Happy Objects- Sarah Ahmed:
(Ahmed, Sarah. “Happy Objects.” The Affect Theory Reader. Comp. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. N. pag. Print.)

Locke says that we judge happiness by what causes an increase in pleasure or diminishes pain in us– Something is good or bad according to how it affects us (ahmed 31)

— But heartbreak cannot be judged in such short-term thinking. Heartbreak is an emotion that must be dealt with, and the result can be either -or good or bad. Locke says that a man loves grapes, so his joy of grapes is no more than he likes the taste of them. But heartbreak’s empirical, “object” is more abstract. On one hand, someone rejects you, but there is no “grape” to grasp; furthermore, the feeling lingers as something that must be overcome, or the emotion can take over and destroy you–just ask Othello.
“Happiness might play a crucial role in shaping our near sphere, the world that takes shape around us, as a world of familiar things. Objects that give us pleasure take up residence within our bodily horizon” (32)—also, our likes shape what we are like. We shape our material space by what we like and do not like: we avoid places, things, smells, objects, etc. that we do not like and we try to surround ourselves with the stuff we do like.
Locke says we are made happy by different things that we find delightful. Happiness can be directed towards a thing– an object: a grape, here now. I like grapes so I try to eat them. I am directed towards the things I like and try to distance myself from the things I do not like. In a phenemonological way, happiness is intentional. I am happy towards something. Even in the moments of absence, if the object is not before me, I can be happy if I recall a moment of happiness. (32-33). Objects can affect us in time and space. If I receive something that makes me happy in a certain place, then that place, by association, becomes a happy place. “Or if you are given something by somebody whom you love, then the object itself acquires more affective value’ (33). Happiness has a “here” and “now” or a “when” to it.

“It has always interest me that when we becomes conscious of feeling happy (when the feeling becomes an object of thought), happiness can often recede or become anxious” (33)

— This idea is in Heidegger- When the hammer breaks, we detach from it and turn it into an object of contemplation rather than authentically, just use the hammer. So with feelings–there is a heideggerian idea here– Our truest feelings/emotion are the ones we feel when we don’t notice. –or are we just blank slates? Do we just feel nothing until we realize it? I would still argue no– just as the upset stomach or sleepless night attest to the feeling of anxiety or stress you might not be fully, consciously aware of.
On page 34, she looks at Aristotle who says that happiness is the Chief Good that we aim at. This idea of the end of ends gets at the problem of thinking of happiness as a “thing” that can be achieved. Is it happiness if there is an end? Things, here, are good in that they become the means to happiness. Temporality matters, happiness comes after the object. “As if happiness is what we get if we reach certain points” (34).

Sociable happiness:
Objects get related to happiness, since they are meant to embody good feelings and necessary for a good life. (34)—but the things that bring us happiness require an attainment of taste as well. In saying that a grape is good, you have made a value judgment on that object: “…taste is not simply a matter of chance (whether you or I might happen to like this or that), but is acquired over time” (35). What Pierre Bourdieu illustrated: taste is shaped by what society deems as good or bad so that we desire these good and bad objects. Again, as Aristotle says, good habits are gained through habituation—practice, just like taste is a matter of putting in the work to like the right/good object. At this point, Aristotle makes a distinction about intention “a man is not a good man at all who feels no pleasure in noble action” but what does the “feeling” matter if the feeling fails to be seen. If a man does good, he is good, no? Intention is too tricky. More than habit, habit gives us good taste, makes us desire and strive for the right/good object. “Fake it til you make it”—lie to yourself until you believe. The social of happiness is this idea that society decides what should bring us happy: “groups cohere around a shared orientation toward some things as being good, treating some things and not others as the cause for delight. We are affected by others, such that when we are around others who are happy we catch that happiness. By thinking about affects in this contagious matter, we can look at the inside-outside model of affect—that affects come from inside us to the outside world. But here, affect comes from outside of us and changes us inside.

Think of the “feeling” of a room: the atmosphere of the room gets inside the individual. However, what coms first? The feeling of the room or the emotion? Emotions are “sticky” – anxiety is sticky and picks up what comes near it. If we enter a room with anxiety that anxiety gives us a certain angle.

Going back to Heidegger, who says we are always in moods, so we can’t enter a room in neutral, but rather, we always-already feel something or come into a room with some expectation or hope of how the night will go and how to feel. A room might have a feeling—and surely, I have entered rooms feeling one way but the energy of the room has turned me another way. I might enter anxious because I don’t know anyone, but once I have a drink and talk to some people, the feeling changes. “The moods we arrive with do affect what happens, which is not to say we always keep our moods” (37).
We become alienated when we fail to connect with the affective community, when we fail to derive happiness from an object that is supposed to give happiness. We then offer explanations for why we are not happy: “Such explanation can involve an anxious narrative of self-doubt (why am I not made happy by this, what is wrong with me?) or narrative of rage, where the object that is supposed to make us happy is attributed as the cause of disappointment, which can lead to a rage directed towards those that promised us happiness through the elevation of this or that object as being good” (37). Happiness depends on situation, context, and person. Think of the feminist “killjoy” who calls someone out on being offensive so that the killjoy is said to be unhappy. You are said to be causing an argument because you spoke up. “The feminist is an affect alien: she might even kill joy because she refuses to share an orientation towards a certain thing as being good because she does not find the object that promises happiness to be quiet so promising” (39). The community shares in a happiness affect, in a shared idea of good or happiness that the kill joy refuses to accept. However, to go against the common belief and point out offensiveness rather than go along with it is to be awkward. Depends on who does what to whom; bodies who don’t go along with society are alienated or perceived as aggressive to society.

“If we arrive at objects with an expectation of how we will be affected by them, then this affects how they affect us, even in the moment they fail to live up to our expectations” (42)—Well, ya… Heidegger says that we can never fail to have an expectation of objects. Objects in the world are only comprehensible because those objects are in the world and we have knowledge about them. How can I not have an expectation of how something will affect me? What about heartbreak? Do I have an expectation of how heartbreak will affect me? I know the experience will hurt and that melancholy is always lingering in a relationship. Derrida examines the end of a dialogue and the impending melancholy since you always know one of you will die—but what happens if death is not what ends the dialogue but rather heartbreak/ rejection?

“The promise of happiness thus directs life in some ways rather than others” (41) “We do not just find happy objects anywhere” 41—so people are not “objects” granted, but we DO fall into relationships at random: “anywhere.” The idea of happiness from love out of nowhere is examined in Badiuou (see above). Ahmed states that we direct our life towards the social good, and THAT does not come from nowhere. Expectations come from social arena—Heidegger’s being-in-the-world and following the they-self. The expectations set up by society, having x or y, doing x or y, completing such and such a goal in life promises happiness, happiness follows these things.
Ahmed is interested in the speech act “I just want you to be happy.” (look at Badiou who says the act of saying “I love you” must be continually repeated and lived again and again, continually changing and evolving).

Ahmed wants to examine how the act of saying “whatever makes you happy” releases the child, giving freedom for future decisions, but recall Zizek who looks at this act: how can you be happy without me in your life. The “whatever” of happiness also involves the unsaid idea that “how can you be happy without following what I say will make you happy?” ZIZEK.

Ahmed looks at the queer child: the parent is unhappy about the child being unhappy, as in, I just want you to be happy, but how will you be happy living this queer life? “The queer life is constructed as unhappy, a life without those things that will make us happy (42)… In Ahmed’s examination, the unhappy queer becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where the Dad imagines the queer child unhappy; the queer child becomes unhappy at the father’s speech act “I just want you to be happy but how can you be happy as a queer? You won’t have all this straight things like a kid and family.” (so queer life is already marked as an unhappy life). The father sees the unhappy queer child as fulfilling what he though all along: tha the child can’t be happy. These examples show how happiness choices get normalized: happiness is marriage and family life. Happy objects are shared, and while you can live a “queer” life “happily” that does not mean you will; furthermore, you will live happily but make others unhappy.

Happiness, Freedom, Injury:
Ahmed wants to explore how the speech act: “I just want you to be happy” protects the family. Using the example of Bend it Like Beckham, Ahmed explores the gap between father and daughter that makes up the conflict of the movie and can be read, simply, as the conflict between generations where the customary, common place conflicts with the alternative: old/father with old values vs. the new values/ daughter who wants alternative outcomes and life. Ahmed explores the climax of the film where the daughter is at the wedding of her sister; she is unhappy and accepts her unhappiness by identifying with the happiness of her parents (and marrying sister). The daughter manages to put her own happiness aside for the happiness of others. (45). ((can this analysis be used to explore heartbreak? Can the hearbroken put his/her own happiness aside for the happiness of the lover who wants to leave to find happiness—probably with someone else? My initial reaction/thought is no: repeating what Zizek says: how can the lover find happiness without me when the lover knows how much I care? How can you manage to be happy without me who loves you so much?))—Ahmed notices how the sister’s outcome—the daughter who finds happiness playing soccer and the daughter who finds “traditional” happiness in marrying and having kids—still manages to show the points of alignment, where happiness is enjoyed together. Both outcomes leave us with happy sisters and happy parents; however, the film places more weight on the alternative happy object than on the traditional one when the protagonist is asked by her sister why she wants to play soccer and the protagonist answers that she wants “more.” A “more” that liners noticeable since she doesn’t say I want something different but rather more. An evaluation is made.
Ahmed relates these ideas to the larger issue of immigrant/diaspora narrative. The immigrant wants the next generation to avoid the pain that the parents feel. The subtle message is that the immigrant needs to play the game [of assimilation], represented by the England’s national sport of soccer. Not playing the game (the father’s first speech about not playing cricket any longer once he was excluded) becomes the narrative of self-exclusion and a refusal to assimilate. Ahmed calls this angry immigrant the melancholic for not letting go of the unhappy object. The melancholic insist on speaking about racism when, as the kill joy, he should get over the racism instead of bring up the sore point (the past): holding on to the past is a way for the melancholic to create obstacles to happiness for himself as well as for his adopted nation.
Ahmed discusses proximity on pg. 49—read this page against Zizek’s views on tolerance and racism today. —end—


Here is what I am working on in terms of a theory of heartbreak: The poems used here are read literally with none of the irony that Millay intended. I just want to use the words she writes to flush out ideas, so this is in no way meant to be a reading of Millay, but rather a thought experiment on heartbreak:

I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.”
– Ednay St. Vincent Millay “Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied”

The Millay poem quoted captures a feeling of heartbreak and of what happens in heartbreak. After being in love and spending time with a loved one, when that loved one is no longer present, the memory of that person lingers. The heartbroken tries to forget, but in forgetting suddenly becomes aware that the ex-beloved has been forgotten and, in turn, the heartbroken is reminded of the loss, which turns the beloved into an object of contemplation. I believe Martin Heidegger can inform this feeling of heartbreak. The beloved is gone and forgotten, “there is no memory of him”; that is, until the heartbroken remembers that the beloved was forgotten, which leads to the heartbroken standing “stricken, so remembering him.” In the one heartbroken, the memory of the beloved resembles Heidegger’s present-at-hand. Furthermore, the heartbroken’s emotions lose their ontological definition or “ready-to-hand[ness].” Heidegger describes the interconnections of Being and all the things Being interacts with in the world. The tools that Dasein interacts with are what is ready-to-hand. As Dasein moves through the world in average everydayness, the things in the world, the ready-to-hand tools in the world, remain unnoticed. In other words, when things are going smoothly, we become absorbed in everydayness in the world, but when something breaks, we notice the interconnectedness of the world, and we also notice how that previously ignored tool relates to the world—that is, the tool becomes present-at-hand. The longer the tool is broken, the more the tool becomes an object of contemplation; as Charles Guignon describes the situation:

As we adopt a stance in which things are explicitly noticed, we can be led to believe that what have been there “all along” are value free, meaningless objects whose usefulness was merely a product of our own subjective interest and needs. Heidegger’s point, however, is that this conception of reality a consisting of essentially contextless objects can arise only derivatively from a more “primordial” way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world (13)


Guignon goes on to explain how this is a product of the “disworlding of the world” and is not how the world is actually built. I would argue this explanation Heidegger gives informs heartbreak. When heartbreak occurs, is there not a sense that something is being taken for granted in the relationship? People get comfortable and start to treat loved ones as mere objects in the world, as a tool that is merely ready-to-hand, and then with the dissolution of the relationship and the onset of heartbreak, suddenly, the relationship and the beloved become “a meaningless object” who was only used for our own selfish subjective interest and needs. The relationship and the other become objects of contemplation as if something was broken. However, the heartbroken’s contemplation can lead to a “more primordial way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world.” In heartbreak, the heartbroken becomes aware of his/her world and the lack of the beloved in it.

In order to understand heartbreak and what happens in heartbreak, it is important to understand identity because heartbreak makes a subject confront his/her identity in a radical way. Heidegger posits identity as Dasein. Dasein is the being that asks about its own being. This being is a being-in-the-world-with-others-towards-death. Within this conception, Heidegger explains that Dasien is always a taking up of possibilities. The structure of being that Heidegger outlines is as an always-already being in the world thrown ahead of itself into its potentiality, but being thrown ahead of itself Dasein still has to deal with the past while always having the potentiality of the end ahead of itself. Heidegger describes it as such:

The ahead-of-itself presented itself as a not-yet. But the ahead-of-itself,
characterized in the sense of something outstanding, revealed itself to our
genuine existential reflection as being toward the end, something that in the
depths of its being every Da-sein is (Heidegger 292, italics in original).

In heartbreak, this ‘ahead-of-itself’ as a ‘not-yet’ is manifested because the not-yet—the possibilities that Dasein can take up in the future—is no longer possible. The other has left and with the other leaving, so to do all the possibilities Dasein had with the other. Heartbreak gives rise to the feeling of life being broken, of identity being changed, and of Dasein looking at its life in contemplation as an object present-at-hand.

— I have more ideas about this– so I am going to leave this here and come back to it. This might be what I explore in my dissertation.

I’ve read a good deal of Heidegger’s Being and Time, and along with that, I have read a number of intro books on Heidegger, and everytime I read him, it is like reading him for the first time.

Language appears to be an attempt at more poetic language (prose) than Heidgger’s earlier work, as it should be, since poetic language is what the essay is exploring. Like Being and Time, Heidegger is still analyzing preconceived notions of Being, but he is looking at Being in a different way here (moving away from Dasien)—through language; as the introduction informs: “language is the house of Being” (982). If Being is housed in language, then we must understand language.

The problem comes with trying to understand language within language. Humans can only know the world through language; so then how can we know language through language? Once we start to put things into language, we totalize the thing, categorize it, and as Heidegger points out,

“We do not wish to assault language in order to force it into the grip of ideas already fixed beforehand. We do not wish to reduce the concept of language to a concept, so that this concept may provide a generally useful view of language that will lay to rest all further notions about it” (986)


For Heidegger, language is not a fixed concept; rather, “Language speaks.” This speaking grants Being a home because speech is the activity of man; it is expression, and I see language here much like Dasein in that language and Dasein are both concerned with the movement, the gerund speaking (much like the being)—it is something that is always-already moving. Language is more than speaking. Heidegger will go on to show the problem with the old way of thinking about language (language speaks), but he does see a buried approach to this way of thinking about language.

All this explanation by Heidegger is his way into a discussion of language. He contends that while these observations and popular ideas about language might be correct, “…they never bring us to language as language” (988). For Heidegger, the real speaking of language is in poetic language.

In poetic language (and this is an idea Derrida furthers in Rams, his essays on Paul Celan), language speaks by calling object into existence through language that speaks, but this is a non-totalizing call that brings the absent object present while still remaining absent. It is non-totalizing because, “This naming does not hand out titles, it does not apply terms, but it calls in the word. The naming calls, Calling brings closer what it calls, However, this bringing closer does not fetch what is called only in order to set it down in closest proximity to what is present, to find a place for it there” (991). This language, rather, is open.

And then things get a little weird. I’m not sure what the fourfold: earth, sky, divinities, mortals, is, but I read somewhere that language has something to do with them. What I did grasp is:

If language is speaking and showing the world and things, it requires that we listen. It is not possible to hear something that has not been said; listening here is an active listening: “Mortals speak insofar as they listen” (997). Furthermore, we have to hear something so that we can say it. And we have to say something in order for it to be present: “…[speech] bids thing and world to come” and when that is done “purely” there is poetic language. If there is no word for hammer, then there are no preconceived notions of what “hammer” means, but once it is put into words, it bids things to come. There is something about gathering and dif-ference here, that if I understood better and had a larger word count I would go explore further…

I think some of these concepts can be seen in Beloved, where there is a binary set up between poetic/non-representational language—Heidegger’s “pure” language”—and representational/ totalizing language, which wants to categorize and name things. In all honesty, I haven’t finished reading the book yet (though I have read it in the past), and to be honest again, I know this binary is there because that is the way we looked at it in another class I had once, I just have a bad memory, so I am not going to attempt to get into more detail about it.

So while making my last post, I noticed that I sent that crazy ramble to my professor, and not the following which is what I meant to send:

Jacques Derrida states, “all responsible witnessing engages a poetic experience of language,” which is to say that the most responsible way to bear witness to an event is through a poetic language that does not claim to grasp the moment, capture it, or totalize it. Derrida also states that love is a question between “who” one loves or “what” one loves. The question is: does one love the other or some quality about the other. It is my belief that these statements can inform a certain reading of many different concepts that are depicted in literature, most obviously conceptions of love, but also conceptions of heartbreak. I believe that these moments in literature invoke Derrida’s conception of poetic language to try to convey to the reader a sense of these abstract concepts such as love and heartbreak. Furthermore, I believe that within the idea of conveying emotions beyond thematization in poetic language that Martin Heidegger’s conception of identity (Being) as always moving ahead of itself, as being-in-the-world-towards-others, rather than a static, non-moving, self-same identity, is the reason that love and heartbreak cannot be put into words and why it is that poetic language is the best way to convey these ideas .

Stemming from these ideas, I believe that there is a serious critical gap in exploring conceptions of heartbreak, which I believe follow the same conceptions as love. That is to say that heartbreak, like love, can best be explored through this poetic experience of language. Additionally, I believe that there is a phenomenology of heartbreak that has been explored but not explicitly put into words. Though not explicitly about heartbreak, as mentioned earlier, I believe that heartbreak can only be themetized through poetic language. I also believe that Harold Schweizer’s phenomenological look at enduring time in his book On Waiting can inform a view of heartbreak, which is after all, a waiting to “get over it.” These ideas intersect with Derrida when he examines ideas of mourning. Derrida explores having to carry on after an other has passed: “The survivor, then, remains alone….At the least, he[the survivor] feels solely responsible, assigned to carry both the other and his world, the other and the world that have disappeared” (140). But what happens when the world of the other is only gone from me? In heartbreak, the other is gone but not gone from the world, so while I carry the world of the other in me, the other’s world is not gone.

I feel that Schwiezer’s conception of waiting can inform these questions. Schwiezer outlines a theory of waiting using Henri Bergson. Basically, there are two temporalities: one thought and one lived (time and duration). Clocks give us thought time– an abstraction that is measured. Bergson gives an example of enduring time by saying that watching a lump of sugar melt in a glass of water gives us lived time– time that must be endured– a time that must be waited “willy-nilly.” This willy-nilly implies vacillation, which Bergson terms “impatience” (16). It is in this lived time, this time that is not calibrated to our will, that time becomes “time as the other than.” Duration then seems “other than” as in other than can be measured; therefore, it is time that is consciously endured rather than the time in which things get done (16): “In waiting, the hour cannot be turned into lunch; the waiter must live the hour” (Ibid.). The hour can not be a distracting; as Schwietzer puts it the hour can not be turned into a “lunch hour.”

What is implied here is that in waiting the waiter cannot defer or prolong, shorten or lengthen, his time and thus his “being.” In waiting the waiter feels his own being. I get here a feeling of Heidegger’s “being-towards-death.” From what I understand of Heidegger’s anxiety:

Heidegger argues that our ontic feelings of anxiety testify to the “groundlessness” of human existence, revealing an ineradicable insecurity which Heidegger connects to the fact that our existential trajectories – the life-projects, roles, and identities that define who we are – have “always already” been shaped by a past that we can never get behind and head off into a future in which these self-defining projects will always be incomplete, cut short by a death we can neither avoid nor control. In Heidegger’s famous phrase we exist as a “thrown project”: thrown out of a past we cannot get behind, we project ourselves into a future we can never get beyond. “Existence” (from the Latin Ek-sistere, out-standing) is this standing-out into time, a temporal suspension between natality and mortality (http://www.philosophers.co.uk/cafe/phil_mar2003.htm)

If anxiety arises out of our existential trajectories, then wouldn’t we feel that groundlessness more when we are forced to endure time? If the anxiety is a result of being always-already shaped by a past we cannot get behind and being thrown into a future we can not head off, then wouldn’t we feel this anxiety in moments when we, as Schweizer puts it, “feel our being” in waiting– because in waiting our being cannot protract or contract, we vacillate, we are in this state of willy-nilly “will I, won’t I.” This dithering is made manifest in our pacing the room; The walking back and forth is the waiter wanting to get away from a body that endures– the body is always a reminder of mortality. (Again, I think of a “Being-towards-death”).

I extensively look at these conceptions of time and existential anxiety because I see in these phenomenological experiences much of what a phenomenology of heartbreak would feel/look like. In heartbreak, the heartbroken must endure time. He must wait to “get over” the person, and this “getting over” becomes problematic when thinking about what Derrida has to say about mourning. What happens then when the loved one is not dead but just gone and out of my life? Is there not a mourning there, but one that is much different (and yet eerily similar) to Derrida’s mourning. According to Derrida, in order for mourning to succeed, it must fail. Mourning is the getting over of a lost loved one, but does it not feel wrong to think we can get over the death of a beloved; therefore, Derrida’s conception of mourning is that is must fail in order to succeed, but in heartbreak, doesn’t the mourning have to succeed? But it can’t fully succeed because the person is not dead, just not there, which leaves us back to why Derrida says that mourning as “getting over” would seem odd, especially odd if the person is still alive, or so I would think. Or is it that mourning does succeed because we can finally get over the person? While this latter question implies a possible solution, I still find it problematic because, to use Derrida again, when the other is gone we must “carry the world of the other” but the world of the other hasn’t gone anywhere, just away from me. Yet I can’t help but to have the world of the other in me in dialogue.

Another possibility I see is that since, as Heidegger says, Dasien is always-already thrown forward and taking up possibilities and future possibilities, is heartbreak, then, the realization of having certain possibilities no longer available? This is what existential anxiety is, after all, so is heartbreak then just an intense experience of existential anxiety? To contrast that idea, is love then the suddenly multiple possibilities before me?

I think, therefore, that there is a connection to be made between love and heartbreak, which I think phenomenologically are the same experience interpreted in different ways, and I think ways to interpret these emotions are through Derrida’s conception of poetic language and through a philosophy of waiting. I think that the conditions of possibilities for these ideas are found in Heidegger’s conception of Dasein, and I think that heartbreak, like waiting, can be interpreted through Heidegger’s idea of “present-at-hand ”

I have been watching Examined Life, which is a documentary that follows around different philosophers and has them discuss something or other. I have also been reading about Soren Kierkegaard (whose grave is posted here).

I have a lot of fragmented thoughts on all of this.

Cornell West is brilliant in this. He, like most philosophers, talks about philosophy being our meditations on death. We are constantly learning, dealing with, making sense of how to die. We do this by being thinkers and examining our lives:

(I wanted to post the Cornell West clip here, but for whatever reason, this isn’t working, so here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1Q6v1xsvcI&feature=related)

This concern about how to live (in preparation for death) is what concerned Soren (from now on shortened to SK). SK thought that philosophy shouldn’t tell us what it knows, philosophy should tell us how to live; what we should do. But that should do becomes tricky because everyone has to choice it very purposefully.

I see much of the same concepts here that Heidegger will pick up later. Both are concerned with subjective moral truths; both reject the easy life of following the crowd. SK was concerned with authentic living and existential dread much before Heidegger, Sartre, or Camus. SK has the idea that existence is something more than what you are born with and says that it is something, rather, that one strives to, which is much like Heidegger talking about Dasien’s possibilities that Dasien takes up.

Just as Dasien is this Being-towards, a being that is thrown ahead of itself in the world, Sk, too, talks about existence as a thrown forward– existence is the choices one makes and lives with wholly.

This brings me to another point which I would like to explore. If Dasien is this Being-towards-others-towards-death, which is to say that being is constituted in context to its culture, society, history, present, future, language, etc, and its project is only completed at death when it no longer has any possibilities to take up, then that is to say that when someone dies, MY (some of my) possibilities end as well.

If part of the structure of Dasien is its possibilities, then when someone dies, those possibilities become less because if my wife of 50 years dies, my best friend from grade school, my family member, or anyone I know dies, then I no longer have the possibility to explore a “towards-others” with that person any longer. Therefore, we must always live towards this death. This is why it is so important to fulfill ethical imperatives because if we do not, a little piece of our own Being dies as well.

This is what the poets, musicians, artist know so well. This is the pain of heartbreak, of mourning, of loss– because our possibilities that we can take up become more limited when someone close to us dies. The melancholy that follows these events is that melancholy that Zizek talks about, in a way. Zizek describes the melancholic as the person who is frustrated because he has acquired the object of his desire but has lost his desire for it. I am interested in his later description of what is going on with the melancholic:

In this precise sense, melancholy (disappointment with all positive, empirical objects, none of which satisfy our desire) is the beginning of philosophy. A person who, all his life, has been used to living in a certain city and is finally compelled to move elsewhere is of course saddened by the prospect of being thrown into a new environment–but what is it that makes him sad? It is not the prospect of leaving the place that was for years his home, but the much more subtle fear of losing his attachment to this place. What makes me sad is my creeping awareness that, sooner or later–sooner than i am ready to admit– I will integrate myself into a new community, forgetting and forgotten by the place that now means so much to me. in short, what makes me sad is the awareness that I will lose my desire for (what is now) my home (Slavoj Zizek. How to Read Lacan 68)

When we look at this language, this explanation, isn’t this what is going on in mourning an other? When we are separated from a close other (family, dear friend, lover, etc), the sinking heart feeling we get when we know that the relationship with our girlfriend is changed (heartbreak), when we know that we will never see a loved one (death)– all of these events is, as Zizek describes “..the subtle fear of losing his attachment to this place,” where this place can be the same exact physical place, only changed by the lack of the person you shared the space with.

This is the melancholy of having less possibilities to take up (in Heideggerian terms). It is also the reminder of death, of how things can change, of how things will change, of being forgotten after death, of forgetting when someone else dies. As I sometimes forget I had a father because it has been so long since he was a part of my environment, and then I become melancholic when that comes back to me. It is these mixed feelings of guilt and nostalgia. A desire to return to something better, but knowing that maybe it wasn’t “better” but just different.

I have to go back to Heidegger and Lacan and Zizek and explore this idea of the melancholy being a result of Dasien’s possibilities being narrowed, and I would like to explore the ethical implications of the ethical life in the face of this Being-towards-others that feels melancholy when there is one less other to be towards. I wonder if this is what Nancy explores?

Well, I leave this fragment to try to go read more…

I was at a party this weekend talking to some friends and a discussion about crushes and love came up somehow. I was trying to explain to them some ideas I have been kicking around in my head ever sine I completed my thesis. These are thoughts I have had since watching two documentaries. 

The first question when it comes to “love” is: what is love? How do we define it? Love is one of those things, I think, that can’t be described in language. Anything you have to say about love is only about love, not love itself. This idea comes from Derrida:

The who or the what of love, like the who or the what of being: We cannot place our finger on the “thing” that it is. And I was unable to explain this to my friends (but that might have had something to do with the alcohol they were drinking). 

After thinking about it for a while, I thought of our ideas about love, and how these ideas (and this idea of the “que” or the “qua”) can be seen in Cinderella. Here we have a “love” story, but what is it that the prince falls in love with? Essentially a foot. What is going on in that story that the prince can’t recognize his love by sight, sound, touch, smell, but by the show she wears? Thank goodness that her foot didn’t bloat after a night of dancing, or that none of the other women in the land has the same size foot as Cindy. But it is this essentialism that defines our Western conception of love. 

Looking at Romeo and Juliet, we have Juliet saying that “a rose by any other name still smells as sweet”– and it is this rose that we equate with love. This essential something– this self-same identical person that we fall in love with. This is what Derrida points out so aptly. How many times do you hear about a relationship that falls apart because someone in the relationship “changed.” :

For some reason we equate change with something bad (at least in a relationship). Isn’t this what ruins the relationship in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall? Alvie meets Annie, falls in love with her, encourages her to take classes and “better” herslef, and then when she changes, she outgrows him and they break up. So what was it that Alvie fell in love with? Was it Annie? But what about Annie did he fall in love with? And what did Annie see in Alvie? What about Alvie was any different? He is a comletely static character, which is why the audience can see why Annie leaves him, but where does that leave love?

I finally understood this opening scene when taking a Woody Allen class:

This idea of not wanting to belong to a club that would have you as its member is what I understand Lacan is talking about when he talks about desire. Whenever I’ve been in a decent relationship (and this is, more and more, applying to friendships even) I always wonder why the other person likes me. What do I posses that the other person likes and wants to be around.  Being at this party as a non-drinker, non-smoker, I have realized that I am getting a little boring in my middle-age, so why do people hang out with me? (I am exaggerating here for the purpose of discusion– because as I say these things, I can also say that whenever a girl turns me down I always wonder what is wrong with her: I am smart, and funny, and handsome– but it all goes back to the idea of what is “love”)– Rather, I should probably emphasize “what is love?”

I think, ultimately, that we shouldn’t put any kind of label on love and try to define it in words. That is the job of the poet: to write about love in a mysterious way. And here I wish I knew more about Hiedeggar and poetic language. 

It is through Hiedegger, afterall, that I get this idea of love as not something concrete. As Derrida says, the question of love is the same as the question of “being.” Is being a who or a what? If we take being as being this constantly thrown forward then there is no “thing” that we can call love (or being). If being is being-in-the-world-with-others-towards-death, then it is not a static self-sameness identity that we can grasp. There is no rose or foot to put our shoe on, in this case. 

In Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters, this is clearly seen. Here there is a novel where the “who” and the “what” are constantly changing. The main characters are constantly changing their identity and even there psychical bodies, so there is no static who or what to love. But the story is one about love regardless of not having a static thing to love. This is true love– an unconditional one that stays no matter what the object of love “is.” 

Love is like being then– always thrown forward ahead of itself and never static. Love is not a foot (that is a fetish– that is lust). Maybe there are so many divorces because people don’t realize that if their partner changes, that is a good thing, and that maybe they should change too. If you don’t move a muscle, that muscle atrophies and dies. Love and being are the same way, no?

And just for fun: Where does love come from? I think Zizek answers that question in an interesting manner: