Friday, January 20, 2012

Mindful of the Date

Seventy years ago today a small group of people meet for ninety minutes at a lovely villa in a Berlin suburb to articulate how they would systematically murder another "group" of people.

It's difficult at best not to come across as polemical when trying with great effort to think philosophically about that statement, those words. He doesn't contest that the "group" in question tended to have a common religious heritage, namely Judaism. The injustice was not (so much) that the victims were Jewish (or tended to have some affiliation, however slight, with Judaism) but that they were human beings. Individuals. With families and lives and cares and loves.

He doesn't want to romanticize the victims either: some of those murdered by the Nazi death machine lied, cheated, beat their children, stole. Some of the Nazis themselves, on the other hand, created great art, wrote engrossing fiction, unquestionably loved their partners, earnestly believed in the salvific blood of Jesus.

All this to say: all "interested" parties of this conference were human. And that is what barbarous history teaches. The humanity of this fateful anniversary teaches him to be, in Paul Celan's words, mindful of the date, mindful of language, mindful of one's own humanity held always in common and mostly in abeyance.

To be human is to be complicit with and guilty for both groups and to recognize the yawning gap between oneself and another. This is a humanity that won't easily or soon be surpassed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On touching

In touching others, he touches himself. In touch, he becomes the object of his own touch insofar as the surface of others touches back, insofar as he receives in return the touch he gives. He thinks he may touch solely for this return of touch. In giving touch, he never completely only gives touch.

He seeks in his work, in his philosophical research, a pure touch. He pursues a touch that dissolves in pure intransitivity. One that does not transform what is touched into an object, all the while dispelling any necessary subject, knowing full well that what is touched is pure touching itself that takes no object, no subject, no formal relational structure that would assert itself as the image of touch. A touch, in short, that removes itself from the possibility of any image of touch.

He would want to find a touch that doesn’t touch another, that doesn’t translate his touch into a touching of himself. Ordinary touch always finds an object, always turns the touching back on itself, making he who would touch ultimately the one touched. Pure touching would be a selfless gift, beyond recompense and the possibility of recompense. Pure touching wouldn’t return the gift to its owner. Pure touching cannot be owned.

A touch this pure would not have touch as its thought, its ideal, its goal. A touch this pure would be beyond thought, beyond ideals, beyond goals. Such a touch would be outside all intentionality, subjectivity, objectivity, historicity, iterability. Such a touch would disavow the slippage from “I here now” to “he there then.” Pure touching would ceaselessly touch upon the impossibility of touch, and no one would ever feel it.

He would like to feel how pure touching felt.