The moment of death is uncertain and inevitable; its shadow approaches from an unknown region like a silent stranger. Death does not need to follow us; it just meets us where we will be. Like a memory fragmenting, bodies rush towards singular points of annihilation, just as the very possibility of negation is implied by the presence of the law. Protection is absurd, insulation a pure minimum; there is but the most fragile and insufficient veil between ourselves and our vulnerabilities.
Even laughter is a deflective shield for the futile anxiety over this very insufficiency. The subject exhausts its becoming and dies; thus until death he is not composed of a lack but indeed an overflowing surplus, of new expressive modalities, energy transformation-processes, event encoding/decoding regimes. Death crumbles the ground beneath us; it is the pure undecodable, it is a decoding space, a pure body with organs, a body full of pulsating acephalous organisms.
We never encounter our own death as an event. Only in reflections and symmetry do we glimpse the hidden certainty within uncertainty. There is a perfect silent joy and a maddening depth of terror hiding within inevitability. The question of death is not ontological but material, a question of growth and health and beginning: how to die is also how to live. Just as with life, a freely chosen death can be more beautiful, more just, more powerful.
Life poses a question of adaptive constitution; death does not measure or investigate, it is always like a murder when someone dies, however they die. Death is unchosen, but we can choose it. Being afraid does not change anything except our perception. Like the moment of selection for an artist, the moment of distinction for a mathematican, we have already answered the important question not by our being but by our way of being, by our polyphonous adverb and not by our protean identity.
The adverbial state also describes the position of that moment of truth is the one where we finally stop distancing ourselves with inclusive ontological questions (‘Where? When? What is it?’) and start asking exclusive and material questions (‘Which one? How? How much?’) We must ask: what is the best material for our creation, which is the strongest and least-vulnerable stuff we can use to build it? How do we resist, how much do we resist? How do we stand up and become solid, how do we pierce solids and fill them with holes? Finally: how do we diagram the abyss of materiality, how do we ‘teleport’ (carry a hole/gate) through solid space?
We affirm space by affirming probability. Through symmetry we find the cosmos is a river, though time comes in bursts. Through suffering we realize (untimely?) that death hallows immanence with a crown of absurdity, a seal of chaos, a proof of life. Death is not moving beyond; it is being unplugged, an interruption without continuation. In our unconscious death imitates the libidinal drives, the libido imitates the lust for domination, the thirst for immorality and murder and filth, the resistant flow of primitivism against the bursting-in of time and civilization. Sexuality is perversity, there is no normal sexual drive, we are all deviants. Not that we are all therefore normal! We must be careful how far we follow a line of flight, it quickly forms a solid ground around itself and sets the world into order, encouraging millions of new parasitic becomings following new lines of transformation.
Death is a transfiguration, nothing more and nothing less; energy drives us and composes us. Upon decaying bodies the entire natural world proliferates. Life is born through decomposition, life feeds upon life, burrows underneath it and even transposes itself within itself. Symbioses express complex patterns of obedience and command; nature is slavery. Life transforms dead spaces, mineral spaces into vegetable and animal spaces, organic spaces of differentiation and creative evolution. Death comes from the outside of the system, curiously to begin the cycle, to form its basis. Life could not exist without death; decay is at the origin, a surplus of parasitic ungrounding forces.
Life struggles to builds a more dangerous machine, a more perfect machine. War is a conflict in every case uncertain. Even the tiniest difference in forces can be capitalized upon and turned into a victory, but the weakness must be decoded; there are no heroes before stories, without riddles and struggles. Life transcodes energy without form into energy with form. Then from the most minimal gap between forces, true chaos and new becomings result, an emergent coalescence of disjoint forms into new formations, approaching a critical level of self-control.
Life emerges from the pre-living field of chemical and electrical intensities as a highly segmented, globally organized but locally disordered multiplicity. Life comes in packs and swarms, there is no single origin cell but a spontaneously generative ‘soup.’ We can see this empirically: living things always bear a lattice-like symmetry in their development process (morphogenetic folding.) Even borderline living things (parasites and viruses) are specialized towards living bodies; the life-space of a parasite is the inner-space of the host.
Biological struggle tends to favors robust or well-suited aggregates; adaptation is an endless series of combinations of struggling modes of expressive sensitivities (vulnerabilities) endlessly being selected, strengthened, exploited and exhausted. The relative health or sickness of an organism is a function of its homeostatic process; moreover, a process which is not written in advance, never identical to itself, unceasingly adapting and expanding and fighting to survive. Parasites are always eating away at our genetic armor. Only the robustness of our self-composition, the resilience of our singular force-assemblage separates us from non-existence.
The phenomenological character of health means it is in a sense an ontological or political decision; that is, that health is not an event, but an aspect of a developmental process; it should be understood adverbially, infinitively. Health resurges, health renovates; it restores, reinvigorates, revitalizes, and reconstructs. Health is a duplicitous notion: to be ‘healthy’ crystallizes an ideality; but to be healthy is also to adapt, to overcome, to shatter structured (parasitic) limitations. Health is a memory of the future, it functions as the first conceptual spur. The idea of health inspires us to begin thinking…
I smell the stench of the priest here. All this talk of death…fuck death. It seems that the trick to vitalism is to find a life that is not the opposite of death or that is driven by a fear of death or a hatred of death or…but to tap into life that is indifferent to death, that remains naive in the face of Thanatos. As Lucretius wonderfully stated “Death means nothing to Us.” What would become of life if such things were possible? To know that death neither trails me or awaits my coming. I do not fear annihilation nor do I embrace it, it simply does not occur to me.
Well, we at least agree that death occurs to you for me (but not for you.)
It occurs to you although in a veru different sense, that is, in a profoundly negative sense — as a lack of an event, a struggle. It doesn’t occur, you’re right: we can’t fight death the way we can grapple with a physical enemy. However we certainly can (and moreover ought) to tactically avoid death — in much the way we’d have to strategize if we were generals at war (‘to the death.’)
Otherwise… we abandon the clergy of specialists (doctors, teachers, etc.) who try to prevent us from dying (by being oblivious to decay in one form or another.) The figure of the doctor is a symptom of our mortality. Thinking about death doesn’t automatically mean you’re a priest! We may choose not to think about death, sure, but all of life is built upon decay. We know this, it seems you’re even saying how to operationally manage this ungrounding force: that is, not to embrace or to fear annihilation, simply to become it… silently (and even with dignity?)
Maybe you’re ultimately right, we need to find lives which are not opposites of death, not driven by death, which do not seek a new ideality of health but rather seek to overcome dualisms and abjure idealities of all kinds. Still the creative drive brings death back in right at the beginning of life… Isn’t all organic life built upon decay, all organization gradually decomposing, turning back into food…? The only kind of life beyond death, a life without death, is a religious promise of immortality, of life without pain. In a sense, the ecclesiastic answer is precisely to ignore our own mortality — or rather to subvert it, to derive non-life from the a principle of life…
The religious attempts to escape death are inherently negative. They arrive at the perceived failure of this world to adequately provide for immortality. This is why morality is brought in as the way out. As Paul will say, “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). This remains fully within the dualism of life and death.
I am reminded of the conversations at SPEP last year when Badiou stated, to a crowd of Heideggerians and Levinasians, that death was not an event. The conversations after this that I heard went something like this, “You see…Badiou is getting old and so he turning to the subject of death.” Heidegger was and is a sickness.
OK, that’s probably true about Heidegger. But it’s not about Levinas, I really don’t think he’s a priest or obsessed by death. There is a hysterical moment in Levinas, but it regards the awesome horror of what is beyond being. Face-to-face expression is what rejuventates his discourse, what connects him back to the continuity of being. Heidegger says being comes and goes, appears and disappears; part of its essence is concerned with being an apparition, with becoming-enframed. For what it’s worth, one of Levinas’ main projects is raising phenomenological and ethical alternatives to Heidegger. For example, Levinas opposes Heideggers’ arriving-departing being with a continuity within plurality which has an interesting resonance with Deleuze in some ways.
For another instance, death is just one of the possibilities the other can bring — death is an unbridgeable distance, we’d be remiss to ignore its critical importance as a biologically/theoretically ‘constructive hole’ or consitutive gap — like the mines that cut into the mountain and release the ossified strata for exploitation by the war machine.
The process of decay is like being mined for resources; the mine is a tunnel for turning (in)organic material into useful and productive energy. Not even to mention the war-machine also tends to also be a death-machine, using holey space to trap enemies in cages of strategic confusion (even utilizing networks of shadowy underground tunnels in order to transfer illict cargo, staying mobile to evade capture….)
I’ve been into death eight times, from eight so called “near death accidents”.. and I can tell you from experience that there is a lot after death, IF you know how to make it work for you…