The Floozman Discussion
by Bertrand Cayzac
part 3 of 3
Bouncing on Non-Being
The hope of reaching the deep waters of non-being...
And this is the Aha! sequence. Thank you so much, Emmanuel, you have made my day. You can be sure your essay “Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence” will soon be on my shelf. I will only mention the following extract of the same book before I try to wrap up this text which has already gone astray for too long: “The possibility of deliverance (and the temptation of suicide) rise in the anxiety of death.”
Deliverance! Maybe Janatone knows something about it, something we don’t, something that Floozman himself often mistakes for an ecstatic union with the One; something T.S. Eliot may be alluding to in asking “Where is the life we have lost in living?” (Choruses From the Rock, 1934); something Heidegger has certainly guessed in discussing Parmenides’ poem, one of his major references.
Still, this is confusing. In Parmenides’s blazing text, simply called The Poem, the Goddess reveals that “being is, but nothing is not.” Isn’t it dispiriting to hear that, when we are supposed to set sail for the deep waters of non-being? “You are throwing the white whale out with the bathwater,” the captain shouts. “If only nothingness is not, then... the sky’s the limit! Heave Ho!”
Yes, the captain is right. In this light, the individual being as we experience it appears carved out by the illusion of nothingness. This is why the Goddess says a little further on that only “double-heads” such as we all are believe in the existence of nothingness. This echoes the Indian “veil of Maya,” of course, and all the non-dual visions of the world.
To stick with the “religions of the Book,” let’s hearken to Nicholas of Cusa, the famous medieval mystic:
John: I understand that the being presupposed in the negation is necessarily anterior to the non-being, otherwise there would be absolutely nothing. Who indeed would have produced the non-being into the being? Certainly not the non-being, since it would not presuppose the being by which it would be produced. (De possest, 1460)
We may also want to relate this sham non-being to the shadow in Isaiah 51:16: “I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand” or in the Surat al-Furqan (The Criterion) 25-45 “Have you not considered your Lord — how He extends the shadow?”
Then, in a nutshell, at the risk of misinterpreting Levinas — a very high risk, bearing in mind that his words are taken out of context, mind you — the “deep waters of non-being” I have in mind are rife with... being, beyond all understanding.
Yes, in Floozman in Space. if not in truth, the realm of possibilities may be as infinite — or indefinite — as the whole being, if being is at all. But that’s another question we can leave to Plato’s Parmenides.
Considering “The Multiple States of the Being,” to borrow the title of René Guénon’s famous essay, our own plane of existence barely enables us to imagine what lies and doesn’t lie in what is non-manifested beyond our reality. But cheer up: the last chapters of Floozman in Space will venture as far as I can go in that non-dual non-direction.
I feel confident that we can get a few hints of what these dimensions look like. Yes, mortal shipmates, “double-heads,” I’ve been hiding in the reeds during these nights when the moon is bright and being is light.
I swear you can hear them CosmiGirls singing and shouting on their cosmic bikes as they ride back and forth over the wall of paradise yonder, the wall that Nicholas of Cusa also called the “wall of contradiction.” They shout “Long live ontological anarchy!” Yes, that’s what they shout, and when it comes to music at the Castle, they do prefer Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”
“No reason to get excited,”
The thief — he kindly spoke,
“There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.
But, you and I, we’ve been through that,
And this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now.
The hour’s getting late.”
Some will say, “I see, they don’t really care about us!” Granted, these reckless CosmiGirls don’t give a damn. But their dissolution does not account for the whole story: non-being “will never get the best of better men.”
Captain Diana of the white shoulders, for one, pays heed to our material world and watches over it with lovingkindness, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty. And what about the hidden “mothers” who are inventing the bounded cosmos at every moment? Do they have to? Maybe not. We, the free souls who “do not go gentle into that good night,” should be grateful to them. We should be thankful for the time we have been lingering under the sun and for the promise that “we’ll ride again.” And what about Sancho Marx? But hush! To say more would be spoiling things...
Supplement: an extract from “The Floozman Companion”
The bud of Floozman in Space is a dream vision of her who would become Janatone as an exile from earth in some cold, gloomy Gold Rush railroad station. She wants to return home, but she has gone too far, and this would mean death to her. Gravity would crush her bones.
While she survives in the actual text, she is becoming increasingly aware that she is actually seeking dilution and death. She has traveled to the brink of colonized space, then into the superworld. She has almost achieved immortality. Now she wants to rest in peace in some sleepy hollow, dissolve into the ground and into fine grained matter.
And she gets lost. She threads the corn fields’ paths and rambles on the roads. She lives on drugs. She eats mushrooms and gumbo roux with her tiny artificial stomach. She will eventually slip into a dreamlike ghostly world of old...
It is strange how Floozman in Space connects to Sigmund Freud’s seminal essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle. While I owe the providential stimuli barrier to this work (see corresponding entry), I am still moved when I experience again the bright unsettling light the main hypothesis sheds on Janatone’s fate and all the feelings I have laboriously tried to refine.
But Dr. Sigmund Freud not only floats the revolutionary idea that “The goal of all life is death,” he also tells a fantastic cosmic tale. I cannot resist the temptation to reproduce it here.
At one time or another, by some operation of force which still completely baffles conjecture, the properties of life were awakened in lifeless matter. Perhaps the process was a prototype resembling that other one which later in a certain stratum of living matter gave rise to consciousness. The tension then aroused in the previously inanimate matter strove to attain an equilibrium; the first instinct was present, that to return to lifelessness. The living substance at that time had death within easy reach; there was probably only a short course of life to run, the direction of which was determined by the chemical structure of the young organism. So through a long period of time the living substance may have been constantly created anew, and easily extinguished, until decisive external influences altered in such a way as to compel the still surviving substance to ever greater deviations from the original path of life, and to ever more complicated and circuitous routes to the attainment of the goal of death. These circuitous ways to death, faithfully retained by the conservative instincts, would be neither more nor less than the phenomena of life as we now know it. If the exclusively conservative nature of the instincts is accepted as true, it is impossible to arrive at any other suppositions with regard to the origin and goal of life.
If these conclusions sound strangely in our ears, equally so will those we are led to make concerning the great groups of instincts which we regard as lying behind the vital phenomena of organisms. The postulate of the self-preservative instincts we ascribe to every living being stands in remarkable contrast to the supposition that the whole life of instinct serves the one end of bringing about death. The theoretic significance of the instincts of self-preservation, power and self-assertion, shrinks to nothing, seen in this light; they are part-instincts designed to secure the path to death peculiar to the organism and to ward off possibilities of return to the inorganic other than the immanent ones, but the enigmatic struggle of the organism to maintain itself in spite of all the world, a struggle that cannot be brought into connection with anything else, disappears. It remains to be added that the organism is resolved to die only in its own way; even these watchmen of life were originally the myrmidons of death. Hence the paradox comes about that the living organism resists with all its energy influences (dangers) which could help it to reach its life-goal by a short way (a short circuit, so to speak); but this is just the behavior that characterizes a pure instinct as contrasted with an intelligent striving.
The organism is “resolved to die only in its own way.” This is almost exactly the wish Janatone makes when the car asks her for her destination in chapter “Big River.” The only difference is that the heroine ponders which place, rather than which way, is the most suited (but places have their ways...).
And there is more: at the largest scale of the plot Floozman in Space entertains the “Shopenhauerian” idea that will and existence are traps, while non-being is somehow the ultimate freedom. In a different key, the story also hints that unity, the unity of the multiple in God or the harmony of paradise are not worth a merry dispersion in individual atoms.
One wonders, and the author does too, whether God is not permanently abandoning his throne for a life of dissolution, a state akin to what cabalists call the Tsim Tsum, the withdrawal of God, and to what theologians call kenosis, the self-emptying of God. One thing is for sure: when Jenny Appleseed makes it to the top of the world, that is, when she wakes up in “the city that never sleeps,” she experiences that this “point” is nowhere, unsustainable, beyond being. But if she can make it there...
Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac