“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

At the London Launch

The Old Church (1563)


It was such an extraordinary contrast with the Norwich one. Complementary. Norwich: an eighteenth-century Unitarian church. London: the one remaining Elizabethan church in London (1563, on land noted in the Domesday Book in 1086. Norwich: pale greens. London: pinks and magenta light. Norwich: octagonal space, almost in the round, with a balcony. London: a stage with chairs surrounding the stage. 

These physical differences were matched by what we talked about. I say we because for me, thinking is a team sport, and now that I've met my cousin Lee, a bespoke suit maker, I understand the concept of decorum afresh. Decorum, a classical rhetorical concept, doesn't have to mean "fitting" language in some cookie-cutter way: language has to fit cliches, established by authority, so that dawn is always the rosy fingers of Aurora and so on... 

Decorum is TAILORING. It's doing what Harman talks about in Guerilla Metaphysics: going with the flow (or against) of the thing, following its directives. It's along the same lines as Heidegger's wonderful remark about rhetoric  as listening. 

Lee and I do the same job, that's patently clear. Lee does it with cloth; I do it with phrases. 

Audience size was the same in both cases: one hundred and twenty. But the vibe was different. I would put it this way, in terms of a radius from my personal life, my friendships, my family. Norwich had a greater radius--my life was in there, but the edge of the circle was to do with the political and literary and theological content of the new project(s). London's radius was narrower, which wasn't to say that it didn't include a lot of the book. 

But in London I had cousins, friends I hadn't seen in thirty plus years, friends I hadn't seen in ten plus years, so many wonderful people. My stepdad Maurice's friend Beverley came, a poet whose podcast I recommend most highly. 

Maurice was the continuity between both. How many times do you think I've been with my biological father to an event? Let alone out of town? Let alone to two in a  row? He did show up to one of my lectures, just one, but he didn't tell me he'd be there and I didn't see him afterwards. He did show up to a concert of my music in college, and he did show up to some of me and my brother's gigs. But trust me, it was different. 

 My childhood exemplifies Lacan's phrase "le père ou le pire": the father, or something much worse. It's a real stretch for Zizek to say that this phrase (originally ".... ou le pire") means that the "father" / oedipal authority is something that in the end needs replacing because it's intrinsically bad. I would have given ANYTHING to have a normal, slightly irritating, totally reliable and loving dad. And where do anti-Oedipal solutions go apart from into incest? Really? I'm not talking about an individual. You can imaging a commune whose authority is irritating and loving and consistent. Or you can imagine Jonestown. 

It's been an overwhelmingly wonderful week. 

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