Saturday, 16 April 2016

Zagajewski's metaxu

 '...the present day favours only one stage of a certain ageless, endless journey. This journey is best described by a concept borrowed from Plato, metaxu, being "in between", in between our earth, our (so we suppose) comprehensible, concrete, material surroundings, and transcendence, mystery. metaxu defines the situation of the human, a being who is incurably "en route"'

Zagajewski is a self-consciously 'Western' writer precisely because he isn't Western at all but rather belongs to a class which nourishes a Western delusion in the same way that Polish aristocrats nourished a Sarmatian delusion about their origins and trajectory.

To the best of my knowledge- i.e. stuff I got off Wikipedia as opposed to some bloke at the pub- the first literary mention of the concept of metaxu, or barzakh, or antarabhava or bardo or whatever word is used to describe the limbo that is the 'limit, which unites as well as divides' occurs in an Iranian language related to Sarmatian and affirms 'golden liberties' with an erotic undercurrent. In India, certainly, antarabhava is wholly erotic and concerned with the Gandharvas. The Tibetan bardo, on the other hand, is Swedenborgian and, curiously, displays an affinity with the story of a pre-Islamic prophet. I believe a proper Westerner- i.e. a Californian- would naturally conflate this bardo with Japanese fucking haiku in which nativist jujutsuteki ardor ever collides with the nihilistic epiphanies proper to an M.F.A type Creative Writing Instructor. Oddly the wabi-sabi yojo or dhvani this gives rise to is not just eminently scalable- like McDonalds- it is actually Platonic being the child of Poverty and Possession which can never, like Kartikeya, sleep between them because they comprise a masturbatory Ardhanarishvara whose underlying maieutics, unlike that of Agnodice, is but a Credentialist couvade con.
Still, at least this shite, satirized by Garisson Keillor, is pretty harmless and goes down well enough with Paul Masson wine and fish tacos and the sort of weed they had back in the Seventies.

Not being a Westerner, Zagajewski- poor sod- had to come to metaxu via Eric Voegelin- who sought to ground Political Reality in Hermeneutic Religion as if this would stabilize the Polity- and Simone Weil who thought that God has nothing better to do than rigorously achieve nothing by spending all his time futzing around with our 'roots'- i.e. inherited or mimetic shibboleths- like that could actually solve Economic problems. The underlying notion here is that God, or the Good or Whatever, is fucked in the head and is constantly trying to help people who are being fucked over by stupid politicians, not by smiting those politicians, but by sending out good energy from behind the veil of metaxu such that some worthless pedant who happens to be studying that shite suddenly gains salience and can pose, at least in her own eyes, as a savior of Liberal Democracy, or the Purity of the Race, or Say No to Arse Bandits Getting Hitched, or whatever non-issue Op Ed fuckwits are jizzing over at the moment.

This raises an important question- viz. is Zagajewski utterly shit? Oddly, the answer is no. He's just not Western and thus has to play out a God's Gloaming gotterdamenung so as to reaffirm his own metaxu as the West's originary Orient of Darkness.
This passage is fine, if we think of it as applying to Careerist Economists as opposed to people like Kalecki.
Uncertainty doesn't contradict ardour. If we are to sustain the productive tension of metaxu, uncertainty (which is not the same thing as doubt!) will never be a foreign body, since our presence here and our faith can never receive absolute and permanent sanction, however much we long for it. Irony, on the other hand, undercuts uncertainty. When it occupies the central place in someone's thought, irony becomes a rather perverse form of certainty. Of course we can dig up dozens of uses for irony. In Zbigniew Herbert's poetry, to take one example, irony is ordinarily directed against the person passing judgment, the seeker of truth or law (the Greek Nomos), and often takes the form of self-irony. The truth-seeker views himself sceptically – "beware however of unnecessary pride/keep looking at your own clown's face in the mirror" – but not truth or law, as so often happens among contemporary authors, who happily cast doubt on everything but themselves.
Why do I highlight this passage?
Well, Zagajewski is Polish and them peeps be smart and know from Math. Since this is a racist statement, it follows from a lemma originated by Simone Weil, that Pontryagin Duality is Zaga Jew Ski's metaxu. (What? My plumber is Polish, so I know stuff like this.) Thus, Ardour and Irony are conjugate variables. One can be known to mount only if the other grows misty and imprecise.

For nice-but-dim Iyer boys like me both Ardour and Irony arise only by rasabhasa- getting worked up about incompossible shite, i.e. giving up on Viveka and getting ensnared in Maya. Contra Simone Weil's Christ & pace her brother's Krishna, our metaxu or antarabhava involves a cutting down of the hymn leaved banyan whose roots are in heaven and whose branches reach down below.

Sadly, this can only be done by the axe of non-attachment from which, like Parasuram, we might only be able to detach ourselves by throwing it into the Sea- thus giving rise to yet more Malyalees.


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