Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Others: homage to Blanchot, Levinas and Serres

There will always be others. Monochrome, faceless, fleeting, they yet give the world its weight. Without others, there would only be a shifting foreground of events devoid of a human landscape in a dizzily continuous present: a series of holograms. In a world without others, there would be no space and no time, just as a foreground can only be such when set against a backdrop. Others create our world, and project it forwards and backwards from the moment. They yield its spatiality and depth. The world is the world, because of others.

The idea of self has no meaning without others, against whom we can create ourselves and be created. The other offers resistance, opportunity, the possibility of ontological capture. The other is the boundary that allows us to draw the map of ourselves, and be drawn. There will always be others who have gone further, or who have yet to travel so far. The other defines our sense of adventure, which, in our excitement, we can only forget. The other hovers forever beyond the rim of our narcissism, an exteriority that is forever waiting to intrude. The other is the saint and the sinner. The precursor. The archetype.

We must always distinguish between others – the background susurrus of being – from the Other, that which presents itself to us as a form of specificity. The others are general types of being and energy. The Other is that which confronts us as opportunity, or denial, or the possibility of union. The Other is our pathway to love and to communion. Others are simply there, as forms of absence, within the labyrinth of being and becoming. It is only by loving the Other as Other that we can begin to love the beloved without condition. Reducing the Other to the same returns us to narcissus, via ontological destruction. The love evaporates through our fingers. The beloved Other is therefore the face that must transcend. We cannot cross over to the beloved. The beloved is joined to us only through an essential gap or separation. In loving the Other, we must learn to accept the death that lies in them, and accept the death that lies within us. The beloved is that point between life and death that defines our horizon. The beloved is the sun that rises and the moon that rises, and the invisible line between earth and sky. The beloved is elemental. When the beloved is gone, we have only the earth, and the sky, flames and the sea. Eventually, the others will return.

It is the anonymous who therefore give up our names. In time, all our names will be lost. Our names will return in fragments. On gravestones, in stories and myths. Our names become the sediment of existence. Anonymous, eventually liquid. The others are essentially anonymous. We will become them. Obscure. Forgotten. Sometimes remembered. The external. White noise.

When illness falls, there is always someone else we know who has had the same illness. A prognosis is shared. When we speak of love, there are others in our minds, other lovers from other times. A narrative unfolds itself before us. Will we walk the same path yet again? Love passes into obscurity. When we listen to music, there are also the audiences, occluded yet still present. Men and women sit in the darkness, listening and responding before us. We hear the clapping at the end of the song. The others beckon, yet fall silent. We have been those others, at other times. The self is only the self because it has been and will always be another.

Others provide us with the sum of narrative possibilities. They also leave a narrative pathway open; for others are never fully present. In their absence, there lies possibility. The others are like the sea, constantly reaching forward then receding. The others. The sea.


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