Lost (and Found) in Translation

To relinquish materiality: such is the driving force of translation. And when this materiality is reinstated, translation becomes poetry. Derrida

I want to love everyone, and therefore I want to speak all languages. I cannot speak all languages, and therefore I write, and my writing will be translated. Nijinsky

The problem of a form of spirituality lost in modernity without the excesses of dogma is acute in the twenty-first century. Suicide bombers, the global war of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction. The signifiers are multiplied exponentially in a global political economy of the sign: the state of the world today.

But in some ways, the problem is at least as old as Abraham and probably as ancient as the tower of Babel in the Western tradition. The full meaning of the written text, the whole intention of the author, is always lost in translation. The death of God is upon us, and also the death of man, even the death of the author.

To avoid the traps of dogma, these statements are not to be taken too literally. Perhaps the problem itself is overdetermined in I am Emale given the history of a past wave-function carried over to the present, a youth (mis)spent in an unquestioning devotion to the Word of God.

In the “enlightened” phase by which I am emale grew into adulthood and questioned the beliefs of a youthful fantasy – crucified in the flesh and alive to God – I am Emale “translated” the Word of God into a historical document. To be faithful to the Word of God necessarily involves a questioning by the God-given faculty of human reasoning of the written word, as limited and finite as it is for I am Emale.

R. D. Laing offerred up an “existential” viewpoint of schizophrenia, as a kind of “inner suicide” where the mind is resigned to itself as purely metaphysical, where another can never know the truth of what truly lies in one’s heart presently beating in a ribbed cage. To give oneself up to language is a lie. Plato recognised in the Republic the necessity of fiction. It is the first question he askes in his polemic on justice in the State. The invention of the divided self, crosses a threshold where this essential lack in the state is felt by reason of an intuition, and can find its destination in the mental illness of schizophrenia.

Both insofar as the mind has clear and distinct ideas, and insofar as it has confused ideas, it strives, for an indefinite duration, to persevere in its being and it is conscious of this striving it has. Spinoza

There is no direct and easy comparison between the ecstasy of accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal Saviour, being “born again” (the creditor sacrifices himself for his debtor, out of love (can one credit that?), out of love for his debtor! – Mr. Nietzsche) and the tyranny of a mental illness, hell-bent on transporting the sufferrer into an alienated existence, habits of self-destruction. But throughout history there are examples of madness and religion co-habiting, striving together in a human consciousness. Kierkegaard’s story of Abraham: “The instant of decision is madness.”

The inability to express in words what belongs to the realm of the unseen, the felt and experienced, is fundamentally “to relinquish materiality,” to be crucified in the flesh and to not be born again. But we always already think in terms of language, the voice of conscience, an inner speech (should I listen to the voices in my head?) the self-present of consciousness both in terms of a gift and in a temporal sense, self-present. The truth is written in the hearts of men and women. Privileging speech over writing, health above illness, truth over lies, the spirit over the flesh: we have no other way of thinking but to be lost (and found) in translation, according to the “universal Word of God.”

Spinoza defines love as “a joy, accompanied by the idea of an external cause,” and joy is “a man’s passage from a lesser to a greater perfection.” “My madness is my love for mankind,” wrote Nijinsky in his notebooks. To think in terms of feeling rather than intelligence, is a recurring theme in Nijinsky’s notebooks.

I should not believe in a God who does not know how to dance. Mr. Nietzsche, Thus spake Zarathustra

“Nietzsche went mad because he realised at the end of his life that everything he had written was nonsense.  He became frightened of people and went mad,” wrote Nijinsky. What makes stating the problem of spirituality – to be faithful to the spirit of the work – in the twenty-first century necessary (such as G_d ek-sists quote unquote) is the problem of language (speech/writing, statements/visibilities) that is not just one problem among many.

To be given a little relief from the “indefinite duration” of a mortal existence, I am Emale reads (and writes) the words riven in the side of the earth’s womb: the diary of the dancer (born to Polish parents but he considered himself a Russian because he loved Russia and he spoke (and wrote) in Russian, his mother tongue), Vaslav Nijinsky.


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