Images IV

(This is a spinoff from a work in progress.)

The primordial rain is Lucretius’ central image. “It is raining”, Lucretius says. The impersonal “it” of this expression is not quite like the silence of Cage for whom silence is filled with the rush of sound that is my presence to myself. This is the “it” of a positivity without presence, without concept—of that indefinable space between the raindrops that fall with a muted clamor not into the earth but into the ocean where it is not a question of limit or nourishment but, rather, the conjoining of infinity to infinity.

Can there be an experience of this image? This is the metaxiological question. Lucretius presents us with a conception of poetry that is nothing less than the imagination of matter (à la Bachelard): matter cleaved from form—a pure matter, an-archic matter, power, dunamis, tendency. But this presents a problem, for thought cannot admit of a material imagination thus separated from formal being, for such an imagination is by definition infinite, liquid, without principle or measure.

Thus we begin, as always, in sensation, that is, in aesthetics. The verticality of rain effaces location. On the one hand, the rain violates the law of the elements: it is a downward motion that does not move to the center. We cannot experience the downwardness of the falling rain, for a face turned upward is already immersed in the rain—it is all around—and no index permits a “there” (a Da-sein). There is only a “here”—I am here!—but it is not the rain that is around me. There is no outside because the rain is in me insofar as I am in the rain. The rain that falls on my skin does not merely entreat entry, but I become “soaked to the bone”. There is no inside; there is no location. If it is the rain that falls, it is I who rise—taking to the sky, to reverie. The rain lifts us from the earth, away from the center.

But is this not to imply a direction (to move away from the center)? Rather, the (primordial) rain “returns” us to the origin insofar as the center is not originary. But neither can we properly speak of an “original” rain. The primordial rain is infinite: it is the image that has taken the place of God—not the masculine creator but the feminine genetrix. There is no thinking of images, just as there is no thinking of God (Dante, Paradiso XXXIII). What the medievals had called the beatific vision can now be called material imagination. The image does not come from elsewhere, through the rays of emanation, from the outside. This form of absolute transcendence is, of course, impossible; but is not, too, the imagination of matter?

The imagination of matter requires a propaedeutic. Several candidates have been previously proposed for thinking: aporiai, contradiction and dialectic, epoche, reflection, etc. Lucretius proposes “attention”; similarly, perhaps what we need to expect is not clarity of vision but, rather, we need to learn how to listen.

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