Unreal Nature

December 20, 2015

The Other Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… this forbidden act is precisely the one Orpheus must perform in order to take the work beyond what guarantees it …

This is from the title essay in The Gaze of Orpheus and other essays by Maurice Blanchot, translated by Lydia Davis (1981):

… The whole glory of his work, the whole power of his art and even the desire for a happy life in the beautiful light of day are sacrificed to this one concern: to look into the night at what the night is concealing — the other night, concealment which becomes visible.

This is an infinitely problematical impulse which the day condemns as an unjustifiable act of madness or as the expiation of excess. For the day, this descent into Hell, this impulse toward the empty depths, is already excessive. It is inevitable that Orpheus defy the law forbidding him to “turn around,” because he has already violated it the moment he takes his first step towards the shadows. This observation makes us sense that Orpheus has actually been turned towards Eurydice all along: he saw her when she was invisible and he touched her intact, in her absence as a shade, in that veiled presence which did not conceal her absence, which was the presence of her infinite absence.

… this much is true: only in the song does Orpheus have power over Eurydice; but in the song Eurydice is also already lost and Orpheus himself is the scattered Orpheus, the “infinitely dead” Orpheus into which the power of the song transforms him from then on. He loses Eurydice because he desires her beyond the measured limits of the song, and he loses himself too, but this desire, and Eurydice lost, and Orpheus scattered are necessary to the song, just as the ordeal of eternal worklessness is necessary to the work.

… To look at Eurydice without concern for the song, in the impatience and imprudence of a desire which forgets the law — this is inspiration.

… “You will only be able to keep me if you do not look at her.” But this forbidden act is precisely the one Orpheus must perform in order to take the work beyond what guarantees it, and which he can perform only by forgetting the work, carried away by a desire coming out of the night and bound to the night as its origin. In this respect, the work is lost. This is the only moment when it is absolutely lost, when something more important than the work, more stripped of importance than the work, is proclaimed and asserted.

… The essential night which follows Orpheus — before the careless look — the sacred night which he holds enthralled in the fascination of his song and which is at that point kept within the limits and the measured space of the song, is certainly richer, more august, than the empty futility which it becomes after Orpheus looks back. The sacred night encloses Eurydice, encloses within the song something which went beyond the song. But it is also enclosed itself: it is bound, it is the attendant, it is the sacred mastered by the power of ritual — that word which means order, rectitude, law, the way of Tao and the axis of Dharma. Orpheus’ gaze unties its limits, breaks the law which contains, which retains the essence.

… This is why impatience must be at the heart of deep patience, the pure bolt of lightning which leaps out of the breast of patience because of its infinite waiting, its silence, and its reserve, not only as a spark lit by extreme tension, but also like the glittering point which has eluded that waiting: the happy chance of unconcern.

-Julie

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