A transcription of a letter sent in 28 point to a friend.
March 5, 2003
The snow continues to fall muffling the tones of shoveling and cars struggling. Despite the overcast sky, the whiteness blanketing roofs, alleys, walks, lawns and gardens, pitches against the eye a tingling glare. Muted with sharpness.
This could be a fitting pathetic fallacy for our friend in ICU. It could be a fitting time to read to him passages from Heidegger's What is called thinking? It could all be unfitting. The purposes of minimalism are not always for healing. A dense dose of Heidegger is far at times from being like a winter minimalism save for the heat of the hearth from which is snatched a piece of glowing coal upon which is set a precious incense - the attention of the reader. The attention of those in attendance at the bedside of a friend in ICU is like that - a preciousness, an offering, glow in the stark.
And the reading aloud would be like the glowing coals. And because the comparison is cast as simile there is replenishment. It is not the fire and flash of metaphor, self-consuming.
As if reading the Heidegger text What is called thinking? aloud to the man there would be a gift to the man there and to the man reading there. Both there to be overheard in the slow quiet rustling of the winter body. Both listening. Waiting. Not yet knowing which call to heed.
I think Heidegger would have done well to sit by a bedside or to recall such sitting and even project lying await while attended by such attention. His lecture repeats an invitation to listen. And yet it fears the consequences of that invitation.
Heidegger in What is called thinking? ruins, to my mind, a formulation about responding to the call of our being by appealing to a metaphor of blindness and insight. I intend to attribute intentionality to the author. It is not just the words and their "agencement" that lead to the ruins. There is an agency at work. An agency that perhaps governs some soul satisfaction in sentimental ruins: the toppled offer a consolation. And who is to trump this melancholy?
As long as we ourselves do not set out from where we are, that is as long as we do not open ourselves to the call and with this question, get underway toward the call - just so long we shall remain blind to the mission and destiny of our nature.
Well, there is here perhaps the specificity of being blind to a specific object of thought, a specific telos. However, the Heidegger text goes on to disparage the powers of discourse:
You cannot talk of colors to the blind.
The use of an agreeable "we" has shifted to a commanding "you." It's a neat discursive trick whether the German text marks a singular informal form "du", a singular polite form "Ihr" or a plural or a general collective oneship. I am of course here talking the colours of rhetoric, the shades of pronouns.
Talk of something to someone and what is the response? Talk to oneself of something and is there listening?
Heidegger seems perplexed by the ghost of acknowledgement:
You cannot talk of colors to the blind. But a still greater ill than blindness is delusion. Delusion believes that it sees, and that it sees in the only possible manner, even while this belief robs it of sight.
Heidegger has shut the door on negotiation. Or closed his eyes to the possibility through a personification of an abstraction (delusion) which operates in the mode of faith (delusion believes). The deluded do demonstrate types of understanding. The demonstration may not be always articulated in a common language game negotiated by tradition.
Negotiation is a techne: an art: an art of discourse: a technology for living.
It may, in certain books and to certain looks, be a delusion to trust that the deluded do see and see not only a single possible manner but also in the full understanding of to see as in to sense many possible manners.
What happens when those books are read through the filtering look of a tradition that values translation so that the down or away play of delusion is brought to at least the marginal sidelines of other forms of play? Where are the ecstatic and aesthetic traditions that value the patience and skill required to activate the techniques of translations? Where are the traditions that value work as the negative of leisure? Work as negotiation.
And so as I work my way through the text at hand and negotiate a ruined way with the melancholy agency represented by the text at hand, I come across in the final lecture a question. Heidegger asks: "Can we see something that is told?" He answers: "We can, provided what is told is more than just the sound of words, provided the seeing is more than just the seeing with the eyes of the body." He is wrong. Just as in the ecstatic moment the image of the body is to the side of the perceiving body, there is the cognitive moment of playing down and playing away where it becomes possible to admit I cannot see and there is no shame in not seeing, hearing, sensing. Heidegger in an invitation to transcendence would it seems collapse perception and understanding. It is honourable to bring the aesthetic and the rational in proximity, even to identify the one with the other. But Heidegger arrives here by tipping translation in to transposition - just before he asks "Can we see something that is told", he claims a necessity to translate a phrase of Greek into Greek:
But is necessary for us to translate these words finally into Greek. Such translation is possible only if we transpose ourselves into what speaks from these words. And this transposition can succeed only by a leap, the leap of a single vision which sees what the words [...] heard with Greek ears, state, or tell.
Hands off my orgasm! And do not conflate my pleasure and the pleasure of my being with those pleasures and pleasures of being of the other guests at the orgy. Wicked translations don't stop after a single leap or a leap into single vision. Successful translations go through rather than into. There are other necessities for some of those us, necessities that transpose us elsewhere with what speaks.
The split addressee suspects that from the shared experiences of smell you can talk with a polyphony of tone about colours. But there is no guarantee that the split addressee will be able to acknowledge the hearing that the talk receives if it receives any. H's hope of interpellation transposed could be hypothesized as a denial of the synaesthetic and its negotiations. That which calls us to be transposed into what speaks downplays the delusions by which any total transposition is near possible and down downplays the fibrelles that translate a return and detour like so many tracks in the snow.
Out there in the snow, some of us, adept at the techniques of split address, know and perceive that what speaks from is not a far remove from the mediations of speaking through the song that sings of a land that is not my land but is the snow where my house is not my house, it is winter. It is as if Vignault, the song writer, could tell on Heidegger, the academic, and point to the land of the snow-blind where there is a persistence of vision.
Fadi, if it is always winter with the colour-blind, tell me of the greys.