What is this thing we call Life? Who has it? The most recent (perceived) critique of my stance regarding the necessary capaciousness of whatever it is that we mean when we talk about experience (and I need to, admittedly, brush up on my Emerson here) or ontology, has been that there are clear limits to what can properly be deemed living. That some people are just too poor or too abject or too hurting or too black to *really* be alive. Examples of this are, of course, everywhere. The Slave. The Prisoner. Two faces of the same cold, dead coin.
After all, isn’t this what we mean from the outset when we foreground a framework like social death as a means of theorizing about black life, especially when it is the figure of the black that solely occupies this ontological non-space? What are we saying but that Life dwells elsewhere? Or is social death, perhaps, a critique of Life as such? Of the Human as a dominant, operative, or even helpful category?
I search the texts I’ve been reading as of late for these kinds of entrances, but find only a commitment to various formations and formulations (Citizen, Man, Honor) that not only no longer interest me, but feel violent. Which is not to say that citizenship or honor are bad things to want, but that I think that we need a new way into these things, a new language for talking about something like dishonor or subjectivity or alienation that doesn’t attempt to elide or erase or belittle the lived experiences of people I know, respect, love.
And what of the black bears and the cliffsides and the creeks? The peregrine in free-fall or the wilted rhododendron? What am I to make of all this big, brash Life staring me in the face every day? So many animate objects (supposedly) without interiors, without Lives. Maybe that’s why the animal studies and eco-criticism and OOO work I’m reading right now is making such a deep impression. Because I see, hear, feel the pressing need for a philosophy of life that accounts for the sort of wondrous energy that sits (sometimes silent, sometimes singing) at the center of this thing we call a world. Okay, maybe not the center, exactly. And maybe it’s not sitting. Maybe Life is more like a network of veins. Or pollen, even. Luminous pollen floating in and through everything like a mirthful mist.
I dunno. I’m just a sleepy dude on a train. But I’m serious, though.
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- miguu said: I think it is everything you said and much much more, and isn’t that the total magic?
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