Pacing Myself

I must admit that of late my return to blogging has actually been to rethink what it is I’m doing, and the regeneration of a goal to retroactively encompass not some grand narrative of my former selves or even the modes of being through which these momentary figures in the wind have dissolved, but rather to repeat the gesture of awakening that emerges for each of us in finding ourselves in the midst of an impossible universe and realizing for the first time the wonder of being alive and thinking it.

Rereading Zizek’s work has led me to reevaluate certain aspects of my own thought and to understand the mechanism of change and emergence of thought in my own life. Knowing I change continuously and that there is no stable or identifiable Subject or Self, but rather a process of continuous dialectical reactivation of certain problems that force me to act in thought, to neither secure some ultimate meaning nor even edge my way into some ultimate answer; rather to realize in the multiplicity I am the process of change that continuously works its way through this state of awareness. Against this process is not some pre-Adamic Self or Essence that existed to be discovered, found, or reawakened… there being no transcendental realm of Being beyond the very material registers of this life of process. Instead attuning my self to this retroactive process of reappropriation in thought of the very process of failure to become at all.

Zizek puts it this way in his philosophical bric-a-brac, saying,

In a subjective process, there is no “absolute subject,” no permanent central agent playing with itself the game of alienation and disalienation, losing or dispersing itself and then re-appropriating its alienated content: after a substantial totality is dispersed, it is another agent— previously its subordinated moment— which re-totalizes it. It is this shifting of the center of the process from one moment to another which distinguishes a dialectical process from the circular movement of alienation and its overcoming; it is because of this shift that the “return to itself” coincides with accomplished alienation (when a subject re-totalizes the process, its substantial unity is fully lost). In this precise sense, substance returns to itself as subject, and this trans-substantiation is what substantial life cannot accomplish.1

The point here is that the process is all, there being no static or momentary stillness of the turning world around which the self-as-Self-Subject suddenly finds rest in substantialized Being. Against all this is the Void or Gap that can never be filled, which unceasingly forces us to incessantly repeat the process till death. But then again maybe the process is after all what Freud found it to be: the pure repetition of the death-drive. As Zizek will problematize: “To put it bluntly: if Substance is Life, is the Subject not Death? Insofar as, for Hegel, the basic feature of pre-subjective Life is the “spurious infinity” of the eternal reproduction of the life substance through the incessant movement of the generation and corruption of its elements— that is, the “spurious infinity” of a repetition without progress— the ultimate irony we encounter here is that Freud, who called this excess of death over life the “death drive,” conceived it precisely as repetition, as a compulsion to repeat. Can Hegel think this weird repetition which is not progress, but also not the natural repetition through which substantial life reproduces itself? A repetition which, by its excessive insistence, breaks precisely with the cycle of natural repetition?” And as I’ve quoted before many times, and Wallace Stevens says better, in the end there is only the anxiety ridden never resting activity of the Mind:

There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

—Wallace Stevens 1942


  1. Zizek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 5477-5482). Norton. Kindle Edition.

12 thoughts on “Pacing Myself

  1. Reminds me of this too, the unresolvable struggle between openness and closure:

    and Nietzsche’s thought against the escape of death, to paraphrase: think you can escape, are the questions your individual being poses anywhere near answered?

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  2. yes but. There is a universe that is unknowable, is this not the transcendent? Each day there are moments of beauty emerging. There are moments when we feel an urge to be alive. everything is dead. Yes, But everything is also filled with spirit , a tone, a presence, that reaches out to me. you’re writing for instance..

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    • No, just the opposite: it is because the universe is unknowable as a structured whole that it is open and impossible, and allows for the emergence of the new. Unlike the tradition of Plato and his heirs in theology there is no underlying or overlying structuring of reality by the One (=God) from outside in; instead, there is just the retroactive retracing of the sense of things in there history by a self-aware being enabled not to know the totality but the partial concreteness or congruence (or, to use Whitehead’s notion which you know: concresence.

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      • I don’t mind talk of the transcendent, but it is full of dangers and problems, and is only safe to use as a negative resource, totally open, an underlying and overlying Nothing.

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  3. I like to think of Nothing as where everything is possible, so that the finite is an ongoing process of forsaking nearly all of the possible, sacrificing more and more to the impossible, leaving us with the finite, the almost nothing, or even less than nothing, because the full nothing excludes nothing, i.e everything is possible.

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    • Thing about Zizek is like modern physics there is nothing and “less than nothing”. In the oscillation between two voids our universe is continuously emerging with new unknowns. The universe is not fixed and static, but changing and new at each moment. All our knowledge is of a past from which we are cut off, we think retroactively piecing together the puzzle of an incomplete and impossible Real. The universe is not a product, know one behind the cave shadowing forth the particles from some Platonic other world. The universe of appearance as appearance arises in the very movement of that something that is nothing.

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  4. Do you think it’s even necessary to justify a suicide or invent excuses or reasons?
    Decaying organic matter that became self-aware in an entropic pointless universe is an absurdity in itself and ought to be reason enough ? Not trying to be edgy, but when you cut it all down, thats’ what remains, pretty much.

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    • Where did justifying suicide come in? Socrates didn’t commit suicide, he was executed by the Law of his day for corruption of youth. There is no justification. Pointless? From whose perspective? Nihilist? You’re not edgy at all… just a bit out of date with your cynical take. Nietzsche himself saw such cynicism as the fruit of Nihilism of which he was an observer, not participant. Seeing in such a stance what he termed the Last Man. Is that your stance: the Last Man?

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