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The Rangda and the Nostalgia for Glory

From: Philosophy and Literature
Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1980
pp. 66-79 | 10.1353/phl.1980.0027

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Alphonso Lingis THE RANGDA AND THE NOSTALGIA FOR GLORY Reason is a kind of reckoning, a calculation of equivalencies. It could operate with just anything whatever, with chimeras and phantasms, but it is serious when it operates with the force and substance of reality. We could call the systematic inquiry into the energy and wealth of reality a general economics. A fund of force and substance lends itself to rational calculation when it constitutes aclosed system wherein changes and exchanges are compensated for. The social orders set up by men where what is at stake is the production, circulation, and conservation of wealth constitute closed economic systems . In such systems historical events could be considered forces that are compensated for, and can in principle be rationally accounted for. But even the energies that go into the production of unrealities— chimeras and phantasms—could be covered by the rational accounting if one could integrate them into the productive order in which they are released—if one were adept at seeing what they compensate for, at seeing them as mediating for the circulation of substantial goods. Is not the psyche itself, in which the rational calculations are produced, a closed system conserving its energies by circulations and compensations ? Yet might not the nature in our nature reveal another economy? Might it not be that what rational animals call civilization—where what is at stake, what is the problem, is the production, circulation, and conservation of wealth—represents a special economics? Might we not, by considering a natural being—the sun, for example, hub of the nature we inhabit and natural being par excellence—be able to formulate in a general economics the study of the essence and laws of wealth generally? Upon us and our closed systems the sun hurls out of itself 3.8 ? IO33 ergs/sec. This immense conflagration is in reality the source and the very substance of virtually all the energy and all the formations 66 Alphonso Lingis67 realized in this zone of the universe. The force of this radiation drives all the movements and combinations in this zone; its movement is found in them. If we should envisage the laws of wealth from the universal point of view, we should discover that the first law of a generalized economics of solar wealth is expenditure without recompense. The problem, at the source and essence of wealth, is one of expenditure. The systems that have been set up about the sun are set up to deal with that problem; they are formations that owe their origin and structure to the enormous compulsion of this wealth to discharge itself. The intrinsic drive of solar force is to expend itself in distant formations; the solar outlay without profit is essentially ostentatious. This spectacular consummation of wealth without end, without utility, without recompense and without gratitude, is the objective form of glory. An economy of expenditure without reimbursement does not only characterize the enormous energy the sun squanders, where most of it is lost in the emptiness. In addition the whole sun is, as it were, in excess relative to itself. For it is burning out, driving inexorably to its own annihilation with all its forces. In reality all the energy of the phusis we witness in indefatigable formation and transformation issues out of the inner destruction of the solar essence. In this furious drive to invest its force far from itself, the void becomes spectacular, matter crystallizes and combines, heliotropic life takes form and contracts order. It would be an illegitimate extrapolation of the laws of the special economics of reasonable animals to suppose that these formations are the goal of all this dissipating energy. In reality the solar energy constitutes all the force with which those formations subsist; its essence lies in all of them. The exploding force seems to be captivated, capitalized in them, but that is only an appearance, of brief duration. The tide of solar energy cannot be stopped; all these systems are destined to be consumed in their turn by the very force within them, and which will continue its inexorable expenditure at a loss. They then do not represent subsistent terms, goals or causes, whose...