Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Burning Heart

"We have come to tell you, we have come to announce, we are here, we have been here, we are coming, and you know why…" --St. Stephen
"To see our hearts is to look inside, to let the inside out is to be divine" -- TOPI proverb
"I want you to understand that is was not Jesus Christ that I went looking for among the Tarahumara, but myself... I know I was born otherwise, born of my own works and not of a mother... I was born only in my own labor-pangs and if you could only do the same for yourself (letter to Henri Parisot, from Antonio Artaud, Trans. by David Rattry, 7 Sept, 1945).
By St Stephen.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the title given to an icon, which is not an icon. Rather it is a painting, and at once a signal, but for who? Who is it calling out to? It is calling out to no one and for everyone.

The famous image was wrought by José María Ibarrarán y Ponce, 1896.

"O' this burning beard, I have come undone"
--Clutch, "Burning Beard"
But we are not here concerning ourselves with the life of a painter, nor the stories of a life we never had the occasion to personally know. Towards the end of this article we will be speaking more personally about those who we actually know, in particular one that was left out, but whom we have decidedly taken in to our home. The impatient reader may skip down to that part: On the Personal.

What we will and will not...
But first let us say what we will not say and why we will not say it. We will neither involve ourselves with the speculations of guilt that "naturally"* surrounds the above art work, which may, or may not, have been evoked as repentance, as to utter the name of God, in the Highest, for forgiveness; we have no sacred cows, for we are sacred now(s).  

On Guilt
We feel that guilt, while it has its place (for when you have actually wronged someone), is often, if not always, an artificial overlay that prevents or complicates actions rather than encouraging positive behaviors. That guilt is often the most selfish of things, it is self gratifying, as well as a self-induced punishment that helps no one but the guilty party, and usually not even them. We would rather opt for real change. And yet we will concern our selves with the most generic and proper form of identity, the name, the proper name.

Why Thee Name
We are picking up with the name because of what it allows us. We are concerned with how the name functions. We take this, "our" insight (ours in the widest sense) from the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and refer the reader to a text "co-authored" with Felix Guattari, called, What Is Philosophy? (1994). In particular to the first  chapter, "What is a Concept" (15-34, 1994). In which Deleuze and Guattari, "the boys," as a professor of mine loving calls this dynamic duo (D&G), demonstrate that the concept is not singular nor a solitary notion, but rather is constituitive of multiplicity, a constellation of ideas and concepts, that the concept is a plurality, a heterogeneous multiplicity. Again, we are taking up the name as a container (as something embodied) and as what Lacan calls lamella; it's what a tech geek might refer to as an augmented reality (AR) overlay. Indeed, its is this lamella , this AR overlay, which we perceive as that which is reality.**

On The Name, Identity and Self
But what is the name? The question is not wholly dissimilar to the question that Shakespeare voices through a starstruck youth in the play Romeo and Juliet, "what is in a name," but what is the name? Obviously, any particular name may have meaning, they indeed often carry weight, the weight of our history and the histories that surround us. These names become attractors, charged signals that are our experiential history, our experience, what we oft and simply (unthinkingly) call our life. And yet, as in on another hand, our names are not the pure experience in itself. Still it is doubtful that our experience would be the same without this muddling of our-self, at once a-part of everything we have known.

While our names are personal, the whole field of life is fair game to be attached and attracted to us, through our name. They, and this time we are included, accumulate this meaning as we go through life, notions and phrases, symbols and icons, events, whole fields of psychic debris cling to our name, that which we oft identify as our self. But even as something as trivial as repeating a name over and over, like a mantra will in short work (short-circuit) reveal or elucidate its truth as sound. Try it with your own name; say it over and over and over again, until it is just a word. Not even a word, until what was your name is just a sound.

"Steven,"  I said aloud "Steee-ven," stressing the first and then the second part. "Stee-ven, steven, steve-en, steven, steven, Steven," it becomes odd on the tongue, less familiar, it had a sense, as if it had or may have had a meaning, "steee--ven," long and slow, then short and fast, "steve-en", two phonemic syllables, and yet, all that usually concerns us is the something more and the something less that clings to the sounds. We call that sense, even refer to it as meaning, our meaning, our identity. 

So that is the name?

The Name as Designation 
A name is designation, we answer, and immediately we are prompted with another question, but what does it, the name, designate?

It designates any and all discrete objects, anything that one can distinguish from. In short form and a quick manner it refers to you, and you, and you, and what "they" say is you. And yet, since anyone can have any name, it at once refers, not only to you, but to all others who have bared this name. In this way the name is generic, it claims a kind of universality, infinite applicability, as it is for anyone, it is also for no one persons. As we have tried to show in the above, we are more or less than the name, this pregnant conceptual container, and it is in this "more or less" that we have come to speak, in writing, to you today. So why all this talk about the name, and the burning heart, what of it? Why are we here, writing to you, today, in this way?

We have come to tell you, we have come to announce, we are here, we have been here, we are coming, and you know why… but we won't finish that sentence fragment for you.

But we will say something more about this burning heart. Our hearts are on fire.

Of the Burning Heart
To see our hearts is to look inside, and to let the inside out is to be divine. The depths of  bodies, so often spoken of in The Logic of Sense, by Gilles Deleuze, are also the places of and for the myriad of monstrosities, the bitter things, daemonic beings, creatures half-formed beneath the surface. One only need to think of an underworld and the possible creatures therein contained. Under the surface is something monstrous, something alien and other, but something we know. Not unlike a Jungian shadow, or some primordial beings just below the surface and the light of day. Here the light of day is reason, it is form, it is description, intelligibility, its is the naming.

What we are trying to speak of, what we are denoting is that which is both unspeakable and indefinable, that which has not crawled onto the surface and into the light where they will have to take shape in order to be perceived. They will take on a form that refuses stability, and so do you. You live, grow, and die, such is the three stages of life; one,  two, three, and then the end. Such that the end is a fourth term, not a period, but an open hole transforming all three fold Aristotelian categories into four fold Deleuzean ontology.

This is what a ripped out heart, burning but not a-part, a part yet subsisting, from the body that may-be. That it may be in the light of day, to drag up to the surface a sense of something quite other.
On the Personal
But what does this all mean for you, dear reader? I mean it's "nice and all," but so what? So what?

If we are to become other than we have been, that which we want to be. If we are to tell the truth that we are, that I am  unsatisfied by what we have been, allowed ourselves to become. If we are to be honest and tell the truth, that we are unsatisfied by what we have been given, then we must seek these others, we must break the body, we must transform our selves into the other that we already know, but deny (Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Pandrogeny Manifesto). For instance, we are animals, we are all killers, no matter the life you take, vegetable or otherwise, the flesh of one become the life of the other.

But our heart is on fire. It is burning. It is burning for us, and in that burning I hear a weeping. I also hear the great gnashing of teeth known as the apocalypse. Its not hard to understand that there are many left out of the system, failure is to be expected. That is to say that it is a common truth that not everyone will succeed, that not everyone is fit to make it. But that is only when we look at it one way.

Take the normal, an atypical so-called white, middle-class American life. That is most of us have a job, or are expected to work. Even socialist agree that those who do not contribute, those who do not work do not eat: society at gun point. The non-choice of work or starve. But there is a "third" way, at least. This way is outside the system, it is the informal markets, so-called black markets and underground economies, it is that which does not see the light of day. The movie Twin Peaks , by David Lynch, makes this point quite well. In the daytime, it is a normal, picturesque, small town, a perfectly white-bred community. But at night, "the black dog runs," and the underbelly that is America rolls over and reveals itself, even if still hidden behind once familiar faces, like fig leaves hiding our genitalia.

Our heart is on fire, the burning heart is a symbol for a great and sorrowful longing for humanity to see itself as a collective family, as a diverse but unified species of different but precious creatures.
Who we are matters not, that we are matter. That we are and that we are not alone.

I often tell people that I think that somewhere along the line of Western History (a modern invention), we have traded society for civilization. We have broken the family into a nuclear unit, free labor for the use of capital, ensured by the state (here the word state is meant in all its meanings). We have valorized the individual as if man was an island (oh silly Ayn Rand, and foolish Tom Sawyer). Adventures take others, and language is given and foreign to us, even or especially our first, its the forgetting that allows us to take it for natural. Individuality is only possible in a society in which to be individuated from, often it means to be on one's own.

From the Personal
Recently, we were talking to some kids outside of a library. One of them, legally an adult, had no where to go. Of course, there is great fear of the other, of the stranger, no matter how much we might say otherwise, give lip-service to changing the world, we are still cautious and all but automatically distrusting of others. This is not something limited to America (its also been my experience in Europe as well; but we are not trying to speak monolithic, "be all end all," manner); its endemic to wherever globalization have spread via capitalism. I cannot speak for everyone, or anyone one, but myself, and so that is what I must do.

Did we take him in you ask? Of course we did, who else would? Would you take in a stranger who has no place to go, whom the system won't help for this that or the other reason? We can give you reasons, but we do not feel like going into that. If you care, then I suggest that you look into the welfare state. I recommend a work by Piven & Cloward, called Regulating the Poor. Its about the uneven dismantling of the welfare system, under the Clinton administration. It's a well-researched book. But enough said about that.

You know, until we got home, back to our third floor apartment, I did not even know his name.

Did it matter? His name? Does it really matter? What difference could it make? And why, why was he homeless? Did that matter? Sure, on a few levels it matters, but did it matter then? No. What mattered was the sense I got from him, his presence of being, how he appeared to me.

We have to judge, to make a call, and we cannot know if its the right one. We roll the dice, we take a risk, every step we take. We wonder in the case of the stranger, is this person a rapist, a thief, will he hurt us if we help him? Remember we are animals, and while we don't have great claw, we are no less as dangerous as any other on the face of this supposed headless kingdom of "crowned anarchies" (Deleuze). The fact then is what it is now, it is what is in all it is, and we know, even when we do not want to, or even let ourselves know. And while there is a story to how we got were we are, nevertheless, here we are. So what does the name matter to the burning heart?

We are going to leave you soon, and we don't always seem to be able to pick that day. A day that will be unlike and just like any other. What makes the difference, always, is us--how we feel, how we act, what we do and do not do, what we risk, and whether we lived a life worth living.

I have read it said that people's greatest dying regret is not so much what they did, but that they did not, that they failed to do what they wanted, that they held back for real or imaginary others, its all the same. Holding back is holding back, you only have this life to do all that you dream, do it now, tomorrow it will be too late.

And for those who are wondering, yes, he lives with us now, until he can get back on his feet. We are the kind who try to say what they mean, and mean what they say (even if their are infinite misunderstanding along the way).

 *perhaps from a from a conservative or orthodox Roman Catholic perspective
  **to the reader familiar with Lacan and Deleuze, when we use the term real in this article, we will be using it in its common sense meaning, as in interchange with reality, unless we say otherwise, further, we take as the Real, not only Lacan's understand as the traumatic kernel, but as that which is real in affect or cause, such that a dream or an imaginary whatever have you is still real, because it effects and causes affects.

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners. For other "artistic" projects that involve St. Stephen see our blog site: Thee Uncondemning Monk]

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