Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Riverrun, Past Resurrection Silhouettes


Dusk over the Giza Necropolis. The pyramids, resurrection machines of the pharaohs, stand in silhouette, flanked by the here-unseen Sphinx. Though it is at a considerable distance, we see/hear a voice rise above the nearby village to observe, or perhaps declare: "AND SO WE RETURN AND BEGIN AGAIN." But what is the nature of this return?
 The greatest weight.-- What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?... Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science  

 As I was walking, one hot summer afternoon, through the deserted streets of a provincial town in Italy which was unknown to me, I found myself in a quarter of whose character I could not long remain in doubt. Nothing but painted women were to be seen at the windows of the small houses, and I hastened to leave the narrow street at the next turning. But after having wandered about for a time without enquiring my way, I suddenly found myself back in the same street, where my presence was now beginning to excite attention. I hurried away once more, only to arrive by another detour at the same place yet a third time. Now, however, a feeling overcame me which I can only describe as uncanny, and I was glad enough to find myself back at the piazza I had left a short while before, without any further voyages of discovery. 
- Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny
 Space-time is bent back on itself: we enter a space-time with no center and no margins, space-time as electric circuit. Jack can be haunted by both his future and his past, by all future and all past, by no future and no past, because they are all one and the same. The narrative becomes a hologram, Indra's net as hypertext, every moment tied to one another and reverberating in sympathy. The cosmos is suffused with uncanniness. The Invisibles is a succession of echoes and reechoes.

 [W]hen it is desacralized, cyclic time becomes terrifying; it is seen as a circle forever turning on itself, repeating itself to infinity.
- Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane

  This eternal return is balanced against, or played with, or consumed by a fluid novelty, a liquid mirror open to all change. However, the two sides are never concretely divided - one always contains the other, or is in the process of metamorphosing to or from the other. Anarchy and order are always in flux. The dead are resurrected and the living die, forms are shed and flows are shorn as the wheel turns. Death is overthrown: dead men are mummified and live forever, become ghosts, are invoked as gods. Life is overthrown: living men are stripped threadbare and zombified by the malevolent spirits of unlife, and life becomes a cyclical nightmare haunted by history. Harmony House is an inverted pyramid of sorts, a resurrection machine offering rebirth into the bland terror of a meaningless infinity, the doom of passive nihilism. The circuit, the resurrection machine, the initiation, the hero's journey - a mechanic of sleep and wake as the animating force of the serial, an anchor for the narrative, one possible foundation among the many.

 Scholars today are acutely aware of a discrepancy between their ways of treating subjects and the subject itself. Scriptural scholars of both the Old and New Testaments frequently say that while their treatment must be linear, the subject is not. The subject treats of the relations between God and man, and between God and the world, and of the relations between man and his neighbor - all these subsist together, and act and react upon one another at the same time. The Hebrew and Eastern mode of thought tackles problem and resolution, at the outset of a discussion, in a way typical of oral societies in general. The entire message is then traced and retraced, again and again, on the rounds of a concentric spiral with seeming redundancy. One can stop anywhere after the first few sentences and have the full message, if one is prepared to "dig" it.
- Marshal McLuhan, Understanding Media

 The opening move of The Invisibles is to turn the tale back in on itself, to form a circuit and gamble that it can be jammed, to double down on feedback. I find myself reading the individual issue as closed system, the first page, the first panel itself as endless recursion. I am drawn back to the first panel again and again. It becomes a heiroglyphic mantra running through my head. The book is always the same. The reader is always noise.

 There is no reason to hesitate before setting out on a sea voyage, because the mythical Hero has already made it in the fabulous Time. All that is needed is to follow his example. Similarly, there is no reason to fear settling an unknown, wild territory, because one knows what to do. One has merely to repeat the cosmogonic ritual, whereupon the unknown territory (= 'Chaos') is transformed into 'Cosmos'.
- Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality

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