2 October 2006

The Desert of the Real Itself

Filed under: First Lines — ktismatics @ 4:20 pm


“If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire drew up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) – as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.”

– Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 1981

Embedded in this first sentence is a summary of Borges’s story that’s nearly as long as the story itself; the sentence in which the story is embedded is almost precisely the length of the story. The first sentence of Borges’ story goes like this:

“In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province.” (Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science,” 1946)

Borges attributes the story to Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658. This citation is entirely fictitious and should be considered part of the story itself. The story was originally published in 1946 under the pseudonym B. Lynch Davis; later Borges and Bioy Casares would publish a collection of detective fiction under the pseudonym B. Suarez Lynch.

Elsewhere Borges acknowledges American philosopher Josiah Royce as the inspiration for his story:

“Let us imagine that a portion of the soil of England has been levelled off perfectly and that on it a cartographer traces a map of England. The job is perfect; there is no detail of the soil of England, no matter how minute, that is not registered on the map; everything has there its correspondence. This map, in such a case, should contain a map of the map, which should contain a map of the map of the map, and so on to infinity.” (Josiah Royce, The World and the Individual, 1899)

Royce was an objective idealist: he believed that the material world exists only as it is known by an ideal knower who must himself be actual and not just hypothetical. It’s possible that Borges was inspired to write his story not by Royce but by Lewis Carroll:

“That’s another thing we’ve learned from your Nation,” said Mein Herr: “map-making. But we’ve carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful ?”

“About six inches to the mile.”

“Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”

“Have you used it much ?” I enquired.

“It has never been spread out, yet.” said Mein Herr: “the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.” (L. Carroll, Sylvie and Brumo Concluded, 1893)

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who was by all accounts an excellent amateur photographer.

In Baudrillard’s hyperreality Borges’ story has been reduced to nothing but a second-order simulacrum, a story that once revealed the truth but that now conceals it. Once the world was inundated with copies of the original; now there are copies without an original. Now the map precedes the territory; the map stretches itself across the tattered vestiges of the real.

The representation no longer makes reference to the thing represented; the sign no longer points to the thing signified. Once the image reflected reality – this was the sacramental or iconic order of the image. Then the image masked reality – the satanic order. Then the image masked the absence of reality – the order of sorcery. Now the image “has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.”

At the beginning of the first Matrix movie the Neo character is introduced as a programmer who moonlights as the designer of illegal virtual reality programs. A gang of punked-out clients comes to his apartment to buy Neo’s latest simulation. He gets them a copy of the simulation from his secret stash, hidden in a hollowed-out book on his bookshelf. The book: Simulacra and Simulation, by Jean Baudrillard.

Baudrillard’s book actually begins with a quotation, which perhaps should be regarded as the “real” first line:

“The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” – Ecclesiastes



  1. “The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.”

    Philosophically speaking, what are the consequences of debunking truth and rebuilding a new conception?

    For example, what gives me the right to deny a Realist conception of truth? The only grounds for debunking Realism is divinity. Unless I have a God’s-eye view how can I say what is true and what is false?

    If I do not possess a God’s-eye view of reality then all other truth claims are 1st person perspectives.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 2 October 2006 @ 8:45 pm

  2. If the Neo character would have been content with the simulacrum, then why did he choose the red pill?


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 2 October 2006 @ 8:47 pm

  3. As you can see, I’m continuing the Baudrillard discussion. Briefly, though, Baudrillard’s position is this: if all we have are representations of truth, and if we can live in a reality made up exclusively of representations, then it’s no longer necessary to assert the prior existence of a truth independent of the representations. This line of thinking isn’t far off from Hans Frei’s view on the Biblical narratives, which need not refer to corresponding historical events in order for them to be “true.”

    Can you elaborate on “the right to deny a Realist conception of truth”? I’m not sure I understand your position well enough to respond. Your point about God’s-eye view is, I think, consistent with Baudrillard.

    Neo chose the red pill because he felt like it. No, I think there’s more: Neo creates the illusion that the viewer can see behind the simulacrum to the reality, whereas in fact this ironic detachment of the cinemagoer is itself a manifestation of the being held captive by the simulacrum. See Baudrillard on Disney World in today’s post — The Matrix is either a second-order or third-order simulacrum.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 October 2006 @ 10:33 am

  4. “The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” – Ecclesiastes

    I find it fascinating that Baudrillard (mis)quotes Ecclesiastes. He seems to be basically summing up what he perceives to be a major (or minor) point of Ecclesiastes, but then he puts it into quotes, as though it were a direct statement of The Teacher….very interesting….In one sense I do see where B is coming from in his interpretation of Eccl. To put it in contemporary terminology it is that there are no metanarratives that one can count on. A person should for meaning in localized circumstances. Perhaps Baudrillard has seized on this point to say that it is what one find meaningful that counts for truth…..but that’s just a thought…..


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 20 February 2007 @ 2:31 pm

  5. Something else that I noticed as I re-read this post.

    The map makers dilemma is how closely they want to represent reality on their map. To have a perfect representation of reality requires one to have an exact replica. However, an exact replica would be impractical and unusable. In fact, they might as well not use the exact replica – reality, itself, would do just as well. Hence the countryside itself becomes its own map. Fascinating.

    Yet on the other hand, if the map makers decide that they want a scaled-down map they must sacrifice representation. The map becomes less and less a true representation the more that it is scaled down. The scaled down map is useful, even if it is less true. So, we use something that helps us navigate through, even if we must sacrifice correspondence. But the more we use something that is un-real the more we have a tendency to make the un-real into the real. That is, simply by using the un-real we are pragmatically finding it more useful and hence more real than the real itself.

    In this sense we create a map that is un-real, and then by virtue of repetitive use and reliance we make the un-real into that which is more real.

    When I am cruising around Chicago I use a very scaled down map to navigate through the streets. But I cannot rely solely on the map. My eyes are bobbing up and down between the map and the streets. The map is the un-real simulacra. The street is the reality. When I am lost and trying to navigate I find myself in a state of anxiety. I am caught somewhere between the real and the unreal. The simulacra and reality. I desperately want to arrive somewhere that is real, but I depend upon the unreal because it is more easy to understand – it is scaled down so that I can use it.

    Realists and Idealists believe that the real is all we need or desire. Others contend that the unreal is all we need or desire, or at least that the unreal is all we really have to work with. However, perhaps life is more like a navigation through Chicago. We find ourselves in a state of anxiety. Consulting the map (things like Scripture, tradition, philosophy, psychology, or creeds) to find direction and trying to match it up with the real world in which we live. A mix of making right turns and wrong turns.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 20 February 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  6. Jonathan –

    When Ecclesiastes says that there’s nothing new under the sun, how far back does it go? Was there ever an original? If so, how could you ever distinguish it from the simulations? Do representations “represent” anything except other representations?

    For Borges the map is useless and starts falling apart. For Baudrillard it is the map that precedes the territory, so the territory becomes unnecessary. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself. When Morpheus first shows Neo the Matrix, stripped down to its bare essentials, he cites Baudrillard: Welcome to the desert of the real. The Matrix is a simulation of a “real world” that no longer exists. So too the Venice of Las Vegas won’t point to a real Venice after the ice caps melt and Venice is underwater. Even now, when tourists outnumber “real” Venetians a hundred to one, is Venice still “real”?

    Baudrillard is kind of an idealist for whom the ideal no longer exists. Icons point away from themselves not to gods but to other icons; representations point only to other representations; Scripture and tradition become maps of themselves, not of something that stands behind them. I continued on this idea in the next day’s post.

    Here’s a link to the Borges story in its entirety.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 February 2007 @ 3:37 pm

  7. Where did THIS come from?

    “The representation no longer makes reference to the thing represented; the sign no longer points to the thing signified. Once the image reflected reality – this was the sacramental or iconic order of the image. Then the image masked reality – the satanic order. Then the image masked the absence of reality – the order of sorcery. Now the image ‘has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.'”

    And where in Ecclesiastes is: “The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.”?


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 20 February 2007 @ 9:38 pm

  8. And John, do you know if Baudrillard is a Marxist, or neo-Marxist, or whatever? Thanks.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 21 February 2007 @ 3:07 am

  9. Jason –

    That bit is a synopsis of Baudrillard’s phases of the image. Here’s a simulacrum of the first chapter of Baudrillard’s book — about a quarter of the way down, in “The Divine Irreference of Images” section, you’ll see the phases of the image discussion.

    As for the Ecclesiastes, I read it as a kind of paraphrase of “nothing new under the sun.” If it is, then it’s a pretty loose paraphrase — suggesting that there’s a lot of room for maneuvering when you create a simulacrum.

    I think Baudrillard is post-Marxist. He upholds commodity fetishism as something that gives commodities illusory value, but Marxism as a “totalizing discourse” he rejects. Baudrillard seems to continue the trajectory of Guy Debord and the Situationists — here’s a link to Debord’s book The Society of the Spectacle.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 February 2007 @ 5:02 am

  10. Thanks John,

    I printed both, and will begin reading them tonight.

    And your post was linked by Johnathan Erdman on the churchandpostmo blog. Jason Clark did a post there on Baudrillard. That’s how I got here. So, as for Ecclesiastes…my question (posed in a different way in the comments to Clark’s blog post at churchandpostmo) is…if Baudrillard is suggesting that folks are chasing after the wind…is he suggesting that folks are chasing after the wind, or that there is nothing but wind. Folks accuse many postmoderns of stating that there is nothing but wind, you might say…but I often wonder if that’s what the postmoderns were really saying.

    I mean, he DID say: “‘The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.'” But statements like that often read more like social/historical critiques – like “God is dead” – than like philosophical assertions/stances.

    I mean, not too long ago I would have read Baudrillard as simply a social/historical critic/critique, rather than as a philosophical stance or even a epistemological framework. After all, his work seems to require a pre-established epistemological framework in history (maybe this is why he is a “post-…”). But today I was reading up on wikipedia on Baudrillard and the fact is he views our global situation as a simulacrum rather than as a village (to reference McLuhan the scholastic). This implies a particular traditional philosophical stance that is incessantly complained about by reasonable folks/realists who criticize postmodernity…often frustratingly for me.

    Anyway, I think I’m where I need to be. My most memorable conversation of late ended by my saying that I need to come to terms with Adam Smith. By “memorable” I mean unresolved in my soul. And here I am.




    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 21 February 2007 @ 6:30 am

  11. Jason –

    See what you think after you’ve read Baudrillard’s essay. I admit I’ve become almost a knee-jerk Baudrillardian when it comes to real-versus-imitation. When he talks about Disneyland as the illusion of illusion — the sense that Disneyland reinforces your belief that your ordinary life outside Disneyland is “real” — I’ve got to believe he’s onto something.

    As for Ecclesiastes, maybe chasing after the wind reinforces the illusion that there is something more substantial to be found if you just set your mind to it. Whereas if you really pursued the substantial and found it too to be just wind, there would be no more hope…

    Jonathan was gracious enough not only to cite this post on Church and PoMo, but to tell me about it. In the spirit of Baudrillard and Borges, Jonathan has just posted a meditation on maps and territories at his blog.

    And also, do you remember a kind of Marxist post by Geoff Holsclaw at Church and PoMo around the end of the year? You commented, as did I. Anyhow, Geoff referred to V for Vendetta as a ruptural intervention of the kind that the church might want to emulate. I offered a Debordian-Baudrillardian interpretation of the movie –which seemed legitimate, since the guys who made V also made The Matrix. Anyhow, here’s a return link to Church and PoMo via that post. It’s the circle of life.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 February 2007 @ 10:55 am

  12. I read and re-read both links. I remember from before agreeing with your V for Vendetta comments to easily/readily to bother commenting. And now, same with Johnathan’s post. I just nod my head in agreement with a “yes”. Most of his post, too, is above in the comments to this blog, I think…or maybe a combo of his comments here and at churchandpostmo.




    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 21 February 2007 @ 10:48 pm

  13. Jason –

    Thanks. I think your remarks at Church and PoMo comparing Baudrillard with McLuhan would make for an interesting exchange. My bet is that the denizens of PomoWorld (myself included) know less about McLuhan than about Baudrillard. I see the French philosophical trajectory, but probably McLuhan is more properly the heritage.

    You ask if it’s faith or epistemology — do you refer to McLuhan’s eventual optimism about media versus Baudrillard’s paranoia? I acknowledge that to me McLuhan consists mostly of a few soundbites scattered across a featureless plain, and I do worry that media, like marketplace, reduces content to the vanishing point of pure presentation fed by an engorged pipeline of indistinguishable “content.” The person of faith, or hope, or whatever, somehow has to believe that there really is content, depth beneath the image. Perhaps some sort of asceticism is required, inuring yourself to the flood of images in order to enter through a select few portals that call your name.

    Anyhow, I suspect that your questions at Church and PoMo didn’t land anywhere inside the heads of the other people there, because they don’t share your context. Assume they know less than you about this subject, not more. It seems hard to find the right level of discourse at Church and PoMo for it to build momentum on its early fast start. Maybe bring them along more slowly and incrementally. Maybe be explicit about the realist critique, or the faith question, and see if anyone finds a toehold. Or you might have to be satisfied with your own insights.


    Comment by ktismatics — 22 February 2007 @ 4:53 am

  14. Thanks for your help. I always assume I know less. Maybe that’s the problem. I sort of just throw it out there, thinking the toehold is already there. I may comment more later. I gotta go. Thanks again,



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 23 February 2007 @ 3:56 am

  15. Hey John,

    You said: ” I see the French philosophical trajectory, but probably McLuhan is more properly the heritage.” The “heritage”…you mean “The Tradition”, or “the heritage of even folks like Baudrillard”, in that McLuhan talks about “the whirlwind” of electronic media culture (much of postmodernism came together for me when I read McLuhan, actually)?

    You also asked: “You ask if it’s faith or epistemology — do you refer to McLuhan’s eventual optimism about media versus Baudrillard’s paranoia?” Yes, that’s what I’m referring to, at least sort of. By “optimism” there I would also be referring to a scholastic kind of “realism” that believes, via the Incarnation, in a metaphysical relationship between the world and God…and by analogy any reality and its representation.

    The problem is, for me, as you then head on in that same paragraph to discuss, when representation and reality can’t be distinguished in the various ways that are common in our culture. Whether it be because our bodies are at such a distance from the reality of the bodies being represented to us in electronic media (causing a weird eroticism of Pop Culture and everone’s wondering how on earth Britney Spears could be taking such a fall), or if it be because the representations are taken to be the realtiy themselves (partially because of the values an thought-froms of modern science, or even, to a degree, speculative philosophy in general – which leaves no room for “myth”…ASSUMING all things post-Giotto, which I don’t necessarily think was the case for all philosophy back in the day).

    Also, you said: “Perhaps some sort of asceticism is required, inuring yourself to the flood of images in order to enter through a select few portals that call your name.” YES, Amen. Neitche talked about the overstimulation inherent in modern life. I’m asking if this is simply because, now in particular, things are moving at the speed of light (McLuhan), or if its because things are simulations and “there’s no last judgement, judging true from false…because…there’s no resurrection…everything’s already dead and raised to life in advance” (Baudrillard).

    As for my problem at churchandpostmo…you said: “Maybe bring them along more slowly and incrementally. Maybe be explicit about the realist critique, or the faith question, and see if anyone finds a toehold.” Well, I’m usually not good at increments. I usually just sort of see everything at once and then something just comes out. You’ve probably noticed that in our interactions. I think this is because of my age. I think if I had gone through adolescent formation before sputnik, this would not be the case.

    Nonetheless, though, I also think its simply because I am learning more, growing intellectually, and getting better at tracking what’s going on “in the duder’s head” (to quote “The Big Labowski”). As well, I am getting better at keeping track of various angles from which things are views. How to connect my angle with others, whihc is connected to the question of increments. I mean, for example…concerning that I usually assume I know less. I really don’t know, specifically the “realist critique”. I know it in the sense simply that the realist defines his own basic epistemological stance differently from what the realist calls a “subjectivist” stance (Baudrillard, lets say), but I really don’t know their critique.

    Besides, I didn’t want to go stepping on Jason Clark’s toes and getting into HIS future posts that he mentioned in the post in question. That was part of it too. Especially, considering the above paragraph, that I was too unsure of where I would and would not be stepping on his toes in the first place. And that doesn’t even take into consideration his emotional sensitivity, which I don’t have the foggiest idea about, of course.



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 23 February 2007 @ 7:44 pm

  16. Plodding old fool that I am, I will respond incrementally. And no, I didn’t reach puberty before Sputnik reached orbit. And no, I am definitely not offended. Your cognitive style actually reminds me of Lacan and Zizek, and before them the surrealists and dadaists, maybe even as far back as Hegel — a sort of holistic stream of (un)consciousness. These guys are hard to parse because they cover so much territory without touching down very often. And they’re even older than I am.

    Paragraph 1: yes.

    Paragraph 2: right. It seems (though I don’t know him well) that to say the medium is the message doesn’t mean that the message isn’t also the message. There’s a surplus of reality in McLuhan’s world that adds richness. For Baudrillard it’s all hollow and drained of reality; hyper-reality is less rather than more, I think is the difference we’re looking at.

    Where was I just reading? Maybe Zizek. He points out that surfaces pointed directly to reality until Nietzsche and Freud came along to say that the realities were sub-surface. Now the postmodernists are rehabilitating surfaces but at the expense of representation. The flattening of surface-depth, the refusal to accept the premise that surfaces point either in or out, the sense that content is indistinguishable from packaging — this I find very disturbing. It’s a realm where the theorists seem to cooperate with the marketplace. Somebody like Derrida, who looks at the gaps between things, actually feels comforting to me. Your distancing of bodies hypothesis is intriguing. That moves the discussion away from physical surfaces to non-physical interfaces — a more gnostic flattening of the universe, as you’ve alluded to before. And I do find, in responding to your comments, that I’m more likely to let ideas fly out there without carefully screening and nuancing them. It’s why I like writing fiction — nobody’s coming behind me to check my facts. But now I will stop, returning tomorrow.


    Comment by ktismatics — 23 February 2007 @ 9:17 pm

  17. “…very disturbing”…You hit the nail on the head on what it is I do and don’t like about Marc C. Taylor, from the little I’ve read of him. In the question of the theorists cooperation with the corporatins…the thing is, though, marketers want to forget about death entirely. They, of course, aren’t willing to say that their images are “already dead and risen in advance”. This is why Baudrillard is a good dramatist. I’m not sure I want to laugh or cry when I’m reading that chapter that you sent to me. It’s difficult to keep reading, but also fascinating.

    Interestingly, too, as an architect I’m now realizing that the hinging point on how a real architect must relate with coorporate minded clients is death. You have to know how far to push, and how strongly (both how strongly to push, and how to push as a man of strength and integrity) before your relationship dissolves or dies (if you will it to remain living).

    And you said my hypothesis about the interfacing between realities was a gnostic flattening. First of all, only a modern gnosticism is a flat one. But I think what you are saying describes America quite well. Second of all, though, there is another angle on that distant relation between bodies. It can be gnostic, or I think McLuhan would simply be content with a word more like “erotic”. “Erotic” (and not “gnostic”) is the very reason why he talks about the television as so much involving the sense of touch, as a return to the “tangible”. None of the images on the T.V. screen are actually touching us.

    On Neitche and Freud…don’t they themselves comment that our culture’s relation between face and sub-face is a Christianized one? At the least, isn’t it said that Neitche and Freud were consciously working in a Christian culture? Genuine question, coming out of my lack of knowledge of Freud and Neitche…

    And…interestingly…my cognitive style, I would say, is largely shaped by the surrealists, I would say. You also mentioned Hegel. I feel trapped in Hegel. Actually, I don’t know enough about him. Maybe that’s the problem. But I feel trapped in the gap between he and Kierkegaard. I almost feel compelled to go get a masters in philosophy just to work through that gap.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 23 February 2007 @ 10:00 pm

  18. Also, I think maybe you weren’t offended because I was genuinely speaking in terms of my own struggle to communicate properly. Typical “nice guy” Christian that I am…struglling through that as well…rich American fool that I am.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 23 February 2007 @ 10:04 pm

  19. And B.T.W. during lunch I was just reading McLuhan and he said he’s not an optimist. “There’s no way any Christian can be an optimist”, he says. “Apocalypse is our only hope.” Which I don’t think could properly be termed either pessimistic or optimistic, of course. He says those are “purely secular states of mind”, and that he “didn’t get to [that state of mind] over night.” Also, I find interesting…we mentioned death and the coorporate mentality…McLuhan said in that same blurb that the church has a better chance of survival than any secular entity, such as or including the United States, which most people I think take to be not only nebulous but deathless (of course deathless, if nebulous).


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 23 February 2007 @ 11:25 pm

  20. oops…I meant Neither optimistic Nor pessimitic, of course…


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 23 February 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  21. Next increment. Whether it be because our bodies are at such a distance from the reality of the bodies being represented to us in electronic media (causing a weird eroticism of Pop Culture and everone’s wondering how on earth Britney Spears could be taking such a fall), or if it be because the representations are taken to be the realtiy themselves (partially because of the values an thought-froms of modern science, or even, to a degree, speculative philosophy in general – which leaves no room for “myth” This weird eroticism idea: is it McLuhanesque? Something about seeing surfaces being equivalent to touching them — sensory reality as “mediated” by the media? And do you think that perhaps Britney Spears participates a mythic persona, making her just the latest avatar in an unending series of simulacra?


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 February 2007 @ 10:15 am

  22. Jason –

    You wonder if we need to inure ourselves against the flood because the floodgates are opened wider than ever or because everything that comes through the gates is unreal. I believe both are true. I do believe that a lot of the difference-so-called produced in our culture is a simulacrum of difference to disguise the underlying sameness. Like Britney Spears, in your example: her rise and fall seems like pure simulation. But she spawns a whole generation of Britney knock-offs, making it seem as if the “real” Britney really is real.

    The thing is, there seems to be an unlimited market for more simulacra and their imitators. Perhaps it’s because they all make us nostalgic for the vanished originals. Was there ever an “original” proto-Britney in legend and myth? Are all the rest trying to recapture that original mana? And if there never was an original, the longing certainly doesn’t go away, as Baudrillard points out.

    This is Lacan now, I think. Everyone (male and female alike) is trying to find the phallus that they lost somewhere in their childhood. You’re on your way to the cure not when you find it, or realize that you never lost it, but when you realize that it never existed, that nobody has it or ever did.

    Now we get closer to a metaphysics of the void. If there is nothing that we’ve lost in the past, nothing to envy or to pursue, then we confront the void. Either it’s defined by profound absence, which is death, or by unrestricted potential, which is creation.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 February 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  23. Interestingly, too, as an architect I’m now realizing that the hinging point on how a real architect must relate with coorporate minded clients is death. You have to know how far to push, and how strongly (both how strongly to push, and how to push as a man of strength and integrity) before your relationship dissolves or dies (if you will it to remain living). I’m getting back to Hegel’s master/slave dialectic, which addresses this issue. You have to be willing to die in order to attain mastery, says Hegel. But then the one who backs down, the slave, eventually overcomes through work, because ultimately the master is dependent on the slave.

    Nietzsche definitely asserts that human depth is a Judeo-Christian artifact — a slave artifact, as it happens. The master has no need for depth: what he wants he takes. The slave has to repress desire, to sublimate, to create a self to mediate between desires and the tyranny of the master. Freud psychologizes Nietzsche’s ideas here: ego as mediator between id and superego. Maybe creating the ego is the Hegelian “work” whereby the slave self-consciousness eventually comes to dominate.

    The gap between Hegel and Kierkegaard: you mean between synthesis and either-or?

    So you’re saying I’m not offended because you’re “a typical nice-guy Christian”? And here I thought it was because of my thick skin (insert winky smiley face here).


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 February 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  24. Hey…sorry I haven’t gotten back to you yet…I will…was out of town all weekend, and now I have a deadline at work…


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 26 February 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  25. As for Britney Spears, the void and the phallus. Aphrodite was different from the cult of Britney Spears. Similarly, Patriarchy was different from the Phallus. The stupidity of the Jews wandering in the desert is that they thought they were complaining to and about Moses. At least that’s the way its portrayed in the story as told.

    Why would the longing not go away? Of course that proves nothing. Either way you end up either in the void or in your own whirlwind…or playing human. The Greeks thought in terms of limits, as if there was nothing if there wasn’t a limit. A limit was like a divine thing. We have our idea of Logos backwards. The backwards one was handed to us by the Romans, who thought in terms of boundaries.

    Point being, I think I’m starting to see where you’re at. Lacan found freedom, what every good Greek wanted. But that’s a different kind of freedom from what Jesus acted upon.

    Interestingly, this leads right into the slave/master relationship. Slavery exists (present tense) essentially to ward off the death that alwasy comes. Jesus went from tyranny to trust. And I like what you said: “The slave has to repress desire, to sublimate, to create a self to mediate between desires and the tyranny of the master.” This statement remains true; but either we choose our slavery or in Christ is a “hope” that is absent even to a Greek master.

    I don’t think any of this is new to you. I’m just playing along. I like it.

    As for Hegel and Kierkegaard…I don’t know. That’s the whole problem. I think of the gap between Kierkegaard and Hegel as the difference between the center of a circle and what it circumscribes.

    Considering the fact that the circle inscribes a “system”, the distance between the two is either as far as an entire world, or they are right next to each other, like the figure of a double column. Limits. Center and “defining” limit (in an alive, figurative kind of way) have sameness insofar as the entity/”system” in question depends upon both for its very existence, its very being.

    What I don’t know enough about, when it comes to the specific gap between Hegel and Kierkegaard, is how specific and localized things end up turning differently around these centers and limits in question. And what the gaps have to say about these relatinships.

    More specifically, I think, I don’t understand how Kierkegaard and Hegel let the gaps speak in different ways, or how they let the gaps, centers and limits relate to each other in different ways. I get the sense that Hegel is pursuing the limit; wants to stand on the frontier and breath in the horizon. Wheras Kierkegaard is persuing the center; wants to sit in the sacred interior hearth of the home and worship.

    So I’d almost say I think of it as more of the difference between irony and arrogance. But I haven’t read Either/Or. Its on my amazon wishlist. I have read some Socrates (by extension). And I’m coming to think of it more as the differnce between irony and synthesis, I think.

    I used to have an aversion to Hegel’s pursuit (without knowing who on earth Hegel was). But I am slowly coming to terms with systems and inscriptions. But if there was a draft, I’d probably be pretty pissed off.

    And, if your in a pursuit to circumscribe, be careful not to develop scales over your thick skin. You may need Orpheus and his openings in your system :) “Could you be loved” – Bob Marley



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 February 2007 @ 7:37 am

  26. Also, it seems Hegel was essentially surfing the modern tide of trying to smooth over all the gaps along the exterior of the world that had yet to be fully completed. Strikes me as a “reach” (like for the apple). Which is different from saying, for example, that a plan (architectural) is an act of faith. Whereas, it seems, Kierkegaard was like, “HEY – YOU FOOLS – THE GAPS AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE!” There will always be Neumatic breathing room.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 February 2007 @ 7:45 am

  27. B.T.W I trid to plod my way through my question again to the churchandpomo folks. We’ll see what happens.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 February 2007 @ 7:46 am

  28. Having death and nothingness at the center does create a rather negative sense of self. Though perhaps Christianity also posits an empty center. The Lacanian question is whether Jesus has/is the phallus or not.

    Richard Rorty distinguishes between systematic and “edifying” philosophers: great philosophers who dread the thought that their vocabulary should ever be institutionalized, or that their writing might be seen as commensurable with the tradition… Great systematic philosophers are constructive and offer arguments. Great edifying philosophers are reactive and offer satires, parodies, aphorisms. They know their work loses its point when the period they are reacting against is over. They are intentionally peripheral. Great systematic philosophers, like great scientists, build for eternity. Great edifying philosophers destroy for the sake of their own generation. Systematic philosophers want to put their subject on the secure path of a science. Edifying philosophers want to keep space open for the sense of wonder which poets can sometimes cause — wonder that there is something new under the sun, something which is not an accurate representation of what was already there, something which (at least for the moment) cannot be explained and can barely be described. Rorty mentions some notable edifying philosophers: Goethe, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, James, Dewey, the later Wittgenstein, the later Heidegger.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 February 2007 @ 4:17 pm

  29. Jason –
    Recently I came across this review of V for Vendetta. The reviewer, Steven Shaviro, is an academic — I think a Cultural Studies prof. He notes the Wachowski brothers’ citation of Baudrillard in The Matrix. However, when commenter #1 proposes a Baudrillardian interpretation not unlike mine at Church and PoMo, Shaviro blows him off. Trivial; why not say the same about any Hollywood production, that it’s a false spectacle? So either I was over-interpreting V and the Baudrillard-Debord connection is not self-evident, or else Shaviro has some other ax to fry or fish to grind. Also look at maybe the 8th or so comment by Yusef somebody — sounds like Dr. Shaviro seriously pissed off one of his students.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 February 2007 @ 6:35 pm

  30. I think it’s modernity that offers the empty center. Architecturally, its THE most distinguishing mark of a modern space. As for the phallus…for me…Jesus did say “If you’ve seen me, you have seen the Father.”

    And that’s interesting from Rorty. It’s almost MORE interesting, though (to me), that you understood me.

    As for that V. for Vendetta review…V for Vendetta to me seemed more directly Gnostic than The Matrix. When watching the film I took V.’s death…and especially the way V. handled it…to be the prime mark of its Gnosticism. Hinging off of that, another important mark is the way V. approaches “choice”. The Wachowski brothers are constructing gods.

    This is important to me…I think, for me, to understand where I come from…it is important to understand the dynamics between myth and philosophy. Socrates, and even Plato, were often quoting poets (but usually pissing on the Sophists).

    I know a guy who works in marketing and had a meeting with the Wachowski “brothers”…and one of them walked in the room as more of a sister, if you know what I mean. Have you EVER seen a photograph of those guys? I sure haven’t. They’re constructing gods, AND they KNOW what they’re doing (which is unusual). But, dude, something’s off if you want to be a sister. Call me judgemental. All Wachowski films appear to me confused between sacredness and unconsciousness. And, even cinematographically, they’re dark. They usuallly disturb me deeply.

    I can’t really comment on Shaviro’s blowing off of Baudrillard, because I don’t know enough of Baudrillard’s politics – nor Negri’s or Badiou’s. But the guy who wrote the article clearly has a political agenda himself, though…maybe not a specific politics, but… The most I can say is that he seems to be making his politics into his mythology. He notes so many mythic things about the film, without noting their mythic (or even religous) significance, and continues on with is political drama.

    Not that those mythic or religous things are apolitical…I’m just saying that I think maybe his blowing off of Baudrillard might, to a degree, be his blowing off of mythology with is political bodies of air (speech). But I havn’t gotten to Debourd yet, really. But I think you are on to something, there.

    I mean: “What authorizes V. to inhabit the superior perspective from which he is able, indeed, to torture Evie for her own good? It is precisely his superhero status, the fantasy that needs to be demystified, that grants him this authority.” THAT is blowing off mythology with political/philosophical speech. I took the torture as well to be Gnostic.

    I mean, V. for Vendetta was not trying to “expose the deadlock behind the romanticization of ‘subjective destitution’…as being the precondition for revolutionary action.” V. for Vendetta’s over-glorfication of human choices, rather than exposing such romanticization, participates in it. I’m just saying that the guy who wrote that article appears to have had an agenda.

    Back to Lacan…outside of the modern state’s failure to live up to its own definitive transparency…authority in and of itself cannot appear monstrous unless there is no phallus. Interestingly, too, the reviewer ends his review in a state of confusion rather than wonder. Not a very good philosopher (because he’s a re-viewer).

    Nonetheless, though, this serves as a demonstration of why I must ask my question about faith, epistemology and will. Another return…the re-viewer ends his post confused between Everything (“universality”) and Nothing (deconstructivist “undecidability”).

    About pissing a student off…are you referring to Jodi’s comment where she find’s Shaviro’s thoerizing valuable, but comments that the mass of people at the end of the movie are not really differentiated after having donned the mask? Which was comment 11. I looked at 8, and detected no anger?

    Interestingly, it seems, the conversation in that blog seems to have taken the same rout as the one carved out by the gap between Kierkegaard and Hegel. Ha ha. Obviously, then, I’m no expert.

    OH CRAP…I just looked up Guy Debord on wikipedia, instead of “situationsists” (which took me the first time to an all-too-large labyrinth of links on Hegel, Marx, Lenin, ect.)…and I see that Debord ended his life in much the same way I might, without faith, seem motivated to do after reading Baudrillard. I also, interestingly, came accross the “lettrists”. I’ve done some sculpting in my day; but jeez, talk about there being no phallus. I acutally didn’t understand those youth movements one bit until…right now! Thanks.

    That causes me to re-think a bit Baudrillard and V. Jeez, I think you might just be totally right. Actually, now that I think of it…I was talking about the dynamics of myth and philosophy…I think Debord and the lettrists fit right in with my Gnostic reading. They, of course, are distinguished in themselves. But I think the gnostic thread must preceed the political or philosophical one. Many of those philosophers may even have aknowledged such roots? Carl Jung, I know, mentioned the gnostics a time or two; but not so much in terms of owing them anything. Jung is a bit of a different case, though.

    I think, though, that Gnosticism and modernity are – unabashedly and unavoidably – blood brothers. Funnily and ironically…distant and estranged brothers. Ha ha.



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 February 2007 @ 8:03 pm

  31. BTW…you and Lacan…not to point out the obvious or anything, nor to be a bible basher…but no wonder many of your emotions are negative. You mentioned that, I think, talking about my transcendent experience. This is the slavery Jesus escaped – not without sweating blood – with trust. Not knowledge, but trust. Dude…hope? Dyou MISS it? Or do you rejoice that you snapped out of it? Or both?


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 27 February 2007 @ 9:16 pm

  32. “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father,” says Jesus. Suppose you look at Jesus on one of his no-miracle days. You see a man, no stronger than anyone else. Just like every father: a man like other men. Jesus emptied himself, it says: no phallus either, just like everyone else. If Jesus is like the Father, then maybe the Father doesn’t have it either.

    V’s death as gnostic — you mean that he is the prototype, the aeon, whose essence lives on in all those masked followers? V was channeling an earlier prototype, Guy Fawkes. I know nothing of Guy Fawkes other than what little I learned in the movie, so the prototype is lost on me. And now we’re back to our discussion of masks. V wears a face that doesn’t move, that smiles luridly, that shows no expression. Yet he says the face underneath isn’t his real face either. So, the mask represents Guy Fawkes, who to me and most of V’s supporters connotes nothing. And underneath the mask is a face that reveals not the inner V but rather points away from itself to the destruction of V’s ability to represent himself. V doesn’t even have a name that defines him as unique — wasn’t V the number on his jail cell? V’s no-name and no-face represent his own death as an individual, which enables him to take on the generic persona of the aeon. It’s an ascetic praxis of becoming one with the icon through death to self. Yes?

    Jung is fairly explicitly gnostic. Throughout most of its history Christianity has been gnostic: saints, icons, transubstantiation, and so on. And as we discussed in posts related to the Jewish worldview, the NT is arguably more Greek than the OT. So I think a lot of modernity’s gnosticism, especially coming through the European idealists, is a direct outgrowth of medieval Christianity. The Anglo-Saxon empiricists and pragmatists, not so much. Which is why I think the post-evangelicals like the European idealist tradition so much, as it works its way through guys like Heidegger, Gadamer, Derrida, Baudrillard, Zizek. The postmodern idealists are the ones who have so much trouble reconciling signifier with signified, representation with reality. They’re still operating under the fundamental gnostic premise that there is a transcendent reality which the material world points to or “participates.” So then you get guys like Baudrillard and Lacan who say that the transcendent reality is empty — idealists who have lost the ideal behind the real. Maybe these guys aren’t pomo at all, but late modernists who lament the passing of an era. Or they’re the last throes of a medieval gnosticism that’s held on long past its prime.

    Calvin may have been the first Christian non-gnostic in a thousand years or more, and he paved the way for modernism. So now the emerging pomos diss Calvin? Not too surprising.

    As for my negative emotions, that was the content of a dream that I reported on the blog. Do you believe that the dreamstate reveals the waking state of mind, a gnostic pathway that works through the subconscious?


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 February 2007 @ 6:00 am

  33. Uuhh…your first paragraph sounds like it was written by a modern scientist?

    As for what I mean by V.’s death being Gnostic…yes, that. But also in a certain context/world…where what appears seems like an illusory trap…even, an illusory trap set by an evil (or stupid?) demi-god. AND a world in which the “real” “God” (“aeon”) is essentially at some totally and absolutely unknowable and unrelatable distance. Sounds very similar to your description of Lacan, actually :) And so for me…all of those characteristics of V. that you described are true about him, not becuase they are who he is or what he does, but because, as the Messianic figure, he appears in imitation of the aeon. Because, in Gnosticism, we all have a little remnant of that aeon in us…hence the mass of folks with indistinguishable masks in imitatino of the guy with no face in the first place. That’s why, as I think Jodi pointed out, the mass of folks, after donning the mask, remain exactly that. As Shaviro said, V.’s voice “seems to come from nowhere on the screen”.

    Interestingly my own inner and at-the-time-unconscious logic for being drawn to Gnosticism was something like the following. I am hurt and alienated. This is because the world is screwed up and bad (going back to my own experiences as a kid, which you have read about). Where do I go? Where is there to turn? I turned to Gnosticism. And, interestingly, I definitely had a bit of a vendetta against the world, as well. I was generally pretty ornery and pissy.

    What actually broke Gnosticism’s hold on me, seriously, was the love of Christ. It happened one night during and after small group in prayer – a small group lead by and hosted in the home of a very pastoral/soul-healing kind of fella, who is also older and wiser (read, trusted). An experience of divine Grace. Of course, though, my connecting my experience at small group to the actual love of Christ begs the question of representation, so…

    Jung as Gnostic…I can buy that fairly easily. But I don’t understand what you mean when you say that the Medievals were gnostic…and Calvin was not? It sounds like you are essentially saying that if an outlook on the world involves at all what you do as an individual, then it is gnostic. Here you seem to invoke the gnostic notion of a messianic avatar who points beyond…which may be your connection to transubstantiation and icons?

    I mean, Idealism, transcendence and “participation” aren’t “fundamentally gnostic”. Idealism and Gnosticism are different. Idealism stands on a foundation that is bolted to the house (well, actually the house is bolted to the foundation, OK, OK, gotcha). Whereas Gnosticism takes the house to be an illusory trap in which the goal is to get to the really and truly founding “aeon” who has “essentially” no relation to the house. But in Idealism, an “ideal” basically IS an “essence”.

    Of course, interestingly, in Gnosticism that leaves us – here – with no essence. Except for that little tiny very-hidden remnant through which we may find access back to the aeon – thanks, by meaningless-coincidence, to the messianic figure who really isn’t any different from myself.

    In contrast it seems you are saying that if an outlook doesn’t involve at all what a human does as an individual, then it is Christian?

    The above construction – if that’s what you are saying – seems problematic to me. Because it seems to actually make both Christianity and Gnosticism into a Gnosticism in which there is little-to-no relation between reality and representation. From the get-go this is why I noted in my little head the relation between Baudrillard and the Gnostics…and why I would be so attracted to Baudrillard, considering my history.

    As for your negative emotions…in your dream it was because any time you are faced with some convergence between here and what’s beyond, it is a very dark and disturbing experience for you…interestingly. Also, interestingly, the whole thing was sparked by my own “transcendent experience”, which I experienced joyfully, or at least as leading to joy. Interestingly, too, in your dream you seem troubled, and in a sense threatened, that “everyone” expressed agreement to “Thank goodness for emotions”. Apparently because the world is an illusory, and threatening trap?

    And I would say that there is a connection between my dreams and my waking state. But I would say that the connection is revealed to me by the Incarnation. But the Incarnation is expressed in a very ordinary, tangible, knowable, bodily…probably sometimes “boring” and habitated…reality. As you’ve noted, I like surrealism, but it, if I veiw it as appropriate in any way, it is only because of our temporary cultural condition in which we have totally conqured for ourselves the totality of our known and sensible world.

    So…yes…I veiw dreaming as waking as connected…but not dreaming as a gnostic pathway that works through the subconscious, per se. Although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of God’s wanting to tell me something in a dream. Happened a lot in the Bible, acutally.




    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 28 February 2007 @ 6:57 pm

  34. But I don’t understand what you mean when you say that the Medievals were gnostic…Here you seem to invoke the gnostic notion of a messianic avatar who points beyond…which may be your connection to transubstantiation and icons?

    Basically, yes. The world vs. the kingdom, with the world being a cosmos-system under control of the Evil One — this seems like a pretty dominant theme of the NT, n’est-ce pas? Jesus as the intermediary between God and man? Be filled with the Spirit? Old man/new man? Dead to self, alive to Christ? It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me? These are NT themes that might lead the gnostics to believe they have a friend in Jesus. Not to deny the distinctions, but on the continuum. Perhaps because my initial Christian experience was Catholic, and my born-again experience was on the mystical/monastic/charismatic side of evangelicalism, these motifs stand out clearly for me.
    And I think the saints, the icons, the transubstantiation, monasticism — lower-level intermediaries than Jesus, but higher than ordinary man.

    …and Calvin was not[gnostic]? It sounds like you are essentially saying that if an outlook on the world involves at all what you do as an individual, then it is gnostic. No, kind of the opposite actually. Calvin was for the individual encounter with God and Scripture, unmediated by saint, priest, pope, icon, transubstantiation, or any of the other bridges between matter and spirit, between man and God, that medievalism imposes.

    In contrast it seems you are saying that if an outlook doesn’t involve at all what a human does as an individual, then it is Christian? No, I’m saying that’s the gnosticized dimension of Christian, some indicators of which I outlined at the beginning of this comment.

    The above construction – if that’s what you are saying – seems problematic to me. Because it seems to actually make both Christianity and Gnosticism into a Gnosticism in which there is little-to-no relation between reality and representation. I don’t think so. Representation seems integral to the Christian-Gnostic worldview: things represent categories, words represent meanings, matter represents spirit. I think of extreme forms like Swedenborg, where everything on earth has its counterpart in the spiritual realm — representation point for point. In a pragmatic worlview, on the other hand, categories are a matter of convenience or empirical association, not essence. Words don’t represent, they describe or call attention or elicit agreement.

    The idea of dreamstate corresponding to waking state is another representational language system. Translating the dream imagery is a kind of iconic work that’s consistent with idealism. On the other hand…I do think there is a connection, because the brain is the intermediary and the assembler of realities in both the conscious and subconscious. As for my particular dream and negative emotions, once again I defer the discussion to another time. Briefly, my negative emotions have mostly to do with the master/bondsman discourse of Hegel: do I exist if my work is not recognized/desired by the other?

    Finally, embedded in my last comment was what I regarded as my most valuable insight of recent times: the essentially Christian idealism of the European postmodernists, who may be better understood as the last of the medievalists. I’m reminded of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita somehow: the lamentation for the loss of the classical world, all those statues in the garden while the swingers are partying meaninglessly, the mourning for a Greco-Catholic golden era that’s passing into the mists of time.


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 February 2007 @ 10:40 pm

  35. Waking up this morning, I realize that the last bit of my last comment is a manifestation of my desire is to be recognized. To offer clever replies is to ask for the recognition that yes, this reply really was clever, “well done thou good and faithful servant.” So I have to call attention to my cleverness again, seeking that recognition. But now that I’ve verbally asked for the recognition I’ve become subservient; what I desire — recognition — I cannot supply for myself by my sheer existence. Someone else has to fulfill my desire.

    So let’s say that dreamstate is a symbolic order where the unconscious can make itself heard. What is its message? “I want to be heard.” The medium is the message. The unconscious makes known its desire to be known.

    So in my dream there is verbal communication: “thank goodness for emotions.” Which seems like a takeover of emotion by language, a taming of emotion. Emotion is named and recognized, but not recognized for what it really expresses. Instead it becomes something to be thankful for within a speaking community, something that reinforces the verbal structure of the world. But I too speak in my dream, naming the unacceptable, bringing it into conscious and verbal awareness in the conscious social order. My negative emotions want to be recognized. What do they want to say? That I am not recognized in the social order. Negative emotion means “I want to be recognized.”

    So, hope for me consciously is the hope of having an impact, of creating something in the world that might not otherwise have existed if I hadn’t done it. But when that impactful creation isn’t received, I experience the failure of hope and the negative emotions that ensue. Clearly it’s anger at the other for not recognizing my impact, which is also my existence. So my negative emotion = my expression of a hope unfulfilled, a hope of being recognized by others.

    In a Christian context God is the one who recognizes you even if no one else does; it is the unspoken hope fulfilled. And who recognizes you? The Father and the Word; the big Other who is the controller of the verbal realm. If God recognizes you verbally then you’ve been heard and recognized.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 March 2007 @ 6:44 am

  36. JOHN, JOHN, JOHN…how many times did God call Samuel’s name without his realizing it? What was Hagar’s name for God?

    Obviously I could go on fruitlessly all day about Hegel’s master/bondsman issue, and other issue’s or histories related. But I will refrain. I’ll just say a little. In Peter’s famous sermon in Acts, he didn’t stand up in front of “everyone” on his soap box and say, “Everyone listen to me!” He said, basically, “Jesus is listening to you. He loves you. Turn to him.” Not long before that, how many times did the resurrected Jesus ask Peter if he loved him? Obviously the Resurrection, if believed, makes Hegel’s search to confirm his own existence look like a pin head lost in a lion main. If the pin accidentally pricks the lion, does it even hurt?

    Very secondarily…I hear you; I recognize you. Dude, you “get it”. In my estimation: in you I’ve found one of the few people I can trust to have a conversation with about things that matter. Take that as a huge compliment. I can think of about four others (living), who I actually know. And that’s pushing it, because two of them who I “actually know” are in the blogsphere.

    But also in my estimation, you aren’t accpeting what has to be accpeted. Like Hegel said, its a limited skill that does not have absolute power or knowledge. That you aren’t accepting the Ressurection seems to go hiddenly unsaid in some of your dialogue (“…maybe the Father doesn’t have it either.”). But you are up front that you view yourself as outside the sheepfold.

    As for Gnosticism…obviously Hagar’s God is not the aeon. Nor is Hagar’s God any of the pagan gods. Its what those outside the sheepfold cannot have and obviously grope for, because not only did God make us to be known, but the God who sees me made us. I’m sure you’ve heard all that before, but this is my position.

    Also…oops, I misread your statement on Calvin, because I don’t know Calvin well enough. But what you describe is the general thrust of Protestantism (although now that I think about it, I’ve heard before that Calvin was the first to be so radical). Still…here’s the thing. You describe Medieval Christianity as Gnostic, because of the culture of the mediums. And you describe Calvinism as Christian because of the lack of the medium. Also pragmatism.

    The thing is…yes, both Christianity and Gnosticism tell the story of mediums. But the Christian medium and the Gnostic one look very differnet. But from a Protestant, Gnostic or Modern point of view, or background, Catholicism can appear offensively Gnostic (like a false trap, is what I mean).

    Obviously, though, again, Christianity views its role as, or tells the story of, a transformation or re-ordering of that medium. Wheras Gnosticism, and modernity in many ways, tell the story of, or make it their undying goal, to escape the medium entirely. Of course, as well, these two different positions invovle or imply a different notion of who we are as human beings.

    You are very good at navigating through different world views and philosophical positions…so I don’t know if its intentional or not…but in your travels you seem trapped between the medium and your desire to escape it. Between being content in it and contenteousness with it. I say that because you are obviously doing some interpretive work to call Medieval Christianity Gnostic. Although a well founded interpretation, what I would have to say about it is simply that Medieval culture is a mediated one.

    Even Hegel’s master/bondsman discourse hinges partially on the medium. Its our body that dies. But in our inheritence of eternal life…God doesn’t “thwart our instincts”. They are GIFTS from Him! Again, He forms and orders them into harmonious relatins with each other and with “the other”. In the O.T., the Wars depend primarily not on Isreal’s desire to confirm its own existence (a fulfillment of that is a bonus of the covenant, you could say), but on God’s covenental establishment of His “way”, which is the only “way” that our own “image” can ring true, can properly mirror ANY “other”, including God himself.

    And as for Pragmatism in particular…have you read Bloom’s The American Religion? It could be said that pragmatism is not gnostic because a pragmatist does not depend on a mediated interpretation of the world, taking into account the intentions of modern history. Realizing, however, that part of what pragmatism DOES depend on is “agreement”, as you said, the opposite side of the coin to your interetation is that everything (“here”) is mediated, no matter what; and pragmatism is the Amerian Gnosticism. Rather, at least, pragmatism’s being America’s pride, “pragma”-tism sets the stage for a Gnostic’s interpretation of America’s reality.

    And…speaking of mediums, and “agreement”, relations with the “other” and Hegel…interestingly SIMULATION totally eradicates the previous distinction between master and bondsman. The problem is they both get flattened out into bondsmen, simply because we already live in a systematically-working society. But oh how the workers simulate lorship, no? I think Baudrillard mentioned how we now think of vacation, for example.

    You’ve driven me to prayer, if you care to know.



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 1 March 2007 @ 9:27 pm

  37. BTW, those postmodern, I think, would like to claim to be the first of the Medievalists again. And I have still yet to see La Dolce Vida. The Bloskbuster near my house had it one weekend. Then the next weekend they did not. Then whoever rented it never returned it, and its just plain gone. I’ll have to make some special treck through L.A. traffic to watch it sometime from elsewhere.


    And one more thing…would you rather fight for recognition, or “suffer” with Jesus? I guess the answer to that is obvious. But I would rather suffer, because I believe in the Resurrection. Although I often find myself fighting vainly anyway…I take that to be a sign of the brokenness of my vessel.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 1 March 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  38. Hey…I just figured you would get a kick out of this, as I did…speaking of simulation (tourism) and technology:


    Hope that works as a link.



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 1 March 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  39. Jason –

    I think Christianity interpreted through the master-bondsman lens would be an interesting exercise. It’s pretty clear that many of the European philosophical ideas reinterpret the Christian story or respond to it in other ways. That’s partly what I’m thinking about in my more recent posts, though I haven’t actually parsed the verses about “dead to self, alive to Christ,” etc. It’s interesting that Christ is both lord and servant, which I think is Hegel’s position as opposed to, say, Nietzsche or Marx or Lacan.

    I eventually have to accede to your superior grasp of gnosticism. From a perspective where all meanings are emergent and/or created by man, all the variants of a top-down participation of Logos/Spirit in the world bear a certain similarity to one another. But it’s surely a gross categorization, like fish versus reptile (without implying evolutionary sequence).

    Pragmatism as I refer to it isn’t so much emphasis on instrumental rationality, on technique, on practical knowledge. I’m referring more to the pragmatic idea of emergence from the bottom up, of the possibility of something new under the sun that wasn’t already in Mind/Spirit/Destiny, of mind as a way of understanding matter and making sense out of it rather than participating it. This is the trajectory through Peirce, James, Rorty. The whole practical, mechanical, goal-driven, how-to, flattened version of pragmatism that dominates America I find distasteful and alienating. So I’m drawn to the theoretical, and I can imagine realities other than — maybe even better than — the ones that dominate our world. It’s something I share with you, I think, and with a lot of the emerging Christians. The herd inside the church isn’t much different from the herd outside. And there are certainly dangerous visionaries both inside and outside the church. But some kind of fellowship of the imagination, a renewed pursuit of the true/beautiful/just in all their varied forms most of which can only be glimpsed on the horizon and many of which haven’t even begun to appear…

    I appreciate that you recognize me, truly. It’s interesting that your affirmation of me is at least partly in terms of my recognizing (understanding) you. This mutual recognition, through empathy and friendship and effort, is critical to real human fellowship. It’s fairly rare, in both our experiences I suspect. People spend a lot of time trying to be recognized through mastery, or through servitude trying to earn gratification of the master. I think failure of mutual recognition, of both similarities and differences, is at the core of a lot of human striving and woe.

    When I was Christian, the most important values I received were a sense of meaning and a sense of being recognized. I suspect that’s true for a lot of Christians. I’ve tried to explain this to atheists who have no “feel” for faith, but they don’t seem to get it. They think the issue is about whether God created the universe, whether you need an absolute foundation for morality — much more abstract considerations. It’s at the personal and interpersonal level that the Christian faith takes hold.

    The recognition issue for me centers on work, on the gap between excellence and popularity, on what I think is good for people versus what they think they want, between value and market value. When that gap doesn’t resolve itself, I find myself staring into the void, which is also a mirror. To be specific, I’ve now written 3 books that hardly anybody seems to think is any good except me. Makes it hard to get excited about writing the 4th one. If I’m Christian I can say, “Well, God, you called me to this so I’ll keep at it, and I know you like my books.” If I don’t have that external recognition then I have to keep drawing on my own well, which is getting pretty dry. So basically if I believed in God he’d be a comfort to me on these issues.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 March 2007 @ 4:39 am

  40. John,

    One more thing on the master/bondsman thing…what was the High Priest’s response to Samuel when Samuuel came up to him after someone had called his name? And what did the young Samuel call the Priest? And what did folks call Samuel later one (at least probably)?

    As for Gnosticism…I don’t know if my grasp is superior or not, espeically considering that you are working through the interpretive lense in which man generates meaning. From there Gnosticism and Christianity really do look very similar. Of course, though, I am Chrsitian, so in that sense I take my view to be “superior”, although, of course, its not my superiority…and thats the whole point.

    As for pragmatism…that gets into a whole realm of distinctions between analytic and continental philosophy, posotivists and pragmatists, formalists and whoever else…and it all gets too confusing for me, because I haven’t actually taken time out to study modern philosophy. I can sort of see some general trends, but many of those distinctions are lost on me.

    That said, however, I, to a degree, recognize and share your interest in a bottum-up view of the world. I am an architect…if I can’t see something from the bottom up, then I damn sure shouldn’t be on a construction site! As you mentioned, though, more pertinent to pragmatists, actually, is what that has to do with meaning.

    Of course my deeply embedded problem with pragmatism is that it has no power to say anything at all about ultimate realities…particularly any pragmatic discourse on death is fruitless, or maybe more fruity, but nonetheless. Fruity, yes, good description. So many layers! Ha ha. But too, of course, as soon as you begin to talk more about ultimate realities, you’ve found yourself in James’ discussed predicament where the classroom is a sterile environment that, even intentionally, distances itself from the reality of the street you from which you just came.

    The other problem I have with pragmatism is that it, being a philosophy and all, is too dependent upon human knowledge. As a philosophy it tries to reconcile many things that I would agree have become problematic through history, but it ends up saying things that depend upon, and of course, confirm itself. Yes, prayer is largely for us, but that its not even heard? Its only if you give yourself the title of philosopher/knower can you make a statement like that about what isn’t knowable.

    I also think that, to a degree, many philosophers after about 1800 end up taking philosophical stances on things, i.e. making knowledge-claims or statements, on things that were previously largely left alone. These statements get made, however, in reaction to or against previous philosohical statements or questions. Prayer happens in the knowledge-gaps with wich I am often perfectly content. For example you talked about this briefly before when you talked about a modern’s tendency to dissect Paul’s statement in Romans that knowledge of the creator is embedded in man and creation.

    Back to bottom-up and top-down views…this is something that is supposedly reconciled in the actualization of a building upon the horizon, and in sacrament. A good architect from N. Europe said that architecture is the joint between sky and ground. I do think, too, that this is one of those fundamental issues or questions of philosophy that, ultimately, they don’t have the power to answer or resolve. I do thnk that its pretty much just another relationship gone haywire since Genesis. And then, too, in my view, reconciled by One beyond philosophy. But I do think its good to talk about, to become aware.

    As for imagining new realities…yeah. I think the trick is to remain in maintain that joint between earth and sky. Its a difficult thing to do. Appearances dissappear. Its a fact of life. Get over it, folks. And yet what is imagined is oh-so-tied to what appears. Accept it. We really aren’t God.

    As for our mutual recognition…yeah. Generally I actually think it would help a lot if men were more willing and open to distinguishing themselves from each other. What’s agreement without disagreement? I think I’ve made it clear, though, where I think meaning and recognition really come from. Its interesting to me what your past with Christianity brings to you, as compared to how your present bears on your past. I really like, “It’s at the personal and interpersonal level that the Christian faith takes hold.” But its how your more recent future has unfolded that I still don’t know about ? :)

    As for excellence and popularity…yeah, I’m definitely with you. One of my professors had us read this book called The University in Ruins, which talks about the current meaninglessness of the term excellence. Not so much in the University’s deferrence to popularity as in its deferrence to the market. Which is obviously quite interrelated, however, with what is popular. I am learning to be justifiably angry, though, and not at myself; and as well to suffer rather than fight. Of cousre I believe that what is right is built into us (otherwise walking would be difficult, ha ha); and so there is hope in shining the light of what is good and true. “May those with ears, hear.”

    And what books have you written? Are you from Ireland originally?



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 10:45 am

  41. Wait…I said that many of those distinctions are lost on me. I think, though, that I see them in architecture, but don’t know enough about philsophy to connect much of it all. Excessive formalism, for example…I can certainly see that in architecture. But I couldn’t really tell you the difference between Ferge and Russel. Other than that it has something to do with the Sewenborg comedy, but in a very different way.



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 10:48 am

  42. Leaving aside the questions of ultimate meaning, which are the domain of whatever gods there may be who can see farther than we, there remain the questions of secondary meaning. Does the sun go around the earth or vice versa? Is it necessary for a currency to be based on a gold standard? What’s cubism all about? Is it better to stay the course or cut and run? These are realms where man at least has the tools to try and figure out what these things could mean. Many if not most of these systems of meaning emerge from human interactions, from the bottom up, as part of human culture. If there could be common cause among Christians and non-Christians regarding such matters I would be pleased. There are, of course, Christians who believe all such issues should be decided directly by the Lord and relayed through the inner voice of the Spirit — in which case there perhaps is no common ground. I’m presuming some expectation of human conscious participation in working stuff out.

    I’m no philosopher either. My graduate education is in theology and psychology; my professional career (i.e. what people paid me to do) mostly dealt with applied science and statistical analysis. So I’m an amateur reading the philosophers too.

    The ways in which matter and spirit interact are very interesting to me. I know the NT version best. It seems to me that the same physical stuff participates simultaneously in two realities: world and kingdom, flesh and spirit. The interface between the two realities is of great interest: portalic transport between them, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, some sort of synthesis? I’m also interested in what happens to the self who passes between the two realities: transition, death and rebirth, doubling? These kinds of phenomena affect even the more mundane realities, where something might simultaneously be a functional space and a thing of beauty and a repository of financial value. Then there are the gaps between realities: what I want and what I have, your reality and my reality, being American and being a foreigner, value and market value, belief and truth, desire and fulfillment, etc.

    I’m from Chicago originally, of mongrel heritage. I’ve written two novels and a book about Genesis 1. What sort of architecture do you do? Do you consciously think about the interface between earth and sky when you design? Can you imagine architectural portals between realities that aren’t blasphemous?


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 March 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  43. Pretty random…or not (gaps)…so I bet you have a love/hate relationship with France, huh? They’re politics claim to be a bottom up one, but they are a top down country, as opposed to, say, Italia, which I love.

    Meaning and what-not…I think there is common ground for conversation and even common concerns…but I honestly think that Christ is the only grounds for salvation, redemption and true or ultimate healing and/or transformation…since as I see it he made us (John 1).

    Also, I really like: “I’m also interested in what happens to the self who passes between the two realities: transition, death and rebirth, doubling? These kinds of phenomena affect even the more mundane realities, where something might simultaneously be a functional space and a thing of beauty and a repository of financial value.”

    This I take to be not only true and likeable, but inevetible as soon as something appears in the world. The value of a factory doesn’t solely reside in its function (actually, Le Corbusier the famous architect was highly inspired in his time by the new big American grain elevators, as well as in genral engineering wonders that follow rigorously the laws of nature, unlike academic – French, btw – architect’s meaningless doo-dads); and the value of an icon – especially in its inderect effects – doesn’t reside only in the “aesthetic” realm.

    Oh but there are still huge glaring gaps that often seem unreconcilable, unfortunately. Glaring to me as an architect. Its a daily frustration.

    What sort of architecture do I do? I’m only 27 yrs. old. I’m a servant at this point…don’t do much designing. But when I do, and generally when I excercise that imagination of mine, the realatin between earth and sky is the primary thing to offer meaning. After all, I AM using my imagination in the first place :) Check it out:

    Entrance to Tomb:


    (speaking of doubling :)

    Chapel of Tomb:

    Blasphemous…? Well…I take medium to be assumed, but I’m not invoking them! Ha ha. As for the command not to carve out graven images…the temple was full of what we would probably think of a “graven images”. But they weren’t being worhipped, nor taken as more permanent than an image happens to be.




    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  44. And…sooo…what, are you fascinated with Ireland? It is quite the hotbed of…a lot…


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  45. also…BOOOOHHHH!



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 7:34 pm

  46. I like the tomb — I don’t think about tombs as architectural works. Earth and sky, surface and subsurface.

    I don’t recall a fascination with Ireland other than my father’s ancestors from I guess 2 generations prior. It’s a nice place and all. Okay, we’re moving there next. We all like Italy a lot also — I can see it from the beach here on fairly clear days. Lots of Italians live around here, and lots come to hang out on the weekends. They say that, for Parisians, going to Nice is like going to Italy; for Italians, going to Nice is like going to Paris. Italy is so Italian. France had colonies, so they’ve got more variety when you go out to eat: North African, Vietnamese, Reunion Island (kind of Indian-African). And a lot of non-French people live here. Italy is pretty much all Italians.



    Comment by ktismatics — 2 March 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  47. So, fighting Scarface…did you write a book about a boy’s growing up in Ireland, or what?

    Also, when you said: “I’m also interested in what happens to the self who passes between the two realities: transition, death and rebirth, doubling?”…I guess you were talking about Universal Spirit, or something of the sort…?



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  48. I have written no anime features. I have written a kind of quasi-spiritual novel about a guy in France tracking down his old protege, who had become a kind of cult figure on the pilgrimage circuit before dropping out and joining a monastery. The story ends in a little town in Italy. The other novel is about a self-proclaimed portalist to alternate realities who has a hard time getting out of his own house. That story takes place mostly in some anonymous American suburb but I guess it finally ends at a cheap hotel in the Maldive Islands. Both you could say have gnostic tendencies, especially the first one.

    The transitions between realities… I’ve taken notes on various movies with the thought of doing something with filmic portalities. I’ve looked especially at metacinema — movies about movies, like 8 1/2, Sunset Blvd, Mulholland Drive, Rear Window, Bad Education, After Life… all these movies juxtapose 2 or more realities, with interesting transitions between them. Hitchcock movies in particular are portalic: Vertigo is textbook death-and-doubling portality. So: conscious and subconscious, material and spiritual, nonfiction and fiction, normal and abnormal… plenty of realities, plenty of portals, plenty of disappearance-and-doubling transitions across the borders.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 March 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  49. Pi is also a film about film that sees through the medium translucently. Fellini’s films I think are generally about film, but I think a bit more about the cinematography than the surreality of the story and film’s ability to cut and splice frames of space-time. In other words Fellini seems to keep more in tune with how time appears to our senses, but he turns it around on itself a lot. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre.”

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind I noticed too was a bit of a film about film, but more on the cutting and splicing of sky and ground :)

    I take it as a prerequesite of a good film to be about itself; because that’s what film is. Film is no longer a medium that stands for itself. The proportional relationship between medium and light in film is much more lopsided…heavy on the scales in favor of light…as compared to any previous medium. So it doesn’t stand. Its like the hanging gardens of babylon. Interestingly the history of cinema is much older than the history of film.

    Now, though, we have digital media. You might as well divide one by zero…and get…

    I wanted once to do an Easter presentation at church. There would be two televisions. One directly in front of the audience. One in the margins of one’s perspectival field. Both TV’s would be playing a loop of three moving cinematic shots that would interact with each other…in such a way that at any given time one image would have a certain relatinship to the other image on the other screen. And these images’ relationships would make sense in accordance with the interactive Easter reading being spoken aloud by the “audience”, as well as with the music that would be coming from some source that the eye could not place.

    Lots of doubling and trianulation, turning and re-turning.




    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  50. BTW – being a bottums-up kind of guy, your having had anything to do with anime hadn’t crossed my mind…


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 2 March 2007 @ 11:28 pm

  51. OH SHIT…I almost forgot…possibly my favorite film about film – The Big Labowsky! I can’t even think about that film without giggling heartily deep in my soul. I say my favorite, but its its own thing. Its just good to be able to laugh in an ironally aware kind of way. And I like The Usual Suspects for the same – but opposite – reasons. But both of those are pretty different from the films you listed, I think…some of which I haven’t seen. More accessable to my friends in church or elsewhere who wouldn’t be having this conversation, I think. Both, however, are acceptable to me as films – unlike most of what’s out there, really.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 March 2007 @ 12:24 am

  52. Jason –

    I agree that most good films, or at least the ones I get most immersed in, are self-referential. On the other hand, I think film is the most overwhelming medium, the one that almost forces the viewer into its alternate reality. I didn’t see many of the Oscar nominees, but surely Little Miss Sunshine was about writing and making movies. Then there’s Lynch’s Inland Empire, which I posted about recently. (Interestingly, some Spanish guy put a link to my Lynch post on his blog, which has led to various people from Spain coming to check it out.) Sideways and Memento also come to mind. We’ve talked about the Wachowski movies. I should see Labowski again some time. I can see why you might resonate with Pi, which I liked a lot also. We just watched Citizen Kane, which is one of the earlier movies that’s at least partly about moviemaking.

    Your Easter film project sounds cool. It would have an emergent, bottom-up structure that would shift repeatedly but triangulate, as you say, on a foundation that may never be directly open to scrutiny. How far along did you get on this project?


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 March 2007 @ 6:18 am

  53. Inland Empire – haven’t seen. I want to re-read your post on it, actally.
    Mulholland Dr. – have seen, too long ago. I remember havig the sense that it didn’t really come together the way I might expect. But I like how that, and Blue Velvet, are slowly opening meditations that actually have a rhythm, in which relationships (necessary for rhythm) are either established or thrown violently or radically into question. I could probably appreciate Lynch much better if I knew more about him and postmodernism – well, at least at the time when I saw his films. I was exposed to Blue Velvet through a friend who was taking a class on postmodernism at the time in college.

    Rear Window – have only heard of it, but its certainly an interesting title, particularly if it explores film.

    Sunset – ?

    8 1/2 – I like Fellini. Saw this in college. To a degree this reconciled me to the circus of our world. You know the title is a bit mystical :)
    Roma – I also like. The end reconciled me to the sound of the motor(cycle). I was at peace.
    [Fellini’s films “come together in the end”]

    Bad Education – ?
    After Life – ? – although another very interesting title, especially, again, in light of the medium of film (interesting phrase, “in light of the medium of…”)

    Hitchcock – yes. Reminds me of Lynch a bit, in the sense of being concerned with matter and spirit and conscious and subconscious. Seems like Lynch and Hitchcock treat film similarly, no?

    Momento – definitely a film about film. almost blatantly. As much in the method, form or organization of the parts, as in the content. They tie together (the content and organization of the parts)…which I like, as lost as the film and its central character are.

    Actually the first night I met a dude who was to become a best friend, we watched momento together. After a poetry reading. Between the poetry and Momento I drew for him analogically the creation of the world by drawing a square that fits perfectly inside of a circle, using 7 circles…the 7th is the one the square fits in. Looking back on my relationship with him, interestingly, Momento was an appropriate film with which to start it – neither here nor there (I’m just sort of thinking to myself out loud about my relationship with him, which isn’t what it was). Interesting too that I am now looking back on Momento.

    Sideways – saw it. liked it. The one guy was an actor. The main character played an English teacher, but also wrote on the side. Novels, or screenplays, I don’t remember? But this is one where the film-reference is more in the content, no?

    Little Miss Sunshine – How is that about making movies? If it is, it seems to be more like Sideways than Momento, in the sense of its being about film being about its content.

    Kevin Smith is strikingly good sometimes at making films about films, or at least about story. But boy does he have a not-serious-at-all streak. i.e. irresposible and loose. And not loose like David Lynch loose.

    Citizen Kane – I am ashamed to say I have yet to see it. I actually started watching it one night with a friend, but my loud (not just physically) roommate got home. Didn’t work out that night. Then I had to return it before I was able to watch it.

    Eizenstein – I saw Battleship Ptompkin – Its all about interweaving of inside and outside (passing through the medium, analogued as the ship in the film – “the ship in the film” :), sky and ground. But that’s the only Eizenstein film I’ve actually seen.

    The Big Labowsky – is about film because its about so much, but in the end it all turns around Nothing. Which is also why its so darn funny!

    The Usual Suspects – “Kaiser Sose…who is this Kaiser Sose?…You know, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was fooling people into thinking he didn’t exist…and then poof, he was gone…like a myth, like a spook story…as if he had never existed but as if he exists everywhere at once, waiting to emerge out of the shadows and avenge the brutal deaths of his family members.” And then he turns out to have been right in front of you the whole time, right under your nose. This is about film and medium.

    My project – didn’t get very far. Well, quite far in my imagination. But I had no where near the time nor the resources to pull it off. It was dropped, to be picked up again, for sure…in some form that may or may not resemble the original project so closely.

    I ended up just doing a couple of charred coal drawings of Christ’s death on the cross, and hiding them under a scarlet curtain. As the audience approached our station (we were doing an abridged stations of the cross), I gave them blindfolds (to wrap around their heads and cover their eyes) and a penny (to hold in their hands). At some relevant point in the narration of the story, they removed their blindfolds, and there revealed were the two drawings, since I had liftend the curtain.

    As part of the narration I described the meaning of the coin…the Roman story of the River Styx. I told them to be sure and feel the weight of the penny in their hands, and to take it with them as a reminder of their Fate. Then the next station was the Resurrection, of which I was not in charge.

    And your novels sound a bit autobioraphial, no? :)


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 March 2007 @ 11:53 am

  54. Interesting – learned about this in history of architecture class:


    Also – that film can, and in a sense necessarily DOES draw you into its world…that, of course, can be either fruitful or dangerous. And that’s not just a question of the moral content of the story, although it can be that, of course. I’m talking about the nature of the medium of film itself. I was talking about the proportion between medium and light in the particular medium of film.

    What film does then, when it draws you into ITS world – as opposed to, say, the world of a Byzantine icon – is PULL you up to some place on Jacob’s ladder that all-too-closely resembles the residence of the angels. McLuhan says, “What people don’t understand about electric media is that it angelizes man. When you’re on the phone, you have no body.” Film isn’t exactly like being on the phone or some purely electrical medium. But film, as I said, is drastically different in its proportions between medium and light as compared to any previous medium.

    What this means for film is not that its bad. But that I think it needs to know itself in order to reconcile itself with itself and the man who makes it – the man who’s composed of lots of earth and water, and not so much fire and air. The man who has weight and stands upright…who, when he looses too much weight and his ability to stand up for himself, begins to scare people with his resemblence to death.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 March 2007 @ 8:37 pm

  55. Every book is about writing is about the author? Perhaps. Sounds like a very interesting Stations of the Cross installation. Have you ever seen Barnett Newman’s Stations of the Cross at the National Gallery. Abstract expressionist, mostly white rough canval with black vertical slashes. Stark and dramatic. Both of my books have Stations of the Cross in them — the first one is even called The Stations. I like the whole premise of a series of scenes on a related theme, with image and text and movement. Then there’s the possibility of music, like the various versions of the Stabat Mater. The Stations are iconic for sure, but got standardized to the 14 fairly late in the game — I’m thinking 16th century. Sounds like you added a 15th station. It’s interesting to visit old churches that have some number other than 14.

    Here in Antibes there’s a rough stone walkway up a steep hill called the Chemin du Calvaire, along which the 14 stations are placed in niches. In July there’s a procession where sailors, barefoot, carry a statue of Mary from the cathedral, through the old town, along the beachfront road, up the Chemin, and into the old chapel on top of the hill. It’s a big procession, led by the priest, with lots of Hail Marys along the way, finishing up with a Mass. So I guess there’s still some medievalism left even on the French Riviera.

    I hadn’t remembered the mystical union of Kaiser Sose with the devil. Christ is the Word but the devil is Verbal.

    Another one for the list of movies about movies: Blow-Up by Antonioni. The opening scene takes place at 25 St. James Street, headquarters of the Economist Group and the first work of Modern architecture in that part of London. A bunch of mimes in whiteface careen through the streets in a truck: these mimes, it turns out, were a bunch of architecture students. Antonioni is very architectural; his cinematic language is very structural.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 March 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  56. Blow-Up is now on my list of films to see. Thanks.

    Funny how appropriate your statement is: “Christ is the Word, but the devil is Verbal.” Its all about the ktismats

    Medievalism and processions, and cinematic writings…have you read The Greek Passion, by Nikos Kazantzakis? The procession in your town sounds like an interesting thing to behold or participate in. And I haven’t seen Bennett Newman’s at the National Gallery. Sounds interesting; sounds difficult to pull off well, but possible.

    And the films by which I left question marks above – I would love to hear a bit about them. Those question marks mean “total blank in the duder’s head” (in my head).


    Books about writing about the author…another medium conversation. Interesting title for your book, for sure!


    Our stations only had 7 – abridged. I don’t know the 14 well enough to know how what I said might have lead you to think that we had 15 at our church.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 March 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  57. What this means for film is not that its bad. But that I think it needs to know itself in order to reconcile itself with itself and the man who makes it – the man who’s composed of lots of earth and water, and not so much fire and air. The man who has weight and stands upright…who, when he looses too much weight and his ability to stand up for himself, begins to scare people with his resemblence to death.

    Is it the zombie-esque silent and motionless viewer to which you refer here? Immersed in sound and light, or lifted clear of incarnation?


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 March 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  58. I’m lagging just behind you… The 14th and last Station is laying Christ in the tomb, so if you’ve got a resurrection Station then that would be assigned some number past 14.

    I have never read anything by Kazantzakis, but it’s interesting you mention him in this context because he used to live in Antibes. There’s a commemorative plaque dedicated to him in a park in the old town. It repeats his epitaph: I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.

    Those other movies I’ll return to later.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 March 2007 @ 9:55 pm

  59. Depending on what you mean by lagging behind…I’m behind you. Despite having been in a bunch of Euorpean cathedrals and seen Giotto’s paintings in Assissi…I haven’t studied the stations close enough to havve known here was no resurrection station. Although that makes sense. I don’t know what we were thinking, then? Our service was on Easter. The Stations are usually enacted on Good Friday, aren’t they? Maybe that has something to do with it?


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 March 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  60. Also in this context, I just had a funny thought. People use the phrase, “high intellect”. That’s redundant!


    Really, though, do they mean capable, or is it even possible for people not to say what they mean a lot of times? I’m thinking of the modern conceptualization of everything, which I just mentioned on one of your Neitche post comments.



    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 3 March 2007 @ 10:08 pm

  61. Walking around the marina this morning I spotted the Dolce Vita in one of the slips — and it’s for sale! Here’s the ad.


    Comment by ktismatics — 4 March 2007 @ 11:32 am

  62. John,

    I missed this comment earlier, sorry:

    “‘What this means for film is not that its bad. But that I think it needs to know itself in order to reconcile itself with itself and the man who makes it – the man who’s composed of lots of earth and water, and not so much fire and air. The man who has weight and stands upright…who, when he looses too much weight and his ability to stand up for himself, begins to scare people with his resemblence to death.’

    Is it the zombie-esque silent and motionless viewer to which you refer here? Immersed in sound and light, or lifted clear of incarnation?”

    I was partially referring to the audience of contemporary cinema, yes. But I was more referring to the medium of film itself. I was also referring to the contemporary man who is exended in that medium. The audience, really though, is part of that “man” who makes contemporary film. Additionally, especially, I was referring to contemporary man and film in light of, or in comparison to, previous men and mediums. Example, here we have such a prevelant medium – film – that is so much fire and so little earth.

    Contemporary man is so afraid of bodily harm, whereas medieval man, whose mediums were much more earthly, was much less afraid of bodily harm and much more afraid of “higher” things. This, I don’t think, is just because they were more religious.

    I was also sort of making an off the cuff remark on why it begins to scare the relatives of a man or woman who begins to loose too much weight. A girl in my high school was anorexic, and it was a bit horrific hearing a good friend tell the story of watcihng her fall over one day while standing outside smoking a cigarette. Like I said, film, being a exactly that, like a residue left on the edges of a heavier and more voluminous medium – residue left after the cogito-work of modernity – doesn’t stand for itself. It hangs from the sky. Both literally (if you are in the audience of a black box theater) and figuratively.




    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 5 March 2007 @ 11:50 pm

  63. It is remarkable how compelling a cinematic reality can be. The compulsive attraction it generates seems directly proportional to the amount of artifice and illusion goes into its making. To me there’s something satisfying in that. The solidity of matter gives the illusion that it possesses reality within itself. The ephemerality of spirit gives the illusion that it possesses reality within itself. Film is closer to materialized spirit than spiritualized matter. But it creates an illusion of matter, or rather of the surfaces of matter — as if meaning adheres to the surfaces of things rather than inside them or bestowed upon them. But the self-aware filmmaker acknowledges that he has imposed meaning on those surfaces through framing, lighting, composition, etc. He’s not only created the illusion of meaningful surfaces, but also the illusion of surfaces themselves.

    The writer of fiction did this already, of course. The contemporary participant in fictional realities is perhaps less capable than prior generations of generating the illusion of reality from the symbolic order of language. Sensory input/overload seems more and more essential to sustaining the illusion. The loss of imagination coupled with a disintegration of substance behind surfaces leads to a flattening of the world: film and viewer converge on a realm of 2 1/2 dimensions. Soon films will watch viewers.


    Comment by ktismatics — 6 March 2007 @ 12:26 am

  64. Good thoughts. My professor shared an insight with me that he once wrote in his journal after some meditation or something of the sort: “All things tend between absolute crystalline Something and absolute white-light Nothing.” I like: “Film is closer to materialized spirit than spiritualized matter.” That’s pretty interesting. That’s why film hangs rather than stands!

    And you seem particularly sensitive to our loss of imagination, being a novelist! I’d say that’s good, though. I mean…I think…it seems there is a direct proportional relationship between our culture’s coming to be more and more fixed on sensible ktismata, and our culture’s loss of imagination. Not that imagination owes nothing to what is semsible, but, uumm…yeah.

    And I think films already watch viewers. There are lots of clips in films of viewers watching films. And there are a bunch of those clips every year at the academy awards…the essential after-show. The film-maker’s primary complaint these days, I think, is that they don’t get to make films anymore because our films make us.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 March 2007 @ 2:56 am

  65. Hmm… I’m trying to think about the self-referential films and films watching the audience. *Warning-spoiler* In Rear Window, a photographer is spying on his neighbors out the window through his telephoto lens, imagining stories about their lives. From these distant images he deduces that one particular neighbor killed his wife. At some point this guy sees the photographer watching him, after which the photographer is being watched by his audience. Blow-Up is also about a photographer watching and entering into a world that starts watching him, though this is clearer in the short story on which the movie is based. At some point I’ll tell you about After Life, a Japanese film in which the dead watch filmed reenactments of meaningful moments in their lives. Once they watch themselves on film they enter eternally into those filmed moments. And so on.

    More corrupt is when the film watches audience response to decide what it should become. This is when market demand replaces artistic vision as the basis for what films get made. Most of the top-grossing films get crappy reviews: it’s because they’re made by the audience.


    Comment by ktismatics — 6 March 2007 @ 4:12 pm

  66. Specifically they’re made by a lazy audience who don’t take the effort to exercise their imaginations. Want life given to them on a silver platter for $11.50, or however much it costs to go to a movie. And they want shiny platters without the dirty reality of the deep recesses of the earth from which the silver emerged.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 March 2007 @ 10:14 pm

  67. Oh and thanks for the heads up on the movies. They soudn good.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 March 2007 @ 10:15 pm

  68. On madness…have you seen Nostalgia?


    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 15 March 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  69. No. It’s about…?


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 March 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  70. A monk in a little quaint earthy Itilian village who’s telling everyone that they’ve gone crazy. Everyone thinks he’s crazy. In the end, after screaming a sermon in the town Plaza, he sets himself on fire and dies. The rest of the film is very quiet, and the whole thing is very well-shot. It makes you aware of the distance and closeness between subjects.


    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 15 March 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  71. It sounds strange but intriguing. I looked it up and the director is the Russian Tarkovsky. The only Tarkovsky film I’ve seen is Andre Rublev, about a medieval Russian icon painter. An exceptionally beautiful movie, very long, very slow, very moving. I recommend it highly. And I think it’s another movie about making movies: the medieval icon painter is the late-modern filmmaker. I’ll have to see Nostalgia if I ever again get good access to such movies. Netflix is a great service, but nothing nearly as good in France.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 March 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  72. Oh crap! I’ve had a strong desire to see Andrei Rublev since I got Iconostasis (by Florensky) for Christmas! I couldn’t remember who the director was of Nostalgia, and lo and behold…


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 16 March 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  73. A big piece of Andre Rublev focuses on a young guy casting a huge bell to put in a church tower. It reminds me of one of your prior comments about moviegoers, who aren’t interested in delving into the dirt in order to create the transcendent. These medieval builders delved.


    Comment by ktismatics — 17 March 2007 @ 6:16 pm

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