[-empyre-] an interlude on sympathy
swht at clear.net.nz
Fri Mar 9 10:49:30 EST 2012
Thank you, Kamen, for citing Paul Chan's piece The Spirit of Recession.
I was so taken by its poetry that I found and listened to it. [here
I offer the following as a brief interlude:
In The Spirit of Recession Paul Chan invokes three cycles:
1. the ineluctability of the cycle of history - a war, a banking
crisis, or scandal, a recession, repeated from father to son, Bush
2. the ineluctability of the cycle of domination - whereby
disarmament is a high calling (note already a religious-pacifist tone)
3. the ineluctability of the cycle of the self - the most mysterious,
since it is the subject of a domination, in a circular or
voluntary relation with its dominated object
He brings in two disciplines or orders:
1. the practice of religion
2. the practice of art
Both in a practical sense rely on repetition.
The parallels between the two are well-known: it is in regard to the
first, that, while also linking it with the sacrament of exchange in
capitalism, Paul Chan says, I am a liar, I have no problem being a liar;
he gives the context of labelling himself a Christian while in Iraq in
order better and more fully to engage with Iraqis. While art practice he
describes in eschatalogical, religious terms: as about being about last
things, like the last thing in the service, the recessional, when the
church is blessed for authority having left it. There is a beautiful
role reversal at work here.
What strikes me as strange, however, as given the lie to, or the true
paradox of his speech, is that he explicitly says there is no magic,
when spirit or magic is clearly the issue. A perennial magical
domination of the spirit.
It is a power immanent to and exercised in religious work as much as
artistic work in so far as both involve, convolve, revolve, these three
cycles, even when from below, in terms of their hypostasization, their
iteration at a deeper, hidden level. Albeit in plain sight, as Paul Chan
These practices are rites - good works, work itself, right? ("Jesus," he
says, "and so much more!") repeated, undertaken in a spirit of humility,
modesty, recession, even, as suggested, yet for that very reason
vulnerable to having already been coopted, to having already been made
complicit, and to precisely conspiratorially and magically supporting
the cycles of repetition: of history, of power, of identity.
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