Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Michael Benton: Thanksgiving

(I've asked Thivai to step aside for a second so that I can compose my Thanksgiving--because I don't think I will be allowed to say this at the Thanksgiving table when everyone says what they are thankful for...

In my mind, friendship is a radical engagement... how do we form meaningful relationships in this world and what are the significance of those bonds?

This is meaningless pastiche at its worst--you have been warned! A sure sign of encroaching mental illness in that I have a naive belief in language, friendship, erotics/politics, possibilities and change.)

I suffer from a Deleuzian stutter, or a Derrida-da-da, in which my language is stifled by the spectacle.

So many friends lost through time, through neglect and through conflict. “We have lost the friend . . . the friend of the perhaps . . . of respectfully experiencing that friendship." So many dead, some institutionalized, and some just disappeared back into the void. “I will continue to begin again … and I’ll have to wander all alone in this long conversation that we were supposed to have together.”

Spectral visitors stay my hand reminding me that the only answers are in questions that produce more questions. Unsure and uneasy, I stumble about asking questions of everything and everyone.

Popular culture haunts my questions and mocks my unrest by co-opting it for entertainment: “I know why you hardly sleep. Why you live alone and why night after night you sit at your computer. … I know because I was once looking for the same thing. … It’s the question that drives us."

My spectral guides condemn those that have escaped into this cultural amnesia of recycled consumer pleasures. Yet, I wonder if we can truly blame these defectors for choosing the tender steak over the complex gruel? When were they offered an opportunity to believe otherwise: “Your soul is like an appendix! I don’t even use it!” My TV encourages me to escape into its warm embrace and forget the outside world:

The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore television is reality, and reality is less than television.

Rejecting the siren's lure, I turn everything off and find a quiet place far away from the competing voices. I am listening for the emergence of a being, an/other who escapes my comprehension, this listening requires a transition to a new dimension of understanding.

I am listening to you: although I do not understand what you are saying, I am attentive to your silence amongst history’s mentions, I am attempting to understand and hear your intention. Which does not mean: I comprehend you, or that I know you … No, I am listening to you as someone that I do not truly know … with you but not as you … I reside in a realm of absolute silence in order to hear what you have to say or what is left unsaid or what reverberates from the unknown. I quest for new words, for new meanings, for new modes of understandings that will bridge this river of silence … for an alliance of possibilities that will not reduce the Other to an item of property or a subject to be mastered. This unspeakable silence is a rift that shatters the boundaries of my life in order to produce a conflagration of nothingness that sears the forest of my consciousness clearing the way for new growths. Perhaps, as the borders of my psyche that restrain my various selves breaks-up, there will be the productive explosion of new life spreading across my interior landscape. Chaos enters my realm and produces … possibilities.

“Perhaps the impossible is the only chance of something new, of some new philosophy of the new … Perhaps friendship, if there is such a thing, must honor ... what appears impossible here." Where are the friends that ask questions of the dominant and seek the impossible? I dream of relationships yet to come, writing as a politics of creative imagination that refuses to be silenced. I await a new politics, new friendships and new possibilities... in the meantime I'm not afraid to say I really don't know the answers, but I am seeking new questions.

For that I am thankful!

Patchwork Cast:

Jacques Derrida’s eulogy for Gilles Deleuze: “I’ll Have to Wander Alone.”
The character Trinity speaking to Neo in the movie The Matrix
Michael Kelso on That 70s Show
Brian O'Blivion in David Cronenberg's film Videodrome
Luce Irigaray The Way of Love and To Be Two
Jacques Derrida's Politics of Friendship

Sprinkled throughout:

Michael's fears, hopes and desires


Guy Debord
Gilles Deleuze
Michel Foucault
Martin Heidegger
Karl Marx
Friedrich Nietzsche

Intellectual Intoxicants still resonating years later (recipe called for the cook to stir and simmer for years until tightly bottled conception explodes all over the place):

Rebecca Saunder's and Ronald Strickland's courses at Illinois State University "Mourning of Modernity" and "Marxist Cultural Theory"

Like all meaningless writings one must periodically turn over the topsoil exposing the rotten concepts, words and beliefs to the sun, leaving the exposed underground to develop into a new potent hummus... when developed into a potent mix spread liberally across the society. Recipes must be changed frequently to resist contamination from the monological discourse that seeks to control pointless thoughts.


Anonymous said...

No thought is meaningless. Perhaps it is the absence or denial of efforts to endeavor the overwhelming task of comprehending "the meaning", that is unto itself, meaningless.... ?

thanx for the post!

TheZenFly said...

It's good to know that others are confronted with the need to dig deeper and explore 'the questions that drive us', while keeping in mind that definite answers are to be tread upon lightly, since they rule out the possibility of change in an ever-changing universe. The questions are real, but the answers only raise more questions.

Great post-- thanks!

Molly Bloom said...

This is just a brilliant post. I've read it about three times. You have a magical, magical way with words that have filled me with joy this evening. Thankyou so much. I just want to take every point of this piece and speak about it.

I am only a spectral visitor here...but language is a friend to me. It is more powerful than anything. And it guides us and shapes us. And all that we read and watch guides us and informs what we do. But, as you seem to hint at, it is what is within which guides us as well. The influences and characters from books, films, TV, popular culture all form a myriad of imagery, which we draw from. But most of all, we draw from the imagery of the mind.

And to drip down into the depths of the worst part of the mind, can lead to the most fascinating of investigations in language and the word.

I could go on all day about your post...but unlike Beckett, I shall shut up. Thankyou, thankyou.

Molly Bloom said...

No diss to Beckett there. Good Lord, no. Sorry Sam.

Michael said...


What a pleasant suprise to receive your ecstatic words... is there any better reward one could ask for when they imagine something.

It seems like we are the proverbial goldfish in the bowl and its hard to recognize the stuff we swim in (in this case the cultural images that comprise and compose our daily lives). I was trying, like the suicidal goldfish in Amelie to jump out of the bowl, but instead of escaping, I wanted to gaze back in and examine the contents of that culture---unsure, inhibited, insecure... I called out to the theoretical ghosts that still haunted my thinking and asked them for guidance. Its good to stand on the shoulders of giants in that they provide you a longer/wider range of vision, but one must also reach out to flesh-and-blood entities and thus I imagined what are the radical possibilties of friendship/love.

No amount of books, films, music, art has ever moved me more or taught me more than radical friendship and love (open, free, imaginative, comrades)

I like your vivid statement of writerly purpose:

"And to drip down into the depths of the worst part of the mind, can lead to the most fascinating of investigations in language and the word."

Thanks again, I posted this at Taking the Brim--my first one there...