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If I was a book in a library, then I'd finally be free

Archive for May 2009

Buddhist Science Fiction Scenario

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phenomenal existence becomes so advanced (spiritually, technologically, politically etc.) that time travel is achieved for the specific purpose or on the condition of going back in time to a critical moment to speed up the process.

Written by Joe

May 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Buddhism

Left Behind

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The Master left it behind—
a turd
In the toilet.

Written by Joe

May 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Buddhism, Uncategorized, Zen

(Obviously) Not a Mom I’d Like To Fuck

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From Postcards from yo Mamma, a blog that shows off examples of “a sort of essential mom-ness that wasn’t just idiosyncratic to our own mothers—we had inadvertently stumbled on something that was universal.” That is to say, funny and otherwise interesting stuff that people’s mothers have communicated to them through internet-text.

Mom: Your dad and I were watching the SNL thing and were confused, what is a MILF?
Me: Seriously? You don’t know?
Mom: No. We were so confused at that part.
Me: It means Mother I’d Like To “F”
Mom: Gross. What?! Who would do that to a mother?!
Me: I don’t know, obviously you aren’t a MILF.
Mom: Obviously. I’m just a MILM. A Mother I’d Like to have as a Mother.

I post this wondering why there is such a dead-zone in the psychoanalytic literature when it comes to the internet and (instant) text-messaging specifically. For a discipline so obsessed with speech, language and writing , who offer so many analytic tools beyond the clinical setting in the everyday world of language and symbol, how does the instant-message pass beneath the radar?

Written by Joe

May 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

The Form of this Formlessness Itself

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In a comment to “The Monstrosity of Christ,” Nathan brings up religion’s therapeutic value, which reminds me of a point Zizek makes in the Introduction to The Puppet and the Dwarf (available HERE) about religion being therapeutic or critical.

One possible definition of modernity is:the social order in which religion is no longer fully integrated into and identified with a particular cultural life-form,but acquires autonomy,so that it can survive as the same religion in different cultures.This extraction enables religion to globalize itself (there are Christians, Muslims,and Buddhists everywhere today);on the other hand,the price to be paid is that religion is reduced to a secondary epiphenomenon with regard to the secular functioning of the social totality. In this new global order, religion has two possible roles: therapeutic or critical. It either helps individuals to function better in the existing order,or it tries to assert itself as a critical agency articulating what is wrong with this order as such,a space for the voices of discontent—in this second case, religion as suchtends toward assuming the role of a heresy.

Zizek focuses a main part of his book of arguing against Buddhism as the therapeutic religion par excellence and for Christianity as the critical one. However, this discussion of the Eagleton’s book reminds me that the therapeutic and critical distinction is internal to a given universal religion (too). Eagleton swoons over critical Christianity, but overlooks its (paradoxically destructive [i.e. nihilistic) therapeutic dimension, especially as dominant in the United States. Zizek has a similar blind-spot in the P&D, where he gives little attention to therapeutic Christianity OR critical Buddhism.

I think the future of a Lacanian critique of therapeutic Christianity resides in some alliance with these critical Buddhist elements, which means working through Zizek’s analysis, his focus on critical Christianity and therapeutic Buddhism, and instead invert the whole thing. In this sense, Zizek’s analysis is still stuck in the Imaginary and the relation narcissism and aggressivity, between ideal-ego (formless Buddhism) and ego-ideal (form of this formlessness itself Christianity). We might say Eagleton’s analysis is in a similar position, but apropos the relationship between critical Christianity and therapeutic Atheism.

Take Zizek’s comments on the new Star Wars movie in In These Times:

Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace gave us a crucial hint as to where to orient ourselves in this melee, specifically, the ‘Christological’ features of the young Anakin (his immaculate conception, his victorious ‘pod-car’ race, with its echoes of the famous chariot race in Ben-Hur, this ‘tale of Christ’). Since Star Wars’ ideological framework is the New Age pagan universe, it is quite appropriate that its central figure of Evil should echo Christ.”

I’m not actually opposed to this reading, but it’s easy to also look at Vader, especially coming from “an overwhelming desire to intervene, to do Good, to go to the end for those he loves ” to “seeing Evil everywhere and fighting it,” and see the quasi-paranoia of therapeutic Christianity. Makes me wonder what how a bodhisattva would appear in the world of therapeutic Christianity.

Written by Joe

May 6, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Eagleton: What’s the Problem?

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Larval Subject’s complaint about Stanley Fish’s review of Eagleton’s new book is hard to shake (note that these are three different links). The thing that keeps me from being completely swayed by LS’s insistence on how Christianity remains the signifier for so much screwed up stuff is the thought that Eagleton’s point is a kind of reverse reductio ad absurdum: if we start out with (argue for) the premise that the Christian tradition is full of all these worthwhile political and ethical commitments, we cannot but reveal the obscenity of what is often called Christianity.

This is, of course, immanent critique, as one commenter points out (in an exchange that riled up LS for reasons I can’t see, unless it involves a deleted comment). The part of LS’s complaint that’s hard to shake is that Eagleton’s position is the absurd, abnormal position as far as Christianity goes. Though I don’t think that means it’s an unreasonable starting point for this sort of engagement, I can empathize with the sense that this indirect engagement with concrete social phenomena somehow makes us miss the trees for the forest, if not the mountain in the background.

In this sense, LS’s complaint is not that unlike Zizek’s complaints against liberals who frame racism as a problem of tolerance rather than economic justice. LS might say that Eagleton treats a problem that could be called “What Would Jesus Not Do?” as one of atheism and its discontents rather than the exceedingly more salient issue of religious fundamentalism and the “opium of the masses.” Of course, the twist would be that these are different names for the same symptom, not unlike how I connect the hyper-rich and the hyper-poor in a recent post. The question Eagleton should have to answer is that if simply getting rid of or otherwise directly engaging “bad Christianity” is not what is to be done or even desired, then what is the problem? I have a feeling that part of the answer can be found in Timothy Morton’s engagement with an ecology without Nature.

Written by Joe

May 5, 2009 at 1:14 am

Acting, Political Theatre and Enjoyment as Political Factor

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[From an exchange between Derek and I, where I start out asking:]

Me: Isn’t it funny how theatrical a term “jobless” is?
Derek: How so?

Me: It sounds like a title you’d give to an actor. It has a very different connotation from “unemployed,” which still retained this a sense of a larger function (“you are being unemployed by the Market,” which is the dirty secret of the more popular notion that you are “employed by the Market”) and the more pagan notion of being a functional part of everything else, whose peak form of art is the ritual. Theatre has a deep connection to modern politics in this sense, and gives rise to a sense of collectivity that is essentially Marxist before Marx.

A play is a collective endeavor by a bunch of individuals, whose places are not pre-determined by and yet some how fixed according to the narrative. The narrative is is not a higher sort of function that pulls the strings and makes the actors perform the play. The actors come together of their own (of course, through a rigorous, almost religious training period before hand – i.e. study and rehearsal) and perform the play.

The play can seem like a constraining superfluity (the sort implied by deriding ideology as naivety) or as what the actors themselves put on and make for/of/by themselves. This is effectively art for no one though; how does it, like Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” be for everyone too? Theatre can be enjoyed by any and, in the digital era, everyone. An audience at the Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s plays, in his time, is at once radically egalitarian communal enjoyment and a scene of obscene enjoyment of the court).

This is why Zizek says, in his “Arcitectural Parallax” essay he says Mozart is on the side of the poor! Everyone is there minimally for the sake of enjoying the performance, which is itself a kind of self-enjoyment (i.e. for no one) of the actors putting on and yet working together to accomplish “the play,” but the upper classes are their to enjoy their very presence, which is ob-scene (as Dr. Clark was always fond of explaining: literally “off or out of the scene”).

This other scene, in the fully Freudian sense, stages a distraction from the real enjoyment at hand. The performance is not a re-duplication of class-relations and social conditions, for that would suppose that one set was the original and one was not (c.f. the zen koan about what your original face looked like before you were born), but social life and class-relations are themselves performative, which is to say we all put on “a play” called everyday life wherein our our relationship as actors and the performance as a whole is of a class-nature.

In this universe of political theatre, God is a machine (Science and its support in power), and one isn’t unemployed by society, but is nonetheless acting out a jobless role in its infinitely possible flavors. Makes you think about how Keanu Reeves gets picked on for being such a one-dimensional actor, and how in a way he embodies a certain kind of ideological critique of celebrity, which he certainly has some of himself—as if his various characters, and the celebrity they gained for him, screamed out the secret of many or even most great actors: you’re really, actually boring. Could any other actor had pulled “Neo” off as well as Reeves did?

This is what Jesus meant by turning the other cheek: you (my abuser) cannot but give me equality, for it is what your own law compels you to do when I “turn the other cheek” (which given the impropriety (a very different sense of “bad” from the bad sort of thing that you could do to someone without being dishonored by it yourself) of things to do with the Left hand means striking them as an equal with an open palm or fist. To us today, it may seem that it would make more sense, from the angle of wanting to demean and degrade someone, to use the left-hand: that’s what you use to wipe your ass, after all.

Propriety and honor point towards this social commitment that we make as a kind of self-positing, where we oblige ourselves to honorability as such. Acting done well is a similar self-positing.

The link here is what Hegel called “the sensuous expression of freedom,” which strikes most of us as an expression you’d intuitively apply to something like a painting, a poem or book, or a musical performance or a gourmet dish— but not a a theatrical performance. It is here though, and the danger is always that the freedom experienced on the stage will be mis-recognized. Through this mis-recognition on a mass scale, along with other forms of mass theatrics (television shows, especially) we are more likely to relate to our own roles in a democracy as if it were a show being watched. This is why enjoyment is a political factor.

Written by Joe

May 2, 2009 at 11:59 pm