The title of this post is inspired by those stickers on the side of race cars (and nowadays computers) that say things like “Powered by Ford” (or “Powered by Intel”) or something. It derives from a phenomenon I have noticed when at the gym. Sinthome notes a similar phenomenon in his post on visceral reactions. He begins by noting he hadn’t had breakfast and was hungry, and describes how he got angry at someone for mispromouncing his name at the barber shop. He takes the psychoanalytic line about fantasy, which can be critically recast as the shifting antagonisms of the social. At one point he says:
I suspect that these antagonistic social relations often occur at a visceral and immediate level, such that we only retroactively find reasons for our hatred and anger.
Later he continues:
On the one hand, if it is true that there is an ineradicable real at the heart of social relations, if it is true that social relations will always be contaminated by antagonistic jouissance, then knowing this can certainly bring some peace of mind in public discussions.
My question is rather basic. Sinthome posits the event of an emotional outburst at an immediate visceral level, but then the retroactive coding of this event by the sense making apparatus of our minds places this event within the orbit of certain narrativised causal chains (‘immigrants’, ‘D&G’, ‘homosexuals’, etc). Why overcode the outburst as causally linked to a transcendentally displaced social antagonism? Why can’t the event of the outburst be an immanent acceleration within the body of a sensation that has more in common with evolutionary psychology (ie an instinctual response to one’s hunger) than the aporias at the heart of social antagonisms? Brian Massumi has explored some of the dynamics between affect and the retroactive coding of affect (as a potential movement between two intensities). That is, at that precise moment, one’s hunger seeks out the ‘social antagonism’ to express itself and prepare the body for acquiring food. Would a fully satiated body seek out social antagonism? Just look at the Australian middle-class…
I thought of my experiences at the gym when I first read Sinthome’s post. I often find myself thinking of funny, sad, acutely embarrassing, and/or frustrating events that have happened or I imagine could happen. At first I thought such intense daydreaming was perhaps because I was mildly psychotic or something. I think about my work a great deal. Arranging certain arguments and so on. I replay conversations in my head. Sometimes for conversations that haven’t yet happened and may never happen. I often think about the stupidity of myself and others. It is not all so morose, sometimes it is just a little bit weird.
I often day dream about a particular pretty girl that also works out at the gym. A friend of mine dubbed her “checkout chick” after she discovered that she works at a supermarket as a checkout operator (and as a subtle dig against me because of my romantic predilictions for bourgies). I would never approach or even talk to someone with romantic intentions in mind when at the gym as it is not an ethically appropriate act for the space. However, I also quickly realised that by not even speaking to her and being able to daydream about a particular fantasy — even if it involves merely focusing on say, for example, her extremely beautiful eyes — then my body is flooded with adrenaline or whatever other chemicals the body has to make itself feel good, and I feel good, and I can go full tilt on the cardio machines for another five minutes and then again and again for different fantasies for over an hour. I have chosen a particular example of feeling good but I often find myself fired up to the point of wanting to kill certain people, all the while working out furiously.
Perhaps a psychoanalytic approach would interpret my actions in terms of my gym work as an outlet for my fantasies — I get to burn off my libidinal energy, etc. However, this is not correct as I started going to the gym because I was using my unhealthiness (smoking, bad food, bad sex, etc) to close my body off from the mulitiplicity of the world, and the mulitiplicity of my own body. I use my fantasies to push myself further, to enable myself so as to see what I can do. Indeed, I have translated the same practice into my writing and scholarly work, I push myself beyond fulfilling the expectations of others (and their fantasies) by getting into a highly-charged affective state where my mind dances very quickly and all over the place. This may not be the most conventional scholarly practice, which is allegedly meant to be slow and patient — more ‘library’ than ‘motor race’ — but I am not much of a scholar! It is something else, a kind of propulsion or, better, a surfing across fantasy and the body that leads to weird ideas.