Postmodernism in the Classroom: OR, ELI5 “Gluing” with Zizek Stories

Beyond Good and Evil; Beyond the “Christian Logic” of Cutting:Prelude: This post continues from a previous one (see here) on Christian logic and its internal operations of “cutting”. It seeks to make clear the importance of a “proper” gluing on the sheaf outside of the Christian story of fragmentation, in a moment instead of re-integration of fragments. To do so, fragmentary remarks on Christian logic will be made, and the significance of post-modernism in-the-classroom will be underlined in order to explain “gluing” in simple, trans- or post-”religious” terms. Connections will be made periodically to math theory and in particular to category theory.

In my last post on “Christian logic”, I inquired as to if we take the strength of Christianity as being its moving story of fragmentation or moment of differentiation (e.g. “cutting”), whether or not there is a ()hole complex: namely, since this story leaves open the question of the future and the unknown, new Whole generally.

Come what may, we might ask: How are we (eg. in what manner, in what way) to re-integrate the fragments again into a unitive (W)hole, i.e. “gluing”? If we don’t, then I think one must take on a semblance of “sinful” conscience which still thinks and acts out love in rudimentary, dualistic terms of principles like “good and “evil”. It’s weakness is in enacting a kind of post-Crucifixion re-integration, I think. 

Fragmentation allows us to develop a mentality of love, or take on love as a fundamental, existential mood. Yet, it is a powerful love reserved for fragments generally (i.e. for others in the category of “sinners” like us universally, so to speak). While it gives us our focus as love, it does not seem to tell us anything about the unknown itself in absence this “conscience of sin”, in absence of the category of “sinner”, or otherwise in the presence of Other, foreign categories altogether. In a word, there is no gluing, or no “proper” gluing.

 

With this mood, given by fragmentation, we consistently “react” to the unknown categories no matter what they are with grace and with love.

Yet, it is as though we still cannot provide a uniquely unitive love sans the many violences of categories, nor a love with “higher” or just in case “enriched” categories which do the same, but only a love tacitly opposed to its opposite, opposed subtly or not-so-subtly at times to those which even so much skirt around the edges of the category “sinner”. That loving mood is very important and very powerful, but I’m wondering if it is only a part of the story and thus if something can enfold it.

The missing element, I think, is a certain “purification of desire” – especially of “religious” desire – which allows one to concretely prepare for the future before it arrives so to speak. To know (gnosis) or otherwise foresee the future while still in the present. There is a perhaps counter-intuitive sense in which you cannot actually love anybody unless you “know” their heart for what it is in itself. Is this given by Christianity in the capacity of its story of fragmentation? I think not. In any other of its capacities, such as Wisdom literature? Perhaps we are warmer here. Is this (call it instead a “story of integration”) given otherwise in non-Christian contexts? I think so, with some inter-faith gluing.

Which (who) are the unknown lovers of Christianity, the Other of “Christian logic”? Can we know them? What’s more, can we love them? Can we stop our cutting, our always already cutting, our cutting-already?

To do so, we need to learn how to “glue” properly instead.

Postmodernism in the Classroom: 

OR, ELI5 and grew up with Zizek for Bedtime Stories

One appropriate response might be:

OK. Almost got it, but not quite? Explain like I’m a five year old who grew up with Zizek for bedtime stories.

I’ll do you one better: Imagine you were the kindergarten teacher of Zizek (yes, for those curious, he probably still looked like a grizzly then with a full beard and over-sized T-shirts too).

Your give your students something colorful called “construction paper” (e.g. the creative unconscious, or desiring-production in Deleuzian-speak/schizoanalysis). We begin roughly there, and you provide a few other tools as well, namely: those rounded child-safe scissors, crayons and markers, Elmer’s glue (you say: DON’T EAT IT, SLAVOJ!), some sparkly PoMo glitter, etc. So you, Deleuze, Derrida, Lacan, Zizek, and Foucault (…among many others which you may add in at-will) each as cute little 5 year old boys, sit around the table with their colorful paper ready-to-hand.

Your tell the kids that they can make anything you can imagine. Here, there are an infinite number of possibilities before them which will and will not unfold in the class period. Not long after you turn your gaze, Derrida and Foucault get in a biopolitical power-fight over who-gets-what-colored-paper. “MY BODY, THIS PAPER, MY FIRE!” says a young Michel while snatching the red paper out of Jacques hands… He is obviously very hurt is often bullied by the others. From this comes later in the year pieces such as THE PRAYERS AND TEARS OF JACQUES DERRIDA and THE WORK OF MOURNING and ARCHIVE FEVER among many other works… You discipline and punish them both.

The other Jacques (surname Lacan, he’s new on your roster) tells everybody they should make a chain-knot with their paper, or maybe a Borromean knot. He was known to twist a strip of construction paper into a Mobius strip, too. He is clearly very innovative for his age, though he bragged a lot and was often noisy in class. Meanwhile, Deleuze begins his own masterpiece, finding another kid named Felix to help him fold (“THE FOLD”) the paper in ways which none of the other kids could understand; for a 5-year-old, it is remarkable how closely they adhere to, say, Francis Bacon’s aesthetics or to the coloring and incompleteness of a famous artist like Cezanne.

He and Derrida would get along often, and sometimes Foucault would join too — especially when it came time to do another artistic activities like paper machee. At this point, Foucault clearly admires Deleuze’s balls of paper, his intricate foldings and origami, and his use of color generally. If only this century would be Deleuzian! Lacan is naturally somewhat jealous. Enter also Laruelle, who is the one to say at last “non-cutting” through dualysis, but who does not quite yet know how to say the word “gluing”.

Sinking in his chair, with a rainbow of colors stained on his shirt, and perhaps a little glue on his fingers and around his lips a strange and somewhat frantic child named SLAVOJ picks up the scissors and cuts all the multi-colored paper into different shapes and sizes. All over his work-space, there is a bunch of organs-without-bodies in the form of all the random fragments he cut out. They are just “floating” there on the table, with no discernible method to the madness; there is only a certain madness.

Each day you begin by giving them free-time to draw, cut, and glue. As the year goes on, you may notice patterns of DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION in their many pieces as you hang them…

From Non-Gluing to Cutting to Non-Cutting back to Gluing again.

Now, what I am talking about here is the conceptual gestures of “cutting” and “gluing”.

The child-Zizek is a cutting expert, and he works very well with the scissors, perhaps just as good if not “better” than any of the others, but we may say as a teacher he is still not gluing “properly”. Lacan by contrast glues, yes, but only very minimally (say, as one would to close his knots). Though he, too, certainly cuts a lot. Sure, Derrida, Foucault,et al. use a lot of glitter, but I don’t think that’s something to reprimand them for if you’re thinking as a child.

After all Zizek, perhaps the youngest in class, learned to cut by watching those “older boys”, anyways. I personally like Deleuze and Laruelle because while they don’t ultimately do much in way of gluing, they fold and twist and so forth, generally calling for an ethos of “non-cutting” reflective of a basic orientation of non-violence.

In the Hegelian mind of Zizek, he likely does not believe at all that he is bad at gluing or is doing it improperly — for cutting is essentially the same thing as gluing, in a sense.

When you think of gluing, for instance, you are actually gluing-things-together-which-were-once-apart. For Zizek’s cutting, he sees himself as gluing-things-apart-which-were-once-together. Thus from the eyes of a teacher, the young Slavoj uses his scissors too much and does not use not enough paste. This is especially annoying, if, say, you picked out a step-by-step craft on Pinterest. This means Zizek may not listen to you at all since in his eyes there is no Big Other, no God, no Teacher, “and so on”. Instead, Lacan urges him to “Enjoy your symptom!” and so (on) he does. In fact, Lacan is like bad peer pressure sometimes, like the smart kid in the class who likes to “bend” the rules. Zizek is therefore quite rebellious in the end, often disobeying the teacher and being sent to time-out as a result.

I am trying to think not so much of how to use the scissors or glitter, but how to glue “properly”. How also, as a student, perhaps, one ought to pass in this class. I take the parallel main question as: How ought I live in this world? It’s also the guiding question of Wisdom literature, by the way. Clearly, we are already at a minimal kind of pluralism, at least recognizing that there are multiple classes and forms of life (we may imagine others exist, with other students and teachers). We often struggle though with our classmates and, if applicable, our “Teacher-capital-T”… all the while we still do not know how to share our toys and, well, love others and provide simple care where it is needed most.

I understand that the framing of this world as a classroom already presupposes a “cut” between teacher-student, so my example is already inherently problematic. In the same way, though, if we accept that the advantage of Christianity is the “story of fragmentation”, then we are also given to make similar “cuts”. This is the dualistic idea behind the master-slave dialectic which Nietzsche regards as troublesome in Christianity. A “cut” down the middle divides things into at least two fragments, and so too does Jesus (“I come not to bring peace but a sword”, etc.).

The only change is that there is ultimately a Teacher of all Teachers so to speak. Thus begins the kind of “Christian logic” from which I’m seeking a certain distance, I think. The answer is found in a sort of desired gluing that does the work of the re-integration of fragments, again I think. What I’m looking for in these inter- or post-faith discussions is a [non-]story of re-integration.

Generally speaking, “Christians” take their guiding logical principle various dichotomies such as sinners-saints, good-evil, heaven-hell, etc. and (so) deconstructing them isn’t sufficient for the simple reason that they are “outside the text” (the world) and thus outside the classroom, when it comes to “religion” and particularly when it comes to Christianity. The “center of gravity” is shifted away from Life itself when it comes to Christian logic. In any case, Lacan and Derrida at one point get into a heated dispute over “the letter” a, as in objet petit a and differance. Lacan says a is indivisible, it is the unitive ground, while Derrida says it is still infinitely divisible.

They are both right as this is, roughly, the construction paper itself. We make-use of it in a plurality of ways. Lacan’s God is the construction paper itself, while Derrida’s is the unnameable of negative theology. Yet they both believe in God. A good post-Jungian like Hillman is more of a poly-theist takes the gods to be the archetypes (combinations of artistic-output), or perhaps even the act of imagination as such. This is admittedly an improvement, but it is still somewhat cutting (see here) and perhaps in deeper and more vulnerable ways than in postmodernism, which is like a series of quick-cuts that heal easily with a band-aid.

Hence, it is reasonable that Lacan makes chain-knots or Borromean knots, while Derrida is more like Zizek insofar as he mostly just cuts. Derrida never “learned how to glue, finally”, but is an expert at, say, making things like paper-snowflakes.

The key to understanding the construction paper is that it is first given by the teacher, just like there is often a sense of abundance – which we may call “creation” or simply “the world” – that is “given by God” as it were. Now, the whole point about “reactionary” is that even if we cut beautiful conjoined-angels out of paper (call it a true “Christian-cutting”), it is only a reaction to being-given this construction paper (again, the collective or otherwise creative unconscious) in the world.

While Zizek’s work clearly isn’t like an angel, he is essentially re-thinking this kind of beauty by making organs-without-bodies instead of angelic bodies. At the heart, though, in terms of logics, he is still cutting just like a Christian would. He is still reacting, like the Christian, to what is given. “You give and take away, you give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name…” See, again, even this dualistic principle of give-take leads us back to the logic of Christianity.

“Christian materialist” is ultimately an accurate phrase for Zizek – it makes perfect sense when considered in the context of “Christian logic” and “materialist logic” combined. Yet, so long as I am “cutting”, my logic is formally like that of a Christian in spite of whether or not its content is “materialist”. Gluing has always been a messy thing. I seek the same distance from Zizek as I do from Christianity, simply because both in their own ways valorize the act of cutting. In fact, and perhaps this will get me kicked out of class here, we may even prefer a humble orthodox Christianity to Zizek’s rather unorthodox radical theology because it is a far simpler act of cutting — and yet it cuts all the same.

Have you ever heard, for example, Christians say that “Christ is the glue that holds us all together”?

Beyond the common-sense meaning, I say that as a first abstraction this appears quite misguided, since Christ is at his word clearly in the business of cutting, albeit differently than the cutting of the world! At second glance, a second abstraction, however, to say that Christ is the glue, well, that requires us to “know Christ” (gnosis) through Wisdom (see here), to know the substance of glue as such, what materials make it up, and so on. This is the sense in which it I think is more accurate, and this – I think – we have come to call “speculative realism”.

We know how to use scissors and about the act of cutting; yet, even CR/SR/OOO doesn’t tell us anything about the act of gluing, and only barely what glue is… and so it is appropriate to move with-and-beyond this discourse, too, onward to a post-postmodern MOA-3…

Note to self: In mathematics and /r/MathTheory at large, so too you have “set theory” which is “cutting” things as it were into sets (…it follows that Badiou is the Master-Cutter…), “topos theory” which locates them locally in space (a topoi is related to a more generalized set, one which may provide non-standard foundations) or in the classroom so to speak, then “category theory” which is generally “non-cutting” (i.e. as in non-philosophy and mis-reading Wisdom, see here) but still not yet “gluing”. Then, we start to move to higher category theory to think of the category of “adhesives” generally in what I’m calling for in my post ad fontes.

I hope that this wild prefix “EN-” and what I’m calling a process of (“divinatory”) envolution, helps us think of the act of gluing itself in conjunction with “enriched” category theory which enjoins in that use of EN– leading us in the EN-d to better navigate the playground of string theory, I hope. Then, we pray for some kind of plasmic model to explicitly address the “Thorn of the Blue Rose” (see here).

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