The Block of Exchange

Yes, in my stumbling, bumbling way I was making all manner of discoveries. One of them was that one cannot hide his identity under cover of the third person, nor establish his identity solely through the use of the first person singular. Another was – not to think before a blank page. Ce n’est pas moi, le roi, c’est l’autonome. Not I, but the Father within me, in other words.         Henry Miller, Nexus

And unto the angel of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth… As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.        The Book of Revelations 3:14-16, 19-21

Last night a friend asked me if I was working on anything, if I had anything going. I submitted a short story I call “H2O” for competition a week and a half ago and since then, the word has run dry.

The principal exercise in front of me for the past week has been another short story competition of sorts, a bin night story. Every Wednesday night – according to the original idea – I select a word from the dictionary and that word becomes the subject of a piece of writing due by the next bin night. One of my friends, a historian, and her housemate are also participating in this exercise, swapping stories for a future publication. The law of exchange was the subject of last week’s essay/short story/anecdote. I opened up Deleuze and Guattari, Bergson, Kierkegaard, even a few notes I had made on Bataille, looking for some juice, some power word that will churn out the bin night essay.

Everything ended up in the refuse. Writer’s block. I was thinking too much (as is my wont) about the law of exchange. The term invoked all these eckonomic associations. I always wanted to write a piece about Deleuze and Guattari’s 1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible…

“From 1730 to 1735, all we hear about are vampires.”… It is always possible to try to explain these blocks of becoming by a correspondence between two relations, but to do so certainly impoverishes the phenomenon under study.

Memories of a sorcerer, memories of a dancing Spinozist, memories of a molecule – writing a block of exchange, a set of reciprocal relations like the wasp and the orchid between two entities that have nothing to do with each other as genus and species but, nonetheless, there is this excessive relationship, a kind of a love that exists between the two, a non-local, quantum phenomenon, a creative evolution irreducible to the laws of causality and motion. “Unlike history, becoming cannot be conceptualised in terms of past and future.”

And I’m reading the “father of history,” Herodotus’ The Histories, a strange exercise given the events are so far removed from the context of everyday life in Australia, one wonders why bother. The bushfires were ravaging country Victoria on Saturday on the hottest day ever recorded here and I was sitting in my room, reading Herodotus, his account of the Persian Wars and how free men gathered together under one law – the nomos – to unite against a tyrant. One day, another story on the courage of fire-fighters and volunteers, doctors and the scores of “ordinary people” who demonstrated fearlessness in the face of the bushfires, will also be written. To the north, floods ravage Queensland. The reason for these climactic changes is difficult to pinpoint – manmade or natural? The forces of law and order are in a state of moral panic: arrests have been made, lines of accountability are being reviewed. The Apocalypse has come to Australia, the four horsemen are abroad this week…

Not even the best of intentions can always govern lawful actions. Miller’s philosophy of creation, “action without activity,” is exemplarary. “I am the wandering Jew…” Miller often identifies with the Jews in the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy, his becoming-minoritarian. They are the ones he can speak to and exchange ideas with on literature and art, humble and otherwise innocuous looking individuals with the fire of the prophets still in their bellies, kept out the back of a corner store, or behind the drapes of a clothing store. The Jews crucified Jesus two millennium ago. The Jews have suffered bigotries and racial hatred for centuries: apartheid of the Jews during the Renaissance; systematic genocide in the gas chambers during the Holocaust, the subject of my historian friend’s lectures this semester. Today, lampooned in Arab TV sitcoms and surrounded by enemies on all sides of the nation-state, the Israeli army sends soldiers and tanks into Palestine, killing terrorists and children alike.

Wherever we used the word “memories” in the preceding pages, we were wrong to do so; we meant to say “becoming,” we were saying becoming.

To understate the matter, reading accounts of the Holocaust does not make for light reading. Those stories are incorporated into the tough, yet supple and diffuse, fabric of my friend’s becoming-woman. She advised me in regards to my writer’s block, to never write upon a blank page.  She starts with another text on the page.  Genius.

The Histories are also supple and diffuse, bringing to light the seams and lines of the ancient conflict I learnt about in a Hollywood film called 300. The block of becoming is an exchange of intensities. It is an overcoming wherein art redeems life stricken with tragedy. Art is the metaphysical activity proper to mankind, not the practice of moral entrepreneurship nor the exercise of political statesmanship, freezing intensities into proud ideas. The pain of conflict is visible on people’s faces – you can plainly read it even in the face of the Prime Minister. The story is neither a thing nor a person. The story is a relationship, an opening. Desire flows…

But, in the wise words of Aristotle, a story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The ghosts of those victims perished in the bushfires, populate an afterworld contiguous with country Victoria: Kinglake, St Andrews, Marysville, Strathewen… The ephemeral present is the fleeting self, the subject of becoming, a finite act of creation in an infinite neo-evolution, the entering of a blocked doorway opening onto an omniverse of compossibilities in the matrices of our collective and unconscious heart’s desires in all its multiplicity and becoming. A doorway of the law in Kafka’s chapter from The Trial when K. turns to the Church for relief from the interminable analysis and building of a strange case where he stands accused of crimes unknown (he has been found wanting), held to give an account by his elders before the Law. The father-priest tells him a parable of a man who came from the country seeking to know the law (published elsewhere as “Before the Law”):

Before his death all the experiences of the long years assemble in his mind to form a question which he has never yet asked the doorkeeper… “What is it that you still want to know?” asks the doorkeeper, “you are insatiable.” “Surely everyone strives to reach the law,” says the man, “how does it happen that for all these many years no one except me has ever asked for admittance?” The doorkeeper recognises that the man is at his end, and in order to reach his failing ears he raises his voice and bellows at him: “No one else could ever have been admitted here, since this entrance was intended for you alone. Now I am going to close it.”


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