Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen

Ich wandle unter Menschen als den Bruchstücken der Zukunft: jener Zukunft, die ich schaue.

Und das ist all mein Dichten und Trachten, dass ich in Eins dichte und zusammentrage, was Bruchstück ist und Räthsel und grauser Zufall.

Und wie ertrüge ich es, Mensch zu sein, wenn der Mensch nicht auch Dichter und Räthselrather und der Erlöser des Zufalls wäre!

Die Vergangnen zu erlösen und alles „Es war“ umzuschaffen in ein „So wollte ich es!“ — das hiesse mir erst Erlösung!

(Also sprach Zarathustra, Von Friedrich Nietzsche)

 

Gathering by writing creates unity from the pain and chaos. Zarathustra claimed this as his rescue, his deliverance. Let that power into your words today writer. Turn every fact of the past into the acquiescence of your command. Be brave. Make it so.

 

“I walk among people as among the fragments of the future: the future into which I glance.

And it is with all my poetry and aspiration that I write into unity, as I gather the fragments and the riddles, and the terrible accidents.

And how can I endure being human, if each person were not also a poet and a riddle-reader and the Redeemer of accidents!

To redeem the past and to change everything from ‘It was’ into an ‘I wanted it so!’—that alone means redemption to me!

(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, from Friedrich Nietzsche)

Writer’s block (i)

Generally, writer’s block is described as the experience of being unable to write, despite the desire to write, wherein no other perceptible incapacities prevent writing. Some people claim writer’s block is a myth; that it is a form of self-delusion. Denial, however, is an unhelpful approach to a person experiencing writer’s block.

Writer’s block is often characterised as a type of suffering. It could, perhaps, be thought of as a type of pain. This view, of writer’s block as a type of pain, may have more efficacy than the usual psychological approach to writer’s block as a stress reaction.

We have a range of effective frameworks for understanding and managing pain. The experience of suffering, in contrast, is often left unattended and demoted as less critical than an experience of pain.

 

Epistemological concussion and masochism

We, people, observe particular knowledges even when our experiences falsify that knowledge. What we say is different to what we do, and different again, to what we believe.

Interesting writing seeks out our sites of epistemological concussion because, therein, is usually something worth saying in words.

Our epistemological concussion at the sites of pain and pleasure are a distinctly deep knowledge/experience trauma. So much of what we claim to know about pain fails to correlate to our first-person experience. For this reason, sadism and masochism are interesting settings of epistemological concussion worthy of words.

The word, ‘masochism’ has been likened to a wound (see, for example, Eugenie Brinkema drawing from Lacan and Nancy (but regrettably not Derrida)). In this metaphor, the wound of/from masochism is a result of a lack of definition. For masochism (pleasure in pain) to be what it is, pain cannot mean what it means and pleasure cannot mean what it means.

While a literary treatment of masochism is blessedly refreshing compared to the usual psychological and medical stodge, such an approach tends towards a performative narcissism at the expense of the topic at hand. The first responder to any knowing/living epistemological concussion is best chosen from ordinary language. That is what it means to write hard and clear.

Masochism as a wound—a gaping split, a leaking suture, a sore slash, a wet gash, a weeping wound—with these words we begin to find our living pain knowledge.

 

Is pain a pleasure through ‘some strange alchemy’?

Ever bitten into a tiny raw chilli? Or ordered a twice-hot curry for dinner? What was your experience? And, importantly, how can you bring that experience into the best lights through your personal form of writing?

In A Defence of Masochism, Phillips says ‘…if pain can become pleasure through some strange alchemy, perhaps pleasure itself it not so easily understood” (p35).

Putting the straw-person aside (i.e. who ever said pleasure was easily understood?) there is a glaring deficiency in Phillips’ argument; namely the use of the phrase “through some strange alchemy.” I see this deficiency repeated in many philosophical explorations. Furthermore, rather than pausing to do the hard work to resolve or account for the deficiency, Phillips skips to the next premise, hoping that the wilful act of writing down the words will be sufficient for advancing the argument. But, of course, it is not sufficient.

If you, in your own work, are struggling to express or understand a problem, such as pain, consciousness, symbolism, culture, life, etc., you will reach for grout that permits you to lay the next tile in your thought and development. In Phillips, “through some strange alchemy” is that grout, gap-filler. These pseudo-claims are a useful tool and should be used in early draft work. They keep an argument in motion.

Published texts, however, such as A Defence of Masochism, are devalued as a whole when lazy, magical, hand-wavy putty work is not replaced with a sincere struggle towards candid articulation.

Pain and pleasure are so deeply embedded in our narrative and cultural structures that is it indisputably difficult to experience these phenomena as they appear. The accepted homilies that pass for knowledge, e.g. we are adverse to pain and seek pleasure, dominate pain studies in philosophy. A potentially disruptive text, such as A Defence of Masochism, cannot afford to accept “some strange alchemy” as a satisfactory contribution if it is to challenge orthodoxy with effect.

Pain and pleasure are refreshingly complex experiences. When we describe them as they appear, we may first notice the many discrepancies. Holes appear, for example, between accepted narratives such as pain being painful, pain being undesirable, when contrasted with the experienced pleasure of burning and sweating from a painfully hot meal. The experience of pain and pleasure do not align with our accepted knowledge.

In The Crisis of the European Sciences Husserl said, “I seek not to instruct but only to lead, to point out and describe what I see. I claim no other right than that of speaking according to my best lights, principally before myself but in the same manner also before others…” If we commit and follow through our right to speak out the experience of the world for our own self, in our best lights, we will find the stamina to write past lame “alchemy” claims into productive description. Pain studies, from the clinical to the erotic, are in need of quality first person experiential description.

 

Phillips, A. 1998. A Defence of Masochism. London: Faber and Faber

 

[Buy me a coffee]

 

**Hats off to a treasured reader for the Phillips text.