Yahweh, Marx and LI: a group discussion

Sleep. LI actually got 8 hours of z-s last night. Or almost. We’ve been suffering a massive insomnia attack, which is much like a denial of service attack, except that instead of being mounted by angry hackers, it is mounted by angry brain cells. There is nothing like going through the day on the dimmest wattage – ghosting your own self.

So, we have not been pouring out the deathless prose re: Heine’s Gods in Exile essay, like we promised last week. The tears of our readers have, no doubt, been shed copiously in consequence.

But dry those eyes! Getting back to that post, you might want to ask – we asked, actually, this morning, trying to figure out what the fuck we were talking about – why we jumped up and down about the fact that the great mythical systems actually encode their own dissolution. There are two aspects that cause our heart palpitations. One is this: to our mind, the moment the myth tells about the downfall of the mythical system – projects a Götterdämmerung – is the moment that history becomes possible. It is the recognition of the system within the system, and, at the same time, the recognition of the system’s contingency, which gives history both an object and elbow room.

And that’s pretty cool. The second aspect that interests us is tied up with what we have called the logic of figuration – all this poetry we’ve been pouring out about sages and buffoons. What God is is not just a question that interests us in itself – rather, it extends to what a woman, a man, a child, a sage, a slave, a manager, a president, etc., etc. is. It is an archetype - from the beginning, it has always been a question of the split between the god and his image. The Yahweh that flees from his graven image is the Yahweh that tries to solve this question by main force. Plato, living in a very different society, captures the issue and its secularization pretty well in this passage in the Laws, spoken by the Athenian stranger:

“There are ancient customs about the Gods which are universal, and they are of two kinds: some of the Gods we see with our eyes and we honour them, of others we honour the images, raising statues of them which we adore; and though they are lifeless, yet we imagine that the living Gods have a good will and gratitude to us on this account. Now, if a man has a father or mother, or their fathers or mothers treasured up in his house stricken in years, let him consider that no statue can be more potent to grant his requests than they are, who are sitting at his hearth if only he knows how to show true service to them.

Oedipus, as tradition says, when dishonoured by his sons, invoked on them curses which every one declares to have been heard and ratified by the Gods, and Amyntor in his wrath invoked curses on his son Phoenix, and Theseus upon Hippolytus, and innumerable others have also called down wrath upon their children, whence it is clear that the Gods listen to the imprecations of parents; for the curses of parents are, as they ought to be, mighty against their children as no others are. And shall we suppose that the prayers of a father or mother who is specially dishonoured by his or her children, are heard by the Gods in accordance with nature; and that if a parent is honoured by them, and in the gladness of his heart earnestly entreats the Gods in his prayers to do them good, he is not equally heard, and that they do not minister to his request? … May we not think, as I was saying just now, that we can possess no image which is more honoured by the Gods, than that of a father or grandfather, or of a mother stricken in years? “

The parallel in the relation between the ‘unliving cult statues’ of the Gods and the Gods, and the parents and the Gods, is a way of underscoring the double role of ‘parent’. Social roles and functions, in other words, function in a double register, at once social and celestial/chthonic. Marxism, reproducing the gesture of Yahweh, seeks to compress the doubleness, making it derive from one material fact: the division of labor. Myself, I am with Plato and the poets – there is a destiny of the figures outside of the system of production.

Okay, enough, enough! Basta. Time to move on to Heine’s essay.


Alan said…

I typed up a lengthy post on this happiness stuff, planning to post it on my blog. Then, during the past 72 hours, both my internet connection and my hard drive have crashed, in incidents apparently unrelated on the material plane. I'm off to Dallas to do my meditation thing tomorrow; will be back on the 9th. Will catch up then.
roger said…
Alan, bummer about the crashes. Hey, when you get back, let's grab a few beers. Looking forward to your comments.