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Here is Existential Positioning (EPS) in experience.  How common is it to have an intuition of mortality during childhood? It is as if each person has to realize for him/herself individually what the sages codified in Ancient philosophy as ataraxy. Ataraxy is a state of mind in which the sage, realizing that s/he has no control over external events, decides to reduce her/his own desires. This ascetic view is associated with the stance that “philosophy is learning how to die.” Paradoxically, it may seem, philosophers insist that the realization that everyone dies is liberating. Since death is inevitable, why get so excited over one’s successes and failures in life? Of course, various response to this intuition are possible, such as carpe diem (seize the day).

The following piece is Ulmer’s pastiche of Blanchot’s epiphany. Pastiche is a useful form for mystory in which one’s own location within the discourses of the popcycle is mapped. Ulmer imitated Blanchot’s style and form, but substituted his own experience event. Exercise: compose your own primal scene as a pastiche of Blanchot’s epiphanic memory.

  A primal scene? The boy is eleven, starting seventh grade. His father explains that it is time to learn the value of work. He has arranged a job for his son with a friend whose name is Cutting and who owns a sheet metal shop. Every Saturday the boy rides his bicycle across town to Cutting’s Sheet Metal. The employees are done for the week at noon on Saturday. He has to arrive by noon so the boss can lock up, leaving the boy inside (he is too young to be trusted with a key). The job is to clean the shop — sweep the floor, gather up the tools and align them neatly in their designated places on the work benches, collect the remnants and clippings of the metal sheets scattered everywhere. It takes most of the afternoon to finish the chores. The shop is a cavernous open warehouse, with rows of heavy tables, the walls lined with shelves stacked to the distant ceiling with equipment, tools, metals. It is quiet, the stillness of dust motes swirling in the beams of sunlight filtered through the few windows high up near the roof, carving vectors through deep shadow. The sunlight catches the edges of a museum of blades, a taxonomy of every snipping snap slice chop saw hack rend rip cleave nip or severing machine. Half-shaped tin objects stand in rows behind piles of hammers and modelling frames. After so many weeks and months of Saturday noons the boy begins to lose touch with his former friends and companions, who go their separate ways.

  What happens then? The light and shadow of the industrial building open all at once onto a void, a black hole and white wall of divided worlds in this little infinite town: the official world of adults (parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, scout masters) that until then had constituted reality, and the unofficial world of his peers, whose existence he had only just discovered. Two completely different systems of virtue and vice, success and failure, winning and losing, visibility and invisibility, were enforced in these realms: systems Not only different, but opposite and in conflict. What earned admiration and respect in one was inversely judged in the other. He could not have articulated the revelation so abstractly then. The unexpected aspect of this scene is the sense of abandonment, solitary isolation, that overcomes the child, a spilling out or abjection, an absolute exhaling of substance, followed soon after by the inhaled relief of knowing that it doesn’t matter, since everyone and everything dies everywhere the same death.

2018-07-22T00:42:08+00:00 July 22nd, 2018|Categories: Disaster, Intuition, Memory, Mystory, Tutorials|Tags: , , , , , , |


One of the experiments underway in KE is Ulmer’s revision of his career project, to receive it as a student of his own project, to notice the pattern and projection, to be his own Gerald Holton (since that is what egents must be). An element in that project is Disaster, understood literally, but then adopted as a figure of a fundamental intuition. Konsult as pedagogy invites egents to consider this intuition. It began formally in a seminar, Spring 2009, using heuretics to develop flash reason as a deliberative rhetoric for an Internet civic sphere.  Taking up a theme central to Electronic Monuments in order to push further along the path opened there, the Theory of the CATTt was Blanchot’s Writing of the Disaster, which set the terms of the experiment, as expressed in this paraphrase: What escapes all that can be said, is what must be said. The challenge to the students was to generate a poetics of the unsayable, since this is the dimension of the disaster that is not accessible to STEM disciplines.

  The method is counterintuitive, in that egents turn away from the historical catastrophe, in order to access their peculiar power. The instructions derived from the text are to compose a figure by juxtaposing a childhood memory with a collective event (a disaster).  Blanchot calls this memory a primal scene.  It represents an early if not first experience of self-awareness of the human condition – an existential intuition.  The corresponding event for Blanchot is the Holocaust.

The figure reproduces in contemporary singular form a correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm.  It makes explicit the two dimensions treated in tragedy as Atê (personal blindness producing collective catastrophe).  The figure is composed in first person, middle voice, seeking in the documentation of the event an objective correlative for the feeling of the memory.  This feeling (affect percept) is the experiential basis of electrate intelligence, to be augmented in the digital prosthesis.   The nature and function of the figure will be developed in several posts.  Here is Blanchot’s primal scene.

(A primal scene?) You who live later, close to a heart that beats no more, suppose, suppose this:  the child – is he seven years old, or eight perhaps? – standing by the window, drawing the curtain and, through  the pane, looking.  What he sees:  the garden, the wintry trees, the wall of a house.  Though he sees, no doubt in a child’s way, his play space, he grows weary and slowly looks up toward the ordinary sky, with clouds, grey  light – pallid daylight  without depth.

What happens then: the sky, the same sky, suddenly open, absolutely black and absolutely empty, revealing (as though the pane had broken) such an absence that all has since always and forevermore been lost therein – so lost that therein is affirmed and dissolved the vertiginous knowledge that nothing is what there is, and first of all nothing beyond.  The unexpected aspect of this scene (its interminable feature) is the feeling of happiness that straightaway  submerges the child, the ravaging joy to which he can bear witness only by tears, an endless flood of tears.  He is thought to suffer a childish sorrow; attempts are made to console him.  He says nothing.  He will live henceforth in the secret.  He will weep no more. (Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster).

2018-07-22T00:40:29+00:00 July 21st, 2018|Categories: Disaster, Tutorials|Tags: , , , |