Hegel and deBeauvoir are hugging and punching each other in my head.
My university has been on strike for the past 3 months, but it looks like this conflict will be “resolved” (aka: the concerns of the union and everything they have been fighting for will be dismissed by the government with a back-to-work legislation). The only thing holding them back is the good old NDP party. The NDP is protecting me from responsibility. So basically, the pleasure reads have been set aside and I am back to writing seminar presentations and papers.
I re-read part two of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy yesterday on the subway, the quintessential post-modern novel. Part two is called "Ghosts." This is one theory I extracted from the relationship between a private eye named Blue and the man (Black) he is commissioned to follow.
Blue first comes to Black in disguise. At this point, Blue comes to Black as Other. At this point, Blue sees Black as Other and Black sees Blue as Other. When Blue comes to Black without a disguise, he comes to Black as Subject. But when we confront another individual as Subject, our initial response is to reduce them to Other. We seek to negate their Subjecthood. So Blue goes to Black. Blue’s desire to kill Black is implied. In order to remain a Subject, he must kill that which is in opposition, that which threatens to transform him to Other. But when he confronts Black, Black seeks the same thing. They are both Subjects. There is conflict. Blue kills Black, Black is reduced to Object again; Black is negated, the conflict is neutralized. But as a result, Blue ceases to be. Because we are only Subjects when defined in relation to the Other. We only exist in opposition, in conflict with what we are not. This tension, regardless of how destructive it can be, forms a unity that affirms both individuals through conflict. When the Other is killed, Blue fades out of the picture. The story ends, because it cannot continue without this tension; we cannot exist in isolation. Individuals cannot live as islands. We cannot exist without relationship, because it makes us real. And in Auster’s world, this metaphysical fact becomes quite literal. With no other character to define himself against, Blue ceases to be.
We are all afraid of confronting the Other as Subject. Because in some way we recognize that one of us will be negated. One of us will fade a little bit; a power struggle will take place. It is no wonder relationships rarely work. We are all trying to relate to someone as Subject, yet the nature of relationship requires tension between a Self and Other. This dynamic is clarified by the observation that in most relationships, clear roles are defined. One is dominant, the other is submissive. Active/Passive. And when these roles are ambiguous, shitloads of conflict seems to ensue. It seems to me that the only relationships that really work are the ones in which this dynamic is never challenged. People who can be happy with one role or the other, which is perhaps a sort of intelligence I will never know. It is frightening to come to someone as Subject, and have the courage to accept them as Subject. It is a delicate, difficult balancing act.
My brain feels sticky and detached from my body, like a marble floating around in my head, bouncing freely and joyfully against my skull.
Illustration by Josh Cochran. This morning, I feel like that woman.