I’ve been trying to understand poetics and aesthetics, and I was wondering if you could consider vocation as an aesthetics of the self – or of the person sans self, which is something I mean to ask you about – a sort of rule as to what “fits” and what doesn’t. I’m asking because I read about Emerson’s book Representative Men, a book about 6 men who exemplify some quality or vocation. Swedenborg, the Mystic, Goethe, the Writer. What shapes can the brain take? I know there’s the self, there’s perception – what else? And what shapes can they take, perception and self? There’s two questions I’ve been asking – what is the self-in-vocation, and what is the self under addiction?
I think the establishment of a deficient self is the establishment of aspirational self – I think we have within ourselves a space which is filled with certain things, which is contented – that is, filled with content. We are content, we are full. We can empty ourselves and create spaces of lack – and spaces of lack are made to be filled. Hungry mouths. I get the feeling there’s a lot to be learned by analysing the metaphorics of being “swallowed up” in something. “Devouring” books too. I hit upon it in my essay on the interview but I didn’t have the time to explore it properly, to do it justice. Look at the old language of anxiety in “Born Under Punches” by Talking Heads – “I’m so thin.” – language of hunger. The conflation of ambition – aspiration – with hunger.
When we create a void, I think it’s in the shape of something – we make voids in the shape of what we want to be. And so while I’m not that thing, and while I’m speaking about my inner space and what I am, I say “I am not this”. But as I said, spaces of lack are made to be filled. The shape of the space is how we determine what fits. The space of lack is gluttonous, endlessly hungry, just like a junkie. It’s a bottomless, sucking void of a thing and it acts as a self-shaped vacuum. Negative space as negative charge, negative polarity – the deficient self and the aspirational self struggle to reconcile them selves. In the space of ideas, moving towards something is the same as having it move towards you. The space of lack is only full so long as you’re feeding it, and this goes back to my investigations into the self under addiction. We know there’s a pleasure not just in achieving your aspirational self, but in tracing it, moving towards it. That the pangs of lack are left behind so long as we’re approaching it with the fullness of our being. Like the self were a strand of sphagetti. And I think this goes back to the language of space – the language of the way, of the path, of the strand.
I also get the sense there’s a difference between an archetypal form of mind – exemplary – and a vulgar self of constraint and negative space. I think we can craft ourselves into a punctum, make ourselves the model of something – be without precedent and so form the basis of precedent. As there is a canon of art and literature – and here I conceive of the canon as a history of innovation – there is a canon of selves. You know that understanding good art is like learning a language. In fact, it is learning a new language – new terms, new bunches of meaning. This language is the language of punctum, of the canon. The canon is a history of punctum, of new, living language. Innovation is life is language is the canon is the punctum.
Now I think the reason why some people believe the canon is defined by some vague “essential” quality is the same reason we have something like gender – which is itself a stockhouse of aspiration and deficient selves, a divisionary practice. In fact, this problem of the “essential” is the problem of the self – that anything is meant to be anything. Essences are an assemblage of processes producing their own truth effects, producing the illusion of their having always been. And certain things are so powerful that they seem as though they always were. The ideal doesn’t exist until it’s been achieved. The “end” only appears retroactively – there’s only an end once it’s ended. You’ve only achieved your aspirational self once you’ve achieved it. We are nothing, but we are produced as truth effects.
If we are a punctum, if now this process of being punctum, of filling these spaces of lack as soon as they are created, can only occur on the frontier of experience. Pioneering. Once we reach the frontier, every advance is a meeting of limits. There is no problem with need so long as it is fulfilled instantly – otherwise it becomes a blockage. That’s what’s happening now. Now that I’m writing this. I’m tracing need, I’m riding it, I’m keeping at the frontier – don’t get ahead of your self.
Because when I asked you if you could say “I am” without saying “I am not”, it’s because I think you can say “I am” without getting negative space involved – a purely positive conception of the self. It’s the process I outlined in my last email – a process in which the aspirational self is fulfilled in the moment of its creation. I suppose that’s a bit of a cheat though – you’re getting negative space involved on the condition that it’s filled in the instant of its creation. There is a process of writing your self – and this is something else I’ve noticed, that there’s no problem with having a self so long as you’re aware of it, so long as the unconscious is unearthed and made conscious. The purely positive, archetypal self never butts up against negative space, lack, boundaries, because it knows what it is. It knows its limits such that they are not limits.
The self and vocation – what has a vocation? The self or the person-mind-observer?
Tarde’s social virality. Sampson’s generalised virality.
Aesthetics of the self – The vocation is a purely positive calling
This is the secret of metaphorics: We always speak the truth – we just need to figure out what we’ve said. But how does this function in the context of writing-reading? If there are no essences, what is “clarification”?
Negative-exclusive divisionary practice. Positive-inclusive nondivisionary practice.
The old rule – there is no such thing as synonyms – every word is perfectly unique – and there is no such thing as homonyms – every meaning ascribed to a word is used simultaneously.