|Let's start with F's
"ordinary eternal machinery," which like Deleuze and Guattari's "desiring
machines," conceives of the body as a multiple symbolic generator, continually
pumping out desire in the most eccentric ways. As in the "Telephone Dance"
with F and Edith, where F says "I became a telephone" and "Edith was the
electronic conversation that went through me" (Cohen 35). A profusion of
production occurs with F imploring I, our narrator, in his usual didactic manner, to
"connect nothing." The problem is I connects everything, weaving his
imaginary thread through all forms, bringing them into the whole, under the lure of
maternal love. F's task is to be the big daddy phallus, symbolic destroyer of
imaginary wholeness, cutter of connecting threads. F, like Proust's Penelope,
implores I to empty his memory, to listen to the present.
There is a deep friendship
between I and F, one not surprising given the force of attraction between I's imaginary
quest for wholeness and F's destructive symbolic activity. The difference between
them, yet their mutuality, is shown in the work of the bowels: I is continually
constipated, can't let go, and is thereby marked with an incredible loneliness, whereas F
is always losing control of his bowels, always spilling himself out for the world. F
is going to teach something to I about this. I is "weighted with a sealed
bowel" and, unlike F who spills, he cannot "help the flowers and the dung
beetles" (41). Thanks to F, though, he is seeking a way out: "Please make
me empty, if I'm empty then I can receive, if I can receive it means it comes from
somewhere outside of me, if it comes from outside of me then I am not alone"
(41). The problem I has is a familiar one for males who are consumed with the
maternal connection, a connection that funds their narcissism. The warm and cozy
love mommy once provided locks the male into a fantasy world of the ONE true love.
As I says, "I am the sealed, dead, impervious museum of my appetite. This
is the brutal solitude of constipation" (42).
F's training of I is an
education in hysteria. I tells us that F "was ready to use any damn method to
make me hysterical" (59). F says that "hysteria is my classroom"
(59). This is said on the occasion of F's giving I a prayer box with the
inscription: "A man translates himself into a child asking for all there is in a
language he has barely mastered" (59).
F's hysterical solution
arrives in the form of a box of fireworks. I plays with the "red and green
firecone" and with the "skyrocket" (67) and finds his imaginary ego coming
apart; once bound, I's secure ego becomes unbound, unraveled. This is a painful
process for I, and as he experiences the pain of the explosions he cries out for
"nummy, nummy" (67), longing for the maternal retreat. No retreat is
possible now, though, and the dummy ego of I "has sneaked out into the
furniture" (68). The exploding symbolic fireworks of F are unplugging the
previously sealed orifices of I. "I've leaked all over the kitchen," says
I. Somebody needs to "put me back in my skin" (68). We are faced
here with the inevitability of aggression in the destruction of I's imaginary world.
Fundamentally, this is an aggression towards oneself, a violence that turns against
the constipated ego, a primary masochism that battles narcissism in its fixation on the
maternal. We have in F's explosive teaching the expression of the death drive and
through its expression the possible coming-into-being of the subject against the
constraints of the imaginary ego. Why else such a fascination with dismemberment and
We all know the
inadequacy of language in the face of the Real (we are all such good Kantians). The
question is what will be the response to this condition. F's solution is that of the
poet's: "the notion that he is not bound to the world as given, that he can escape
from the painful arrangement of things as they are" (59). And now, as the
master and teacher, he must convince I that to gain some access to the Real requires an
hysterical language that is not bound to this world and its "painful
arrangement." A special symbolic jouissance will destroy all arrangements that
have settled in and become frozen like idols, fetishistic illusions, imaginary solutions
as a longing for security.
The explosion of F's
fireworks is closely connected to sexual explosions. Firecrackers and cocks, they
both blow up in your hand. F is an expert at finding new spaces to spill himself to
the world. On their way to Ottawa where F will take up his position as a new Member
of Parliament, F begins to masturbate while driving. I is awed at F's phallic power,
which is the power of the symbolic that men strive for. "I've never seen you
so big," says I. "Can I hold it . . . . I love your
power. Teach me everything" (97). I claims he cannot bear his loneliness
any longer and starts to masturbate with F, "two swelling pricks pointed at
eternity" (97). F is able to come and enjoy his release, but I doesn't, because
just before he is about to, they run into a wall, "made of a scrim of painted
silk" (99). F asks: "How about the second just before you were about to
shoot. Did you sense the emptiness? Did you get the freedom?"
(100). I didn't for he feared the wall. F tells I that he should have kept
going and disregarded the wall. There is nothing to be done about the wall anyway,
so you might as well get a good come out of it. But I cannot empty himself, cannot
gain the freedom. There is always the wall for him, which has become internalized
into his character. F wants him to forget the wall. The wall is not so
dangerous. In fact, it is made of silk. It is beautiful, feminine, an aid in
experimentation with "ordinary eternal machinery" is aided by the variety of
instruments available in popular culture. Popular culture products, in their
diffuseness, serve as one way of breaking through the imaginary wholeness, the ego
Vibrator is one of these popular culture instruments. Edith cannot make herself come
any more. F, naturally, has the symbolic solution and is going to design things so
that Edith will "perfect the pan-orgasmic body" (178). First, says F,
"we do it with books" (179). F reads from books, everything from
"What We Can Learn From the Anteater" to "Auto-Eroticism in Windows"
(179). This gets Edith excited. F reads of "unusual sex practices"
in which "there is some greater pleasure than orgasm through intercourse"
(180). He reads of "bizarre practices" that "involve a measure of
mutilation, shock, voyeurism, pain and torture" (180).
There is pleasure here
in the death-drive. That pleasure comes through the destruction of the usual and the
courting of the unusual and the bizarre. F continues to read, the practices becoming
even more bizarre and shocking: "Men masturbated to death. Cannibalism during
foreplay. Skull Coition" (182).
During this symbolic
enactment, Edith "moan[s] in terrible hunger" (184). She desires to
"be freed from the unbearable coils of secular pleasure" (184). Secular
pleasure involves coils that keep us bound to the cult of the here and now, the everyday.
We desire to "soar into the blind realm," lose our attachments to petty
material pleasures, find the pleasure "so like sleep, so like death," a pleasure
that is "beyond pleasure" (184).
Books provide for
a symbolic destruction, destroying the imaginary ego, the bound ego, creating a space
where unusual desires can be expressed. Secular pleasure involves a reduction of
excitement in the homeostatic quest of the imaginary ego. The symbolic language of
sado-masochism blasts apart that boundedness, no longer reducing excitement, but allowing
the subject to be overwhelmed by jouissance.
Books, however, are not
enough in this symbolic quest. The technology needs to be more powerful. Enter
the Danish Vibrator, which, like the Telephone Dance, is part of F's ordinary eternal
F plugs in the D.V.
"A degrading spectacle followed" (185). According to the demands of the
death-drive, this is only appropriate. Edith gets hold of the D.V., and it
"hum[s] like a whittler as it [rises] and [falls] over Edith's young contours"
(188). With the assistance of the D.V., both Edith and F are able to come.
Thinking they are finished, they pull the plug on the D.V.
The D.V. stops, but then
begins to "produce a shattering sonic whistle" (190). Says F: "It's
learned to feed itself" (190). F and Edith realize that they do not control the
ordinary eternal machinery. They are its servants as it makes light of their puny
egos and shows who's boss. The death drive rules.
The D.V. moves toward
Edith. She is frightened, but, "numbed by horror and the prospect of disgusting
thrills, she [is] ready to submit" (191). Here, we have gone beyond the
pleasure principle, and in this state Edith submits totally to the death work of the
master D.V. She then becomes "nothing but a buffet of juice, flesh, excrement,
muscles, to serve its appetite" (191). The coherence is lost, the boundedness
provided by ego work abandoned, the victory is to symbolic destruction.
The work of symbolic
death through popular technology continues with the Charles Axis body building. F
gets his extraordinary body by responding to an advertisement on the back of a comic book
(73). The ad has seven frames which show men bullied because they are too skinny;
they get muscles, are no longer bullied, and then get the women. The story line is,
of course, clichéd, but yet, as far as F is concerned, it has its usefulness. Both
F and I are too fat, and F has decided he is going to lose his fat. He works out
with the Charles Axis method and, by treating it as a religious experience, is able quite
quickly to lose the fat he despises. But at this point a disturbance is registered
in F's discourse, a disturbance that will deepen as things progress. After doing the
popular symbolic body work, F is bullied by Charles Axis who castigates him for being too
skinny. Men constantly pursue the phallic ideal, with work never ending in the quest
for symbolic solutions. From F's perspective, this is surely an advance over I's
passivity, signified by a lonely sedentary lifestyle which results in fat. In fact,
I confesses that he "dLet's start with F's "ordinary eternal machinery,"
which likeidn't listen to Charles Axis" (122). All he had to do was give up
fifteen minutes a day to achieve an acceptable body. To F, I has an "arrogant
body" (123). I wants to be "Blue Beetle," "Captain Marvel,"
"Plastic Man," not Robin but Batman, "Superman who was never Clark
Kent" (123). I goes on to admit that he "wanted miracles," that he
"wanted to wake up suddenly with X-Ray vision" (124). These are all
fantasies of easy completeness, womb quests, imaginary solutions, desire without any
struggle, ecstasy without any contact with the heavy handed work of material symbols,
plenitude without the experience of difference. But the symbolic quest of F has its
own difficulties for men. Lost in the mad quest to get beyond imaginary entrapment
in the maternal is the insight that there is a lack at the very core of our being and that
the task is to somehow accept the nothingness of that space, our inherent incompleteness:
once fat is done away with, skinny is there to make its demands. The insight of lack
is avoided by both imaginary and symbolic solutions, or, as we shall see, can only be
grasped through a mutual destruction.
It turns out that the
real problem for men is not just imaginary entrapment, which seals one in the grasp of the
maternal, the Great Mother, but also symbolic entrapment, spun out into the world in a
dance of signs, always moving forward impatiently, yet never satisfied.
We begin to see movement
toward a solution through an encounter with native spirituality as it collides with the
spirituality of the Christian missionaries. In fact, the Telephone Dance must be an
ancient ritual, for we find the French Catholic missionaries trying to stamp it out among
the Mohawk elders of Kahnawake. The elders do not connect things the way the
missionaries want. The missionary says, "You won't be able to hear me if you
keep your fingers in your ears" (86). Instead, dribble and spit comes out of
the elders' mouths. For the missionaries, the continuance of the Telephone Dance
will lead the natives into hell, where a demon will "cut off your head, extract your
heart, lick up your brain, drink your blood, eat your flesh, and nibble your bones"
(86). In a sense, the Telephone Dance is played out by the missionaries themselves,
but now under the sign of repression. There is a sado-masochistic pleasure for the
missionaries in meticulously describing the torture, the return of the repressed.
intensifies in the encounter between a Catholic priest and Catherine Tekakwitha's uncle
(119-21). Catherine's uncle stays true to the Indian ways, but the priest persists
in trying to convert him to Christianity, especially the Christian conception of
heaven. In the priest's vision, heaven is a place where all differences are
reconciled. It is a beyond of unitary wholeness in stark contrast to the pain of
division which pervades our sinful lives as material beings. For Catherine's uncle,
heaven does not overcome the divisions. Death connects you with your ancestors and
your relatives around the fire. But first you must begin an arduous journey in which
you will have to overcome many obstacles. Once you have done that, the most
important event to happen, in order for you to achieve true redemption, is to have your
brain removed from your skull. This is the key to the Telephone Dance: the
connection between the fingers is made possible by the absence between the ears.
Subjectivity is an absence, a fundamental lack in Being, a nothingness which is filled and
then emptied, filled and then emptied. The journey of becoming brainless is itself
the key in which the puny brainy ego is removed, and Spirit is the emptiness left.
This means that true Spirit is not a beyond that we are blocked access to, but is the
essence of what is the here and now: it is nothing.
This is something that F
does not understand in his quest for symbolic destruction of I's imaginary world.
And it should not surprise us that the key for the redemption of masculine desire for both
I and F should come through an experience of the feminine. I experiences imaginary
entrapment because he is caught up in his first love, an experience of the Great
Mother. F sees it as his duty as a friend, teacher, and master to destroy that
attachment between I and the maternal.
F's work is phallic,
coming between I and the maternal to send I out into the world of "ordinary eternal
machinery." The destruction of I's imaginary commitment is important, but
definitely not the end of the story, for F's symbolic world is itself in need of
destruction, needs to be shorn of its phallic pretensions toward control and mastery, the
lure of systems. Even though I has experienced the fall from grace, separation from
mommy, his very connection with the maternal opens the possibility for redemption at
another level, not the level of the imaginary Great Mother but the level of the Great
Goddess, that wonderfully ecstatic experience of the maternal beyond all imaginary and
symbolic forms. Thus, male eroticism must escape the maternal at one level, through
the work of F's phallic symbolic, but must return to the maternal at a new level of
experience, that which approaches the Real. Male desire is always ever drawn to the
maternal, our first and only love. The question is whether that love consumes our
male desire and leaves us forever speechless and lonely, or whether we can experience that
love anew from the perspective of ecstasy.
|F is failing.
F: "I have followed women everywhere . . . . I followed them and I
sank down with them" (156).
The veiled woman enticing, luring male desire,
away, away from the straight, multiple jouissance.
Problem for F: "Women hissed at me"
Hissing of women's desire unable ha, ha
to rattle the phallic tree.
Hiss as animal desire.
Poor F: "Will the animals stop howling,
Stop the women hiss stop the
F loves dances, but not foreign dances.
"I love dances that have rules, my
F loves rules, must use the ruler, drawing his
lines, straight across the page.
Sorry, project failing.
"The voice comes out of the
whirlwind" (158). Hiss.
F's insight: "My dear friend, go beyond
my style" (161).
Men veiled from the Real.
Not by the Father, but by the Mother, the
I's love connection to the maternal, consumed
by fantasies of completeness, bringing loneliness and not redemption.
Ends up trapped, world of sameness, always
ever self-generated, going nowhere, lonely, boring.
What for men, to lift the veil?
Nothing as love.
Does not leave us constipated and lonely.
Spreads and spreads, opening our desire,
outside of the enclosure.
Without trapping us in another system, like F.
Style is madness.
Get past imaginary unities of I through
"You were the wall which I, batlike,
bounced my screams off of, so I might have direction in this long nocturnal flight"
The master flees the wholeness through mad
I is "the good animal [F] wanted to
Failure of madness and possibilities for I.
Not through madness, but a mystical move.
Connect with the feminine, with Catherine's
desire, forgetfulness, realizing that there is Nothing beyond the veil.
Is there not a problem with eccentricity?
Does it not circle back continually?
Do we as males need Catherine's indifference?
A contact with Nothing?
Problem is F "cannot stop teaching"
(161) Teaching madness.
F has "nothing but a system" (162),
whereas I is "bound by old laws of suffering and obscurity."
F is "fearful of the cripple's
F, you were never tormented, never suffered,
never trembled before the terrors.
I has and F understands the connection with
redemption: "Has loneliness led you into ecstasy?" (163, 164).
Catherine's baptism is "apocalyptic . .
. . that which is revealed when a woman's veil is lifted" (105).
Political demonstration (125-31).
The crowd connects, imaginary rhetoric of
Illusory language of wholeness and
completeness established through blood as fetish.
I with woman in crowd whom he cannot see, who
She grabs him and blood begins to flow.
Blood also flowing amongst the demonstrators.
Terrible British, trying to destroy the French
They shout, "give us back our blood"
which "is our nourishment and our destiny" (129).
Blood as a unitary quest, the unity of the
people, spreading though the crowd.
Does the blood that seeks unity achieve its
Does I meet the woman where his blood can find
The crowd disperses, nothing accomplished.
Quest for unity ends up with Nothing and I
cannot find the woman she is still veiled and hasn't come. "F, I
cried, I didn't come. I failed again" (131).
F realizes something more important has been
achieved. He responds: "No, darling, you passed" (131).
"Magic is alive" (167).
Magic, magic, "It rests in an empty
palm. It spawns in an empty mind" (168).
Only when emptied, then magic experienced.
Did F neglect to properly empty himself? Will
this be left to I?
A bark hut beside the path. There lived
Oscotarach, the Head- Piercer.
"It was his function to remove the brains
from the skulls of all who went by 'as a necessary preparation for immortality' "
Spirit is only a skull. Subjectivity as
Is this the lesson for I in the treehouse?
F: "Perhaps the treehouse where you
suffer is the hut of Oscotarach" (196).
I's first lesson: subjectivity is not
I's second lesson: subjectivity is not F's
symbolic systems, F's ordinary eternal machinery.
I must lose his brain and catch hold of the
emptiness that is the Real.
"The moonlight wants to get in your
skull. The sparkling alleys of the icy sky want to stream through your
F's problem: "We who cannot dwell in the
Clear Light, we must deal with symbols" (197).
Poor F. Needed at first, hard master,
destroying I's puny ego.
Important task, setting the scene for the
heart of self-realization, the emptiness, the skull without the brain.
No longer needed. F cannot enter the
treehouse, like I.
It is "too lonely for me" (196).
F always in symbols, remaining in symbols.
Liberation as symbolic madness, hysteria of
ceaseless movement along the chain, phallic movement forward, forward, never resting, new
technologies, whatever works.
Screw the English, blow up the Queen's statue,
resist, resist, political agitation.
I goes beyond F, to catch hold of the Real.
Again, the importance of the feminine.
Feminine as Nothing, which is the veil itself.
Nothing beyond or behind the veil.
All our troubled pursuits, nothing.
Male desire experiencing feminine jouissance.
Male desire beyond maternal fantasy of
Great mother, mommy, first love.
Done away with by F's phallic signifiers, F's
Too pretentious those signifiers, that
The maternal returns for male desire.
Not as wholeness, mommy, Great Mother.
Great Goddess and Mary, mother of Christ.
We are Christ with Mary now our wife.
Catherine Tekakwitha as energy of love.
Through baptism (102-05).
Catherine spills her glass of wine.
Wine spreading everywhere.
Contagion effect to the energy put out.
The water of baptism, Catherine's connection
with the Father, phallic line of paternity.
Turns suddenly into the wine of love, no
longer contained in the symbolic rite.
Through contagion, spreading, spreading,
exploding the boundaries of paternal security.
Christ turned water into wine.
The outpouring of wine-love to the world, the
Son's connection to the Mother, not to the symbolic Father.
Baptism into mother-son love. As in
Mary's love for Christ.
Catherine takes on feminine maternal love.
And her wine of love spreads to I.
Female saint, the love of the Goddess.
Contact brings about a "balance in the
chaos of existence," does not "dissolve the chaos" (101), but gathers the
chaos in to calmly embrace its passionate fury.
Reigns in the impatient movement of male
desire, phallic symbolic expression.
I says there is "something warlike and
arrogant in the notion of a man setting the universe in order" (101).
Male desire embraced by the saint-Goddess, a
new movement forward (not backwards or regressive).
Embraced, eccentric movements of male desire,
world of movement, come together in moments of wonderment.
Chaos embraced in a moment where it is
So embraced, the male "rides the drifts
like an escaped ski" (101).
I is Catherine's son, leading I away from F's
A higher jouissance only allowed to those
males whose desire is embraced by the Goddess.
Catherine Tekakwitha. Our access to the
Real through Catherine. Her self-torture and self-mutilation and death.
The ultimate loser. I is a loser like
Catherine, not F.
Catherine asked: "What do you think is
the most horrible painful thing?" (206).
Proceeded to enact it.
Built a fire and "spent several slow
hours caressing her pathetic legs with hot coals . . ." (206).
She "branded herself a slave to
Jesus" (206). Catherine's link to Mary.
I's devotion to Catherine like devotion paid
to Mary in Christian tradition.
The irruption of the maternal.
Destabilizing the symbolic tradition.
Catherine's love for Jesus like Mary's.
Mother to Son.
I being a loser like Jesus gets this.
A maternal connection here.
The child as pain, the pain of separation.
To be experienced by the maternal, by the
She can get past the pain, does not try to fix
it, through history.
Experiences the pain and then goes beyond it.
Catherine: "My Jesus, I have to take
chances with you" (211).
Jesus as son and lover.
The most painful love, yet the most ecstatic.
Through pain, death, death of the self.
Access to the Real.
Real not a beyond achieved through going past
pain and suffering.
In pain and suffering, in defiance of F's
symbolic confidence, we are in the Real, the Real as Nothing.
Catherine, in line with Mary, as feminine,
gives herself up for I, for men.
I is a young boy, a dreamer, caught in the
F's big phallus leads him away.
Yet, it is I in his loneliness that Catherine
The maternal connection still strong.
Catherine goes through death, achieves
So that I can achieve ecstasy through her
jouissance, her Goddess love.
So that she "formally offered her body to
the Savior and His Mother" (214).