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.}


The Huntin’ Politician

10 10 2008

One thing.

these were called ‘remaining’

Here is something people mention:
“She knows how to field dress a moose.”

your body, the whole universe

Why is the act of hunting such an important one in the American imagination?

hunt the Woods, stop and kill fish in the Rivers, it being true with them as in all the World in the Affaires of Earth or Heaven: By concord little things grow great, by discord the greatest come to nothing….

We love to imagine the first English settlers. Hardscrabble folk barely making it and then making it big. Of course, it was the indigenous folk who got much of the food and traded it on, as well as gave the settlers some good ideas about how to get their food, as Roger Williams’ quote suggests.

But of course, there was felt some need to hunt, especially in hard times, especially when the crops failed.

So, I suspect, the image of a politician hunting connects us to that collective, imagined, (ignorant…I might add, though perhaps I should not) history, validated by Thanksgiving, and Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” (which alludes to John Winthrop’s “city on a hill.” A city as community that Sarah Vowell notes, was pretty much what existed for the indigenous people of North America at least at the time that Roger Williams was wandering the wilderness in his banishment.

the connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture

There is also, I suspect, an inability, a fear, to recognize that what we knew was wrong. Nonhuman animals are not speechless, nor are they subconscious or unconscious, instinct is an outdated term, and the wilderness is not God’s gift to mankind, for use and abuse or even for condescending “care,” and of course, factory farming is an abomination.

there is something specific about our unwillingness to let our knowledge come to an end with respect to horses, with respect to what they know of us…The unwillingness… to make room for their capacity to feel our presence incomparably beyond our ability to feel theirs…

I think Americans are afraid. They are afraid of the beast that knows them before they know themselves. Killing this beast kills that prescience, that sense (whether it be olfactory, auditory, visual or tactile) that the other is able to wield with such strength and sensitivity. America is the greatest country on earth—because American’s and their leaders are Hunters! The other, the moose or goose, is nothing but a prop—all transcendent living beauty is vanished.

But the horse takes cognizance of them, who does not care about invisibility

There are many hunters that know a lot about nonhuman animals. And the hunt is a complex thing. But the hunter as politician—the hunt as a sign of strength, this bothers me. The hunt as something greater than any sensitivity shown for the hunted—this is ridiculous. So I am weaker because I can empathize? Please…taking in the world with compassion is difficult and frightening task, fraught with emotional pitfalls, the taking on the suffering of the other (so much as we, at least, imagine it…)

When he sees all beings as equal
in suffering or in joy

It is an emotional coldness, a lack of imagination, of grace, that makes people cheer when something is killed.

because they are like himself

And it is an evil that brings joy to those who, with almighty power, mow down the other with glee.

I am the sceptor

In a helicopter, with machine guns, in a car, with machetes are they laid out inside me—I keep the rites though they are painful.

I support the whole universe
with a single fragment of myself.

quotes are from: Anne Carson, Bhagavad Gita, Roger Williams, Donna Haraway, Stanley Cavell in Vicki Hearne, Bhagavad Gita

Am I excessive? Then I am excessive, I contain multitudes.

2 10 2008

I will tell thee the mystery of the woman

Sarah Palin has ridden in—the Whore of Babylon herself. An invert Whore of Babylon, in a real day threat of an inverted apocalypse. Good old Revelation John, who the misguided believe was John of the Jesus Testament.

And I saw the woman drunken with the blood

I believe that if Governer Palin ever becomes President, the work that President Bush and Vice President Cheney started will be completed in our time and our country will, metaphorically, or perhaps in reality, go up apocalyptic flames. Practicing detachment, this does not bother me. Being a mother and a lover of all life it makes me, to quote Gov. Palin herself, ill.

And [I] shall wipe always all tears

I am thinking of ways to shore up our necessities for survival, and our weapons for a quick exit. We have our passports and I am scanning the horizon for different realms. Perhaps Mexico.

all shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone

But to return to Revelation John. The evangelicals like to talk about the glorious End Times, when their angry god will call them home and dash the rest of us—the rest of life for that matter—into dust. They are wrong. It will not be that sort of apocalypse because, I believe, they have misjudged their god. This apocalypse will ride in on the dust of empty space, and the forces of the universe will dash us, evangelical Christians, and the like, into nothing (beautiful nothing, beautiful ALL). And that doesn’t sound so bad to me. Except that it won’t happen that quickly. Except that there will be tremendous suffering. Except that suffering will lay itself out on the human and nonhuman alike. Except that suffering will blanket the old, the middle aged, and the young. Except, dammit, my kids. Except that suffering will blanket MY kids.

and over his image and his mark

The Evildoers in the White House have stolen, have already destroyed much of the possibilities that were my children’s future, and if Gov. Palin receives the country, this place will be blasted into a wasteland of economic, environmental, social, etc etc degradation. We may have to hide from the cannibals, are you ready my children, are you packed?

And I saw an angel come down
They are afraid but do not say so.

and cast him into the bottomless pit
and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast
into the lake of fire.

Italics are quotes from The King James version of The Book of Revelation.