In my end is my beginning.
T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”
In any discussion about the possibility of returning, memory and the homeland (i.e. childhood) the first issue to be breached is topological: “From where and where to?”
Where do I leave in order to return, which dimension of the self/of space?
And where do I arrive, at what point of origin or departure?
We have here a wandering subject in search of a place or at least a map, in search of a route and a passage, a subject on a re-connaissance.
Return as a quest for re-cognition.
In the famous lacanian topology of subjectivity (The Mirror Stage) the first localization of the self, its first sighting, takes place as a duplicate. In discovering its unified image in the mirror, th infant who has as yet no muscle coordination or control of its movements, realizes that “I am he”: over there, elsewhere/ out there, not here/whole and not fragmented/ an ideal self at some future time…. Or, else, “As master of myself, as fulfilled, as the one I ought and wish to be, I am situated somewhere else.” And extending from this: I am what is projected there, not what is experienced here/I am he who is realized within the field of vision of others/ I am the prisoner of visibility…
The relation between embodied presence and the gaze is a fission, a division. Always something lacking, always something in excess. Always, already, there is an asymptote between consciousness and lived experience.
If the subject’s credentials are its lack of self-identity, then, alienation, depersonalization/ paranoia seem to be immanent in the structural diagram of the human psyche. The various types of splitting and schizogenesis track this preexisting fissure. The human subject is divided in the making, it has discontinuity at its core. The adventure of consciousness is none other than the management of this inherent lack (of ours).
As the field of mapping of this adventure, modern literature from Dickinson, to Kafka to Eliot is traversed by the same realization
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us-don’t tell!
They’d banish us you know.
In this context, the subject of return may be translated as: How much absence is our due and how much presence?
They are concepts with a formidable lineage of reams and reams of critical analysis but, at least at the level of individual consciousness, we stand warned: Full presence (as a return to nature, to childhood innocence, to the authentic self, or to any other state conceived of as “primary”) is wish fulfillment. Or, rather, a metaphysics, the Metaphysics of Presence, a secular religion which puts forward the most commonplace human plea; the appeal for the restoration of a lost unity.
We understand, nowadays, that what fullness of presence/unity of the human face may be possible, it is not preexistent but is constructed out of the materials of historicity, personal and collective. Meaning is assigned after the event,and projected backwards, a second event is required to take place at the level of language. We live life forward but we understand it backwards. At ground zero, one first survives, and then understands.
Therefore, in order to take place, re-turn and re-cognition, require a second level of consciousness, required to be raised exponentially, as Lacan succinctly puts it. Here, the subject arrives after having climbed up the dialectic of lack and propitiated that original mourning. Here, it is now possible to collect the side benefits of its constitutional division: irony, invention, the artful distancing, the wise hovering between oppositions until a third term shows up. Besides, as psychoanalysis itself confesses, its therapeutic desideratum is none other than the split subject’s expedient self management. The conciliation with living in two worlds. Never final, always on the way, always a matter of dynamic balance.
Similarly with art, that eternal returning to a personal method in order to host the meaning one re-cognizes as akin. Here, where process and outcome are interwoven and accounted for together insofar as the artwork always implicates both the present and the non- being of the creator.
RECAPITULATION – Modus Operandi
Dreams are the shadows of life
Life is the dream of shadows
Shadows are the life of dreams
Dreams are the life of shadows
Life is the shadow of dreams
Shadows are the dreams of life
Never more attractive this city than in August, carless and humanless if only it could last forever I wish Athenians never did return. It has the same shell shocked feeling, of a mortar having just exploded, as the funeral of someone you knew quite well. There, like a reluctant pet, your body refuses to believe the story proffered by the mind. You know secretly that the reason you’ re attending this ceremony can’t be the one you claim, you and everyone else. But you play along, waiting for the actors among the crowd to reveal themselves, for real life to begin.
Then, at an unsuspecting moment, a small lonely cloud captures your attention and wont give it back. You watch as it delicately puts its fingers inside its belly and dismantles itself. The empty space left behind reverberates like a drum. You realize at last, that’s the very center of the action.
A man tearing up his passport in an airport toilet. A woman you loved decades ago walking on the snow in sandals. Neither of them will be coming back, more than likely. They are both images of goodbye, one from a dream, one from a poem.
There are images with a palpable depth and a distinct vibration which capture your attention. They rarely step up out of the flow of consciousness to introduce themselves: “Here I am, make use of me.” They hover, rather, on the verge of waking, inviting you to leave the trodden path and go down to their natural habitat.
What you find there is that indeterminacy rules. Things have a part-existence, which your very descent into the scene affects and shapes. Memory remains olfactory but consciousness is a material, like mud or rubber, and vision, you realize as you scour the semi-dark, is being forced to sculpt things with your eyes. It’s a hunt for treasures stored in the body, the body full of echoes, and you must listen hard to what words you’ll be allowed to take with you when you come back up.