Et in Arcadia ego.
Even in Arcadia, there am I.
The script comes from a painting by Nicolas Poussin.
It is the tomb of Daphnis, a shepherd and inventor of pastoral poetry, a man who fell in love with a nymph. He was seduced with wine by another woman and his lover turned him into stone out of revenge, “so fierce is the indignation felt by lovers!” (Ovid, Metamorphoses).
The phrase is called a memento mori, a reminder of death lest one should get lax about actively living and forget one’s own mortality. It’s appropriate it is chiselled into the tomb of Daphnis. Shepherds led the idyllic life, lazing in the beautiful countryside, tending to their sheep and playing the panpipes. According to some myths, Pan taught the shepherds how to masturbate, as their lives were often lonely, spending many days out in the field away from the fairer sex.
The film, Babel (correctly pronounced as BAY-BEL, not BAB-BLE) makes a silent reference to this myth with the shepherd boy who shoots an American tourist masturbating when his brother tells him a bus is coming, before he makes the fatal shot. One could easily imagine Pan, the god of chaos and destruction – pandemonium – in the background as the divine author of this shooting of an American tourist that leads to the chain of events affecting people all over the world from Japan to Mexico.
Even in the tourists’ glass arcades, there is death. The tourists travel protected in their bubble of security which is shattered by Pan’s gunshot. Of course, libido plays a part in the modern re-telling – incomplete masturbation, sexual frustration, adolescent urges all come into play in the gunshot that the authorities first believe to be terrorists. Freud gives the myths and legends a modern meaning, a scientific understanding even as he sacrifices the magic of fabulation for the priesthood of psychotherapy.
The Law’d is my shepherd; I shall not want. To be whole and complete, to act freely behind the pages of a book, is the man of letters. I am emale acts not in dialectical opposition to the man of letters (I take a delight in the x) but as a supplement for my readings. Writing is remembering. One cannot be said to know anything if one cannot make a statement about it.
The danger in reading and writing, in leading the idyllic life of the scholar (and here it is most of all I am emale acts out an imitation of the philosopher King, the penultimate man of letters, not out of want nor envy, but as the Fool will parody), is to enjoy a wholeness, a solitude sufficient unto one’s self. The dangers of onanism… turning into a wanker.
I am emale invents, writes, creates and re(-)members the Law’d that listens to one’s self as an other – Et in Arcadia Ego – that activates a principle on the understanding there is nothing new under the sun, all things are vain, there is labour in all things – there is a time to be born, a time to die – the universal history of my (man of) letters in the past, marks the history of a conflict between life and language. Web logs as open systems, amenable to change, even to interpret ancient Latins sayings, seventeenth century paintings and twenty-first century films – seeking a friend across time and space. Not to discard the closed system of dialectical reasoning, the synthesis of conflict, a will to truth but to “fight the good fight.”
Conflict is not the meaning of the memento mori. It is not a universable discourse as global discipline or profundity (“every order word is a little death” (Deleuze and Guattari) we seek, statement over visibility, the letter of the law over intuition and art. It has a pastoral meaning. If by pastoral, we could steal a part of the meaning from “pastor,” not to law’d it over others but to hyperbolise a Christian meaning of the good shepherd and say:
Make a future for a people that do not yet exist – they live in the desert of the Real – and eternally recreate the living present, the gift, in Arcadia. Marriages can be divorced – what God unites in marriage, can be pulled apart – relationships fail, people fall out of love, promises are broken and then sexual frustrations go off and the oft-repeated scenes of wounded egos of lovers (so fierce is the indignation felt by lovers!) and blackcoats are played out, a politics of revenge upon one’s self or upon others – libidinal energies fired out of a gun.
Care of the self, unity and peace, is the message inscribed on the tomb of Daphnis. Peace and unity, the freedoms of a ruling class – to be a law unto one’s self: that’s nobility, even (and especially) amongst the poorest peoples on the earth; the ideal must be created, and often, fashioned with a hammer.
The Word does not sit there inert and whole, merely waiting to be followed – it must be interpreted as I am emale is an interpretation of my parents’ genes and desires even after I learn to make up my own mind and become a man – met him pike hoses, to learn to speak in one’s own proper name. Not to be held accountable, but to render an account in the eyes of the Law’d, make the gift in secret (pseudos: a fiction, a non-truth – ) and seek rewards in the kingdom of heaven, Arcadia, in the here and the now: peace on earth and good will to all men and women who speak in tongues.