His name is…
Will it ever come to me? There is a grand lapse of memory that may be the only thing to save us from ultimate horror. Perhaps they know the truth who preach the passing of one life into another, vowing that between a certain death and a certain birth there is an interval in which an old name is forgotten before a new one is learned. And to remember the name of a former life is to begin the backward slide into that great blackness in which all names have their source, becoming incarnate in a succession of bodies like numberless verses of an infinite scripture.
To find that you have had so many names is to lose claim to any one of them. To gain the memory of so many lives is to lose them all.
So he keeps his name secret, his many names. He hides each one from all the others, so that they will not become lost among themselves. Protecting his life from all his lives, from the memory of so many lives, he hides behind the mask of anonymity.
But even if I cannot know his name, I have always known his voice. That is one thing he can never disguise, even if it sounds like many different voices. I know his voice when I hear it speak, because it is always speaking of terrible secrets. It speaks of the most grotesque mysteries and encounters, sometimes with despair, sometimes with delight, and sometimes with a spirit not possible to define. What crime or curse has kept him turning upon this same wheel of terror, spinning out his tales which always tell of the strangeness and horror of things? When will he make an end to his telling?
He has told us so many things, and he will tell us more. Yet he will never tell his name. Not before the very end of his old life, and not after the beginning of each new one. Not until time itself has erased every name and taken away every life.
But until then, everyone needs a name. Everyone must be called something. So what can we say is the name of everyone?
– Thomas Ligotti, Grimscribe
If Self is an illusion, and I think it is, then is the name I use an illusion, too? I see my name in places that define me for the State: Birth certificate, Drivers license, Social-Security Card, Passport, Visa, Diplomas, Insurance, Car title, Home title, Bank account, etc. But is this me? Am I my memories? Am I the traces I leave in objects? Old postcards sent to friends from foreign ports, strange statues bought in some hidden jungle village, little rattles or drums bought high in the Andes, an old knock-about typewriter used for years in one country or another traveling: all these objects that were used by me or that used me? What of the film, pictures taken by family members, friends, office mates? Are all these traces of my body left in objects the truth of me? Is the self a tangible material thing that can be traced on old stone like an iconic image that some future being might discover on a fallen wall and think: “What sort of creature was this?”
In the old religions one had to lose one’s self to find it, to become in their terms – twice-born. But what does that mean? Do we gather up all the accumulated detritus of childhood, and early youth, work, friendships, lovers, enemies, etc. and slowly dissolve these in some acid bath of forgetfulness: and, then suddenly arise out of the ashes of this false past into the miraculous movement of a new life, renamed, born again into the newness of existence? What if one is an atheist, and a follower of the sciences, or more specifically, the neurosciences that tell us the self, the first-person-singular mechanism or function in consciousness that gives us the feeling of intentionality, purpose, will, power, decision-making – is itself an outmoded artifact of evolution, a mechanism that should now be superseded with the new truths that are telling us that everything we thought about our Self, Soul, etc. was not only a lie, but a small functional segment of the brain that has always lead us into false traps, illusions, mistakes and should now be sloughed off. But why? If we accept this truth? What then? What if it is true that all our thoughts, decisions, motives, etc. are done below the threshold of consciousness, and that these just happen to us rather than something we act on consciously? Do we just lie down before the great power of the blind brain and accept our defeat before its hidden computing powers, those endless functions and mechanisms churning away below the threshold that we will never have access too?
Even now these neuroscientists are laying the grounds for a new world view devoid of the human element of intentionality, human purpose, or human meaning: a post-intentional universe devoid of all the old mores, customs, philosophies, religions, norms, etc. that have guided human kind for millennia. What should we expect out of this? We know that very few will even know about this grand world of the neurosciences, that most will still be caught in their folk-images (as some call it) lost among the ideological worlds of their particular cultural mind meld. We have seen that the oligarchs, elites, corporations (Google), military (DARPA), etc. are investing billions in these new – shall we term it, transhumanist or posthumanist technologies and technics of the Great Convergence (NBIC) – nanotechnology (fibers, neurotubeules) , biotechnology (Terminator seeds, hybrid cloning), bioinformatics (information, pharmakon, data mining), and cybernetics/robotics ( non-human intelligence systems, AI, etc.). Why? What are these large institutions, bureaucracies, think tanks, academies, labs, etc. seeking?
We’ve seen the slow destruction of the older forms of the Industrial empires in the West as these have been dismantled into smaller, leaner, global systems spread across the vast borderless territories of a new organized empire of capital over the past 30 years. We’ve seen both Russia and China slowly incorporated into this global system to varying degrees while their more dangerous satellites Iran and N. Korea are reigned in with lucrative and bland immunological band aids. No one wants to push the destruct button quite yet. Yet, we see the battle for the remaining resources taking place in silence and off the grid to the mass-media propaganda systems in places like Africa, India, South America, etc. America realizes it is at the end of its great empire reach, that the cost of maintaining its empire is just not worth the cost in manpower or financial ruin. It realizes this path will lead to ultimate death internally and externally, so it is realigning its strategies to work within a multi-polar world of power, a balance of competing forces while still guarding its specific energy needs. While Russia and China are rebuilding infrastructure and working slowly to build its internal political and social systems over time. Both know they have time. And, they both know that Europe and America do not, so they work here and there to test the waters of these once powerful blocs.
Yet, we all watch silently as the climate begins to move toward that final plunge into the abyss of no return. Some of the more extreme views from certain climate observers is that we have about 20 years to act, that after this it will be far too late to even attempt change. In the first phase we see certain nations slowly trying to perform geoengineering projects to slow down the progress of global warming. But most scientists see this as an expensive gesture that came too late. Without detailing the bad news all I’ll say is that once the feedback-loops of warming come to the point of melting the global ice caps it will be only a matter of time for the great oceans to begin warming and melting the methane frozen at the bottom of all our oceans and releasing those gases into the atmosphere. Once this happens they give us to about 2080 to 2120 before the sixth great extinction finalizes its march on biological life on planet earth. Kaput! Humanity will at that time be at an end as a species.
So who really cares about a Name, anyway, after such knowledge? Yet, I wonder, even with such knowledge should we sit back, let it happen; or, should we instead seek ways to resist such pessimism, seek a way to resist the inertia of our world capitalist system and forge a new social subjectivity: a way to afford ourselves if not a new optimism, then at least a new hope. I began rereading Ernst Bloch’s three volume The Principle of Hope, which explores among other things the need to keep hope alive even in the midst of the darkest ages of humanity. As Slavoj Zizek remarks:
Ernst Bloch provided a detailed and systematic account of such an open universe—opened up toward its future, sustained by the hope of redemption, joy, and justice to come. He analyzed this dimension of hope in all its scope, from “low” kitsch romances through political and economic liberation up to religious extasis. In our “postmodern” cynical constellation, he reminds us that denunciation of ideology is not enough: every ideology, even the most horrifying Nazism, exploits and relies on authentic dreams, and to combat false liberation one should learn to discern in it the authentic utopian core.1
Maybe we need to address the authentic utopian core of our present era that seems so bent toward accelerating into a mindless machinic future that portends only one thing: a world without us… Is this really the inhuman, posthuman, transhuman future we’re all seeking? Are or we seeking something much more refined, more complex and full of affirmation and transmutation, even metamorphosis. What Gilles Deleuze once called (after Nietzsche) the separation of the last man, the reactive man, from that other being who is immanent to our very movement into the future: a being whose destruction of the established values, divine and human, that once constituted nihilism will offer us a way forward. Beyond all values divine or human is the trans-nihilist, which is not so much the creation of that which overcomes the human as it is the constitution within us all of the conditions whereby the human overcomes itself and is overcome by that which immanent to its blind brain in which the beast becomes the eternal return of the Child. An openness to the future and each other that allows for actual change to take place. Is this now hope enacted? A resistance against the last men, the men of this global system of corruption that would feed on us like zombies, mindless and without forethought? A resistance against a system of death, a thantropics, a world that offers instead of love, the power of transhuman immateriality in which humans are enhanced, transmuted by genetic, nanotech, biotech, cybertech, robotech to the point that they merge with their technics beyond recourse to the older molds of flesh and blood life. A resistance against economics of mindless machines, cyborg or informags, in which humans become nothing more that military analysts in an neverending war of money and power over the remaining resources of the planet. A resistance that finally escapes politics and philosophy and actually acts from the knowledge and power of the immanent becoming of the production of life itself. A resistance in which humans begin to touch what is no longer human in themselves and affirm even this. A resistance that becomes pure affirmation…
1. (2013-11-25). The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia, SIC 8 ([sic] Series) . Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.