Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bathing With Lacan

I was in the bathtub contemplating Lacan, longing for something unhavable (seriously -- I think only the French feel this -- they have so many words for states that I'm not sure anyone else experiences… or maybe they do, and English is the only language lacking that word. Think about it -- all those cultures experiencing a type of low-grade, chronic malaise and you're missing out on it because you don't have a word for it. Or maybe you do experience it -- maybe it is an implicitly "human" state, at least for this particular set of culturotemporal ((I want to say "presets," but they aren't really "pre"set. They are arbitrary statistical ((though not random))) likelihoods of traits or characteristics manifesting in a particular cross-band of people at a given time.)) channel(s) but you can't talk about it, can't even really think about it, because you lack a word. Or maybe you used to have a word, but it's been taken away, its meaning eroded by time and the slow entropic creep of ignorance. Who is taking away your language, word by word? Where do these meanings go when they fall into misuse and cease to be a concept able to be conceptualized by folks at large? Toward where does our language drift?) though actually I wasn't -- I was wondering what it would feel like to do so, then remembering that I once had (just to try on something French) I realized I had and so was (seems to happen around this time of year) even though I couldn't name it (which is another argument for being multilingual) and has something to do with French philosophy and /or phers (and calliope music) though often, the two arise together.

What does this have to do with Lacan? Mostly nothing -- it has a lot more to do with my bathtub.

I considered, briefly, using my real name. I had even decided to do so. And then…. I just couldn't or didn't. (Define "real?") This is one of those crosssectionpersonalities so it will just have to be what it is. (I only use my real or close to real name(s) when there is a check directly involved. If you'll use paypall and I can direct your payment to another account, then there isn't any reason for you to know under what name I file my taxes. It's one of those odd Indianese privacy issues. I know they didn't discuss for whom they were voting, nor did they discuss their religion, and I, for some reason, picked up that one doesn't, within the mandates of that culture, discuss or give out one's legal ((or near legal)) name(s) casually.) Do I plan to use it on a resume? For some elite position where irreverence is feared as a threat, and is thus socially unacceptable? Maybe… but if I'm even considering that, then they best have an open attitude about irreverence. (Proactive. Overachiever. Reveres nothing except… well, that's another one of those things that the Indianese didn't talk about it polite company. Actually, they didn't talk about it in ANY company, though I will…. just not under my legal name.)

The phallus. I am so tired of hearing about it. (Not *it* itself, but rather, the word.) The whole theory is in a cocked hat, excusing the pun. A giant, lumbering, unhavable object, blundering through the psyche, whispering the name(s) of [insert cultural signifier here] too softly for the ego to hear. Sad, staggering, lost. The neurotic clings to the belief that this unhavableness can be had; the psychotic has forgotten it altogether. The "healthy" (French inspired) individual renounces the need to know this (m)other, letting go of the desire to move forward, with the hope that someday this unhavableness can be had, as an adult. Though of course it can't, for the (m)other(s) likewise yearns for that giant, lumbering, unhavable object, which, just for convenience sake, we'll refer to as the "phallus" because once we start talking about it -- damn -- we just can't stop. (Don't get me started on my psycholingustic analysis of Freud's theory…. As a child, he longed to talk about his penis. Penis, penis, penis, he said, sometimes repeatedly. Germans ((the cultural forebearers of the Indianese)) do not stand for such things at the dinner table over sausages, thus Freud had to find a semi-legitimate profession in which to express his unexpressable linguistic desires. Really -- don't get me started. This is one of those subjects that can get me standing on a tall chair preaching to passersby until the bar manager asks me to sit down.)

I know how they feel. (ihadahardtimewritingcockthefirsttimetoo) But what if you *do* find it? What then? What if you consciously choose to remain "neurotic" until such a day as you find that unhavable phallus or die trying? What if you are a reallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreally persistent proactive overachiever who just won't give up when she's really bound and determined to do something, and who understands that what passes for "reality" is a near-fully manmade construct, held together largely out of words and habits reinforced by words? (I understand your words…. I can rearrange them…..) It keeps coming up, this desire for union, throughout human history. In the West, we determined, rationally, that such union cannot exist (but is rationality not the verysam/netool as used by the neurotic? You said so yourself.) so in order to be "healthy," "sane," and "rational," one must give up all notions of achieving, or even wanting to achieve, this union.

Talk about shocking the monkeys. No! Don't reach for those bananas -- don't even think about reaching for those bananas! Some monkey, some time, a long long place ago got shocked once for reaching for them, or so we heard, or so we believe, so we are (pre)set to try to stop YOU from reaching them. We don't know why -- we learned it by watching our predecessors; heck, we don't even know we're doing it. (Did you know that fear has been shown to genetically transmit for at least three generations in mice? What strange things neuropsychobiologists do…. What did you do today? Oh, went for a walk, had my shoes polished, then spent the afternoon frightening mice.) We just know it's "crazy" and we've been told that we don't want to be that. Nope. They've got buildings with locked doors for people they call that.

Anyway… there I was, riding the calliope, reaching for the phallus. I reached and reached and reached and reached, groping blindly for that unhavable havableness. One theoretically *could* have it -- just because no one else seemed to, didn't mean that it didn't exist. Sure, I know what they show to (t)each other(s) in their mirrors -- I've just not spent much time paying attention to it, or rather paid attention to more than just that. I see your culture -- I just choose largely not to participate in it. Why would I want to? When I know I don't have to?

WHAT!??!? There is something else??!?? I thought that this was it. (And don't you try to tell me I can't see outside of it. Blow me. Sue me for my irreverence if you don't like it -- I found my phallus -- and it's a nice one, too.)

It's one of the reasons I was so interested in systems of Eastern philosophy, especially those found in Buddhist Tantra -- there was a more than three thousand year old contiguous tradition (tantra predates Buddhism in that region by, according to some sources, thousands of years, which from a linguistic analysis, appears likely) that upheld, consistently, the supreme reality of union. And this wasn't softheaded faithbased religiosity -- these were folks who spent most of their lives in perpetual study, question, and debate; if there were holes in the philosophy, they would've found them.

And even knowing that, I poked and poked and poked anyway. Ten years, day and night, I argued philosophy, never before having found one that didn't, eventually, peter out (if you'll excuse the pun). But this one didn't. It kept going and going and going and going….

I debated every day for ten years; I never won a debate. Never. And I would debate for hours, days… well, obviously, a decade nonstop if you give me a worthy opponent and a bottomless cup of green tea. (I'll admit-- it helped that he was hot. I mean, while we were there debating, cooped up all those years in intense philosophical dialog, well… things were bound to happen.) There was nothing "religious" about the philosophy (irreverence ((obviously)) was acceptable) -- it was a philosophy like any other. Sure, you could practice it religiously if you wanted, but that is true of any philosophy (or lack thereof). I just wanted to argue. Incessantly. With the intent of reducing all illusions to nothing, to grind them into pale dust beyond the memory of nonexistence. I enjoyed tearing down beliefs, to laugh (albeit somewhat hysterically) at the bottomless chasm of meaninglessness -- it was part of my charm, why people invited me to parties.

The feminists do not want to hear of my phallic worship -- I am sure of it. Nor do the Charismatic Apatheists want me trotting about, seeming to jump enthusiastically from topic to topic everywhere I go. When I go to their conventions, I find myself rolling up my hair, piling it in as inconspicuous a pile as possible on top of my head, so as to complete my disguise. Perhaps they would feel compelled to more overtly include me if I wore a long skirt and athletic shoes, but as it is, they just try not to judge or stare, but bun or not, there just ain't no hidin' my patriarchal hair. (Wanton, Milton would say, that bastard, that sonofabitch -- I'd like to dig 'im up just to kick 'im.) I'm Indianese, I tell them. We don't discuss politics -- it's not culturally permissive. Oh, sure, yeah, they nod with understanding. Thank you for letting us know of your customs. And the…. you know… the hair -- what's with that? Oh, it's part of the phallus worship -- it feels good when…. oh, but we don't talk about that either, at least not on paper, at least not here. [stunned silence] It's part of my religion -- I fuck god. It's what we do, where I come from. You'll still let me speak at the conference, won't you? I'm also an Independent -- it will look good for your diversity demographics. And I'm a freelance writer, which qualifies me as "unemployed," so I get the discount membership, right? Don't worry -- I only say the word "cock" sixteen times in my paper; mostly I talk about Lacan.

Apparently, the phallus need not have anything to do with a penis, nor does the father have anything to do with a father, yet there are the signifiers nevertheless. Is this just an attempt to jump on the bus with Freud? (Though why someone would want to do that is beyond me.) Or what? I'm trying to imagine the thought process…. Let's see…we need a word -- any one would do. How about phallus? Surely, it is what all women crave, what they need and cannot have. Though it need not be a penis -- it could be a spatula, perhaps. Or a career in politics. Or the right to be treated as equals. Or a nutcovered chocolate brownie.

I am intrigued by the concept of identity being formed by words (an idea of my own as well) and the mirror phase (developed before anyone had any idea about mirror neurons) though there is (obviously) a lot of information he didn't have access to at the time these theories were developed (such as the idea of neuroplasticity or that this development is a continuous, rather than discrete, event). Why have I not heard of this man before now? How did I go through an entire education in the field of psychology without ever hearing his name? He (and Jung, too) are much more interesting than Freud, so why didn't we read about him? Or even mention him?

Oh well. Now I have something new to read in my free time. (Pardon me while I roll around and laugh.) There are these little branches of discourse into which one must (apparently) insert one's self if one is to be taken "seriously," and "Laconian" seems as likely a descriptor for what I do as anything. (Laconian Post-Feminist? Perhaps….)

I am imagining a form where I could fill that into a blank… Religion: Postmodern Deconstruction. (We're just here to tear shit up.) Affiliation: Independent. Relationship to the Deceased: Transcender. Party: Laconian Post-Feminist. Nature of Your Bushiness: To rearrange words and their corresponding neural pathways. Sex: Yes.

I am dry now, post-bubbles, post-tub. It has become Sunday in the course of writing this, and now it is time, once again, for homework. I am glad that I enjoy this, lest I tear out my hair and run amok. No one can "make" me do anything, thus I am glad that my choices are in alignment with that which is assigned, or else I would just go do something else. I tend to be very effective at what I choose to do, though I am mostly uncontrollable by outside forces -- I recognize that they have no real power over me, thus I am likely to ignore anything that I am told that I "must" do. Twenty years ago, I used to answer that the only things I had to do were stay white and die, but I don't even believe that anymore -- there is nothing that I "have to" do, and if you tell me that I "should" do it, I am equally likely to ignore you. I understand the power of "should" and "have to," and realize that they are just habits, held together largely out of words. They are only words, constructs, signifiers that signify nothing, except that which we create in our minds. I have no "should receptor" in my brain anymore -- they fall flat, and float around like dust between my neurons, expelling harmlessly in a mild electric signal that connects with nothing.

However, if I want to get this reading done, and I do, it is time for it to commence. (Time management skills are a must if one plans to actually find, grasp, and maintain the phallus throughout one's life.) I am concerned that graduate school is going to cause wrinkles between my eyebrows, and that after all the time I spent conditioning myself not to hold tension there, I feel concern about this. It is hard not to wrinkle, even when I am aware of it, when I am reading this much, and thinking so much while I'm reading. I'm not sure what to do, but this is making my third eye squinty. This, on many levels, could prove to be a problem if not addressed. Perhaps a bindi -- does anyone have a good design for a Third Eye of English Studies?

And on that note, I am off….. but we have probably already established that, yes?


paisley1974 said...

*There should *definitely* be a bindi for English studies! And something to keep me from biting my lip when I'm figuring in my head.
*The beginning of this piece, when you say you're in the bathtub and use the word "unhaveable"--my brain, not processing the word "unhaveable" immediately, wanted to make the word "unshaveable", which I suppose in my head is more connected with the word bathtub. This added a very odd layer to my reading!
*Now I want (you know in that free time you were talking about--even before your parenthetical mention of laughing, I was giggling at such a concept!) to re-read the Lacan (and Freud that I just read) with the idea of mirror neurons. Hmmm....
*My modernism teacher is very into investigating the idea of habit and how it's addressed in modernist texts--Proust does a lot with the idea of habit and circularity and memory, and the Benjamin I just finished does, too. They talk about how for something to form an involuntary memory (like that around the madeleine), there must be a break in habit to "shock" a way through the protective sensory shell of "habit"--I'm curious to take the idea of habitual language which has the alleged purpose of acting as protection and instead does the opposite. Hmmm...

This is fun!

fMom said...

Thanks! I'm having fun, too... when I'm not losing my mind, that is.