On Cixous’ portrayal of the animal

To imagine that the bird soars in unworldliness articulates a rejection of human and societal constraint more so than an accurate portrayal of the animal, especially when humanity’s impact on the world, through climate change related mass extinction, transcends the bounds of its own knowledge and touches even undiscovered spaces. W. D. Ross asks, “Is there a point at which we may write the animal body without insisting on consuming it?” Does Cixous’ framework speak truly of the animal, or does she make of it a romantic symbol of an ideal human freedom? Cixous’ analysis suggests that the animal brings the human beyond humanity, yet the beyond of this statement stands firmly in the human perspective. The author of G. H.’s story calls this beyond ‘inferno,’ but Hell too remains a biblical cliché.

On consuming the animal

“Is there a point at which we may write the animal body without insisting on consuming it?”

Every living being must eat; to be alive is the necessity to eat. Cixous maintains that animals and humans, then, are bonded in eating, to sustain themselves, to keep themselves alive. As the nourishment of life, then, eating is a good without which there would be only death. Or, perhaps worse, inedibility, for even the nutrients in our soil depends upon a previous death. Without eating, there would be only stagnation. Cixous realizes, however, that eating is simultaneously a cruelty. For the human to eat, she must turn life to death and transform an animal body into meat, and an object of consumption. The animal is cut into bite-sized pieces, seasoned, and judged on its flavor. Ross argues that “eating is the cruelty of the necessity that devious animals for the sake of human beings. Well beyond humanity.” For Cixous, the need to eat links the member of society, of humanity, to life, to goodness, to death, to cruelty, and to animals: it reminds the individual that behind the neatly crafted world of men lies an unordered realm, paradoxically full of goodness and of cruelty.

On women, and birds

The cruelty of eating forces us to confront death.

We legislate eating because we fear death. This gives us a feeling of control. That control is an illusion, illustrated by the “Because.” How we treat animals is thus in a set relation, prescribed by the He-bible.

We fear animals because they take away our knowledge by showing us that it is founded only on a “Because.”

We cannot know the animal, but we can love it or we can be cruel to it. We cannot love what is known, only what is unknowable. God is not loved because he is known, love for him is legislated and is not love.

To treat the animals differently than decreed is impure and is a crime. By excluding animals, we also exclude the part of ourselves that is cruel. The part of ourselves that is cruel, and that faces death, is imund, like the animal.

Beyond the world, there is a human nature, or perhaps animal nature, natural to us all. This animal nature is located at the root.

It is painful to descend to the root because we must exclude ourselves, be in exile like the animal. Exile is uncomfortable but magical and transformative. People cannot tolerate those that live in joy, by their own laws or without laws. By exile ourselves we become imund, out-of-this-world.

To become imund, however, leads to joy although the journey down is cruel and painful. The root is inexperiencable without other living things. To become imund is to be cruel to an animal, to devour it for the sake of oneself as animal, not as lawful human; it is to become impure through it, by being like it.

We are not taught that in pain and cruelty is joy. The joy that comes after sorrow is much greater than the joy that came before it. After the pain and rage of exile, if one survives, there is joy.

To become imund is to feel joy like the animal as beyond the human. The animal world, to be face to face with an animal, enriches the human world. There is a shared earth, the world of the animal and the plant and the river and the desert, without which our world would not have meaning.

On the gestures of bodies

“The possibility of meaning . . . is the cacophony of the sound, the silence of the word, the materiality of the medium: the viscosity and smell and sheen of paint, the hardness of the stone, the gestures of bodies that do things our minds wonder at, in love and joy. It is the betrayal of the truth, the revelation of the impurity of truth, in joy and love.”

Stephen David Ross, “The Writing of the Birds, in my Language”

 

On bodily writing

What does it mean to write? The written word flows from the fingertips unbeknownst to the author. An act of creation that does not have its origin in the intellect but from elsewhere. Philosophy relegates itself to the realm of the conceptual; an attempt to make clear the ambiguities that permeate a life and an identity. What does it mean to have idea? From whence does creation spring? What is the meaning of action? And how does the act differentiate itself from the thought? Do they come from the same place?

Is creation the question or the answer? Maybe the moment of inspiration does not spark an idea but mere movement that intends to repeat the inspiration. Creation is not an act of individuality but rather a reinterpretation of universal sensation. A reproduction of the body into an object, a description, a movement not meant to dispel the ambiguity but emphasize it. In philosophy the goal is to argue, an opponent is made clear and there is ambiguity regarding the interpretation, not in the act itself. But to embody a moment is not to clear it, but to preserve its questions. It originates directly from the intimate engagement of oneself, of one’s body fully embedded in the world.

The artist and the creator is radically human such that she is perceived as alienated from humanity. Maybe she is. The goal is to bring movement back into the alienation that is itself fundamentally human. But in reaching towards the depths and creating something (or is it creating nothing?), she reaches deep into the anxious ambiguity that resists becoming voiced. A voicing of that which is common to experience yet inexpressible to many, that which is common to all yet resists any ability to be communicated. This process is not conscious, it is bodily.