8. Atmospherics of Mood
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e i g h t Atmospherics of Mood The present flâneur, whose promenades these days are more often on the channels of the Worldwide Web than on the boulevards of the odd constellation of cities that he frequents, whether Buffalo, Baltimore, Berlin, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Chicago, or Paris, poses the following questions to himself, as he sets out on an unusually chaotic route: Why Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project? Not only because of its elaborated themes of weather and fashion at the outset of Euro-American modernization but because of the ethics as well as aesthetics of citation that it radically sets into play. The strategies of citation itself, within an overall field of text display and discourse design, surely rank among the most powerful measures within the politics of writing . These critical options are available to every one of us as cultural citizens, and it is incumbent upon us, in the sense of the Derridean notion of responsibility, to explore and deploy them in our expression. Through the new medium of the Arcades , Benjamin addresses, with uncompromising openness, the material dimensions of textual remains. In a practice as well as a spirit of radical democracy, he PAGE 218 218 ................. 17885$ $CH8 10-20-10 14:50:00 PS Atmospherics of Mood 219 allows the auratic finds of his feverish digs for telling textual nuggets to speak for themselves, placing the reader in the open-ended and precarious predicament of making sense of his erudite collection. Why the fascination with Chinese medicine? Not only as a conceptual and therapeutic system, but also as embracing certain features of mood and turbulence shared by the dynamics of climate. Also, as a counter-system to certain instances of Western thinking, Kant and Hegel prominent among them, configured around the speech act of judgment. In its analogical and combinatorial configurations, Chinese medicine takes the full panoply of physiological and emotional conditions, even extreme ones, to be among the customary happenings of the natural order of things. In this openness, this holding judgment in reserve, the worldview and compendium of diagnoses and interventions embraced by Chinese medicine serve as an instance of what Bateson characterizes as the fluctuation between ‘‘strict’’ and ‘‘loose’’ thinking much in evidence during paradigm shifts and other momentous instances of crystallization . As Bateson formulates it in Steps to an Ecology of Mind and elsewhere, this mindful fluctuation between intuition and theoretical rigor is particularly conducive to an ecological intelligence and creativity that are critical at the present juncture. Why the obsession with systems? As I hope I intimated in Chapter 7, because in our personal and social lives we have been, since the outset of the broader modernity, beset by an impossible and often conflicting overlay of them and also because, given contemporary technologies, their operating systems, the traces of their fingerprints in our personal lives, are becoming steadily less visible. The normal citizen devotes escalating amounts of time and energy to negotiating systems that are, in their irreducible configuration, arbitrary and intransigent. In this context, as the Schlegels , Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Artaud, Benjamin, Blanchot, and Barthes understood only too well, art and critique are indispensable media of noise and resistance introduced into systems whose momentum and efficiency are only too well entrenched. In terms of contemporary systems theory, deconstruction may be appreciated as an alliance with turbulence (or a meticulously derived and mobilized linguistic chaos) in checking the multifarious momentums of executive and judgmental systems. What assistance does contemporary systems theory hold out in the face of the devastating political, ecological, and cultural or literate disasters currently confronting us? It extends an invitation to explore hegemonic forces and apparatuses as a Prevailing Operating System, sometimes seeming occulted or ahead of us (but with which astute contemporary observers, such as Naomi Klein in her The Shock PAGE 219 ................. 17885$ $CH8 10-20-10 14:50:00 PS 220 Atmospherics of Mood Doctrine,1 occasionally manage to catch up). Also, it challenges us to an informed and unremitting effort to activate the release valves necessary to relieve the overloads and related stressors imposed by exploitative, cumulative modes of investment, urban development, and colonial conquest.2 Weather, Turbulence, Mood The mere narcotizing effect which cosmic forces have on a shallow and brittle personality is attested in the relation of such a person to one of the most genial manifestations of these forces: the weather. Nothing is more characteristic than that precisely this most intimate...

Subject Headings

  • Criticism.
  • Social systems.
  • Literature -- Philosophy.
  • Books -- History.
  • Books and reading -- Sociological aspects.
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