Affectivity, or What is an Event?

Events are volcanic. The event opens upon an outside, a beyond, a resonant and enigmatic depth. Events move the world, releasing free and untamed vibrations within and without us. They place being into relation with exteriority. But how does evental resonance work?

When the new breaks free it is almost like it suddenly becomes “permitted” to us to learn to see all over again. Perhaps it would be better to say: we are allowed to learn to feel all over again. Events never fail to connect up with an outside; they are erupting continually from underneath those powerful, serious and “grounding” forces which served to maintain the distance, to suppress the joyous escape of the event.

Flight annuls gravity, or more precisely, exploits it. These overturning or outbreaking forces dramatized by the event pre-exist the intervention itself. I emphasize this point since events break history apart from end to end, setting its diverse elements into frenzied motion. The event is a kaleidoscope, or a glittering crystal. It is easy, in other words, to get distracted. For the “same” turbulence operates at every level, from the cosmic to the microscopic.

Forces break free over any duration — whether we consider the cosmos at the scale of millennia or a small region of space in terms of fractions of a second.

Events cannot be captured ontologically since they rupture the equilibria on both planes, bridging the microscopic and the cosmic. In this sense the only real ontological question has ever been the identity of the event. For events are metaphysical; but are they also metaphors?

Nonetheless — ontologists, those dangerous conceptual vultures, sharpened on cruel paradox and hungry for warmth, creativity, delight, joy or, renouncing all of that, a single shred of certainty — have they really managed to analyze themselves deaf to the turbulent clamor of becoming?

Dionysus used to ask Ariadne: is it still the same if it occurs only once?

The point is not that the events are unstable in their identity, but that the event deceives us regarding its unity and originality — and the problem is not just that we’re looking at it under different metrics. The question is not about categories. Univocity is not universality; and anyway, infinite polyvalence is the point, events are matter becoming cosmic.

Process (or production) is always doubled, recursive, and anticipatory. Events escape repetition — as through by growing hard and sinking to the bottom of the stream.

Events coalesce along lines of inherent variation.

Events scramble being, inflect it towards an involution, making of singular being a vorticial flow, a black hole leading infinitely deeper — but nonetheless, some stray intensities manage to escape the black hole or the white wall of infinity.

Events, then, are also machinic operations — disintegrations, dissolutions, dislocations, dismemberments… The real is the ceaseless whirring of machines.

This is how revolutions begin. It really doesn’t matter why; it happens. All the same, saying that the break, the gap, the hole which caused the initial swerve is ‘real’ is like saying what is beyond the horizon, or directly behind our heads, can be ‘seen’ directly.

We are dealing in metaphors, and we are not. The ‘sober’ point about the Real is that this kind of ‘seeing’ is always indirect. This is why the psychoanalysts can claim, for example, that separation, just like connection, does not signify, but is the ground of signification itself.

This incidentally is Freud’s truly revolutionary point, the opening of a critical discourse into the profound enigma of affectivity. Freud is especially curious, for whatever reason you like (it doesn’t matter,) about events exhibiting an extreme of affectivity, or situations involving breakthrough or “transformative” experiences and emotions — in short, cases of enormously powerful or compulsive social and spiritual intensities.

Freud’s point is simply that we cannot interpret these events — though he is mainly concerned with psychical events — directly. For are but they part of a larger social story which nonetheless upsets and overturns that order. The libidinal code or ‘machine’ of the unconscious is at once political. Hence the ultimate anxiety of psychoanalysis is its originary event: the “real” problem before them — a suffering patient — mirrors the “theoretical” problem — a discourse structured by interpretation.

It is Freud’s uncanny but blazing insight that especially here we must resist directly interpreting the suffering experienced (not only the patients, but especially in this case the analysts’ own desire for a cure…)Why is it necessary to radicalize this hypothesis — to resist interpreting events as such directly? Because it is the case that events participate in a general mobilization of the entire field of possibilities. Yet even here, the event is still a metaphor — simply a declaration of turbulence: events escape, they liberate and break free.

Approaching thus, the real intensity or difference which “matters” completely escapes through our web of concepts, the mysterious ‘outside’ of our abstract dualisms. Interpretation covers over affective reality, our singular sense of the world and the universal reality of our senses. In covering up this explosive reality of affects, there is also produced an organism with desires — in short, a social organization or body.

We should not be surprised the body also has its double. The psyche cannot be reduced to sociality, but neither can it be purely extracted from it. It is affective — a powerful, dangerous, harmful distortion of perception closely tied up with the interpretative faculties (or overcoding machines) themselves — and produces an ceaseless series of events, which are, taken singularly, generic and indeterminate.

The real event resists direct interpretation — precisely because it is affective. To assert affectivity is primary is not enough; we must feel it, create it, like artists — and do we yet appreciate their new role today, and how we all are artists?

Do we realize how simple it is to disseminate yourself throughout the Cosmos? For events fragment our subjectivity, they split the Cosmos from end to end; in this turbulence everything is blown apart, galaxified, molecularized, liberated. Do we realize how frequently we produce our own bodies without organs?The event is neither yet-to-be nor already passed. The event breaks down, but sometimes, is also a breaking through.

We slip instantaneously and effortlessly into animal life, molecular life, cosmic life — a profound and pregnant life, in direct relation to the becoming of the cosmos. Can we emphasize enough how easy this celerity is — how everyday and even trivial it is? But can we emphasize enough the dangers, how easy it is to botch it, to fling ourselves headfirst into the vortex, to end up only painting — our God upon every wall…?

It is not the event nor its intervention which awakens the mystery. Rather it is something entirely within the event which opens onto the entire universe — an effect.

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 6:55 pm. It’s filed under affect, becoming, body, celerity, cosmos, double, event, freud, God, gravity, Interpretation, liberation, machine, model, outside, resonance. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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