What brings about the end of ongoingness? How is it stifled, muffled, contained, disparaged, held?
In this collection of writing, I am predominantly dealing with traces - deciphering the relations that constitute ongoingness, seeing where it rears its head, and marking the tactics employed in ongoing. There is little discussion of any aims that enable ongoing, any underlying desire planning its routes;11 – Except perhaps, in the mention of Roger Caillois’ mimicry in leg 2 instead ongoingness and louse exist in their figural, relational sense (or field of senses). This is chiefly because the networked approach I have taken is one that denies a singular essence - I am not interrogating ongoingness in a vain attempt to understand a supposed core being, but rather its settings, its manoeuvres, its implications, its effects. There are similarities with Barthes’ attempt to circle bliss as a subject rather than finding its actuality through collective examples: “better to renounce the passage from value, the basis of the assertion, to values, which are effects of culture”.22 – Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975), p. 34 Maybe though, just maybe, a dose of something beyond, of something within, is allowed…
At the same time33 – The layer of time that is the calendar - though it was published some time later, Ethics was drafted in 1665. (For the layers of time, see leg 1) as Robert Hooke’s observations of louse in 1665, whose detailed image is the keeper of these writings, the term conatus gained prominence amongst a number of philosophers; here I will focus on Baruch Spinoza, who earned a living through lens grinding and optics,44 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza (Accessed 11 June 2019) allowing others contemporaneous to Hooke their microscopic (and telescopic) ways in. At its simplest, conatus is a striving: “each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in its being”,55 – Beth Lord, Spinoza’s Ethics, (Edinburgh University Press, 2010), pp.88-89 it is a striving that is beyond just human, but “drives all things in nature”.66 – Ibid, pp.88-89 - this is a view shared with Thomas Hobbes Even in the 17th century, which is often overlooked in the timeline of the Anthropocene, there is a looking cross-species, cross-thing.
Conatus is the essence of the thing, it is not simply the persevering action, and is set within a naturalistic framework, where nature and God are unified. There is a correspondence between conatus and affect - the determinative affections (which might come from objects) cause an acting differently in response to them - this “ability (aptus) to be affected corresponds to the essence of the existing mode as a degree of power (conatus)”77 – Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988), p.99 - the conatus is therefore “a tendency to maintain and maximize the ability to be affected”.88 – Ibid, p.99 Further, this link to affect provides a link to both consciousness and desire: “affections that determine the conatus are a cause of consciousness: the conatus having become conscious of itself under this or that affect is called desire, desire always being a desire for something”.99 – Ibid, p.99 - in an analysis of Spinoza’s redefinition of desire on ibid pp.20-21, Deleuze quotes Spinoza’s Ethics, III, 9, schol: "we neither strive for, nor will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary, we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, and desire it"
Even within these minor quotations, there is an indication of a relationship to power and exteriority - as is perhaps necessary to fulfill a description for a striving of all nature, including a human presence. Power can’t be separated from the capacity to be affected, and this capacity is constantly filled by the affectations that realize it,1010 – Ibid, p.97 but "there is no singular thing in nature than which there is not another more powerful and stronger. Whatever one is given, there is another more powerful by which the first can be destroyed".1111 – Baruch Spinoza, Ethics, IV, ax, Quoted in Gilles Deleuze Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, p.100 There is an opposition between an interior and that which might have more power, which might destroy it - an exterior. Conatus is therefore also an oppositional, a certain resistance to destruction, an internal effort to continue in existence. This oppositionality is one of a number of definitions of conatus that exist and are reconciled with one another, which Deleuze separates into the mechanical (preserve, maintain, persevere), the dynamic (increase, promote), and the apparently dialectical (which includes this opposition to that which opposes, and to deny that which denies).1212 – These can be reconciled as “everything depends on and derives from an affirmative conception of essence” Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, pp.101-102.
For a different approach to (and rejection of) essence, see leg 4
A number of these various definitions have featured as modes of ongoingness in this collection of louse writings, and the dialectical definitions of conatus point to an ongoingness as discussed against wider, perhaps ecological, destruction;1313 – As discussed in reference to Donna Haraway in thorax one that can be countered or rethought through a ‘working with’ or networked approach that utilises mechanical and dynamic ideas.1414 – A further element to conatus is that of its relationship to joy and sadness, which are determinate affects: “ in sadness our power as a conatus serves entirely to invest the painful trace and to repel or destroy the object which is its cause. Our power is immobilized, and can no longer do anything but react. In joy, on the contrary, our power expands, compounds with the power of the other, and unites with the loved object” Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, p.101 The oppositional, or exterior, is where death comes in, for ending does not come from the internal strive to persist, but is enforced by an outside, dominating power. A total ending therefore is present as a possibility, one that bears down from this outside, an outside that is still nature.
fig.5 Cemetery of Splendour (still), dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015
Yet even an enforced ending, if not total or all-consuming, is at risk of being slipped through. Death, when arriving home, looks into its bag and realises something was leaking, forming marbled puddles on the floor of the departed bus. Such as in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2015 film Cemetery of Splendour, which revolves around a group of soldiers who are suffering from a sleeping disease, who lie listless in a makeshift hospital housed in a former elementary school, amongst persistent fans and curved lighting devices that gradually change in colour to assist in the avoidance of nightmares. As one of the carers - a medium - tells us, the school has been built on top of the cemetery of kings: “Let me explain: the spirits of the dead kings are sucking the energy from the soldiers to fight their battles. They are still fighting as we speak”.1515 – Cemetery of Splendour, dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015 Death as total destruction has failed, and the kings have found a way to continue their opposition to each other beyond external endings. To take Spinoza’s definitions, this battle is one form of an apparently dialectical ongoingness, whilst the living soldiers are engaged in a mechanical, persistent attempt to stay awake. Rather than exist along separate lines, these ongoings exist as a network of influence with each other; the ongoingness of the kings needs an input of energy, one extracted, deviously, from a different temporal realm that hinders those it is taken from.1616 – There is perhaps a link here with the way temporality exists in Christina Sharpes’ work, which is discussed in leg 1 A network of ongoing, that in its complexity of energy exchange escapes finality, for now, or at least “until the fibre optic cable company kicks everyone out”.1717 – Cemetery of Splendour, dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015
The action of the kings could be framed as a denial of that which denies: the ultimate denier - total death - kept at bay through obstinacy. The bardo in George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo is filled with characters that enact such a position, who’s continual reluctance to accept death keeps them in the dreary zone overlayed on the cemetery in which they are buried (or where they rest in their “sick boxes”). It is the simultaneous knowledge of their condition, with the refusal to accept it, that enables their continuing, at least in this seemingly safer place. For a child this is less obvious, and when the (once) young Willie Lincoln1818 – President Lincoln’s deceased son, who at one point is described as “never fixed, nor stable, but always just a passing, temporary energy-burst”, which is similar to quantum readings of time in relation to energy, as seen in leg 1 . George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury, 2017), p.244 finally realises and expresses his position, a whole score of dwellers are forced out of the bardo to the beyond, via the matterlightblooming phenomena.1919 – The matterlightblooming phenomena is perhaps a chosen route via indeterminacy, as mentioned in the discussion of Karen Barad and lightning in leg 1 “It’s quite amazing, the boy said. / Stop, Mr. Vollman said. Please stop. For the good of all. / Dead, the boy said. Everyone, we are dead!”2020 – George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo p.296; followed on the same page by: “Dead! the lad shouted, almost joyfully, strutting into the middle of the room. Dead, dead, dead! / That word. / That terrible word.” The expression is both an emancipatory one, one of momentum, shifting out of limbo those that had become in some way stuck, but also one that enables an ending to close in its totality, or at least in the place we know.
These denials, it seems, are only possible following a material end - it is the spirits of soldiers that battle, whilst they lay buried as material; those that dwell in the bardo are also but the spirits of their material selves. Though perhaps these denials could not be established following a material end that is effective enough, such as ecological destruction might entail. As well as acknowledging its necessity in ongoing, Donna Haraway sees fire as “an agent of double death, the killing of ongoingness”.2121 – Donna Haraway, ‘Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene’ in e-flux journal #75, (September 2016), p.4 - Haraway's ongoingness is primarily discussed in thorax Fire, when activated or employed in such a way, stifles all, clips ongoingness at its source. It is a disaster end, the catastrophic, one of Anthropocene/Capitalocene’s ultimate outcomes. Fire is the ending of louse in Isaac Rosenberg’s World War One poem Louse Hunting, which gives an account of Scottish soldiers burning the lice on their shirts with a candle, one night at the WW1 front:
Nudes—stark and glistening,
Yelling in lurid glee. Grinning faces
And raging limbs
Whirl over the floor one fire.
For a shirt verminously busy
Yon soldier tore from his throat, with oaths
Godhead might shrink at, but not the lice.
And soon the shirt was aflare
Over the candle he’d lit while we lay.
Then we all sprang up and stript
To hunt the verminous brood.
Soon like a demons’ pantomime
The place was raging.
See the silhouettes agape,
See the gibbering shadows
Mixed with the battled arms on the wall.
See gargantuan hooked fingers
Pluck in supreme flesh
To smutch supreme littleness.
See the merry limbs in hot Highland fling
Because some wizard vermin
Charmed from the quiet this revel
When our ears were half lulled
By the dark music
Blown from Sleep’s trumpet. 2222 – Isaac Rosenberg, Louse Hunting https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47413/louse-hunting (Accessed 11 June 2018)
Louse, our very figure of ongoingness, that stubborn, persevering thing, meets its end in circumstances of fire on the front line, scenes that are carnivalesque in their celebration of its destruction. It is fire employed by the all-encompassing ritual act that brings about the end of louse, a high that in its descent delivers the cold reality of the trenches.
It is fire in its extremity that brought unrivalled destruction in the year following the publishing of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, as the Great Fire of London gutted the city, taking with it tens of thousands of houses, public buildings, inhabitants, even hurdling rivers2323 – The River Fleet was traversed by the spreading fire, a formerly open river which is now subterranean, partly due to the efforts of Robert Hooke, who supervised its conversion into the New Canal in 1680. The UCL River Fleet Restoration Team, The History of the River Fleet, 2009 https://www.camden.gov.uk/documents/20142/1458280/River+Fleet.pdf/0f0063cc-7079-32c2-5822-6306dcd56d62 (Accessed 11 June 2018) to persist in its destruction. The Great Fire took not only human lives and possessions, but those that lived amongst (with) them, those such as louse, as well as fleas and rats, who that same year had spread the bubonic plague in what is known as the Great Plague of London; spread it concurrent with or subsequent to their articulation in minutiae by Hooke. Total endings consume entire networks. It is a possibility that the Great Fire helped subside the Great Plague too, eradicating its pesky carriers, smutching their supreme littleness. The Monument to the Great Fire of London marks this, albeit localised, total destruction. It too was intended to operate as scientific instrument, including a function as a zenith telescope,2424 – https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-h-word/2013/aug/07/radio-seven-ages-science-history (Accessed 11 June 2018) following the designs of Sir Christopher Wren and serial minuscule-studier, star-tracker, river-mover Robert Hooke.