Narcissus isn’t the only god in town: check the pictures

by Yule Heibel on December 7, 2003

I’ve been thinking about the blog as an existential problem, and can’t quite decide if I’m just in a really bad mood, or whether there is something more important happening here. Sartre said that we have the choice to stop existing: that’s what differentiates us from things, which do not have that existential freedom. The paper I initially scribbled this on — while sitting anonymously in a cafe, exuding an air of bad mood, nursing my writer’s block and mulling over my mundane condition of feeling as though I will never ever again manage a sustained piece of work, or ever again have an income (for those of you who don’t know, I gave up a brilliant dead-end career as an underpaid adjunct to be willfully unemployed and at loose ends: I have not made any money since January 1999, and even though I would love to figure out how to have at least a semblance of a professional existence, I cannot think of a single person or organisation that would hire me for anything at all) — anyway, mulling this over, I began scribbling away on paper. So the paper has no choice in being paper, but I have a choice in being who I am, and in deciding to do this versus that. See?

And that was the context in which I was thinking of the blog as an existential problem. Is it a piece of paper, or is it a part of you? I want to quit, to end. I wonder to what extent a blog is a living piece of a person. Unlike a book, a blog is continually updated, refreshed, submitted to (…who is master, who is servant here?). My book, my contributions to the other book, my articles are pieces of paper that someone may or may not get something from, and I have no problem being detached from these things: they are not a part of me in the sense that the blog is, in the sense that the blog demands attention. Can a blog choose to stop being a blog? Is online writing artificial intelligence, or just real-life stupidity? I would probably have to have a canny knack for dissociating if I wanted to peel this thing off me, to shed it like a snake skin, …or to flay it away. In that sense, blogs seem like virtual amputated existences, prostheses of the compulsive. Do all the blogs out there add up to a body? That would be telling. However, while there are apparently quite a few assholes in this virtual body, as well as some eyes and ears, a couple of brain cells, quite a bit of skin, many many mouths, arms and legs grabbing and running, too, the whole thing still doesn’t add up to a real body.

Endymion (the chap “sleeping” so voluptuously in the picture at top left) was an object of desire. He was in fact the moon goddess Selene’s object of lust. She put him into perpetual sleep so that she could visit him whenever she wanted. Other versions of the myth say that Endymion asked to be put to eternal sleep so that he would become immortal and remain young and gorgeous forever, as well as willingly available to Selene. At any rate, he is passive (asleep), an object of the gaze (Selene’s, but of course yours, too), and — this is important — he is the object not of an active force’s desire, but of the otherwise “passive,” female, reflective moon, that cold body without heat and light of its own. [Don’t you love how myths make all this misogyny explicit? Did you know, however, that in German (and probably one or two other languages associated with weird nations) the sun is female and the moon is male?]

But I digress.

I’m wondering what kind of body the blogging “conversation” makes. It’s got an awful lot of American muscle in it, but there’s so much more. Of course, lots can happen to a body. Marsyas, for example, was flayed — and who hasn’t felt that? He was flayed by Apollo — who did it with terrible calm: Apollo is all head, all light, all cerebrum; his lusts are discursive, the stuff of legends (which are told): such a contained version of torture is the rational Apollo’s domain. Remember that Apollo was Selene-Diana’s brother. Selene never flayed anyone; with any luck, she didn’t have the head for it. Just remember she and Apollo were twins, though. And click, by the way, on the Ribera illustration of The Flaying of Marsyas on the right there. It links to an exquisite poem from 1957, by Zbigniew Herbert.

We really have little idea how our bodies traverse these spaces.

This entry with apologies also to Jonathan Delacour who writes about being overloaded. Just came across that, and his bit of heart of things emboldened me to post this. Thanks also to Maria Benet of Alembic who circumscribed her state of mind as a kind of blogger’s ADD: yup, I’ve got that too, and don’t even think of trying to prescribe any meds for me!


maria December 8, 2003 at 3:54 pm

I hope that you don’t quit blogging, though it would make perfect sense to do so, given the questions you raised. Your contribution in this sphere has been inspiring to me … and because of the issues you raised, especially those having to do with the mediating forces of discursive language, overwhelming as well.

I took to blogging not because I went on a “confessional quest for identity” (a phrase from Peter Dews in your previous post), but because I felt trapped in the suburbs and felt a little starved for ideas and discussion.

Like you, though, I have questioned myself all along about what kind of animal was I unleashing, as well as what kind of figure I cut (to borrow a badly translated Italian idiom about making an impression). I would like to quit blogging, but I can’t quite do it. That’s because, as I wrote before, I have developed a bad case of blogger ADD, which means that I am afraid that I won’t be able to write a long, sustained piece — a full body, if you like. Because I also want to speak, I can’t just read blogs for the sake of analysis and regurgitation in some other form offline.

I guess I am addicted … and there are no meds for this!

On a more serious note, though: when you say “We really have little idea how our bodies traverse these spaces” nested as you do in the paragraphs that look — and see — the “embodiments” of myths in visual art, it is as if you were pointing to the unhatched egg in the nest of culture and politics, from which who knows what will emerge … avatar or myth, phoenix or just plain old fowl… Anyway, I think that your pointing to the power of “negative dialectic” when it comes to blogging is a pivotal issue … and I need to think about it more, before I overrun your comments here!

Joel December 8, 2003 at 4:04 pm

If you’re looking for a completeness, you will never find it in a blog. Blogs don’t box — they keep drawing you along.

Yule Heibel December 10, 2003 at 1:33 am

I’m not looking for completeness, that is for sure. I might not quit blogging, either, but that’s not so sure. It’s a time-management thing. I shouldn’t have said that about being out of a job since it makes me look like a woman of leisure (I wish!), or like someone looking for a job. The fact is, though, that I’ve been homeschooling my kids for …3.5 years??, yes, since 6/00, and all I can say is that regular school (private or public) has a huge custodial function in society so that people (adults) can do things other than be responsible for the education of their children. And it’s a great — GREAT — thing if it works for your kid(s), ’cause it gives you x-number of hours to go to work or do other brilliant things each week. But if it ain’t working for your kid(s), and you take over the responsibility yourself, be prepared to start paying and paying (largely in time). So, I’m not really looking for a job, unless it were something I could do in the time I spend blogging (i.e., about 30-180 minutes per day). Then, if I had that mythical job, I could stop blogging. Heh. Whatever.

brian moffatt December 10, 2003 at 2:22 am

Yule, there’s some neat yakking going on over at Wealth Bondage on somewhat related themes.

Jon Husband December 14, 2003 at 12:09 am

Hi, Yule. I can empathize with you, re: your notes about giving up work and so on.

I’m at the point where I can’t bring myself to do work that supports or doesn’t question the status quo, the mantras of business or anything else that has a sniff of denial or happy-face positive thinking on it.

And damn it, it’s hard some days to keep believing in yourself, and wondering if there are only a few of us that seem to see that so many aspects of our society are in some kind of limco between torpor and frenzy. Especially for me – I was brought up in a home where ideals, value and intellectual pursuit and dialogue were highly valued – this doesn’t work so well in today’s biz world.

This will probably sound kinda funny, but I’m starting to think that blogging is one of the most sensible and sane things one can do – work, for most people, is only about getting money – if they stop to examine why they are doing waht they do, it might get scary … and the only other answer is a practical one, I think … must work to pay bills.

I’ve decided that blogging is a better use of my time than working at things I don’t believe in or can’t support (I’ve been a management consultant for most of the past 20 years, and can’t stomach pretending that I’m helping make things better … it’s the definition of “better” that trips me up all the time.

Anonymous September 16, 2005 at 7:34 am

Very nice site!

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