STAYING UNHUMAN: ON MARVEL AND HORROR

 

 

First, Arthur Rimbaud: je est un autre.

Not “I am another,” but: I is another.

Every time I try to get who “I am,” I cannot but get another one than me.

A double, a ghost, a mechanical replica.

Borrowing from Jacques Lacan, we could say: le moi n’est pas le je,

The ego is no the I.

 

Yet we keep confusing both, we keep imagining who we are;

but between the I and the ego, there is a gap, a Spaltung, a split.

This split is the mark of the unconscious -

not the unconscious, but the effect of its genesis: something is lacking

something is repressed,

something fell down.

 

Why?

 

Because of an encounter – 

a primal encounter with language, this virus (dixit William Burroughs);

with death, the “absolute master” (dixit G.W.F. Hegel);

with sexuality, this polymorphous libido (dixit Sigmund Freud)

with the origin and its promise of end,

with something bigger than me, deeper than me, older than me

- something ancestral, out of joint, radically other, deeply unhuman

something that will always prevent the ego from being a monad,

a self-sufficient entity

- something that always should prevent human beings from taking themselves for themselves.

 

As they exceed our symbolic, interpretative capacity, 

primal encounters are traumatic: 

They are like white holes, 

blank skins,

surfaces deprived of inscriptions

that are surrounded only by our imaginary, 

bordered by our attempt to deal with what Toni Morrison calls 

“the scariness of things with no names.”

 

If black holes don’t let light escape, 

white holes don’t let in darkness, 

they don’t tolerate the lines of inscriptions of meaning:

facing white holes, every writing process fails;

every narrative is torn apart.

 

Hence repetitions: the return of the repressed, 

that is to say the return of a psychological structure, be it individual or collective,

 affected by a collapsed part.

 

What comes back is what never came, never appeared, that is: 

that which never happened in what happened,

that which was unexperiencable in the experience.

An excess, to refer to Bataille.

 

The excess is recalled as what overwhelmed me,

a jouissance that I try to experience again, 

and again,

and again,

thanks to the dreamwork, failed acts, and art.

But every time I recall, re-suscitate, a primary experience, 

I experience a lack of meaning.

The repetition is therefore double sided: 

a recollection of the primal experience, 

and an experience of the immemorial.

 

That is to say marvel and horror.

- Marvel of the excess, of what allows me to be more than myself, 

marvel of the existence of others, 

of a world that has not my face,

a world alien enough to leave a place for love.

- Horror of the trauma threatening to swallow me, 

to disintegrate the imaginary narrative that I conceived around the white hole.

 

Who am I?

I am, Lacan says, “in the place from which “the universe is a flaw in the purity of Non-Being” is vociferated.”

A human being is an attempt to make this place, the place of jouissance, habitable.

An attempt to give a form to the pre-human, 

unhuman forces that keep undoing any forms.

 

Being human means staying, as much as possible, unhuman.

 

 

 

Frédéric Neyrat