Brain Yoga. Not only is philosophy a comfort through the vissictitudes (did I spell that right?) of life, but it’s also…Brain Yoga!!! I should design a Discovery Store package. But no Plato. I hate that m@#@&&$%. Sure, one side of his mouth is all about platonic friendships, but you check ou the other side of his Republic-an (heyyyyyy…) mouth, and it’s all “brainwash the children in order to make good citizens.”
Read no more if you value linear order.
Reading Foucalt’s Language, counter-memory, and practice, I’m about to get my brain fried. So back up a little…Nietszche is like reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy. One big mind-fuck, designed to erase the programming society’s laid on you–for its own benefit, not yours. Fine. I get that. Foucalt, Christ, I don’t get it. I finished the first essay again. I’ve read this essay maybe four times in the years that I’ve had this book. It means something different every time I read it. Do the words change when I’m not looking? I don’t remember any of this at all–and I know I’ve read this essay four times.
I’m going to sum up. Maybe someday, after reading the essay again, I’ll come back and read my little summation and realize that the aliens have been spiking my jellybeans again.
Texts used to have authors. The author came up with the ideas, wrote them down, and had them published. People read them. Wow, what an outdated concept. Texts, from our perspective, don’t have authors. Authors have texts: it isn’t so much a process of giving births as a kind of disease. (This is my own metaphor, by the way.) Something, perhaps Jung’s collective unconscious (again, just a guess by me), has the idea. The idea finds its way to a suitable target, i.e., author. The author produces the text as if in a state of possession. Her eyes do not, themselves, see. They roll up in her head (this is from Foucalt), seeing only darkness. But wait! There’s another eye behind that eye, and that eye is less material and more the process/state of vision itself. That eye, too, rolls up and sees nothing–the more it tries to examine itself, the less it can see. Again, in a recursion of eyes, each eye that tries to examine itself 1) rolls up in its head, sees nothing; 2) is seen by a more visual, less material eye. Finally, there isn’t a see-er at all, no material eye, but only a state of vision, of see-ing. This is what happened to the author. The more the author examines her ideas (through the process of post-modernism, perhaps? Stepping outside the text (often to make fun of it, like the two geezers/critics in The Muppet Show), the text analyzing itself, etc.) the less the author the author, herself, exists with relation to a text, and the more the writing process itself comes to dominate: possession. The sign of the times writes its own billboards.
But wait! If that’s not confusing enough…
Language is about limits and boudaries: what can we say? There are limits placed on ideas by language itself, and limits placed on language by the ideas we have about the world. One of the most telling areas about this is sex. We can only say about sex 1) what the language itself permits us to say, and 2) what our ideas permit us to use language to say about it. Foucalt then gets to the point (ha! Too tricky to have a, that is, if you limit yourself to the idea of a, that is, if you limit yourself to the idea of numbers, lists, organization, a, that is, a point) by saying that (and he presents it as if this were a logical progression, mind you) now that God is dead, the only thing that remains that tests the limits of language is sex. Take Sade. The point is not that he transgresses the limits of sexuality, thus destroying the limits, but that his transgression of the limits of sexuality (though language) defines those limits. Foucalt uses the example of a bolt of lightning: here and gone again, but boy, does it light things up for a minute.
After Sade came Freud. Freud defined another limitation. I’m not sure how–I missed that. Anyway, now we talk about sex as if there were nothing limited, nothing forbidden about it: as if it were a natural thing. The sin of sex itself has been destroyed, just as God has been killed.
But here’s the thing, stuck in the middle of a paragraph: You can’t destroy God any more than you can destroy sex. What’s left when everything is “normal” and easily explained away is a void. What’s a void? Limitlessness. –And maybe Foucalt’s just using a trick of language here to make his point. Mabye Void and Limitlessness don’t mean the same thing, which might be the, a, whatever, point of the essay, buried under all the other stuff. Anyway…limitlessness. To cross from the limited (normal) definitions into the limitless (transgressive) places…I don’t know. But what is limitlessness? God.
Without destroying God, we’ve destroyed God.
Without destroying sex by normalizing it to death, there is no sex.
Without destroying the author of a text, there is no author.
–The rules build up until everything permissible is compulsary, until someone comes along and transgresses, sins, crosses the borders into limitlessness.
Foucalt points out that Nietszche went mad, as did several other persons I’ve never read. Language broke down, limits broke down, and he went into the limitlessness and didn’t come back.
I don’t think Foucalt is meant to be read as straight philosophy. He’s also meant to be read as a programming/deprogramming tool. To what point, and do I trust him, I don’t know. But I don’t feel so blindly involved with the world: there are ideas out there, just waiting to be thunk.
And the thunking to be thunk about.