Quest for recognition – It’s Christmas – Time to Beat El Caga Tió!?
Kenosis and Someone else’s heart’s desire Or: Just plain keeping up with the Joneses
The knock of the knot – Breast Cancer with Lacanian
Angles Curves Flatness
What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is mine – but don’t you want it more than I do?
One of Lacan’s most well-known expressions is “Man’s desire is the desire of the Other”? (Seminar XI, p.235). Foremost this desire is essentially a desire for recognition, or for this ‘Other’ to acknowledge us and our efforts. This dependence on the other for recognition not only structures our desires but it is our drives which essentially propel us toward trying to achieve these desires. Second, desire is for the thing that we suppose the Other desires, which is to say, the thing that the Other lacks. Yet we never know precisely what the Others’ desire is. Here we see keeping up with the Joneses’ accomplishments and acquisitions. We see the green eyed monster. The cowardly yellow belly of narrow-eyed jealousy. But the goal-post is never a static. Thus desire is a process of constantly questioning what exactly the Other has or desires to have. Our quest is to find an answer.
“The object of man’s desire, and we are not the first to say this, is essentially an object desired by someone else. One object can become equivalent to another, owing to the effect produced by this intermediary, in making it possible for objects to be exchanged and compared. Thus we are led to see our objects (ourselves and eachother) as identifiable egos, having unity, permanence, and substantiality; this implies and element of inertia, so that the recognition of objects and of the ego itself must be subjected to constant revision in an endless dialectical process.”
In Lacan, Some reflections on the Ego, 34 Int’l J. of Psychoanalysis 11, 12 (1953)
In 1955 Lacan drew a distinction between the little other (“the other”) with a lower case ‘o’ and the big Other (“the Other”). Later he uses ‘A’, upper case for French Autre, and ‘a’ lower case ‘a’ for French autre, for the little other. The little other is a reflection and projection of our EGO, our ideal-I which is situated within the imaginary order. Of course the “I” only exists in relation with a you. The big Other with a capital ‘O’ may refer to a person in an enigmatic dimension. Though more commonly, it refers to our cultural ideals and upbringing, codes of human convention that pre-exist an individual. Lacan locates this alterity within language and the law. This Other is the locus in which speech is constituted and goes beyond conscious control, (SIII, 274) we are bound by the tools of language and influenced by our global cultural inheritance which is demarcated by the location and era in which we live. “The unconscious is the discourse of the Other” (Ec, 16). The big Other is the symbolic and encompasses cultural subtleties of meaning for each of us. It is the mother, who in the beginning first takes the position of the big Other for the infant. She hears the first cries and translates them towards a meaningfulness. Meaning is built through the treasury of signifiers that are constituted by the Other.
So we know that the other signifier is never alone. The stomach of the Other, the big Other, is full of them. This stomach is like some monstrous Trojan horse that provides the foundations for the fantasy of a totality-knowledge [savoir-totalité]. It is, however, clear that its function entails that something comes and strikes at it from without, otherwise nothing will ever emerge from it. For language to resonate the body must remain sensitive to it. (Seminar XXIII, lesson of 18 November, 1975, 4).
This strikes a cord and a bark of sound is logged as metaphor. In Catalunya a custom at Yule Tide is the Caga Tió or Tió de Nadal. As a folkloric substitute or addition to Santa Claus the Caga Tió is almost the Trojan Horse of Christmas gifts. Although traditionally presents are shared on January 6th, Día de los Santos Reyes or los Reyes Magos, when the three wise men or three kings of the Orient finally arrived at the stable in Bethlehem. The Caga Tió is unveiled for the lead up to Christmas and its ritualistic nurturing begins on the 9th of December. This is just after the “puente” or mini break – the bridging days between December 6th El Día de la Constitución and December 8th el día de la Inmaculada Concepción – the day of Immaculate Conception.
The Tió de Nadal is a Christmas log that stands like a pet often on four legs, with a wide smiley face painted at one end. It wears a festive red Catalan barretina hat and is covered by a warm but mysterious matching red blanket. From December 9th until Christmas Eve the Christmas Log is brought food and milk each night. As it is fed so its volume grows. Extra logs are clandestinely placed under its blanket until the evening of December 24th Nochebuena or Christmas Day.
At this time the fully “grown” log is given centre stage and the children gather around. Underneath the logs have mysteriously and secretly been replaced by Christmas gifts. To build the excitement and continue the delay in receiving his wares the children sing songs culminating in the “Caga Tió” song. Meanwhile they are encouraged to vigorously beat the Caga Tió with a sturdy stick until the blanket is slightly stripped away revealing the edges of the “pooped out” presents. The song finishes with a crescendo of “Caga Tió!” (Tió meaning uncle and cagar meaning “to defacate,”) and the little gifts of sweets, nougat (turrón), fruits, figs (higos) or wrapped-up treats (regalos) are revealed. The log has been beaten to sh**. Sometimes the children leave the room to pray or chant for the Tió to deliver more presents. Naturally this gives the adults a perfect opportunity to slip some more under the blanket. When all the presents have been pooped and retrieved, the Caga Tió has completed his task.
To assist the adults in terminating the delivery of delicious poopiness to the eager youngsters, an unappetising salted sardine, garlic clove and onion are often the last to be uncovered. The Christmas Log may then be joined with the Christmas Tree (árbol de Navidad) which itself may conceal more gifts for the family on Christmas day or on the Day of the Kings. Of course these gifts may well get swapped around because children rarely want what they’re given – they’ll always hanker over someone else’s heart’s desire.
This image of waiting followed by pain as a sacrificial step toward a fulfilment has a sado-masochistic structure aligning with a deferral of satisfaction. The repetition of investment and expenditure acts as kenosis, a need to fill what is empty by repeatedly replacing what is lost. One needs to feel an emptiness in order to be driven to fill up. Waiting is an appeasement of the anticipatory promise of more, suspending fulfilment. The excitement is in the wait not the receiving. The children believe in an expectation of something more if only they wait long enough and indeed pray. Momentarily, prayers, chants or wishes fill the gap and subdue the lack. By extending their wait the big moment is put off and their pleasure is further deferred. Almost a metaphor for The Wait. The momentous wait for the ultimate “coming”…. Or going in this case!