Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hyperborea Bound

To a talkative man silence is a sore burden, and his speech a weariness to his company; all hate him, and the mingling of such a man in a carousal cometh only of necessity.
- Theognis of Megara (295-298)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Un-Natural Births

According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, Myrrha, the daughter of Cinyras and Cenchreis, lusted for her father. Horrified by her emotions, Myrrha attempted to hang herself, but her nursemaid saved her at the last minute. After much imploring, the nursemaid discovered the cause of Myrrha's grief. Though appalled, the nursemaid devised way for Myrrha to consummate her lust for Cinyras, believing the sin to be a better option than suicide. Before the first sexual encounter, the nursemaid even urged Myrrha to go through with it. While Myrrha's mother, Cenchreis, was away at Ceres's festival, Myrrha had sex with her father, Cinyras. Cinyras was unaware of the girl's identity because these nightly encounters occurred in the dark while Cinyras was intoxicated. One night Cinyras brought in a lamp, discovered the girl was Myrrha, drew his sword, and chased her. Myrrha fled, and wandered for nine months until she came to rest at Sabo. After Myrrha prayed to the gods that she neither live nor die (since the severity of her crime would shock both the living and the dead), the gods turned her into the myrrh tree. The child Myrrha had conceived with Cinyras was ready to deliver, and Lucina enabled the birth from the tree. The child of this incestuous union, Adonis, was taken care of by Naiads and bathed in the myrrh which were Myrrha's tears. (x.298-518)

Powell's version differs from that in the Metamorphoses, in that Powell says Myrrha turned in to a myrrh tree as she fled from her father, who then killed himself, and that nine months later Adonis was born from the tree. According to Powell, Myrrha's incestuous love and its horrible consequences for Myrrha and Cinyras is the punishment allotted by Aphrodite in retribution for Cenchreis proclaiming that her daughter was more beautiful than Aphrodite. However, Myrrha gained Aphrodite's sympathy, and the resin from her tree is used at Aphrodite's altar. (156)

Grimal tells us that in some accounts of this myth, Myrrha is called Smyrna and her father is Theias. He also gives several variations for the birth of Myrrha's child. One is that the bark of the tree was split by the sword of Smyrna's (Myrrha's) father. Another version is that the tree was struck by a wild boar, foreshadowing Adonis's death. (13-14)

It is appropriate that Aphrodite's instrument of punishment is lust. Often the wrath of a god takes an extreme form of the power of the god's domain. For example, Bacchus punished mortals who spurned his cult by causing insanity and madness that often resulted in cannibalism, a perverted excess of the realms over which he has power, the life-force and rapture. Likewise, Aphrodite punished Cenchreis's arrogance through an aberration of her domain by causing the most vile of all loves to afflict Myrrha.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From Desire to Drive

Now Rinse and Repeat
Even if the object of desire is an illusory lure, there is a real in this illusion: the object of desire in its' positive nature is vain, but not the place it occupies, the place of the Real, which is why there is more truth in unconditional fidelity to one's desire than in a resigned insight into the vanity of one's striving.

There is a parallax shift at work here: from illusion as mere illusion to the real in illusion, from the object which is a metonym/ mask of the Void to the object which stands in for the void. This parallax shift is, in Lacanian, the shift from desire to drive. The key distinction to be maintained here can be exemplified with reference to the (apparent) opposite of religion: intense sexual experience. Eroticization relies on the inversion-into-itself of movement directed at the external goal: the movement itself becomes its own goal. (When instead of simply gently shaking the hand offered to me by the beloved person, I hold onto it and squeeze repeatedly, my activity will be automatically experienced as - welcome or, perhaps, intrusively unwelcome - eroticization: what I do is change the goal oriented activity into an end-in-itself.) Therein resides the difference between the goal and the aim of the drive: say, with regard to the oral drive, its goal may be to eliminate hunger, but its aim is the satisfaction provided by the activity of eating itself (sucking, swallowing). One can imagine the two satisfactions entirely separated: when, in hospital, I am fed intravenously, my hunger is satisfied, but not my oral drive; when, on the contrary, a small child sucks rhythmically on the comforter, the only satisfaction he gets is of that drive. This gap that separates the aim from the goal "eternalizes" the drive, transforming the simple instinctual movement which finds peace and calm when it reaches to a goal (a full stomach, say) into a process which gets caught in its own loop and insists on endlessly repeating itself.

The crucial feature here is to take note of here is that this inversion cannot be formulated in terms of a primordial lack and a series of metonymic objects trying (and ultimately failing) to fill the void.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Living in the End Times".

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Kant missed the necessity of unwritten, disavowed but necessary rules for every legal structure or set of social rules - it is only such rules that provide the "substance" on which the laws can thrive, or properly function. The exemplary case of the effectiveness of such unwritten rules is "potlatch"; the key feature that opposes potlatch to direct market exchange is thus the temporal dimension. In market exchange, the two complementary acts occur simultaneously (I pay and I get what I pay for), so that the act of exchange does not lead to any permanent social bond, but merely to a momentary exchange between atomized individuals who immediately afterwards, return to their solitude. In potlatch, on the contrary, the time elapsed between my giving a gift and the other side returning it to me creates a social link which lasts (for a time at least); we are all linked together by bonds of debt. From this standpoint, money can be defined as the means which enables us to have contacts with others without entering into proper relations with them.

This atomized society, in which we have contact with others without entering into proper relations with them, is the presupposition of liberalism.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Living in the End Times".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chasing the Lacanian "Big Other"...

...and sequentially "achieving" le objet petit 'a'
You can't EVER get what you want...
but if your try sometime, you'll find
you CAN get what you need.