The objet a – jouissance as the misencounter – the journey not the destination!
The knock of the knot – Breast Cancer with Lacanian
Angles Curves Flatness
From diaries, to jottings, poetry, stories, and essays, I write. These next chapters are written in this strange time afforded by my “affliction” by breast cancer. I write to unveil my interpretations from readings of Lacan. My aim is to attach my embryonic understanding of Lacan to the depths I feel around me and deepen them. I hope to spread my love for Lacan and hope that my connection is valid. As I write, I read and as I read my ideas gain clarity. I feel Lacan. I don’t of course get it all, who does, but sometimes I think I’m most certainly on his trail. Of course there will be cross references but I hope to create something more refreshing than just another interpretation! Be my guest: enjoy my symptom!
Those who write – Write. It isn’t true that you have to be published to be a writer. It isn’t as easy as that. Wordsworth wrote about the evanescence of “it” and how finding what to write (and more so how to write) is part of the disciple’s process. Yes, process over product, because every decision, every path, every choice made is a direction taken. Yet the closer “it” gets the further away “it” feels, the epitome of the lost object. Less about discipline and more about repetition – albeit unsatisfying, unsated (and insatiable), unaired, and unappreciable: a repetition in and of a solitude. By teetering on the edge, the rim, the boundary, the writer ruminates into a void, viewing the lack in contemplation of the never ending journey without finding its destination. Wondering lonely as a cloud – wonder, wander and the mystery of where, what, why in the objet “a” that is never fully met, a misencounter: always as “Alice” might say, just a hare’s brea(d)th away.
In the first instance writing is for whom? Do I write for myself? Yes, it is a compulsive need, a part of me. Founded upon a chromosome, my own genetic imprint, established over generations, millennia even. Life is not lived in a vacuum. How can we communicate without a common language, a recognised base? Our natures are not without nurture. The past creates the future and forms who we are. There is a connection to all who have lived. Who are we without others, an other, the Other?
Our cultural scripts and schemas are termed by Lacan “the Other” and we use these to navigate the mine field that is self presentation and societal interpretation. At certain times this has more importance: how we speak, sit, eat, interject, flatter others and accept their compliments has more meaning in (for example) the work place than with friends. Presentation and representation are they two sides of the same coin? To speak or not to speak? That is the question. Ecclesiastes states, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Who is to judge when to do what? How can we guarantee that what we say is what we mean or what is heard is what is meant?
Unlike speech, writing requires no immediate response and the act of writing sits on a spectrum of spontaneity: is there not just plenty of time to hone and perfect, before an editor or publisher’s print? Imagine repeated marks on paper, the obsessive’s act of committing thoughts in an inventory. The filling of an industrial size wastepaper basket: a skip that preceded the press of a word-processor’s backspace. That’s a lot of effaced papyrus if the first go isn’t “it” – if it is premature, incomplete, not good enough. Let’s skip once more, let’s press again. After contemplation, writing begins with a possible
surge or drip (ha ha) from the faucet… out of nothing when nothing is something then into nothing or something again… it forms in a coherence that has been (s)welling and is planted upon a blank medium. The cave wall, the screen, the sheet, the tablet is the container for getting one’s inside thoughts outside. Organically nurturing and tending the tendrils of the subject which extends – growing and taking-on the spectres from their inside-out Klein-bottle personas.
Writing is propelled by drive. The propulsion of a “konstante kraft” (Lacan Seminar XI) this propulsion creates a jouissance as a somatic force on the psyche which works to tie the social-symbolic (the big ‘Other’) and the corporeal ego. Here the lost object – the object of desire – is left with no alternative but to press forward: it just goes as Lacan says, “without any perspective of ever ending the march or of reaching the goal.” In this sense the drive as jouissance is the essence of being in the doing but never arriving. It doesn’t provide calm, nor satiety because only driving is possible. Desire is not jouissance but instead jouissance is the push to keep on desiring. In 1964 Lacan said that the drive does not reach its object to culminate in satisfaction, to the contrary the drive permits no halting at any position attained. This insatiability of the drive is what makes it memorable and transgressive. As it moves through the historical, both phantasy and pleasure are blocks that serve to slow it down. An immersed dedication to an art or act of creativity forms a jouissance, for Hegel it results in a transcendence or a sublimation that transforms libidinal energies toward higher artistic or cultural realms.
The need, the reason, the push to write is guided by this drive. Words are merely a by-product, a Lacanian symptom, the concrete evidence of the journey, like the smoke wafting from a lit cigar, slowly taken in from lips to lungs. Where does drive originate from? Where is it born? In 2013, Bazan and Detandt published an article on the physiology of jouissance from a psychoanalytic perspective. This article is fascinating and well worth a read, it does however venture beyond the parameters of complexity set by the borromeanknocker. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3818686/.
In 1915, Freud’s model of the drive was as an impetus to relieve tension, (disequilibrium arising due to a biological need or lack). Relief was seen to be achieved through internal alterations that restore tension by bodily stimulation or an expression of emotions: screaming, laughing, crying, movement that leads to relief (muscular, sexual, sensory). Bazan and Detandt draw attention to the person’s bodily experience and their past history of actions that lead to a compulsion to seek relief and attain pleasure in the tension release. Bazan and Detandt propose that “In Freud’s model of the drive pleasure is what results form the release of tension…while jouissance is the (benefit gained from) the motor tension underlying the action which was (once) adequate in bringing relief to the drive.” Their focus is on the use of the body, its mobilization to action. They quote from Marie (2004, p.27) who says “Jouissance … is very close to l’agieren” which is to act out, operate or perform. Jouissance becomes an action that previously led to satisfaction even though that satisfaction has become faded or even painful or detrimental. Freud (1895, p319, 326-27) outlined hallucinatory memory traces of previous satisfactions jumbled with suppressed mnemic images that surface and are made conscious and like dreams they mix with external perceptions. Our biochemistry, our subconscious, our drive, it eggs us on to repeat, to re-experience to revisit actions that just might lead to satisfaction but over time become part and parcel of who we are.
The compulsion to write is then, for some, a journey of jouissance, the act in which words are brought to the surface mixing up the now and the then. Like a stream oozing from a rock, creativity creates rivulets of new thought from old. It carves its neurological route, using well worn semantic webs with sparks where original connections link with antiquity. A journey once paved by pebbles, perhaps surrounded by grassy banks, ushering from its birth place, growing, spreading and disappearing from view. The ideas meld as an author’s labour of leaves, leaves its trace.
In writing thoughts and sensations are left behind as words flow. Lacan states in Seminar XX, 110/121, “Writing is a trace in which an effect of language can be read.” This trace is neither linear nor chronological. Meaning is reaped from the past into the now but the present is always in movement. The sensation of the trace burrows into the flesh fusing with the intellect. Derrida states, “This trace relates no less to what is called the future than what is called the past and it constitutes what is called the present by the very relation to what it is not.” This is Derridian différence: a differing and deferring of presence, or a continuous play of absence and presence. It is the epitome of representation in writing and image. The trace is in essence both the mark of the future and the past in a present moment which is neither. The trace is the “essence of Being” that haunts language (Derrida 1982, p.126).
We see, hear, feel and use all our senses as the essence of thought is transformed. Every meaning is communicated through signifiers. These may engage our senses in personal or universal meaning. As each signifier acts upon the body, new signifiers are unveiled in a signifying chain. So how much of the original idea is conveyed? To ‘mean’ anything, a signifier must presuppose a signified already and always outside it. This for Derrida is the “transcendental signified” which belongs to a universal realm of language. Its sense is suspended until it is brought to life alongside a chain of signifiers and meaning is made apparent along the way, (ch ch ch changes), although what is said and what is received may need clarification.
Turtle is understood when it is associated with related words to define it: interpreted as a slow-coach, a shy person, someone or something somehow reptilian, or perhaps a floppy necked jersey. Writing as a trace for Derrida is the “absence of the presence” a bricolage of weaved elements combining phoneme and grapheme that heads towards meaning, “whilst half of the sign is always not there and the another half not that.”
In the way of Barnard and Fink (2012 p.19), borromeanknocker endeavours to throw some Lacanian light upon “manifestations of a certain ‘cross-sightedness’ reading between the signifier and the letter, articulation and writing, and truth and being.” The body is sensitive to the effect of language as a Lacanian “echo in the body” its resonance is palpable, felt within the modalities of the senses. Whether words are received through the ears or eyes the signifiers and their chains pull on emotions provoking a reaction: humour and laughter, sadness and tears, nostalgia and reminiscence. Tastes and smells are evocative as they take the present and place it back in time. Before a sentence is completed signifiers can send the recipient off at a tangent where meaning is no longer universal but seeps out, escaping from a personal past.
The Lacanian relationship between the signifier and signified delves into an awakening of the unconscious where meaning is variable according to the surrounding structure. It is not as reciprocal as “two sides of a sheet of paper” as Saussure would have it. Saussure’s mutually interdependent relationship of the “sound pattern” where an “image acoustique” relates writing to speech for communicative transparency, or as Derrida (1976, 43) says for Saussure a “sign of a sign” is necessary but not sufficient. The name David Bowie doesn’t simply (re)conjure a static image of the artist. The signifier is the physical somatic form taken by the sign as it enters through the senses. Jakobson (1963b, 111; 1984b, 98) describes it as the external perceptible part of the sign. The memories evoked by the word Bowie may conjure a pungent smoky seventies concert hall, the laughter of particular people, tickets for events, heartfelt emotional ties related to decades past, or last weekend’s beers in the pub. Acts and objects have no intrinsic meaning until they are invested somatically in memory. Items “out there” become in-corporate “in here” as words spoken or printed on the page take their effect. A signifier without the signified is called by Lacan the “pure signifier” and this is what happens if the word Bowie or Midge Ure mean nothing to you? Lacan, (1955, 6:185) with reference to Freud’s indestructible unconscious, states:
“Every real signifier is as such a signifier that signifies nothing. The more the signifier signifies nothing, the more indestructible it is”.
Soler (2014, p.63) Discusses Lacan’s “pastiching” of James Joyce, how he “undermines orthography with dysorthography” Hissecroibeau is Il se croit beau – he thinks himself beautiful. Acoustically similar l’escabeau means stepladder. Stepladder creates connections in the mind and links with other Joycean references. It is left to the reader to dissect it for personal and Joycean meaning: smacking of a certain narcissism: climb up to me, find me in the heavens, look at me up here – looking at you down there. Soler goes on to suggest est-ce cas beau? Or is this case beautiful? Is the outer body our idea of an Adonis? Or es-ce cabot? Is it a mutt? A mongrel, a cross-breed with no pedigree. Lacan writes, S.K…. beau. He playfully reduces speech to phonemes, ES-K B-OE.
T h e S t e p L a d d e r ( e s c a b e a u ) a n d t h e S i n t h o m e Pierre-Gilles Guéguen
In my research for the borromeanknocker I later stumbled upon an article “The step ladder (escabeau) and the Sinthome” written by Pierre-Gilles Guéguen translated by Julia Richards. It is part of a flyer showing contributions toward the 10th congress of the world association of psychoanalysis in the 21st century entitled: the speaking body – on the unconscious.
Pierre-Gilles Guéguen draws our attention to Lacan’s uses of the Joycean metaphor of the step ladder. Our step ladder enables us to imagine our bodily selves, to revel in our projections of that ideal-I, but our lives are lived in the social world of “being” and our appearances are all representations contingent upon language. Here our focus is on the trace of words and the pleasure derived from certain deviancy, of deviations and derivations in discourse.
Unconscious knowledge imprisoned and repressed in language (langue/langage) is expressible and has a vehicle in writing and indeed in speech. In psychoanalysis trace from words uttered by the analysand can be pondered and re-assigned their signifiers.
In Seminar III, p.167 Lacan says:
“…the trace, the footprint in the sand, the sign about which Robinson Crusoe makes no mistake. Here sign and object (Crusoe) separate. The trace, in its negative aspect, draws the natural sign to a limit at which it becomes evanescent. The distinction between sign and object is quite clear here, since the trace is precisely what the object leaves behind once it has gone off somewhere else. Objectively there is no need for any subject to recognise a sign for it to be there – a trace exists even if there is nobody to look at it.”
And so this trace is left…