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Tel Quel

je sais bien mai quand même

Tag Archives: The Space between Space

It’s like Sylvia Plath having to do the laundry still, making sure the apple crumble doesn’t get annihilated and the plants outside are fed… you know what I mean?  Borderline realism. Not everything is cognitive. Forgive me, I have to be more lucid. What I really meant was: after Deleuze, not everything is always a universal (de)construction of Piaget, Lacan, or Saussure.

What looks like an irrelevant fissure in the head is a messianic tightrope which neurologists, linguists, biologists call the corpus callosum; connecting two physical hemispheres so that we can distinguish, formalize, humanize things (and the misconception that through the course of action and reaction, we in turn are able to under-stand) So it does connect the right and left as we speak, and form assumptions, implications, culture-bound codes of mutual understanding but I can only see it as the bullion toggle switch between sleep and wakefulness. There’s often a misunderstanding in the perception that sleep and wakefulness as the delineation between what is real and what is the not-real or virtual, when they are, essentially, a painfully blatant, material phenomenon. Which is also why we sometimes can’t quite understand physiological mutinies like waking up to the retching of acid, water and air over the basin. Send back the nausea from whence it came! We may postulate and hypothesize all sorts of layered signification, but at the most fundamental level, it is an irrational biological response.

So for the first four hours of the day, I sat in darkness reading Vonnegut while waiting for the phantom of a technician to bring the lights back on. And it is almost unreal, or panpoetic to say the least, this reading in near-darkness (some light from the main building graciously seeped in). The funny thing in spite of the dire circumstances: there was nothing quite sombre about Slaughterhouse-Five in the dark, but like Lot’s wife, we just had to look back and turn into regrettable pillars of salt. Breaking ranks, eventually. What bothered me more was the temperature, it was offensively cold for some reason and I had to shamelessly cover myself with the orange knitted quilt from Ikea that often got caught on any surface like an inconvenient ginger cat. I do love cats though. I picked up Vonnegut for no reason today, except maybe to get away from potentially disturbing narratives like the usual, and I couldn’t bear the weight of Metz’s theories today. This is the third day I have put off the Grand Syntagmatique. (Meh)

Again, after Deleuze, everything changes. What used to be inconspicuous is now blaring in my face like a royal notification: Time the Möbius band, Time the infinite, Time in seconds, minutes and hours there and back again. I cannot even begin to describe how normal (and maybe even glaringly obvious) the disruption or non-linearity of the narrative frame is in Slaughterhouse-Five, and only so because of Cinema I (Movement-Image) and Cinema II (Time-Image).

I remember, with most relevance, what Martin-Jones wrote in Deleuze, Cinema and National Identity, “The subject, then, is at once an actual self that acts in the present, and a virtual self that insists or subsists, as the past.” Vonnegut as himself, or Billy Pilgrim or Kilgore Trout, completely exploits the fact (rather beautifully) in the odd deaths, non-sequiturs and the rest of his ‘telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales’ whereas we are still and always will be, halfway between the gutter and the stars. Actually, there is nothing exquisitely Trafalmadorian about the fourth-dimension perspective, about being able to “see” past, present and future. Deleuze borrows most of the concept of Time-Image from the Bergsonian cone, where time is a centripetal movement. There is no said beginning and end, I think if I were to put it in a way where I can visualize, the beginning should be more of a locus and the subsequent series of events radiate outwards while having the ability to retain a present and present-continuous. I think it makes sense. Like the Trafalmadorian response to Billy Pilgrim: “we are, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber”, at this present moment this is where I am.  For everyone else, I imagine drops of amber everywhere, singular moments of time, place and event. Deleuze calls it ‘the crystal of time’ or “the crystal that is glimpsed in the time-image”, and I can understand (or not understand) why it becomes problematic. Because I cannot actually see the virtual constantly in the process of “becoming-actual”, I think it’s an evolutionary weakness but having said that the closest I’ll ever get is the faulty camera in our minds, the memories, flash-backs and recollections on a grotty 35mm. I don’t know how or why I arrived here, but I think it is the probable result of bringing up the corpus callosum and irrational biological responses; that the irrelevant fissure in my head is on the brink of damage.

Then there is the familiarity of music (instrumental) as an existential cue; when Billy was drowning in Chapter 2, Tomas and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness, Alex and Beethoven Ninth in Clockwork Orange. For me, occasionally, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkryies, and yet, I cannot make out the connection. At least, I have no more capacity to do that tonight. As much as I would like to deny Deleuze’s influence, I am irreparably lodged in the becoming-actual, failing to see the actual.

Elsewhere, I am another name, another face, another person in another place. “We unlearn, I am a shore rocking off you/ You break from me. I choose your only way, my small inheritor/ And hand you off, trembling the selves we lose.” The best part of her (Anne Sexton’s) poetry, and in particular this excerpt, is that she addresses no one else but herself, however obscure. A completely human inclination, therefore regrettable pillars of salt that makes Vonnegut embrace the demise of Lot’s wife in all of us.


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I embraced the first day of school, the comfort of reluctant familiarity. The prospects of impending essays… and the prospects of impending essays. It may seem a trifle, but I’m sure the way we write our friend’s names between empty spaces of our timetable have a deeper meaning than we could possibly understand, not just for the company but a greater indistinguishable metaphor in itself. Like how I write out maudlin (but colour-corresponding) monologues at the edge of my paper, Death Cab’s Marching Band of Manhattan. And for what purpose? What metaphorical form does it take? To what cathartic effectiveness?

Kundera himself said “Metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to…” Of course, it eludes me like Invisible Cities, like Bakhtin’s Formalism, like Love. Neil is right, there is no teleological metanarrative. But what is the non-metanarrative, the not-Unifying theory? Is it a series of smaller, mutually independent incidents held together by… I have no idea. Suddenly I realise I can only describe what something is, by what it’s not; and that’s not even considering the fidelity of lexical semantics (Evidently they are not faithful at all.) I feel guilty for this sudden (re)assurance of capriciousness in the relativisation of a lot of things, it seems too easy. Yet, we could have been sitting in the very last row of Rushdie’s cinematic spectacle after all, unaware and unable to go to the front where the faces on the screen begin to contort, and expand into individual blocks of colour-coded number sequence. In Part 4, “Dialogue on the Art of Composition”, C Salmon asks Kundera “What does the word ‘farce’ mean to you?”

This is where things start to have the appearance of ‘sense’. Our inherent vulnerability and failures are so because we only have words, and they are never enough. Even as I am grounding my consciousness into composition, they start to change and take on different nuances over a different space-time. This is beyond metamorphosis, one could say an anamorphic reality even. In truth, we fail (and fall) because we have so little to hold on to. But that’s not to say we disregard efforts, our own and others. Because what Neil says, “The World as Text”, ultimately also becomes the World as Idea, and this Idea is a universal incomprehensibility and moral vacuum (however he may disapprove). I’d like to think of it as an echo. The further sound travels, the fainter it becomes, up to the point where we wonder if there was ever a sound produced in the first place, then it passes through reason and memory; and we will not even remember if we ever wondered about a sound that produced a veritable echo.

Actually, here’s the thing: we forget everything eventually. We don’t even need to stimulate a mock stressor to pass into lacunar amnesia, the mind naturally forgets. Everything. Perhaps this is Lyotard’s La condition postmoderne: where the only memory, narrative, morality we can ever preserve, is not in our own efforts but others. A coagulation of unrelated fragments that subsequently unifies perhaps, however awkwardly. Through a series of smaller, mutually independent…


Right now, I only know of metaphors. And metaphors above metaphors, meaning more than the original metaphor. The weight is unbearable, but upon reaching critical mass, I finally understand. The Parmenidean progression (or transgression) from weight to weightlessness. All I need is an echo, you know?

“Just like a faucet that leaks/ And there is comfort in the sound”

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I’m reminded of it everyday, when I smell the rain, the damp earth, the maltreated grass; when I wake up from the concomitant, quasi-realistic parallel that I hope you are aware of too. My boots are under my bed, abandoned and unwashed from the shame of Hong Kong. They said it was an experience of a lifetime and perhaps it was, in front of that many people, whichever gods as witnesses. All the memorabilia have been put away in a nondescript box, because one should never remember nightmares. (Or am I supposed to remind myself) In the end, what I truly remember only becomes a convolution of desires and disappointment. I am sorry. “I am Jack’s broken heart.”

Sometimes I almost feel the gravity of this situation manifesting itself in a different time and place, and I always wonder if it is possible to devolve, to transgress further than I already have. I know I will sleep tonight, eventually. Because there’s Milton, “How sweetly did he(they) float upon the wings/ Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night”, no ill-memory can touch me tonight. It reminds me of what I once wrote,

This is Erebus’s Flight.

[Edit: June 10, 2008]

The acceleration of the fall into the deep end of the beginning has never been swifter until yesterday. The nightmares are coming back, faster than I can run away from or against. The spaces between Space (or space between Spaces) are becoming (and almost is) one dark, psychosomatic nebular of hopelessness and yet I cannot possibly articulate it such that you, on the other end of Erewhon, can feel even a fraction of this impending gravity. The more I try, the less familiar I become to myself, and to everyone. I was finishing up The Prophet this morning, and maybe I can take comfort in his response to the Orphalese scholar, “For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.” I am only good at/for ambiguity. It didn’t leave me with an absolute revelation, but it sufficed for now and perhaps there will be something else different when I look back on today, on the past four months. I particularly like the final chapters of Prophet, it reminds me of so many things that I’ve tried to self-medicate through reading. Until I find another (am certain that I will), nothing yet comes close.

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