Friday, June 22, 2012

Irigarayan Deinos & the Distance of Home, Part IV

Reflecting the double abysses, a “double power” seems to surround man as well: the power of the natural universe around him, and the power of his created world (70). Man, however, does not recognize the cultured world as his own creation; he sees it instead as natural as it conceals the work of his violence in the everyday (70). This world, created from out of man’s violence (which is itself the violence of nature directed against itself), both dominates and exiles man (70). In this way, man’s culture springs from nature as mere imitation of natural power: “He believes himself to be the creator of language, of poetry, of reason, but, in fact, he has only imitated the strength of the universe which surrounds him” (71). The gesture of violence becomes purely mimetic, a miming of nature’s power. Man too mimes the gesture of violence (against itself) against himself in his attempt to conquer nature, becoming “nothing but an effect of the violence which results from his conquest” (71). The only way out of this tautological rut is not a recourse toward new, undomesticated ground, for it is the conception of “new” itself that draws man upon the same trodden path—a recourse—again and again:
Only if we understand that the use of power in language, in understanding, in forming and building helps to create (i.e. always, to bring forth) the violent act of laying out paths into the environing power of the essent, only then shall we understand the strangeness, the uncanniness of all violence. For man, as he journeys everywhere, is not without issue in the external sense that he comes up against outward barriers and cannot go on. In one way or another he can always go farther into the etcetera. He is without issue because he is always thrown back on the paths that he himself has laid out: he becomes mired in his paths, caught in the beaten track, and thus caught he compresses the circle of his world, entangles himself in appearance, and so excludes himself from being. He turns round and round in his own circle. He can ward off whatever threatens this limited sphere. He can employ every skill in its place. The violence that originally creates the paths engenders its own mischief of versatility, which is intrinsically issueless, so much so that it bars itself from reflection about the appearance in which it moves. All violence shatters against one thing. That is death. (73-74)
Ever circling around his small sphere of intelligibility, man recreates the power of nature unaware that his power comes from nature, that his power is of nature. But Irigaray insists that man can replace his “taming, plowing up, and capturing” with “contemplating nature, the flowers, and others” (71). Only by setting aside his natural violence-doing and instead attuning himself to the feminine or buddhic nature can man then be able to rediscover and redefine what and how he is. The difficulty of just such a project lies with man’s inability to accept mystery as mystery: “Man could have envisioned it as his task to contemplate the intimate harmony of the world’s motion, admitting that its origin remains unknown to him. But he cannot endure the mystery of the other and, instead, conceives a god made in his own image in order to encircle, if not to dominate, the horizon of every mystery” (73). Man tries to master all mystery, to take things apart, “to cut in order to cure.” It is only by stopping the interminable tendency to make sense of everything that man can come home to himself as well as accept that the other—in his/her/its radical alterity—too is already at home.

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