Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ex Nihilo

The constant receding borders of the limits of possibility sweep the proverbial rug from beneath my feet. Possibility engulfs me. It is not the quality of possibility I have been acquainted with from time to time that I now speak, those welcomed, short bursts which catapult into transcendent vision from my everydayness, a bodily ripple of charge, a fierce exciting vitality and empowerment of personal control, but an endless dark vastness which swallows me entirely, the blackness and disorientation of the expanding universe.

It comes from an environment I have praised and continue to praise, one it took years to generate the courage and resources to enter: one with very little imposed, external structure. The structures of my current life evolve from the inside out. I create my work opportunities, my play opportunities, my projects and my pursuits. I create the time at which I wake, I create the physical and interpersonal spaces I inhabit. I even create the challenges and resistances I intend to work through and overcome. I create my days, thus I create a life, my life. Weeks no longer churn in repetitive motions. Mondays are no longer Mondays, each forward-marching return of the sun holds within it its own signature texture. Welcome to 365 flavors.

I have never been with, or operated out of, this sort of monumental blankness, which requires me to draft the structural and decorative lines and construct the mosaic. Over a half-decade ago I began studying existential claims; some years back, I self-identified as an existentialist; only in very recent months have I begun to live existentially. I once thought about existentialism, caught as I now realize in excessive cognition and bloodless argumentation. Now I care only to embody. I do not intend to mislead that my special new context has allowed me a freedom I was once denied by external force and obligation. No, au contraire: All along I have been and am and will be this free, I am now only beginning to feel it, to acknowledge it, to embrace it as the case. My current environment has functioned as a prism of my basic reality that has always already been operating, beneath serious illusions I had adopted as over and against me: the requirements that I needed to live by. I embark on a lived study of un-programming, suitably at the culmination of my formal studies (a large part of the grand withdrawal of external structure).

Others who have exploded the constructs of obligated living in their lived commitments have provided the pathway to my own avowal of the full creativity of a life, of radical choice. To them I am indebted (but as we know, not in a way that would constrict the abundance of my freedom). When people, in their defense of limitation, caught in the sweet ease of bad faith, smirk and demand from me, “Certainly you are restricted in the fact that you need money to survive,” I simply can give them those who have outgrown humanity into the Übermensch. McCandless and those who live out his spirit today, e.g. Daniel Suelo. Their particular path I may not personally uptake. Freedom demands I carve out my own rather than follow footsteps, however few. Their centrality to my heart lies in the fact that their lives are the exceptions to necessity. They are the (Lived) Statues of Liberty. Maybe I am not cool enough for others to know me in this way yet, but I feel the sweeping power of a name change, a movement from the given designation of my birth name, a marker and example par excellenece of facticity, to a chosen appelation.

I think I’ll choose Supertonin.

This all may seem a bit grandiose and over the top, which is what possibility tends to do to the spirit, I’ll admit. Yet I do not declare it from an untouchable, holier-than-thou perch. I am learning that in every choice, even a choice to choose from the ground up, ex nihilo, there is a building and a demolition. Advantages and downsides. New openings which close down old avenues. For in freedom I have discovered the dark side of the wide blank canvas, the startling paralysis of emptiness, the burden of every action and every decision as my own, my own alone: I have discovered angst. I continue to act, as I must, but action comes with a crippling doubt and commentary: If nothing holds me to this act, if it must be solely me who affirms, upholds, and does this, should I? What good is it? What will this amount to? Is this really mattering? Is this what I want to do? To be known for? To enjoy? To spend my time developing? In possibility, ironically, I can no longer simply do.

What I am left with is a somewhat disorganized assortment of activity, a distracted flittering of attentions, a drowning sea of choice. I find myself in lecture halls with the definitive world expert on rare mosses, I find myself collecting household supplies with which to repurpose and convert into homemade candles, I find myself in meditation circles, I find myself composting, I find myself trying to refine my palette to discriminate wine fermented in oak-barrels v. stainless steel. I find myself reading 100 different topics at once and when asked what books I’ve recently read, have to confess, well, none really. Where do I find myself?
In the recognition that a) I can never again be told what it is that I should be doing (should this occur again, that I cannot take the necessity of it seriously anymore) and b) that there is no path for me to discover, only those I affirm, I am left with whatever. And whatever is both and at once maximally liberating and maximally daunting, the twin pillars of freedom and responsibility, the silent and boundless human experience that I must, by the sheer fact of existence, fill with sound and form.


Надежда Αντιγονη said...

I hate this damn forum. I just wrote a long piece in response and the stupid damn thing said it was too large to process and deleted the whole thing. So now I have to start, ex nihilo, again. Let me express some gratitude for the post. I do not know if I will be equal to the task of responding, for can one ever be equal in a response to authenticity. Authenticity, in its making of qualities leave the realm of equalities, of mere quantities. For quantities are of equal and unequal magnitude only because they are equal in kind. Authenticity is not equal in kind, a-equal. And yet it creates the possibility of e-quality, the inauthentic only emerges as itself in the face of the authentic. In fact, inauthenticity is such that it can only be itself outside of itself. It finds its own reflective realization out-there. The out-there, however, is a a-meta-hodos (method) out there. Meta-hodos: after-a-way. There is no way to the out-there. And yet, we must ask, is authenticity equal to the task of talking about inauthenticity. As the excentric limit of inauthenticity, does authenticity have the right to talk about the inauthentic. Or is talking about the inauthentic the domain of the inauthentic: to speak inauthentically is to speak about inauthenticity?

Continue on next post

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

This is why the authentic waivers between the itself and the other than itself. This is the law of force and the force of law: that it must waiver between to extremes, finding itself only in this movement. When it discovers its own authenticity, it is always-already on the hither side of this authenticity and when it discovers its own inauthenticity it is on the side of its authenticty. Force can only exist-insist, and this means that existence can only be an insistance. Are we equal to the task. Are the 365 days of quality what qualifies us for the task, the work of the law-word, the ethics of angst and the angst of ethics. "an endless dark vastness which swallows me entirely, the blackness and disorientation of the expanding universe." Inspirational line that, in turn, expires and inspires. Authenticity itself respirates in this aporia. Chris McCandless inspires and at the moment of his expiration we are most inspired. The dying choice and force of death, the gift of expiration. And yet at the very moment of our inspiration, the inspiration itself is expired. Millions of defendants in the court of the authentic expired the inspiring story Chris McCandless, such that he has become a bar of soap, packaged and ready for resale. The respiration of the authentic insists on its own perpetual motion. And of course, all of this is only on marginal to your own concern. But I do not, myself feel equal, in my gratitude for this post, to the task.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

Damn it! This thing deleted my middle post. I am not very happy right now.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

Essentially the middle post said that inauthenticity exists only in the court rooms of the authentic, but that the authentic lacks the force of law. Angst is that bit of authenticity that marks the place of the inauthentic in the authentic, what gives the authentic the right to talk about the inauthentic, what makes us equal to the task. In the court room of the authentic angst represents the prosecution and the defense. I hate this stupid word limit deleting garbage.

TONIN mckelvey said...


I shall look into my abilities as blog webmaster to edit the comment maximums so you should not have these grave difficulties any longer.

What was most penetrable for me in all the deconstruction (some terms I should remember but have lost ... too many moss lectures have interfered) was the notion of the respiration of authenticity, and, yes it is paradigmatic in Chris' dying breath. Chris isn't my bar of soap. I will not retrace his footsteps North in a quest for his experience (not that I would have it if I did head north). But authenticity sure is as slippery as the analogy conjures. It is represented in the way I speak about it - my project isn't to attain authenticity, but to approximate it, and better put now, would be to have these movements (episodes) in life of authentic encounter, a vivacious breath in. These can not be sustained. Nor captured. I find that I am always falling, falling away from my best self. She eludes me.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

I like the image that we can only asymptotically approach authenticity, but never achieve it. Yet, I want to write an essay (perhaps this weekend) on a defense of inauthenticity. This defense will go beyond the typical, "it is necessary, but..." of most author-ities. The only way to escape the ethical construct of in/authentic is to defend the inauthentic as it is. This is what I mean by the "court" of the authentic. The inauthentic is always on trial, and as of yet has there been a decent defense of the inauthentic.