latter Systematic Theology, was content to not push dialectic far enough. Barth, for example, was content with a very simplified definition of dialectic that was employed as a symbol of tension between the world as received and the world as is, the already and the not yet. Barth’s famous, and also very helpful, idea of the Word of God and Word of Man for understanding scripture is dialectical thinking…that in the Bible we have both the words of Man and God…The words of man not being the same as the word of God, yet the word of God being expressed in the words of man. This is dialectic, but it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t take Hegel’s method seriously. It attempts to see the world as it is currently understood within our liberal and conservative biases; it doesn’t seek to see that the world we engage might not be the real world after all.

For a full Hegelian method to be appropriated, one must learn anew that the negative, or nothing, is not something to fear but constitutive of reality. Conservative scholars often say that this theology or philosophy of nothing as championed by folks like Sarte, Derrida, Lacan or Zizek is nothing more than tearing away at reality and faith as we know it. It is argued that all they wish to show is that there is no meaning anywhere so that everything is permissible behavior for a humanist society. But the problem is these characterizations are not true.  Most of these critiques are made by those who have never read, or understood, any of the respective thinkers they wish to criticize.

If anything, dialectic is NOT reductionistic. It does not seek to say there is no meaning to life; in fact, it argues for a proliferation of meaning and truth in many places and especially those places where we least expect to see it! Dialectics affirms that life and our worldviews are products of a very complex relationship between object and thought…and that as all objects are somehow the precarious existence of their substance and our thought about them their truthfulness is then necessarily contingent upon our language and consciousness. No “Truth” is able to rise above this logically. The world of ideas presents to us the world in which we live; the only way to change the world we live is to see how very unstable our ideas about the world in fact are. This is the task of dialectic: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

All dialectic does is analyze via phenomenological awareness that life is comprised of a constant tension within the very life we think we live without tension. It’s not an attempt to “throw away the faith” or “deconstruct Jesus,” but it does very much show that our world is not as tidy, neat and complete as we think it to be. And the benefit of seeing this opposite/negative in the supposed positives of life is that we can then evaluate ourselves, our faith, our world more carefully and begin to live in more authentic ways.