Coming along with the film, in its box, is a set of liner notes, some folded pages trying to say, in a fairly concise form, where the film is trying to go. An expanded version of those notes we have referred to as a Compendium, intended to follow below. To be more exact, we’ve talked about an open-ended kind of text, rather than a larger, fixed version. Whatever the size, it’s not quite here yet (forthcoming, as they say).
Meanwhile, to give some pointers, we may quote from a couple of places in the liner notes, from the very beginning and from the later words, so that a small arc may be established that could give a general idea of what’s still to come. The liner notes start out in italics:
Snow. An old man. A stick. A little boy. Using the stick, the old man slides on the snow. The boy asks,“Can I try that?” The old man hands the stick to the boy, who begins to play with it, on his own.
The key words here, and maybe for the film as a whole, would be “on his own”. To find out for oneself. To experience that sliding on one’s own. To try that.
That trying, however, does not take place in a vacuum, it’s seen within one’s living, it takes place. The old man slides down the hill, in the snow. He slides down a certain way. A way that he has taken over, in his younger years, maybe. Or a way that he has forged, slowly. So that now he slides, and he gives a particular expression to that sliding, a certain sliding, not necessarily certified.
What the film is trying to say (and it may be inserted here that this scene happened completely unscripted, the snow that entire year in Seattle lasting some twenty minutes), at least trying to say about itself, at this point: if you are interested in some of this, the many ways of the ball, then look into it, on you own. Rather than instructive: introductive…
The title of the film has two parts, so to speak, theme and setting. They play into each other, dynamically, with the ultimate aspiration that dualities disappear or are pre-emptied.
Body & Being refers to the theme, what the film “is about”. Before The Wall refers to its setting, in a couple of different ways.
In its sense of “before and after” Before The Wall alludes to a previous film, made in Paris in collaboration with Gil de Kermadec some fifteen years ago, called in English The Ball And The Wall. At that time we talked about making another film, which, in the sense that it would deal with a situation prior to going to the wall, preparing to go to the wall, preparing body and breath for the co-ordination with the ball — in that sense such a new film would be before the Wall film.
Of course, the word before also carries the sense of being in front of or facing, and in that way also points quite concretely to a place, a setting, a wall, where play and practise may find shelter. Where play may be seen as a cluster of capabilities or potentialities, playfully approached through an expansion or narrowing of the field: with or without a ball, with or without linear limits, a slow or a quickening rhythm, etc.
Finally, the title as a whole speaks to the setting itself, its taking place before, if possible, the usual dichotomies set in, before we begin to build walls between this and that, between winning and losing, between real play and merely practise, between real pros and only amateurs, between (jock) cult and culture, between body and brain, between bodies and being etc.
Thus the title tries to address this wholeness: play expressing itself in its actuality, spoken from your own roots.
A countdown in general may be said to be both a pre-liminary and a reversal, a set of numbers growing towards zero, towards a starting point, beginning.
That kind of leading-in still pertains here. At the same time, there’s an additional sense, of summary or summation, a condensation, of the film in its entirety, its five chapters etc. Maybe one could speak of a kind of quint-essentiality: of a space with three breaths, a point flashing, a pulse flickering.
If you’ve seen the film, did you notice them? Flashpoint and flickering, of yellowish light, would mean something like Attention and Continued Attention. The three breaths would express being attentive in inter-playing terms: Openness, Friendliness, Hereness.
Openness would be something like coming into the situation with a radically open mind, a shedding of biases and greed, ultimately also in terms of what one wants to gain from this kind of activity.
Friendliness means friendliness, in other words will it be possible to remain effortlessly open and friendly towards the entire athletic field and onwards, including opponents, referees, umpires, etc., players and people who may not at all share your views or join you in conduct.
The third breath brings in Hereness, being right here, taking an open, friendly attitude into the situation at hand, into its very details, letting approach and perception of things come together, cohesively.
Here the word Excursion implies a sense of adventure, to move, possibly, beyond the confines of habit, of the well known, of established patterns. In the dictionary, it speaks of “short journey, as for pleasure.” Here we’re not dismissing the pleasure aspect, not at all. However, we are de-emphasising a return to the some celebrated edifice or patch in the woods, where those that came before us brought their breads and wines, and had a moment of joyful rest afterwards. Can we continue from there, not negating their experience?
Body & Being:
Since we’re steeped in language, it’s tricky in any case. Words like Awareness can mean a thousand things, large outlooks are built up around them. Breath and Gravity will not make it any simpler. So the words can but point us.
But also we’re trying not to depend on words. In other words, to use Awareness to discard the beaten tracks of conceptuality, to move outside the woodpaths: into a sensing, of where we are, of how we breathe, of how we stand (being pulled by energies and forces, from below, from above, from inside).
And having said “above, below, outside, inside” then, possibly, to not only understand but also to experience, realize for oneself, the considerable challenge it takes to make them come together harmoniously, or even more so: as inseparable, from the very beginning.
(Concerning these last few lines, see for instance Herbert Guenther in his book on the yogic songs of Saraha, Ecstatic Spontaneity, Asian Humanity Press, Berkeley 1993, p. 34, where he addresses inseparability in relation to the two Tibetan terms zung-‘jug and dbyer-med: “Loosely speaking, zung-‘jug and dbyer-med are interchangeable, but there is a subtle and logical difference between the two. Dbyer-med refers to the indivisibility of Being in the sense that Being itself is prior to all differentiation of opposites, while zung-‘jug refers to a dialectical synthesis of opposites that have already been constituted.”)
As you may have already seen, or surmised, there’s no particular plot in this film, no particular rules that must be followed, and no particular end. That doesn’t mean necessarily absence of a kind of order, a certain unfolding, structure, rhythm. But the idea of catalog, unlike say something with a storyline or an instructional arrow, seems to be that there’s not much lost if you just happen to open it sort of midway through: you may go back or forth from there, like a catalog from a painting exhibition, you see a picture pictured, then there’s another one, and maybe you go to the beginning and see that this guy was actually born in… Or something like that, some picture with a movement that may take you in a certain direction, some movements that you’re not supposed to copy, some movements that move you, move you to see something that you maybe hadn’t noticed, in your situation, your own set of movements.
In other words, facing a catalog of your own movements, no end.
Body & Being:
The Way of the Ball,
Gil de Kermadec,
The Tradition of
Inspired by the Way of the Ball here means a couple of different things. First it addresses an absence of sorts: the ball itself not being that present, that visible. You go to the wall, you’re before the wall, before some wall, facing some situation that is at the same time that very situation and a prelude to another situation, linked to it. Here we’re saying that we know we’ll get to the ball, but before that we’ll take a good look at the situation without the ball, but in the sense that it’s not missing.
Secondly, this being inspired by the Way of the Ball means specifically the way of the Ball, rather than some other way or ways, the Way of Tao, the ways of winning, the ways of Tai Chi, of the Martial Arts, of pentathlon, decathlon and so on. Of course we’re not trying to say there’s anything wrong with these, we’re just trying to, if we can, stay with that inspiration, of the ball. To see if staying there would show up in any particular way.
For instance, while we were making the film, and doing some of the stick stuff, it would happen that people would come up and take a look, and they would nicely articulate their interest and share with us how they were also doing this kind of thing. And they would show us what they were doing, borrow the stick and show us. And they would point the stick at some imagined figure in front of them, it seemed, something or someone facing them, and they would relate their stickwork to that absence facing them.
And it was easily seen that they were seldom, if ever, leaving their torsos unprotected, as it were. Whether they looked like taking stabs at someone in front of them or retreating into some seemingly more defensive posture: the torso remained fairly guarded, unexposed.
As it probably should be. But here, in what we were trying to do, stay with the ways of the ball, we didn’t need that kind of protection. We weren’t facing that kind of attack, we weren’t defending our torsos. We were trying to see what a catalog of movements would look like that opened up to the ball, a both more general and specific set of movements and rotations that took its challenges from that specific ground. Noticing the differences, not negating other grounds.
(Obviously, there’s no denying that these approaches are easily stacked one upon the other, martially arranged in a second: take a ball, add an enemy or two, pull out your killer instincts, serve ‘em up, it’s another glorious war).
Dedicated to Gil de Kermadec refers to Gil de Kermadec of Paris, France, precious old friend (we met in the late 1940s, at Stade Roland Garros, where the French Championships take place), who at Roland Garros directed a long list of technical films-cum-portraits (of players like Borg, Evert, Connors, Navratilova, McEnroe): a constant inspiration; who over many years wrote a technical column in the monthly journal Tennis de France, using his own footage and photography, a constant source of study; who made a book of photography on the (Spanish) corrida, giving early instruction; who wrote a play for the theater at our house in Copenhagen; who was a doubles partner at Wimbledon and other places; who was in charge of the 1988 film La Balle Au Mur, mentioned above as The Ball And The Wall, its English version; whose wife Francoise visited Seattle with him during the shooting of the present film, but unexpectedly and sadly did not live much longer.
The Tradition of Eadweard Muybridge also leads us towards France and Paris, at least in one way of speaking. Here’s how Muybridge, born Edward James Muggeridge 1830 in Kingston upon Thames (and sailing twenty-one years later to America: to ‘make a name for himself’), or to be precise, here’s how his work is seen many years later, for instance by the French scientist Etienne-Jules Marey, writing to the Editor of La Nature in December of 1878 (quoted by Muybridge curator Paul Hill in his book Eadweard Muybridge, published by Phaidon Press, London-New York 2001, p. 3): “The magic of Muybridge’s work has never faded. There is a sense of the pioneer spirit about it, a voyage of discovery that awakens something in all of us. When we look at a Muybridge motion photograph for the first time, we can be forgiven for thinking that we have seen it somewhere before. Muybridge’s photographs are so imbedded in our minds that they have become symbolic of Western culture.”
Then we might move into the following century, still following Western culture, the tradition, its lineages, coming to Duchamp. There’s a book called Dialogues With Marcel Duchamp (New York 1987: Da Capo Press), where Pierre Cabanne ask Duchamp: “Didn’t films influence ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’?” And Duchamp answers: “Yes, of course. That thing of Marey…” And Cabanne says: “Chronophotography.” And Duchamp says: “Yes. In one of Marey’s books, I saw an illustration of how he indicates people who fence, or horses galloping, with a system of dots delineating the different movements. That’s how he explained the idea of elementary parallelism. As a formula it seems very pretentious but it’s amusing.” And Duchamp continues: “That’s what gave me the idea for the execution of the ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’. I used this method a little in the sketch, but especially in the final form of the picture. That must have happened between December and January 1912.”
And again, in a book by Juan Antonio Ramirez on Duchamp, with the nice subtitle love and death, even (Reaktion Books, London 1998), Ramirez writes on p. 257: “A row broke out, however, when he presented the second version of Nude Descending a Staircase (completed between December 1911 and January 1912) to the Salon des Independents in February 1912. ... Gleizes and the other orthodox Cubists, using his older brothers as emissaries, let Marcel know of their displeasure at his painting, so he withdrew it from the exhibition. It was a fruitful disappointment, as Duchamp decided from that point on not to have anything to do with groups or schools of artists, but to follow a solitary, personal road. There is more than ample evidence that the Nude was inspired by Marey’s chronophotography and the deconstruction of movement achieved by Eadweard Muybridge.”
Compare above, at the end of the very first section commenting on the title, where it says: “... the title as a whole speaks to the setting itself, its taking place before, if possible, the usual dichotomies set in, before we begin to build walls between this and that, ... between body and brain, between bodies and being etc.” And perhaps, since we have already referred to the exacting footnotes of Dr. Guenther’s, from his work on Saraha (above, under the heading of Excursion), these lines from page 22 may also be worth looking at: “The idea of treating mind as a physical phenomenon presents considerable difficulties to Western thinking because of a deeply ingrained dualism that pits the psychic/mental against the physical/material. In Buddhist thought body, speech and mind represent our ‘physical’ side, while ‘pleasure’ (bde-ba), ‘luminosity’ (gsal-ba), and ‘undividedness by concepts’ (mi-rtog-pa) represent our ‘psychic’ side. The idea of degrees of intensity and density reflects a dynamic or ‘process’ mode of thought. Even among the Buddhists, of course, there were those who persisted in thinking of the universe as a static entity….”
Body & Being: No Wall
And again, p. 35, the footnote: “In Buddhist thought, causality has generally been conceived of in terms of webs or networks of relationships. The idea of a chain of links, as seen in Westerns thought, is considered to be a secondary and rationalistic reduction of the way reality actually unfolds in experience. For a modern Western view of causality as a complex of vectors moving along in time and space, see for example Calvin O. Schrag, Experience and Being (Evanstone: Northwestern University Press, 1969), 82-89.”
Intensities. Here it talks of a set of intensities, in the plural, a multiplicity. We’re not counting how many. We don’t know how many. Let’s say we are running, a certain distance at a certain pace. Now we double the pace, now we’re running at twice the previous speed. That would create some added intensity, probably in the plural, intensities. But you could also have a situation where you were not moving at all, and still have more intensity added to, say, the clarity or quality of your attention than you maybe felt before, at both the speeds you were running. So you could talk of muscular intensities and more mental or psychological intensities or more psychophysical intensities. And clusters or complexes of inter-acting. Which could mean, as we often see in athletic situations, that strain from perhaps a lot of mental pressure may cause a physical decline in coherent muscular activity (build-up of lactic acid etc.); while a situation where a large degree of ease pertains, body and breathing being more relaxed, may generate an increase in the faculties of the more perceptual awarenesses. So that we cannot talk just in terms of intensities collectively going up or down, in some kind of concordance of numerical values, scaling things. Rather, what we can perhaps do at this stage: try to intensify the very experience, get a feel for how the magnitudes may go up somewhere in the system and being lowered (or run down) somewhere else, always in a vibrant exchange, interplay, inter-dependence.
Body & Being:
A Set of
Many will find the lines above sort of self-evident, in a post-Merleau-Ponty age or setting. And maybe they are, but there’s also a sense that this kind of approach, if we were to call it more phenomenological, has made few inroads into the athletic world in a practical manner of speaking, also because the whole field seems so mired in the dichotomies of the winning-losing outcome, the cause and effect, subject and object kind of representational thinking: that even if such an approach may be more prevalent in other walks of life, or even seemingly adapted, as soon as we enter the weather-beaten Olympic world of athletic competition, people seem to revert to, or maybe seek relief in, another mode of viewing things, more result oriented, more rank oriented, like just give me the fucking score, or let’s see when we really get down, who’s better, is it you or is it me.
So what the film is maybe trying to ask at this point: is it possible to go in there, stay in there, and approach it another way? To go in, go in very slowly, alertly, taking note, without quantifying too much, still knowing with intensity where we are, staying with a particular set of expressions, a certain field of play, ball-playing athletics. In other words, this is not yoga. And it’s not Martial Arts. And maybe it’s not anything. Nor is it a tabula rasa kind of blank space.
Whatever it is, if it’s anything, it’s already aligned, committed, at the very least thrown in, thrown. In the sense that it cannot but be embedded, and therefore dynamically involved, in a Western setting, a culture if you will, both wide and narrow.
To be a body, then, in a certain cultural setting means to be embodied both in and by that culture, in a complex of co-ordinates and time lines, an ongoing process within and through the body. Which brings in the Ready and the Already above: staying on the one hand with what’s already there, a world, a sky, a ball, a disposition; on the other hand showing up also in a readiness to shake lose from or look into anchorings of habit, of mere tradition, convention, compulsion, schizophrenias of ambition, etc.
Not yoga, it said above, not martial arts, maybe not anything etc. Maybe it’s just a ‘take’. Or a rendering, like a song being recorded, a repetition, let’s do it again, take 3. An attempt, an articulation, be it even idiosyncratic. Interpretation seems too much or too little, these days, given what seems to have happened with that word and its relative: hermeneutics. ‘These days’ meaning not only post Merleau Ponty, but also after Heidegger, and the generation after. I’m thinking for instance of Gianni Vattimo’s book Beyond Interpretation, with the subtitle The Meaning of Hermeneutics for Philosophy (Stanford University Press, 1997: Stanford, California), where it says right from the beginning of the preface: “This book is prompted by a certain unease. In contemporary philosophy, hermeneutics has begun to acquire an ‘ecumenical’ form so vague and generic that, in my view, it is losing much of its meaning. In particular, it is becoming increasingly difficult to say what significance hermeneutics has for the problems of which philosophy has traditionally spoken: problems such as those of science, ethics, religion and art. Trying to shed light on these borderline problems, as they might be called, leads us to rethink the ‘originary’ meaning of hermeneutics that, as I have attempted to make clear in chapter 1, is to be found in its ‘nihilistic vocation.’ “
Before we turn briefly to that first chapter, we may take note of the lines where Vattimo talks of the problems “of which philosophy has traditionally spoken: problems such as those of science, ethics, religion and art.” And Vattimo says, fairly enough, ‘of which philosophy has traditionally spoken’: ‘traditionally’. A quick question maybe to insert here, but not to elaborate on: Are the fields of athletics, taken as a whole, to be situated, these days, as a culture-sphere on its own; or may it be seen as not quite qualifying (not quite like art, not quite art, not religion, certainly not ethics, not yet real science) and therefore more something workers and people in business and the above four cultural domains do in their off-time (a few ‘pros’ notwithstanding)?
To return to Vattimo’s book, he writes immediately in chapter 1 (p. 1): “The hypothesis of the mid-eighties that hermeneutics had become a sort of koine or common idiom of Western culture, and not only of philosophy, seems yet to have been refuted. This may of course be due, at least in part, to its being a weak hypothesis that does not affirm a great many precise shared philosophical beliefs, but rather describes an overall climate, a general sensibility, or simply a kind of presupposition that everyone feels more or less obliged to take into account. In this very generic sense, which bears no more precise definition, not only are Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur and Pareyson hermeneutic thinkers, but so are Habermas and Apel, Rorty and Charles Taylor, Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas. What links these writers is not a common thesis but rather what Wittgenstein (another hermeneutic thinker in the broad sense intended here) called a family resemblance; or, more modestly still, a sense of family, a common atmosphere. “Without developing this observation any further here (which would in any case be both impossible and unnecessary), I take it as a point of departure because the pervasiveness of hermeneutics seems to have come about at the expense of a dilution of its original philosophical meaning. It is hard to see how hermeneutics defined so broad as to include writers as different among themselves as those mentioned above could have ‘consequences’: it sends up as something innocuous, worthless even.”
So we see how Vattimo takes as a point of departure, what Wittgenstein called a family resemblance, “or, more modestly still, a sense of family, a common atmosphere.” Could we be bold and say that in some sense our film attempts to take off from a similar departure point, around that neighborhood, vicinity, atmosphere? Or could we say that, since they may not feel that they share much of the ground from where we are starting out (the ball, the legs, the quickened breath): that we invite them, this distinguished family, into our modest neck of the woods?
Another way of looking at this would be to say, thinking for instance of Nietzsche’s Homer’s Contest, that if we go back far enough, into the mythologies of the Greek Olympic games, into the heroics and Herculean feats of those days, we may begin to share a bit of common ground (with the philosophical or philological families), a ground the tracks of which still haunt us or feed us or both. And that any work, in arena or stadium, on film or in print, is bound to still incorporate dust particles of that air.
Let’s take a look at another place in Vattimo’s book, where he talks of the problem of religion in the West and ‘terms and ideas belonging to the mythological’ (p. 44-45): “On the basis of this (let me repeat, often implicit) standard theory, hermeneutics presents itself as a thinking that is well disposed towards religion, in that its critique of the idea of truth as verifiable conformity between proposition and thing undermines the rationalist, empiricist, positivist and even the idealist and Marxist negations of the possibility of religious experience. It may not offer any positive argument to recommend a religious vision of life, in that it contains nothing resembling the preambula fidei of the scholastic tradition, but it certainly dissolves the bases of the principal arguments that philosophy has offered in favour of atheism. “All this seems somewhat vague and general. In the case of the problem of religion, as in that of the relation with modern science with which we began, contemporary hermeneutics seems to be only, or above all, a theory that frees reason from its slavery to the scientistic ideal of objectivity, only to pave the way to a philosophy of culture whose limits (and meaning) cannot ultimately be determined. Having dissolved the metaphysical idea of truth as conformity, primarily thanks to Heidegger, hermeneutics lends fresh plausibility to religion and even myth, quite independently of any Hegelian-style historicist justification (that would treat them as necessary stages of the development of reason, now overcome but with their essential content preserved). From this perspective, one might well see a further sign of the pervasiveness of the hermeneutic koine in the widespread use in recent philosophically minded journalism (primarily in Italy, but not exclusively so) of terms and ideas belonging to the mythological and religious tradition of the West that have been extracted from their original context without any theoretical justification whatsoever. It is probably a matter of a cultural tendency arising from the legacy of thinkers such as a Franz Rosenzweig or Walter Benjamin who are deeply rooted in the Hebraic tradition, without entirely lacking (at least in the case of the former) a clear impulse to systematicity. This is sometimes legitimated by an implicit assumption of the necessity for philosophy to enter into dialogue with poetry, which might then serve as an intermediary between religious myth and rational thought in a fashion well known to the history of Western culture and perhaps (see the following chapter) more significant than one might believe, even for a nihilistic radicalization of hermeneutics.”
So we may pause a moment here, noting how Vattimo talks of the widespread (philosophically minded, journalistic) use of “terms and ideas belonging to the mythological and religious tradition of the West.” And if we transfer his setting to our own field (questioning at the same time whether we have an own field), we find an athletic landscape rich in clouds from those traditions: let’s call them our two rootings, the Greek Olympic history as mythical theater, and the second coming or version of those events, in the directorial hands of Coubertain, staged a century or so ago. Do we see the reifications of a third version nowadays, a version we might call the corporate one, where the consumer is enticed or enthralled by the athlete’s entry into, using Vattimo’s words, ‘dialogue with poetry’, the body in motion, the body in promotion, the professional, the consummate professionalism, with its ‘poetry in motion’ as the more common line has it.
In that sense then, the film cannot but try to be observant, while trying to be an embodied critique, of all three ‘ages’ above.
Which is perhaps where the multiplicity of fields, of historical entries, both horizontal and vertical, come in again, both to confuse us, and to challenge us: as to where we are more or less precisely situated, in terms of, and we now use Vattimo’s last word in the following paragraph, our ‘inheritance’: “Does not the closed and definitive system of the Kantian categories crumble also, and indeed precisely, by reason of discovering of the multiplicity of cultural universes, and thus the irreducible plurality of a priori conditions of different knowledges? This multiplicity, however, would remain only a factual given with no philosophical significance, if philosophy for its part did not link it to the discovery of the temporality of constitutive of Being, as happens in Heidegger. The irreducible multiplicity of cultural universes becomes philosophically relevant only when seen in the light of the mortality constitutive of Dasein, which confers on the Uber-lieferung not the character of a confused superposition of perspectives that disturb the apprehension of the thing as it is, but the dignity of the Ge-Schick, of the giving of Being as the handing down of openings which vary from time to time, as do the generations of humanity. This is to be kept in mind, even beyond the letter of Heidegger’s text, in order to understand how it is that the tradition within which truths as corresponding propositions are introduced and acquire their most authentic truth is not only Babelic as an irreducible multiplicity of voices, but also has a ‘fallen’ character that marks it as a dissolutive source compared with a giving of Being as simple presence. This aspect of the Uber-lieferung, which brings together the sense of transmission and the more specific sense of handing down and provenance, is recognized explicitly here in order to avoid yet another metaphysical equivocality that can be seen in all versions of hermeneutics as pure relativism - versions that take hermeneutics purely as a philosophy of the irreducible multiplicity of perspectives. Now, in Heideggerian hermeneutics, the irreducible multiplicity of perspectives is opened by the mortality constitutive of Dasein, which finds itself always already thrown into a project, into a language, a culture, that it inherits. First and foremost, the awareness of the multiplicity of perspectives, of the cultural universes and of the a priori that makes experience of the world possible, is inheritance.”
So we pause there, with Vattimo’s word ‘inheritance’. And we try to see the way he uses it, setting it into a context with language, with culture, with a multiplicity of perspectives, cultural universes. And we try to take it into our own field (if we have an own field) or we add it onto our own situation, a musculature that gets heated up, our father’s body language, a broken arm in childhood, our knees, their flexibility, brain motility, rapidity of visual image gathering, handling fluids during fatigue, facing gravity, our collective and more individual ways of facing gravity, or (to still be close to Vattimo’s words) a multiplicity of gravitational universes. So what we have in mind is to see how ‘inheritance’ links up with ‘intensities’, as in ‘a set of intensities’ above (and likewise with ‘the ready and the already’), quoting from the film.
Because we inherit this long cultural setting. And we inherit our parents, so to speak. And we inherit a certain athletic discipline. And we inherit a set of capabilities to roam in that particular athletic setting. And we may increase the capabilities of those capabilities, through training, practise. And we may find that we are limited. And we may find that through de-intensifying in certain areas, relaxing, understanding, we may be able to intensify in other areas. So we need to examine, experience the dynamics of those kinds of procedures, how they work for us, in our case. So, again, the film tries to point to that kind of examination, that kind of experience, your own, yours, rather than trying to lay down a framework to look into, or buy into, imitatively.
Next, having tried to link up our ‘set of intensities’ with Vattimo’s ‘inheritance’, we may contemplate their combination both ways, so to speak, intensities of inheritance and an inheritance of intensities. (The first one could mean that the field of inheritance obviously is uneven, that it seems you would have inherited your mother’s energy or temperament, rather than you father’s, but maybe not to the same degree. The other could mean that you had inherited your mother’s temperament, but where she seemed to channel her energies quite well in her situation, you are encountering some problems, in your situation. Etc. On the other hand, as we move into more athletic territory we are also not trying to make everything seem some sort of mental soup, in line with sayings like “When it’s crunch time, it’s all mental” or “Now we’ll see who has most heart.”)
Seeing this inter-weaving, then, and seeing how complex it may become also in its constant shifting, we may look for help to get this into terms that are a little more dynamically precise, than merely a stating of shifting relationships. Particularly when we are within a field, where time in its concrete moment of ‘timing’ plays such an import part. We may find the terminology around the word ‘vector’ helpful, as suggested above by Herbert Guenther, going again to Calvin O. Schrag for his insights (Experience and Being, p. 83):
“Experience in its dynamic unfolding shows itself as an organic complex of vectors which bind together its world-manifesting constituents. The constituents of world experience (experiencer-experiencing-figure-with-background) achieve their connections and conjunctions in a vectorial flow which binds the constituents together into meaningful configurations. When a particular content of experience is focused upon, consciousness is directed toward an attended figure, and the figure itself reaches out toward a background, differentiated into multiple regions. ...
“The vectors within this world experience, which houses a manifold of meanings, move along the horizon-forms of time and space. More precisely, time and space are themselves vectorial. The experience of temporal presence has embedded within it vectorial associations with past and future. Presentation is vectorially linked with retention and protention. The three modes of time, as we have already observed, are ecstatic; they interpenetrate and intermingle. Likewise the experience of spatial presence is imbued with vectorial references to right and left, above and below, front and back. The very forms in which experience lives evince a vectorial character and provide the primordial basis for meaning. Meaning can never be severed from its temporal and spatial horizon. It undergoes an ontogenetic development within time and space…”
In taking these quotes from Calvin O. Schrag’s chapter The Intentional Structure of Experience, with the first sub-heading Vector and Meaning, let’s go to the dictionary for a moment, so as not to be too unclear about what we are trying to articulate here. Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, speaks of ‘vector’, in its mathematical sense, as “a physical quantity with both magnitude and direction, such as a force or velocity; distinguished from ‘scalar’.” The New York Public Library’s Science Desk Reference says of ‘vector’: “A quantity that has magnitude and direction. Velocity and weight are vector quantities (speed and mass are scalar quantities). Vectors can be multiplies by scalars, but addition with a scalar has no meaning. Two vectors can be added; e.g., two forces acting on an object can be added to determine the overall force on the object.” The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology says under ‘vector’: “In mathematics and physics a quantity with magnitude and direction. Schematically, a vector is represented as an arrow, a directed straight line in which magnitude is given by length and direction by location of the tip. A number of physical quantities are vectors, such as force, momentum, velocity, etc. This rich and well-known mathematics has encouraged some psychologists to attempt to use vectors as a basis for modeling psychological performance. The most ambitious attempt was Kurt Lewin’s theory of the ‘life space’, in which vectors represented forces producing directed movement.”
The point to be made here is perhaps that, say, when the ball comes, when a response has to be made, a catch, a hit, a letting it be, the ‘performance’ that the Penguin Dictionary speaks of cannot so easily be neatly divided into physical or psychological entities, the traditional and handy two-somes. When the ball comes, there may be a right moment for action, but that moment may not be the same for different people, or for the same people at different (athletic) moments. What we call right timing may vary with the day and within the minute and the moment, and, obviously, a complex set of speeds, velocities, attentions, pulses, forces come into play. Out of all these a more or less harmonious human movement takes place: a ball comes, action. Even the question of ethical action.
Calvin O. Schrag has commented on this, in a previous chapter (p. 79), still starting out around the ‘vector’ term: “It needs to be remembered, however, that decision is not an isolated act of the will. Decision requires a world, a context of vectors and lived intentionalities, which enter into the constituting process of making choices. The unification of experience is not based on a voluntaristic act, traditionally understood. The achievement of unity requires energies and contexts that go beyond the traditional isolation of a willing faculty.
“The positive factors in the finite form of temporality center around the presentation of time as the opportune time for decision. Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, already apprehended the significance of the “good in the category of time” (kairos), and with this concept of ethical time he was able to define the special moments of moral realization. Time apprehended as the right or opportune moment for the realization of a project or the fulfillment of a concern provides us with the positive feature of finite temporality. The main problem that Aristotle bequeathed to his successors was that of relating the good in the category of time to lived historical experience. It would appear that his cosmologically oriented metaphysics remained inadequate for the task. What is significant, however, is that in spite of his metaphysics Aristotle was able to acknowledge a form of ethical time. In its positivity finite time is present as the opportune time for decisions in the exercise of finite freedom. Time can be affirmed in the creative moment, uniting the past and the future with the present in the resoluteness of committed thought and action. The experience of presence can be the experience of the creative moment as well as the experience of an impoverished now.
“The experience of the creative moment has been given a literary exemplification by Proust in his idea of the ‘moment privilege,’ by Camus in his discussion of the ‘hour of consciousness’ in his existentialized version of the myth of Sisyphus, and by Dostoevsky in his depiction of Kirilov’s experience of the ‘moments of eternal harmony.’ Kierkegaard, Jaspers, and Heidegger have elucidated the phenomenon in question in the discussion of the ‘moment’ (Augenblick) as the authentic time for resolute choice. Authentic existence apprehends the moment in choice and commitment…”
Now let’s take Schrag’s last sentence, ‘apprehending the moment in choice and commitment’ and seeing also how he states that the experience of the creative moment has been given ‘a literary exemplification’, by Proust, Camus, by Dostoevsky. And then he mentions Kierkegaard, Jaspers and Heidegger as having ‘elucidated the phenomenon in question’. And we will ask, and maybe the film asks into: will there be, or will there be given, in athletic experience, a similar situation where such a moment of choice and commitment may be apprehended, may be exemplified, may be elucidated?
And if maybe not, why not? Is the world of athletics, of sports, not capable of that kind of timing and commitment, of the kind of deep enough ethicality that would make it qualify, for Heidegger, as ‘authentic’? Would the world of athletics, almost by the very activity itself, be seen as too frivolous? Too uncommitted, to Dasein, to Being?
We will not try to go further into that, we will stay with the question, keeping it open. And move on to the maybe final task under this heading, trying to connect some of that vectorial stuff with the words from the film, above, the ‘interfaces of athletic and everyday living’.
Again we will go to Schrag, on pages 84-85, where it says: “The vectorial character of experience becomes discernible in its sharpest relief through an investigation of its mosaic patterning in the everyday, workaday world. Experience as that which is lived through is never closed off or self-contained within interior boundaries. Lived-through experience is lodged in situations in such a manner that it connects the ingredients of the situation. ... The vectors of sympathy, fellow-feeling, devotion, loyalty and respect reach out toward the other self and make him encounterable. ...
“One might elaborate further the vectorial character of experience by viewing the vectors of which we speak as tendencies and dispositions. Every occasion of experience exhibits certain tendencies which mark out the direction and possible configurations which experience can assume. In the act of experiencing, consciousness tends toward its world-enveloped figures. Experience is tendential. Describing experience as dispositional provides a still sharper delineation of what is at issue. A disposition has to do with an arranging or setting in order (disponere). So when we speak of experience as being disposed toward its attended content, the suggestion of an arranging or interlacing of experiencer, figure, and background is already offered. This tendential or dispositional movement of experience must not be construed as a simple pointing, referring, or indicating. It is a more fundamental type of relating or connecting. Every occasion of experience ‘takes over’ or appropriates its content, not by internalizing it but rather by determining the content as content for me in my lived world. The figures of experience are disclosed as figures experienced by me as experiencer, not as figures defined by a detached observer or contrived according to textbook analogies. Only under such circumstances can meaning occur. Experienced objects, events, and persons are objects, events, and persons as meant. Meaning is always meaning for an experiencer even though the conditions for meaning are not all supplied by the experiencer. An object or event ‘in-and-for-itself’ remains a theoretical limit. Such an object remains outside the intentional structure and never enters the fabric of world experience.”
So on the one hand, the fabric of world experience that Schrag speaks of here cannot, of course, be divided up along the lines of some territory that is ‘athletic’ and some that’s ‘everyday living’. On the other hand this is a little like we do it every day, every morning when we open the newspaper, and there’s the world news, and there’s the local news, and there’s the sports section (and that may carry both world and local news). And that’s how we speak when we get dressed, in dress shoes or in sneakers. The film then tries to walk that line in between, the interfacing it says, disposed toward, in Schrag’s word, such an interfacing: not that it necessarily exists, already, but that we are carving it out as we move along. And then we make a repetition, we begin again, to connect with what follows below, in the sense of getting a little more clarity, perhaps more intensity.
And the film tries somehow to stay there, to see if it can find some sort of balance, or off-balance, there. And it tries to stay pretty much there, in that unknown (unknowable?) in-between, as it moves along, through the five chapters.
“It began with a repetition.”S. Kierkegaard
When we begin here writing down, in some sense again, repeat, that this is a quote from Kierkegaard, it means, here, that this is a quote from Kierkegaard, signed Kierkegaard, rather than from one of his pseudonyms. Let us quote quickly from something he wrote some years later (1855), the actual quote here being from November of 1841. In 1855, in his Papers (XI B 122) he wrote: “One of my pseudonyms has written a little book called Repetition, in which he denies that there is repetition. Without being quite in disagreement with him in the deeper sense, I may well be of the opinion that there nevertheless is a repetition, yes, it is very fortunate that there is a repetition. . ..” (translated by Howard and Edna Hong, in their Historial Introduction, p. xxxiv, to their translation of Kierkegaard’s Writings, VI: combining the two works of ‘Fear And Trembling’ and ‘Repetition’, Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1983).
Our own quote, from 23rd of November 1841to give it Kierkegaard’s own dating, comes from some notes he made to lectures given by Schelling, who was at that time teaching in Berlin, and Kierkegaard has traveled there from Copenhagen (translated again by the Hongs, this time from Volume II, 1989, p. 337). Quoting from the beginning it says: ” It began with a repetition. One might ask: What is the immediate content of reason? Some have held it is God, that reason is Gott-Setzen. But God is surely something actual, but the first content of reason is not something actual; its content, that is, Seyn, is the opposite of actuality. ...” So at least for us sitting here in Seattle it seems that Kierkegaard could well be, first, referring to something he had heard Schelling say before, and then going into what this was that Schelling had raised before: ‘One might ask etc.’ So what we thought was interesting here was that since almost all the well-known quotes on repetition comes from Constantin Constantius, who wrote the ‘little book called Repetition, in which he denied there is repetition’ and likewise the quote which Deleuze will mention further below and which we will also take up again—this quote (in the film) is then actually from Kierkegaard and not from Constantin Constantius. To some these differences might seem trifle, but to Kierkegaard it seemed important, and so we should at least try to respect that. The Hongs in their Introduction mentioned above have a good footnote in which Louis Mackey is quoted for the following: “A Kierkegaardian pseudonym is a persona, an imaginary person created for artistic purposes, not a nom de plume, a fictitious name used to protect his personal identity from the threats and embarrassments of publicity. When Kierkegaard signed his books with impossible names like Johannes de Silentio (John of Silence) and Virgilius Haufniensis (Watchman of Copenhagen), no one in the gossipy little world of Danish letters had any doubt about their origin. Nor did he mean they should; his purpose was not mystification but distance. By refusing to answer for his writing he detached them from his personality so as to let their form protect the freedom that was their theme.” (Kierkegaard: A Kind of Poet, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971, p. 247).
Next maybe we should try to establish the gist of what Constantin Constantius said, about repetition, if we also try to acknowledge that Kierkegaard and Constantius had a multiplicity of repetitions in mind, a multiplicity of meaning or categories, when it is stated, in the Papers, that repetition “is and remains a religious category”. Or, if we go to one of the places that also relates to our Greek ancestry, the early pages of the book Repetition, p. 149, where Constantius says: “...When the Greeks said that all knowing is recollecting, they said that all existence, which is, has been; when one says that life is a repetition, one says: actuality, which has been, now comes into existence. If one does not have the category of recollection or of repetition, all life dissolves into an empty, meaningless noise. Recollection is the ethnical (ethniske) view of life, repetition the modern ...” And a little earlier, p. 131, the well known lines: “Repetition and recollection are the same movement, except in opposite directions, for what is recollected has been, is repeated backward, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward.” See also the Hongs, still in the Introduction, p. xx, when they write: “Now Constantius and the young man become parodies of each other: Constantius despairs of esthetic repetition because of the contingency of life, and the young man, despairing of personal repetition in relation to the ethical, obtains esthetic repetition by accident.”)
So, in relation to these other stages or spheres or categories, the esthetic, the ethical, the ethnical, for Kierkegaard and Constantius repetition “is and remains a religious category.” And Constantius says further that “I must constantly repeat that I say all this in connection with repetition. Repetition is the new category….” (Vol. VI, p.148), a sphere that he himself may not be able to fully accomplish, attain or realize. And here is what he says in the crucial passage which will be taken up again by Deleuze below: “...That repetition not only is for contemplation but that it is a task for freedom, that it signifies freedom itself, consciousness raised to the second power….that the true repetition is eternity…” (Papers IV B 120, 1843, cited Hong Vol. VI, p. 324).
So the film at this early point begins by situating itself, or perhaps begins to situate itself, between these different senses of repetition. To add to the spectrum of possibilities we should probably at this point also mention that for Kierkegaard the Danish word Gjentagelse means both ‘repetition’ and a ‘re-taking’ or a ‘taking back’ also in the sense of taking something back again, being given something back again (like Abraham getting Isaac back after Abraham’s obedience to God, God’s voice, in acting to sacrifice his young son, in Fear And Trembling.)
This large field of meanings, then, from maybe the more everyday or general term used in the shorthand notes relating to Schelling’s lecture, over the esthetic and ethical existence-spheres, the ethnic recollective ways of the old Greeks, the conformities of religiousness A, to the demands of religiousness B. Would it be possible, we could ask, to remain within all these, in their midst: in an in-between? In an approach, still existential, where this discursiveness would not pertain so sharply? Where the approach, still existential, would actually be working on easing the dichotomies of these divides, less entangled in the forward or the backward, the ethnic or otherwise? Posed maybe another way: would it be possible, today, to raise one’s consciousness to ‘the second power’, in that kind of open-ended intensity, through other ways (than deeply Christian)?
Returning repetition. Repetition and eternal return, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. “In all their work, movement is at issue,” says Gilles Deleuze below. “They want to put metaphysics in motion, in action.” And we will have the final lines under this Kierkegaard heading stretch out around this Deleuze quote, from his Difference & Repetition (translated by Paul Patton, New York 1994: Columbia University Press, p. 8): “When Kierkegaard speaks of repetition as the second power of consciousness, ‘second’ means not a second time but the infinite which belongs to a single time, the eternity which belongs to an instant, the unconscious which belongs to consciousness, the ‘nth’ power. And when Nietzsche presents the eternal return as the immediate expression of the will to power, will to power does not at all mean ‘to want power’ but, on the contrary: whatever you will, carry it to the ‘nth’ power – in other words, separate out the superior form by virtue of the selective operation of thought in the eternal return, by virtue of the singularity of repetition in the eternal return itself. Here, in the superior form of everything that is, we find the immediate identity of the eternal return and the Overman.
“We are not suggesting any resemblance whatsoever between Nietzsche’s Dionysus and Kierkegaard’s God. On the contrary, we believe that the difference is insurmountable. But this is all the more reason to ask why their coincidence concerning this fundamental objective, the theme of repetition, even though they understand this objective differently? Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are among those who bring to philosophy new means of expression.
In relation to them we speak readily of an overcoming of philosophy. Furthermore, in all their work, movement is at issue. Their objection to Hegel is that he does not go beyond false movement – in other words, the abstract logical movement of ‘mediation’. They want to put metaphysics in motion, in action. They want to make it act, and make it carry out immediate acts. It is not enough, therefore, for them to propose a new representation of movement; representation is already mediation. Rather, it is a question of producing within the work a movement capable of affecting the mind outside of all representation; it is a question of making movement itself a work, without interposition; of substituting direct signs for mediate representations; of inventing vibrations, rotations, whirlings, gravitations, dances or leaps which directly touch the mind. This is the idea of a man of the theatre, the idea of a director before his time. In this sense, something completely new begins with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. They no longer reflect on the theatre in the Hegelian manner. Neither do they set up a philosophical theatre. They invent an incredible equivalent of theatre within philosophy, thereby founding simultaneously this theatre of the future and a new philosophy. It will be said that, at least from the point of view of theatre, there was no production: neither the profession of priest and Copenhagen around 1840, nor the break with Wagner and Bayreuth, was a favorable condition. One thing, however, is certain: when Kierkegaard speaks of ancient theatre and modern drama, the environment has already changed; we are no longer in the element of reflection.”