Quiet

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Silence, that shadow of language in which everything is nevertheless said, is today almost always but a lapse, the momentary oversight of an animal which acts as though in speech it found its very reality, its absolute and primary function. The distinction between language and noise dwindles, and yet is taken all the more seriously. Too often our silence seems but a desire to escape noise; it is so rarely to evade our enslavement.

And so one but barely and insubstantially glimpses that Silence which is both resistance and elevation, even a kind of victory against a terrible foe, which is not without its spoils. To discover language is in fact to be without a language, a radical immediacy which at once shatters every moral or political claim, and every shred of symbolism; and at this point many things are possible, indeed, too many things: a violent regression to the prelinguistic, a wispy and premature transcendence to the postlinguistic, or finally the immanent resistance and spontaneity of the counterlinguistic.

The necessity of silence in the transformation of the soul cannot be overstated. That indeterminate silence in which sublime meditation, the uncanny intermediation of thinking, takes place — is a warlike silence. For language as such does not think but merely tyrannizes, blindly suturing truth to meaning, a neuroticized “schizophrenia” whose experiments lead inevitably into a cavernous abyss.

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The health and growth of a language is precisely the death-instinct of language “for-itself,” which is to say that language, in this limited respect like philosophy, is profoundly dangerous for unhealthy cultures. A culture without the power to reinvigorate and transform its language is already a slave to it (the same thing is true, in fact, of production more generally.) The health of a language requires a continuous recreation and enrichment reaching precisely the point of a critique of language (for without this no creation is possible.) What is demanded with respect to categories and axiomatic ontologies is precisely a kind of “schizophrenization” or, more precisely, the unconscious aggregation of radically disparate forces which underlie a sublime silence (which turns towards thinking and tends towards novel creations.) The reproduction of language is a kind of explosion of machines, whose repression is quite intentional and even the basis of conscious awareness (consciousness is a being-strangled by the Sign.)

Silence may then be grasped in its positive sense as an inexpressible chaos, as a fearful and indeterminate abyss in which an infinity of heterogeneous forces are dangerously and inextricably intertwined. Yet it may also be grasped as some truly “heretical” Unexpressed, the enthusiastic proclamation of energy itself as pure potentiality — a blank canvas, upon which thought dares to create. Language is always both at once, in a constitutive and radical ambiguity. While currently constituted as a tyrannical conjunction of signs, nonetheless the possibility of transformation remains embedded within it. Discouraging as the current conditions may seem it is nevertheless not unreasonable to predict, with Derrida, the death of not only such a conception of language but also (albeit at the distance of some centuries) its practice.

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 8:52 pm. It’s filed under counter-linguistics, derrida, resistance, schizophrenia, silence and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Quiet

  1. Thought you might find this quote interesting (reminded me of this post):

    “..all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what’s happening to it.” —Playboy interview, Marshall McLuhan (from “A Momentary Flow”: http://u.nu/4r2e3

    I am continually delighted by the adept prose in which you write your posts. Despite the use of text/author-specific language (esp. D&G), you manage to express and convey ideas in such a way that is both eloquent and communicative, which I deeply appreciate. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  2. When you talk about silence you seem to be at your most eloquent!

    A man decided to build a house, and so he put up the columns and the beams, but it was low and cramped, so he extended it upwards with new columns. As the project progressed he built more and more columns; tied to each other, braced and buttressed with colourful materials, an eifel tower of brick, wood and glass. But it was so complicated he couldn’t fit inside, he sat outside in the rain and made new parts for the tower.

    One day he decided to stop building it. “Who needs a house” he said. He was still wet!

  3. Maxim Kategov on said:

    Anybody needs in the complexity reduction. In Gregory Bateson terms we have 3 pathological cases: paranoia, hebephrenia and catatonia. We should expect The Alien and see him in anybody. We should stream to a psychosyntheses (real adulty). And we should permanently come to a language from our non-imagination, silence ways.

  4. Silence is potentially the most interesting of topics. You “riff” on it quite productively… For in being the absence of sound/(voice) it can be that interval in which the cosmos is truly contemplated…
    I agree we cannot simply _repress_ language when speaking of silence… I myself contemplate a “meta-linguistics” as opposed to a meta-language (which would be but another language)… Metalinguistics is the “outside” of our rational-conceptual level. It could be “under” it, or sensation, or it could be “over” it, or “—?—”… Indeed — what is above language? A pure unmediated consciousness? Or as you put it — “sublime meditation”…?
    Though next I have trouble with your idea that “language as such does not think but merely tyrannizes”… I agree that language, as an instrument, can be “dangerous”… And that “the health of a language requires a continuous recreation”… But is it going too far to claim that “consciousness is a being-strangled by the Sign”??
    I am more optimistic about being pressured by symbols… In fact, I quite enjoy it… I am reductionist in this sense though: I see true consciousness as grounded in the quantitative, with quality emerging only at the end/ideal level of subjective access… While it is true that many of our experiences do not need or want verbal encasement — all parts of the mind are interconnected and I would hesitate to allow for an escape from this omniprevalent significance…

  5. “consciousness is a being-strangled by the Sign”

    I’ll take that to the grave .Thanks.

  6. Pingback: The Desolate and Helpless Void Marred by the Chaotic Tension of Desire | the addiction complex

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