Happy New Year, peoples. In the spirit of the new year, I am going to experiment a little here, posting some much rougher entries under the category ‘Notebook.’ I plan to use this on a trial basis, so I’m not sure if the category will have staying power. I see these posts serving two uses.
First, they provide me a place to share a little of what I am reading and thinking as I am doing it and have the added bonus of showing some of my conceptual work.
Second, and more importantly, they serve to anchor some concepts I plan to use in future posts, providing a kind of dictionary to which I can link.
I’ll flag them [NB] in the title, as well as assigning them a category so they are easy to pick out, either to examine or disregard.
First up, one of my favorite pages in Deleuze’s Difference & Repetition, his empiricist account of destiny (that is saying a lot btw; I used to read this book like Joseph Curwen read the Necronomicon):
Destiny never consists in step-by-step deterministic relations between presents which succeed one another according to the order of a represented time. Rather, it implies between successive presents non-localisable connections, actions at a distance, systems of replay, resonance and echoes, objective chances, signs, signals and roles which transcend spatial locations and temporal successions. (83)
I really like the way that Deleuze uses the term destiny here. It isn’t ominous (‘you are destined to…’), for one. It also defines destiny as a special kind of openness, as a pattern proper to an individual that puts that individual in relationship to other moments of time, space, and experience, which it is the individual’s option to develop.
I want to highlight Deleuze’s choice to identify this as empirical, too. With that, he draws attention to the complex texture of our temporal experience, to the ways it cannot be fully reduced into the linear and physicalist account of time we learn to accept. Disparate moments inform each other, sometimes through convoluted material mechanisms which are considered intellectually acceptable to study (e.g., memory), but also in ways in that are difficult to explain and so often excluded from serious intellectual consideration (e.g., precognition).
While the exclusion may seem reasonable, given their obstinant refusal to fit into the model du jour, it hinders study of both excluded and unexcluded. The inconsistencies that the excluded throws up are precisely the sorts of inconsistencies that make elaboration and examination possible.
So, accepting the temporal discontinuities as proper to our sense of time leads him to a suggestive conclusion conclusion:
Moreover, what we say of a life may be said of several lives. Since each is a passing present, one life may replay another at a different level, as if the philosopher and the pig, the criminal and the saint, played out the same past at different levels of a gigantic cone. This is what we call metempsychosis. Each chooses his pitch or his tone, perhaps even his lyrics, but the tune remains the same, and underneath all the lyrics the same tra-la-la, in all possible tones and all pitches. (83-84)
Much can be considered with this in mind, ranging from divination to past-life experience. In the case of past-life memory, Deleuze’s destiny provides us with a model that does not depend on the passage of some special memory-bearing soul from life to life, but opens the way to considerations of resonance and transmission between otherwise disparate lives.
The language of cones is suggestive, too, reminiscent of the Yeatses’ account of personal and historical time being integrated into cones. This offers possible inroads into appreciating Plato’s theories of forms as Deleuze’s account suggests that the greatest cone, the more encompassing tunes, are also the most abstract, able to set its members in order only by virtue of applying the most simple rules. As the cones increasingly diverse, the tunes can become increasingly specific and exclusive.
The whole notion of ‘tones’ shifts the language of universality and particularity, making the universal a productive simplicity rather than a simplified generality. (Whew, yeah, language like that is why this gets the ‘notebook’ label.) i.e., it allows us to distinguish between an actually existent pattern that unites disparate moments of time from an inductive speculation. That provides some leverage for separating visionary experience from cosmological assertions.