Thoughts of Dread

Re-reading Blanchot’s essay “From Dread to Language” and thinking of Kierkegaard’s concept of Dread there is a feeling I have of self-obsession.  Dread is the ultimate solipsism.  Exteriority abandons oneself in Dread and leaves one in a state of irrecoverable and unsalvageable narcissism.  The impending doom of an absolute immediate moment that cannot be intervened, mediated away and requires the blank death-like stare of Medusa’s face.  Nothing can emerge from Dread and nothing can escape its orbit.  Its event horizon refuses meaning, love, concern…otherness.  It encapsulates and seals in tomb-like devotion.  It is the mark of Death.  Life requires that one escapes and flees in the face of Dread; that one is not swallowed into its catacombs.  In Dread, life dreams. In the face of Dread, life requires awareness, movement away-from, emersion in otherness. 

Dread, while incapable of exteriority, mimics absolute exteriority.  It is as if the gaze of Dread paralyzes and stupefies while only bare consciousness is imprisoned in concretized death.  The eyes cannot even blink only behold the site of Dread in emptiness.  When life is encapsulated in death movement is always from without.  As a marionette, movement is hollow and initiated as pure externality.  When inwardness is raised to the infinite in Dread its absolute emptiness is exposed, raw and abysmally hollow.  The result of absolute inwardness is absolute exteriority, mechanical, Frankenstein-like.  It is the tornado-like act of god that can only consume itself, without ever knowing an end, as pure dread.  Dread is all and in all, unabashed and without form.  Form is the refuge life would take in the face of Dread.  Form flees from formlessness.  Life must always rise from the bog of Dread.  The moment of mechanical exteriority must create a silhouette, a form.  Thus language, meaning and sense must usher one from the gaze of Dread.   The escape must create world, history…a shadow of the mechanical exteriority that faces it.  In this then is the interlocutor, the mediation…the drunkenness of oblivion. 

Oblivion here is not abstract extinction.  It is release from ill y a, the meaningless background noise of existence.  It is the moment of breath, the sacrament of defilement.  It raises the exteriority imposed by Dread into a false god, a simulacrum of its tormentor.  In this way life can ‘face’ Dread, get a handle on it, and make it other than what it is…bare ‘isness’.  With this then is the third person.

The third person is the narrator, the voice of god, the chorus of tragedy.  The third person is not a he or a she but an ‘it’.  It is the oracle that gathers and holds.  It sanctifies by stealing away the moment of Dread.  It is the neuter, the thing.  It truncates the absolute emptiness of dread into an abject object.  As ‘suchness’, the thing resonates and glimmers in effervescent release.   Life therefore becomes the retreat from the stymied death of Dread.

In all this a map is traced of syntax and semantic, infinite orthogonality…the trace the can never be untied from the knot of existence.  It can only be reaffirmed in its obscurity.  This then is oblivion. 

At this point Levinas might take a turn.  Could it be that the gazes of Dread is none other than the face of the other.  The other not as something I know or am familiar with but as the puppeteer the marionette can never know, shed light on, see and perceive.  Why must Dread get its birth from nothingness and self-petrifaction?  If Levinas is right, the absolute alterity of the other that can never be ‘mine’ or even recuperable as in ‘my’ time, a temporal ecstasies, take on the truncated form of a thing, can make Dread the expression of absolute impotency, infinitely more passive than passivity.   The negativity of form yet rests on form.  However, the notion of alterity that Levinas may be hinting at may only show itself as an unnoticed breeze through autumn’s fall, the sadness of my love’s passing, a ghostly clearing in the wood where sun-filled rays go unnoticed.  In the excess, the abundance of this alterity a glimmer of grace eclipses the gaze of Dread, a still small voice that easily goes unnoticed plays around the moment of death…and children play while Dread takes its last breath.

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