Without Hindrance, There is No Fear

From the concluding “self-interview” of The Metastases of Enjoyment:

In one of the recent ‘corporate nightmare’ thrillers, The Virtual Boss, a company is actually (and unbeknownst to the employees) run by a computer that suddenly ‘runs amok’, grows beyond control and starts to implement measures against the top managers (it instigates conflicts among them , gives orders for them to be fired, etc.); finally, it sets in motion a deadly plot against its own programmer. . . . The ‘truth’ of this plot is that a master is, in a sense, always virtual — a contingent person who fills out a preordained place in the structure, while the game is actually run by the ‘big Other’ qua impersonal symbolic machine. This is what a Master is forced to take note of via the experience of ‘subjective destitution’: that he is by definition an impostor, an imbecile who misperceives as the outcome of his decisions what actually ensues from the automatic run of the symbolic machine.

And ultimately, the same holds for every subject: in his autobiography, Althusser writes that he has been persecuted all his adult life by the notion that he does not exist, by the fear that others will become aware of his non-existence — that is, of the fact that he is an impostor who is only pretending to exist. His great fear after the publication of Reading Capital, for example, was that some perspicacious critic would reveal the scandalous fact that the main author of this book does not exist. . . .

In a sense, this is what psychoanalysis is about: the psychoanalytic cure is effectively over when the subject loses this fear and freely assumes his own non-existence. Thus psychoanalysis is the exact opposite of the subjectivist solipsism: in contrast to the notion that I can be absolutely certain only of the ideas in my own mind, whereas the existence of reality outside myself is already an inconclusive inference, psychoanalysis claims that reality outside myself definitely exists; the problem, rather, is that I myself do not exist. . . .

For those who doubt Zizek’s fidelity to a theoretical orientation that is compatible with – if not an ultimately necessary ally of – a buddhist one.


Something is Missing

From Slavoj Zizek’s “The Eclipse of Meaning: On Lacan and Deconstruction”:

This gap that forever separates the lost Thing from symbolic semblances which are never ‘that‘ defines the contours of the ethics of desire: ‘do not give way as to your desire’ can only mean ‘do not put up with any of the substitutions of the Thing, keep open the gap of desire’. In our everyday lives, we constantly fall prey to imaginary lures which promise the healing of the original/constitutive wound of symbolization, from Woman with whom full sexual relationship will be possible, to the totalitarian political ideal of a fully realized community. In contrast, the fundamental maxim of the ethics of desire is simply desire as such: one has to maintain desire in its dissatisfaction. What we have here is a kind of heroism of the lack: the aim of the psychoanalytic cure is to induce the subject to assume his constitutive lack heroically; to endure the splitting which propels desire.

From Robert Aitken and Kazuaki Tanahashi’s translation of Dogen zen-ji’s “Genjo-koan”:

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.

Is Dogen preaching a similar heroism of the lack? This is so different from the Western Buddhism that Zizek critiques, which clings to the pseudo-Gelassenheit, “let it be” attitude, and sometimes exerts itself as the commandment to tolerate or in the liberal apology for ‘the market’. The ‘liberal pragmatic’ outlook and charge of many Western Buddhists, compared with ‘religious fanaticism’, is an ideological caricature that veils class-struggle. However, Zizek’s emphasis has been on the obfuscating qualities of this ideological veil, not too unlike Marx’s critique of ‘false consciousness’, while neglecting the revelatory dimension of such a veil, which by definition functions on account of both concealing and unconcealing.

The question to put to Zizek’s critique of Western Buddhism IS NOT what can it do for the Left, but what can it not do for itself? What is missing—not as a specific object, but in terms of the splitting and rendering asunder that propels desire? Moreover, what do popular conceptions of ‘balance’ and ‘harmony’ put in the place of this lack, this missing-something, so as to maintain a certain semblance?