Counterbalancing textual weight.
Monthly Archives: November 2008
I am reading White Ink: Interviews on Sex, Text, and Politics which is a collection of interviews with French theorist Hèléne Cixous. I first encountered Cixous in college, specifically with her essay ‘The Laugh of the Medusa‘ which did a whole bunch of good shit for my brain at the time. So much so that I still have a well-marked and tattered xerox of it. It’s a look at, among other things, the ties between l’écriture feminine and psychoanalysis.
She’s an incredible writer and, I’m now realising, speaker. I got a rush after reading this passage, and so wanted to share it. This probably won’t be everyone’s cuppa, of course, and it’s a lot of text, but I like handing things round the table anyway. It’s worth the challenge I reckon.
From Part 1, interview between Cixous and Christa Sevens, trans. Suzanne Dow, entitled ‘The play of fiction’:
…We are all walking on a volcanic earth. We all of us have a horde of demons hiding behind the bathroom door, in the corridor. Who are these demons? Ourselves. Our countless terrors that we can all foment. They are those absolutely ridiculous things that bind us all, the stuff of comedy. The things that trigger wars are totally absurd details, the stuff of village gossip and taxi-ride chit-chat. And yet they can be enough to kill you. These are the symptoms of the great primitive stage play that none of us got to see, because we were just babes in arms. It’s a great primitive massacre scene, the one the Greeks reconstructed in their mytholoy or cosmology: Cronus eats his own children, Jupiter kills his father, a bloodbath ensues, there’s incest, hatred, jealousy and so on….We live alongside our loved ones, our closest friends, our parents, with our children born of the most hideous tragedies, which are tragic love stories. When there’s love there’s hatred and fear. What makes all that so hellish is every human being’s terror of the fact that in her or his soul, in the soul of the other, are wild animlas, knives, arrows, etc. It’s totally intolerable, something we can’t admit. Which is precisely what our religions, even if we are not religious ourselves, have absolutely forbidden, and which we cannot bring ourselves to deal with. We deal with all that with silence and by blocking it out.
But there’s also another kind of obscurity that’s there for a different reason. Obscure because too dazzling to behold. It’s the lover’s adoration, grand romantic passions. It’s dazzling because that’s where ecstasy and divination are to be found. When dazzled by love we see things: we traverse the body of the other, we see her or him almost entirely (“almost”, that is, because we don’t see everything), and certain things become utterly transparent. And when you’re in that place called love that amazing thing called making love becomes a possibility, and which is really the thing, the time, the moment when human beings are graced with godliness. In moments of grace, of ecstasy, in the dazzling light of seeing the time the place the body the flesh of the passing into the other; the moment of trans is so bright that we cross over onto the other side. As The Book of Revelations says, we see too much: we see a moment in a way that’s absolutely incendiary, just like the way we’d see God. But since God is a seer, we don’t see God; we pass over to the other side. And in that moment we’re in the darkness generated by the excess of light. And yet it’s there – at the two extremes, that is – in the darkest and most dazzling of darknesses – all the mysteries that drive us, that govern us, that carry us, that make up our lives and our destinies. So either you ignore all that, and you’re born like most people, you live until you die and that’s it. You consume and consume yourself and you are finite. Or else you have a genuine passion for creation, genesis, for what we are – creations – and you want to get close to the places from which all this stems and to draw pleasure from them, because these are absolutely inexhaustible, unfathomable treasure troves. But you can only do this under paradoxical conditions, because then you’re heading into territory that is by defnintion beyond us, eludes us. These are good paradoxes to experience, though. Does that mean that we are always falling short of something? Of course not – it’s just that there’s a gap between what we can perceive in moments of enlightenment, and what we are able to get down on paper. These moments of enlightenment by definition travel faster than we do. A flash of light moves faster than writing. Trying to keep up, not to be definitively held at one remove by the phenomenon of revelation is precisely the conflict that writing has to grapple with [le drame de l’écriture], and at the same time the challenge it has to take up…
I love the energy she has here, and for something that is so simply honest and to-the-point. I like watching her negotiate the space between those two exremes. She does it with such grace.
Good for my head, yessir.
And so, here are my Seven Facts.
1. I fold my underwear when I do my laundry.
2. I hear Cat Power’s cover of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ at least twice a day.
3. I sang in choirs – school, community, church, etc – for most of my school years. That includes college. I usually sing first alto.
4. My two top front teeth are not the ones which were originally placed into my mouth by biology.
5. I got through 24 years of my life without understanding or appreciating seafood and am making up for lost meals.
6. Generally the only people to whom I do not disclose my occupation are hairdressers (and other practitioners of the cosmetic arts) and nannas.
7. I don’t attend fancy-dress parties because I find it threatening to my sense of personal style to have to dress as anything other than myself.