The Animal That Is

24 10 2008

I am currently reading Cary Wolfe’s Animal Rites. The introduction starts with the quote, “I am not an animal. I am a human being.” (The Elephant Man, David Lynch).

I find the book difficult because I have been lax in my own pursuit of philosophical knowledge. After a particularly unfortunate required philosophy class at UCLA I decided that art was far wiser than philosophy (probably because my professor loved loved loved! Descartes) and did not require myself to follow up on Wittgenstein, Kant, Nietzche, and only brushed up against Delueze, Guattari and Derrida when it suited my artistic interests.

But Wolfe’s work puts down on the page what, to quote our president and Stephen Colbert, I’ve felt in my gut but have been unable to put into words (the differend, for those of you that enjoy Lyotard).

Wolfe talks about posthumanism and antihumanism. He analyzes our relationship with the non- or inhuman (none of the terms are particularly right…)—recognizing that humanism always sets limits, the assumption that the human is the center of the universe of ethical consideration.

Wittgenstein noted: “If a lion could talk we could not understand him.”

but really
When a lion talks we do not understand him. As they say about the mountain lion, if you can see it, it has sensed you long before.

There is such a strange beauty in this. There is so much. I love that space between me and them. I love the mystery by which I can fall a strange connection.

“It is common knowledge that many living things require no door, nor doorstep”

Sadly—the discussions out there are so much less sophisticated, so banal—does it have four legs or does it have two legs and two wings and can we make chicken drummies out of it? A chicken is not an animal, and neither is

Recently, I read a posting on a discussion board, that alerted to me to Hawking’s recent call for space to be where humans retreat to when we’ve decimated this planet.

Hawking does not appear to consider the other at all in this, does he?

“No my cousins you are not alone,
you’re in our talons now and we’re never letting go” (The Bower Birds)

I have never liked the call for humans to flee the planet. It would be a impoverished land indeed that was made of simply human refugees from a dead world—but then, I have the tendency to be a misanthropist, so perhaps you’ll find it more attractive.

“I fill an oaken bucket”

Although, if The Road is any example, it isn’t a pretty sight.

Anyway, I do not believe all humans will be given equal access, even if this pipe dream is realized. There is a subtle underlying requirement by which certain humans will be allowed to exit (perhaps a Dr. Strangelovian sort of place, with 4 women to every man, and each of those men carefully selected to promote the human race’s genetic future–and as I write this I feel as though I cannot stand the ignorance and stupidity…).

“In a time of sanctuary, all rivers belong to one family”

We are almost moved in. I promise I will write about the notebook soon (although I have broken promises before, I’m sorry)—and indeed, I will get back down to those birds in December. It is fire season in Southern California now.

“A lock of night is sequestered”

{All unattributed quotes are by Laynie Browne from her most excellent The Agency of Wind.}

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