Icarus and related matters

(centripetal |senˈtripətl| adjective Physics moving or tending to move toward a center.
centrifugal |senˈtrif(y)əgəl| adjective Physics moving or tending to move away from a center.)

Aspects of flux: concentration and dispersal. Oral culture is the culture of concentration: images and icons are relatively few, and recitation is the modality for the transmission of ideas, argumentation, etc. Literate culture is almost the exact opposite – except that it can still only transmit itself (i.e. exercise power) through the oral, that is, through concentration; think of all the reading done for a university lecture, but then of the lecture itself. Images in a literate culture proliferate at an alarming rate: images spread themselves like diseases (even AIDS is more of a socially transmitted disease, rather than a sexually transmitted one; the only disease that is sexual is life itself). The more dispersed a population becomes, through literacy (not necessarily reading literature), the more images are allowed to survive. (By images I mean the concretion of a word, for example: the images of woman vs. the word Woman.) Urban sprawl is proof that we have not escaped the limitations of oral culture, merely expanded its edges and insanities.

The urban and suburban populations fluctuate between concentration (the sheer ecstasy of being in a crowd) and dispersal (isolation to one’s external core). The modes of transportation, as space becomes more tightly concentrated (e.g. apartment complexes) and more loosely dispersed (suburban communities), simultaneously, can no longer accommodate commuters: highways are slowly becoming obsolete and the resources necessary to maintain them are becoming scarcer all the time. Road rage is reaching, already has, the status of an epidemic. The next step in the evolution of transportation will be for people to genetically manipulate their bodies into sprouting wings (Red Bull), and fly from place to place.

Electric light (We, the new pantheon, eat electric light) creates insomnia: the tense concentration of conscious energy. Lack of sleep, of dreaming, obliterates the unconscious while at the same time creating nostalgia for the relaxation that can only be found in fantasy: the dream symbolized, tether of desire to the letter. Unconscious desire, since it can no longer be dreamed, or symbolized as such will have no other choice but to manifest in the Real; all work and no play makes Jack a violent boy – a violence created out of sheer boredom, rather dull and insipid.

The father of Icarus unknowingly killed him. However, we may say that the death-drive was strong in Icarus: bored with the wonders of flight he flew, higher and higher, until the concentration of airy kinetic energy was at last able to return to that coveted state of rest called death. It may also be said that the desire of Icarus in flight was the delight of being dispersed; outside of the earth’s gravitational forces, liberated and intoxicated with the trajectory of his own velocity. And, it must be added, his fall was that same desire being reversed, as it always is, to simply lose all of one’s abilities and crash, face first, into watery rocks.

Images are no longer (perhaps never have been) points of concentration, but representations of dispersal: the phenomenon of co-location is banally realized with the age of mechanical reproduction. The representations, all but un-aware of this co-location, continue to act as if they were unique and not just an endlessly reproduced simulacra, forever disjoined from the aura of their creator. Even in oral cultures images are concentrated on, but still only represent the limits of the edges of the sensual.

The pattern of getting and spending is also one of centripetality and centrifugality. Work disperses desire. Consumption concentrates it. Each transaction is a quilting point in the endless cycle(?) of this process. This means that, although the same products are bought over and over, purchasing is the purchase of symbolic death; the price tag is the difference between a pine box and a jade coffin, with all the implications of the class struggle, in the Darwinian sense. The most rampant symptom of unbridled consumerism is the consumption of objects that cannot be consumed, or whose consumption does not exceed the moment of one’s expenditure. All art is quite useless, unlike other objects, because of its potential to be the gift that keeps on giving; other objects cannot be valued at all, but have various useful uses (i.e. gadgetry: objects built / designed with only secondary purposes). Art can be continually consumed (vultures and liver) and, thus, can never exceed this use – but when art is designed to be a secondary function (Andy Warhol, the Man that imitates the Machine that makes an Industry of Art) this secondary function, usually to be a tacky decoration, becomes the focus of desire for art.

In the near future, space itself will be off limits, and time will be homogeneous. The living reality of nothing but voluntary memories; the flux between the known (center) and the unknown (edges) will be completely filled in, like the planes of an Escher drawing. The human mind will be the map that Borges talks about: useless because we know everything about it, replaced by its own imaginary use – thank you cognitive psychology – welcome to Disney Land.


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