Monday, December 15, 2008

The Stupid Christ (Part 1)

The Stupid Christ

when you felt forsaken
you knew us best . .
it was after all then
you were a stupid christ

you were damned lucky son .
for that bit of the story
nailed that way . . .
complaining about it .

the guy next door knew more
you finally got it straight maybe
seeing him there .
hanging just like you .

dear sweet jesus .
you never left the cradle really
your ascension .
was barely an elevation

so when I used the mallet
saving an extra nail
pounding through . . .
both feet at once .

making sure to shatter
the joints in your wrists
to finish at last .
the manifest trinity .

not leaving one arm dangling
I was the worst of us
so my personal sorrow ended
thanks to you . . .

having finished .
what father wanted
completely . . .
for life eternal

for we the holy ghost

One shouldn’t really comment on the intuitive realm of poetry, on what it means for example. Without interpreting one may simply observe a mathematical structure: 9 parts, 33 lines, 6 beats to a line, 198 beats, 1+9+8 = 18 = 1 + 8 = 9, the trinity remains in the trinity of the trinity. Boldly speaking though, this is a resurrection. The trinity is incorporated in the expansion. The law was three, six was a revolution, 33 another, 198 another for the complete situation of the poem.

Of course we are dealing with more than number. Some beats have syllables and these form words and words illicit memory associated with meanings, whatever meanings have been gathered by the reader, from experience with those words in our participation in humanity. Its not too great a leap to presuppose the topic of the poem has to do with religion. However, religion for the vast majority of us has been sutured to an ideology of transcendent operation on the human experience.. but that’s not what this poem is expressing, its not what was being expanded in my mind in its first manifestation some decade ago or in its various resurrections. The idea of a transcendent being, a god, is the theist wager, the theist faith. Rather, my wager is atheist.. but this does not preclude faith in the implications of the advent, or simply the event of Christ.

Presently the poem, at this the annual holy season, finds a mind engaged in political revolution and its really quite interesting to me how it plays. As will be discussed, the implications around the question of religion are of no small import to philosophy, the philosophical examination going on in Marxist revolutionary circles. This has found particular focus in consideration of the biblical text from St. Paul by a number of thinkers. I am reading Alain Badiou’s book “St.Paul: The Foundation of Universalism”. The present series of entries take up his ideas in some detail as discussed in several articles. We will be returning to the significance of mathematics as you will find, and probably I will venture unwisely into the meaning of that poem.

We will begin with an interview with Alain Badiou from which I have provided excerpts and commentary – of course I recommend the entire interview (which by the way has Badiou’s own opinion of the difference between his own project and that of Savoj Zizek, which I have not addressed here):

Adam Miller has done such a praiseworthy job of analysis and review of the book. Early on he selects a number of statements from the first chapter, beginning with the way Badiou distances himself from theology (excerpts):

“My goal is only to read exactly what Paul has said. So my reading of Saint Paul is absolutely on the surface of the text.. does not involve faith or the church. It is, strictly speaking, a relation to the text of Paul and nothing else.. reading of Paul as something like a testimony about a new conception of truth. I read Paul not at all as a sacred text, as a revelation or something religious. Instead, I read Paul as a text about a new and provocative conception of truth and, more profoundly, about the general conditions for a new truth.”

The next part of Miller’s review begins to listen to what Badiou means by universalism:

“ ‘The Foundation of Universalism’ is a provocative subtitle.. to be more precise, the foundation of an explicit conception of universalism.. the formation of a new conception of what universalism is.. For me, something is universal if it is something that is beyond established differences. We have differences that seem absolutely natural to us. In the context of these differences, the sign of a new truth is that that these differences become indifferent. So we have an absorption of an evident natural difference into something that is beyond that difference.”

In breaching a concept of universalism, Badiou is actually leading to his special concept of the “Event” which is a central axiom of his philosophy. First of all, more from Miller’s review - quotes from the book about examples of the meaning of universalism and the role of indifference:

“A striking example.. the creation of a new physics by Galileo.. completely new conception of movement in which the difference between concrete, natural movement on the one side and mathematical analysis on the other side becomes indifferent. This happens because Galileo declares that the world itself is written in mathematical language. The old difference simply loses its pertinence.. Traditionally, universalism is conceived as the realization of a universal judgment about some real thing.. Universality as a judgment is something that you can find from Aristotle to Kant to analytic philosophy today.”

Badiou is not speaking, however, in the traditional way about universalism:

“My conception is, on the contrary, a creative one. Universalism is always the result of a great process that opens with an event. To create something universal is to go beyond evident differences and separations.. But the fact that with a new truth there is always something like the becoming indifferent of some evident differences is, in my opinion, very important. It is true in the example of Galileo. It is true in all the examples of a new truth.”

Applying this conception to a reading of St. Paul:

“Paul, of course, knows perfectly well that there are people who are Jews and people who are Greeks. But the new truth exceeds the evident difference between the Jew and the Greek. We can only completely receive a new truth by going beyond such differences. But this does not mean for Paul that they need to change their customs and practices. Instead, there is a becoming indifferent to this difference.. is certainly something like an anti-Semitism in primitive Christianity, but not in Paul. Paul is only saying that something that constitutes a difference in his world becomes indifferent in light of the new event”

This going beyond evident differences and separations in Badiou thought does not mean the formation of a new separate particularity, rather:

“the question of separation belongs to the question of universalism. There is not, in my view, necessarily a contradiction between the two.. The formation of a new particularity, a new closed group, leads exactly, for example, to anti-Semitism.. For Paul, there is certainly a kind of separation necessary for his universalism because we have separated ourselves from the old man. We have, out of this separation, a newness of life. But it remains a universalism because there is no limit to this separation, there is no closure.”

One sees in Badiou, his philosophy on universalism, this process generated by world revolutionary events a special conception of subjectivity – and he finds this as well in his reading of Paul :

“there is, for Paul, in the process of universalism, something like division but this is a division internal to the subject itself. It is not an external division between the subject and others, but a division within the subject. Every subject has to cross a sort of intimate division between the old man and the new man, between the power of death and the power of life”

Adam Miller in his review may not have entered into this concept in the way I have exactly – I mean the idea in Badiou that I have absorbed in reading him regarding the distinction of the individual and the subject of universalism. This has been intimated in the selections above and also in:

“.. there is also always a risk that this separation may become closed and turn universalism against itself. This is always a risk. This is true not only in the religious field but also in the revolutionary field.. But there is never the pure opposition of universalism and separation because there is something like the becoming separate of a universalism.”

There is the individual, as I understand it,that is subjectivity in the coordinates of the pre-evental situation, the state of an individual’s mind. Not transcending this state but within this state is the potential of an expansion of the pre-evental situation by a process of faith, not in an external god, but in participation in the truth of a novel event in the universal field of subjectivity. I think this what Badiou means when he says:

“You have to understand that there is something in the becoming of a truth that exceeds the strict possibilities of the human mind. There is something in truth that is beyond our immediate capacities. In a new truth there is something that is beyond the established differences between languages and facts”

I wonder if the intuition operating in a poem is universal subjectivity and if creativity in the poet exceeds the immediate capacity of his mind? Did Christ at last contract into the coordinates of humanity’s limits in his day, such that he and his Father were not one? In putting him to death did the protagonist of the poem initiate participation in the event of Christ’s resurrection? Was this an event for the eternal life of the Holy Ghost? How could the poet possibly know?

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