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  • R.M. Haines

Identity and Its Discontents: Notes on Rimbaud

Updated: Apr 28

Otherness is there from the start. Before the start. One does not birth oneself, does not teach oneself language. As necessary as mothers, and all living others, are the generations of dead, known and unknown. "I" comes to be—is founded and forged—in relation, both intimate and ghostly. So many possibilities in these relations, in the economies they form and emerge from. Mirror images, asymmetries. Palimpsests, distortions. Other people's faces, names. Others, otherness, as origin and horizon of oneself.

Yet this alterity foundational to the emergence of self gets concealed, forgotten, erased. Sometimes violently, sometimes with regret. Guilt. Desire. The mother is abjected. That's one way. Few of those born fail, in maturing, to put their necessary others behind them, beneath them, elsewhere, in hidden pasts. One learns to believe one stands alone. For a time at least. It varies. And it usually fails. Traces, distortions, echoes. Discontents that will not let go. We are haunted and soon project it all over again, trying to find these lost ones in new others whom we mistake. Infatuation, delusion. Authority figures, romances. And some can’t ever get out. “I” as mausoleum. As reliquary.

For executives and psychopaths it is seamless. For narcissists no harm is felt in abjecting and concealing the traces of those to whom we belong, through whom we are. And it is not only family, friends, the personal. It is all others. Otherness itself. The world outside the fantasy of causa sui. Self created. Self authorized. And these perfect killers, the psychopaths, make our world, or claim to, by buying it. Owning it. Thus they repeat the whole thing over again: I am the one, the only one (Samael), and the others play no part. This is law. Copyright. Property. An “I” absolutized by virtue of capital. The violence of pillage repeated from history, from psychic biography, and invested in a deathly fantasy of the social that consumes its own foundation. Cannibalism. Hyper-Oedipus. Metastasis of the Anti-Social. Trademarks.

Still: dead labor asserts its claim. The workers and exploited ones. Slaves and caretakers. The nameless, lost, derided. The invisible. All the others. The child in the cobalt mine living inside your battery. They live in each head as well as in the complex of social fact. An entire civilization is dedicated to consuming and concealing them. How long does something like this last? How long can it? Never to confront the discarded traces. Forever to build an infinity from denial. Acceleration as the energy required to sustain this denial, forestalling absolute cataclysm. Who speaks to and for those inside of us, those who contain us ourselves in turn? Who admits those who refuse to be part of the "I"?

Rimbaud learned early: "I is an other." The fundamental insight. As revolutionary and poetic truth. As psychic formula. To recover the alterity persisting, of necessity, under hierarchies of both self and society. Eclipse of the ego, of the executive. Refusal of causa sui. “If wood awakens as a violin it is not at all its fault.” To realize materiality of soul: psyche as archive, as recording, vaster than ego. Psyche as ground of ego. As the room where all the people are. Their images. Personal, transpersonal. A cosmos on the other side, pouring through. Torus. Endless flowering. A new position for the subject to enter. New temporalities. New dynamics of emergence between people, between words. New meanings. New languages for relation that does not admit ownership of meaning, of property.

“I is an other” as a bivalent formula moving forward into future collectivity and backward into personal and historical pasts. In each direction, discarded contents, concealed and degraded through exploitation and (ab)use, comes forward in strange new intimacies and explosions. Intimacy, in fact, becomes explosion, and vice versa. There is no narcissism holding onto anything that cannot be shared, that cannot become the material of a communal psyche. That recognizes it already originated there, in its generative everynowhere. The poem pulling the self into psyche, into its commune, pulling down into a language wherein identity is mutable again. And to explode, to blossom. Stars, breaths. To communicate explosion as a social and psychic potential. To constitute, in language, its fact.

The poem's temporality grafted onto your own, there, in the very moment of your reading. Reading as the map that becomes the site itself, and writes its own map anew. Changing it, in accordance with the times, with conditions. The poem as mutable hologram radiating from the lines, an interface and field of emergence compelling entrances and exits, explosions that house, houses that burst anew. And the embodied, enervated self as event, a toxic and salvific node, compelling its communication to another: the other in which it was found and founded. Othernesses. Endless echoing of semiotic and psychic events erupting into the materiality of history, of society, of identity. A collective psycho-material archive of past and future events, mapping and remapping the now.

“It is as simple as a musical phrase.”

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