The first month in Germany is gone and, as my few readers will have observed, I’ve done a pretty lousy job of staying in contact. It’s not entirely my fault though. Over the last 30 days I’ve spent 5 in London and another 14 in France, with intermitent, in any, web access. The rest of the 11 days have been spent getting doing mundane organizational stuff.

I’m writing this from internet limbo, waiting for the magical internet man to turn our internet back on. Then, I promise, I’ll have more substantial things to say. I’ve been thinking about the contrasting aesthetics between Facebook and Twitter. It has led me to all but deactivate my Facebook account. More on that later, check out this article for a primer.

The process to settle here is slow and other obligations (conferences, grad school apps) are keeping me from making it my ultimate priority. In effect I still don’t feel like I’ve returned to Germany, or perhaps more accurately, I feel as if I never left. It’ll take more time; now that my month of vacation is over I have the freedom to get things in order.

Next time: Photos from Provence, News about Freiburg, and an answer to that ever-pressing question: What is literature?


You fasten your seatbelt. The plane is landing. To fly is the opposite of traveling: you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in any place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and the when in which you vanished. Meanwhile, what do you do? How do you occupy this absence of yourself from the world and of the world from you? You read; you do not raise your eyes from the book because between one airport and the other, because beyond the page there is the void, the anonymity of stopovers, of the metalic uterus that contains you and nourishes you, of the passing crowd always different and always the same. You might as well stick with this other abstraction of travel, accomplished by the anonymous uniformity of typographical characters: here, too, it is the evocative power of the names that persuades you that you are flying over something and not nothingness. You realize thar it takes considerable heedlessness to entrust yourself to unsure insturments, handled with approximation; or perhaps this demonstrates an invincible tendency to passivity, to regression, to infantile dependence. (But are you reflecting on the air journey or on reading?)

Zach said it best while looking at a nondescript field in East Lansing: “I’m actually going to miss this town.” All too true my friend.

Let us think of our friends not by how we greet each other, but by how we part.

The five residences I’ve lived in for the last five years have are all known by first or last names. Alphabetically: Elsworth, Gilchrist, Jeanne’s, Phillips, and Ulrich Zasius. These mostly year long engagements were broken up by short stays with my parents or friends. With less than 48 hours left in the US before another year abroad, I’ve begun to think more seriously about this life of unrest. A life defined by saying goodbye. The goodbyes I’ve been able to say in the last few days helped shape the axiom above. And like Zach, I can’t help but feel a little remiss to be saying goodbye again.

The social imperative to “network” in order to make “contacts” so that we can “get out there” and “sell ourselves” has some necessarily unfortunate consequences. I’ll leave the Marxist inspired discussion of self-motivated alienation to one with a more materialist worldview than me. What I think is important to note is how this imperative cultivates a culture of constant introductions and greetings at the expense of being able to say goodbye. Ours is a society that has as many ways and means to meet new people as the pope has to offend. What we’ve lost, forgotten, or never knew how to do is to say goodbye. Of course we depart out of necessity, but never with the grace and tact–the nuance, as JumpinFrog would say–as our greetings. Granted, my own departing-ineptitude may be coloring this argument, but I stand by the principle. Let’s put it another way in order to return to our axiom and thus bring this discussion to a close.

We spend our lives learning to cope and confront the last goodbye: death. I don’t think this is a controversial position. Why do we want to live life “to the fullest?” Because eventually it will end. Why do all religions invest a large part of their doctrines in developing a discipline attitude toward the nature of mortality? Because it’s nature is to bring death. Why can the dead bring us to tears? Because they are the dearly and truly departed.

Thought of in this way, a goodbye is never a goodbye, but rather a tremor that forewarns that goodbye, which we are always eluding. Until we are not. The stutters, awkward handshakes, hugs and kisses, and heartened promises are precipitated by an impossible thought–a thought of nonbeing, of separation, of incompleteness.

Certainly we form ourselves through the people around us, the places we visit, and the thoughts that form our everyday life. In this way to speak of the “self” is always to speak of an”Other.” As indebted as my opinions on this matter are to Derrida, Lacan, and Levinas, the self/other dichotomy–constructed intersubjectivly–is problematic at best and misrepresenting at worst. Suffeict it to say (for {on being invisible} at least) that if our notion of the self comes through an other, to say goodbye is to prohibit that aspect of the self from developing: to kill one’s self.

This is why I believe that all of our goodbyes are couched in the “till next time” sentiment. We desperately hope that those worthy enough to say goodbye to are also true enough to find again, its those parts of our self, which we are willing to say goodbye to, that we want to meet again. The fate of our self depends on it.

If only it were so simple. Bidding farewell may be a small scale suicidal performance, but we do it because of the promise of resurrection. The open-endedness of our goodbyes betrays our belief in a new and glittering future. We must be able to walk away in order to come back. This is the crux of the cultural paradigms that demand social networking. Our interconnectedness promises unlimited intersubjectivity, wherever we go, however far we travel we can always reach out to our old neighbors and lovers. It sounds like a utopia of intersubjectivity, and yet more than ever we are unable to firmly understand who and where we are.

My contention is that saying goodbye is as critical to a notion of intersubjective space as connectedness. Departing, walking away, letting time pass are nessecary counterpoints to meaningful relationships and recognizable identities. To put it simply: If life is meaningful because it will end, our self is whole and our friends are valuable because we leave them. To say goodbye is to kill part of the self, but its a nessecary death, which promises new and meaningful formations of the self.

This post has long left the impetus of its departure. I’m an hour closer to another goodbye. The memories of the last five years are imprinted in mosaics across my thoughts. Like Zach, the dirty old town of East Lansing went from the epitome of freedom, to the last wall of escape, and now to the aches of nostalgia.

goodbye my fancies.

After an almost year long sabbatical from blogging and social networking I found myself back in the fold. What brought me back? Deleuze and Guattari of course. My written work has inspired me to take up the question of literary systems in the 21st century. As natural consequence I came (back) to the writings of D+G. It was probably the first chapter of Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature that reminded me that I needed to blog again:

This work is a rhizome, a burrow. THe castle has multiple entrances whose rules of usage and whole locations aren’t very well known…We will enter, then, by any point whatsoever; none matters more than another, and no entrance is more privileged even if it seems an impasse, a tight passage, a siphon…Only the principle of multiple entrances prevents the introduction of the enemy, the Signifier and those attempts to interpret a work that is actually only open to experimentation.

Let me offer one meaning from the hundreds that this passage suggests: There is no beginning, there can be no introduction. One finds oneself immersed into a great web of meaning and slowly, carefully one begins to orient, arrange and understand their surroundings. But the knowledge of that surrounding is always mitigated by the nature of their location in a space that is always subject to change. The blind-spot that their “objectivity” necessitates makes understanding impossible, yet meaning persists out of the meaninglessness.

This is the metaphor for all systems in the 21st century, this blog notwithstanding. In previous iterations I may have suggested constraint for this medium, trying to contain and direct its expansion. Like any second-order cybernetic system the contraints become arbitrary markers, defined by their inability to contain.

This blog is a blog. Forget tautology. Lets begin.