She left the bit with the most toast crumbs

The title of this post from a poem I am working on. For me it expresses the way we form relations with the world around us both in terms of intimacy and estrangement. What follows is an improvised meditation on the way I am trying to grapple with a feeling of loneliness and relations of different intimacies and estrangements with the world, through Deleuze’s concept of the ‘fold’.
One of the most useful concepts in the complete Deleuzian armoury is the post-Kantian conception of the fold. The two main ways the concept has been understood is to think the fold as one way to grapple with the complexity of the event and the second is to rethink subjectivity as an extension of the cosmos. To combine them: We are each an event; that is, a fold of the cosmos that ‘develops’ (‘develop’ in the sense of an old analogue photograph would develop) complex intimacies and estrangements with the world as the lived duration of our existence. In different ways, we welcome and refuse, back and forth, over and over, various elements from our existential ecology on various levels that begin with the pre-personal all the way through to the most arcane and perverse fantasy.
A fold is not just a spatial gathering, each fold has a temporality. This is where it gets crazily complex. Derrida’s concept of hauntology captures some sense of the way we relate with folds that have endured long before we ever came into proximity to them. They have an existence that haunts the present with the duration of what has already been. Similarly the Derridean notion of the ‘to-come’ captures some sense of the way we sometimes come into proximity with events that have started happening but have not yet ‘developed’ into such a form that is definite. There is a sublime power of hope in the gap between the eventual and the event. The complexity arises once you realise that the temporality of events follows no discernable pre-established order, and certainly not some echo of socialised modernist, familial or ‘adult’ temporalities. The future of one event is already situated in the past of another of a different temporal scale and rhythm. Then you introduce the power of imagination motivated by the sublime hope of the eventual to embrace or discard various potentialities between events, and the distinctly human capacity to intuitively apprehend the patterns of potential and turn them into possibility…
Tonight I am thinking about the fold in terms of intimacy and estrangement, because as I have been writing a book review with all my tools of scholarly practice, my music, my apartment and my cigarettes to keep me company, I couldn’t help but feel the gnawing sense of loneliness encroach upon what is my relatively solitary existence. Solitariness has been discussed by various commentators as the withdrawal of communal efficacy in the day to day lives of most people; this has never much concerned me, community in and of itself is pleasant but often feels like a distraction. Instead of a simple dialectic of public-shared and private-restricted as being able to define the relation between solitariness and loneliness I have realised that I am very good at managing various configurations of intimacy and estrangment with the world around me. Recently there have been some disruptions to this, and I am trying to figure out what the implications are, of how much of the flow I should be going with.
For example, many of my friends and colleagues have noted that I share a lot about my life either on this blog, or my Facebook account, or now on Twitter. Some even imply that I overshare. But my sharing is a performative feint. What I share is view on some events of my life — what Deleuze in his book on Foucault would call the production of a visibility. (Very simplisitically, oversharing then is a kind of overexposure.) The composition of my sharing produces a kind of matrix of intimacy and estrangement in relation to and from me. On an affective level, I work to implicate readers in the event of my to-ings and fro-ings. I have often experimented, especially on Facebook, with different types of status update. All this may seem a little bit demented, even sociopathic, and maybe it is, but it developed almost as an accident of always being both remaindered as ‘other’ but included as ‘us’ at the same time. Lived experience is very different however, because it is not merely reportage on events, but the real engagement with future compositions of intimacy and estrangement with as-yet indiscernible folds of the world.
Anyway, the counter-intuitive point I have been trying to think through is the way the development of new intimacies can awaken both old and new estrangements. Folding new and exciting elements of the world into the composition of my subjectivity has somehow made me reassess my solitary existence as instead being one of loneliness. When you meet new people or rediscover old friendships you are not simply becoming intimate (at whatever degree from romantic to almost sibling-like and everything in between) you do not simply form a relation with a person as an object, but a person as a fold of the cosmos and folds of folds, whole universes of meaning.
All of this has happened over a matter of weeks and is a bit surreal, so I have come to a number of tentative, but nevertheless sufficient stop-gap conclusions.
1. The miasma of estranged intimacies and intimate estrangements I am currently experiencing is a powerful force. ‘Miasma’ in the sense of the ancient Greek ‘pharmakon’ (from which ‘pharmacy’ is derived), which can be both poison and medicine depending on the measure. Ethically I need to harness this force and use it to soberly affirm something good in the world. In this circumstance, the ‘good’ is mostly personal in character.
2. I need to be brave to affirm this force. I am brave, almost to the point of stupidity sometimes, so that is ok.
3. I need to learn to appreciate new estrangements and new intimacies whatever their composition, both the potential (that is, imagined future states of) disappointment and excitement are part of this. I am trying to do this through measures of active ‘letting go’ and ’embracing’, rather than a paranoid-reactionary ‘slipping by’ or ‘clingingness’.

7 thoughts on “She left the bit with the most toast crumbs”

  1. Moving back to Sydney feels a lot like this for me – thanks for sharing. Also, do you find something significant in the way that Facebook’s promise is to produce these forms of relating more often? New friends folded in with old friends, so that our memories of past intimacies are configured in new proximity to the present and potential future…?

    Looking forward to the poem. xxM

  2. Facebook, eh? I haz a facebook.
    The real-time-ness of Facebook and other such social communication technologies allows for a certain kind of temporal proximity that I am not sure could have existed before, at least not on the same scale. But the qualitative dimension of temporality remains with the affective gravity of past or future intimacy/estrangement.
    Having said that, however, an event mechanics of facebook would have to differentiate between the different uses by surveying the different locii of relationality. Some peope just update, some people use the photo sharing faciliaties, some people create events, direct messaging, etc. Not everyone uses these capabilities in the same ways and therefore the potentialities of the social relations as being implicated in the events of others or sharing participation in these events as enabled by the technology will be of varying affective topologies.
    In that context, with qualitative differences between locii of relationality depending on the capabilities of facebook used, I’d agree there is a kind of flattening out of the historical dimension so, for example, the intimate pastness is lived as an estranged presentness depending on the relationality enacted.

  3. From the time you could walk (10 months) you have continually displayed confidence within yourself and the ability to enjoy your own company. You have displayed your enthusiasm, dedication, leadership and compassion for your fellow human being throughout your 30 years – I am sure you are still growing and learning about yourself – I don’t always follow or appreciate your academic writings, but I hope you realize just how blessed you have been! You have always been your own man.

Comments are closed.