Language: Animism and Illusion

When Nietzsche writes of ‘going under’ he does not refer to some sort of Buddhist extinction, sunyata. He refers to Zarathustra’s descent. From the coldest of heights Zarathustra, drawn by compassion, over-rich with pity, descends into mortality, the all too human. From beyond good and evil and nursed from the nausea of eternal recurrence of the same, Zarathustra goes under with the weight of gravity.

In “The Gaze of Orpheus” Maurice Blanchot’s essay “The Narrative Voice” tells us,

“What Kafka teaches us – even if this expression cannot directly be attributed to him – is that storytelling brings the neuter into play. Narration governed by the neuter is kept in the custody of the “he”, the third person that is neither the third person, nor the simple cloak of impersonality. The “he” of narration in which the neuter speaks is not content to take the place usually occupied by the subject, whether the latter is a stated or implied “I” or whether it is the event as it takes place in its impersonal signification. The narrative “he” dismisses all subjects, just as it removes every transitive action or every objective possibility. It does this in two forms:

1) the speech of the tale always let us feel that what is being told is not being told by anyone: it speaks in the neuter;
2) in the neuter space of the tale, the bearers of speech, the subjects of the action- who used to take the place of characters – fall into relationship of non-identification with themselves: something happens to them, something they cannot recapture except by relinquishing their power to say “I” and what happens to them has always happened already: they can only account for it indirectly, as self-forgetfulness, the forgetfulness that introduces them into the present without memory that is the present of narrating speech.” (page 140, paperback)

What Saussure tells us is that language referentially turns in on itself. Language can only refer to itself; semantic is nothing other than syntax. What is present in language is pure signification. Signifiers do not signify ‘things’; signifiers only signify other signifiers. Presence, as one signifier among many, is the rustle of il ya (there is), the neutrality of a-temporality, Platonic recollection without forgetfulness. Perhaps this could be thought as the physics of eternal reoccurrence; the sub-atomic particles the never rest, never die, only exist and not-exist, be and not-be without temporal reference: perhaps a neo-Kierkegaardian kenosis, the new genesis of God and man, the absurd paradox that incites the passion of dread. From these cold and desolate heights that only the noble can endure we only have one choice – to go under.

To act as if action has meaning is a Beginning. To separate the firmament from the void, to “become like one of us”, marks retreat from no-thingness and fall towards density. The God-particle gives mass to emptiness, writes from noise; the appropriating event. The precipice from which we stare into the void and blink is façade and truth – all the while the void stares back. The “he” or “she” of narrative which only masks the unbearable lightness of neutrality and the choice – the choice that must act to choose forgetfulness for Truth, put other before dialectical process. The ‘uber’ of going under is simultaneously animism and illusion, Being and beings, death as the impossible depths of life and transcendence as the erasure of the other*.


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