[There will be a lull in production schedule from me as I am heading back up into the Swiss Alps to study at theory summer camp.]
jud jud jud jud jud jud jud
shud jud jud jah
Gallop Song. Jud Jud (1987-1999?)
To paraphrase one of my teachers, it is easier for us to conceive of the traumatic as a punishment from Outside (maybe God’s judgement) than to accept that there is no inherent purpose to our suffering. If it’s something like Divine punishment then we know that we have a purchase on meaning in general–we possess part of the code to unlocking everything that seems to be happening without a care for us or a concern for our plans. This is a belief.
Believing is the act of deliberately seeking the possible and establishing it, after the fact (that word!), as the guiding principle. I used the term “deliberate” to emphasize the reflexive quality and to stress the considered opinion that belief requires. A jury deliberates and it is done in the belief that what will be returned from them is a verdict that can be trusted.
What happens when one deliberates?
If we consider the etymology of the word, though, we grapple with an uncomfortable state of affairs: to de-liberate is to be removed from a combination, to be unentangled from our context. I’ve previously argued at length for a conception of selfhood that is not independent but interdependent. To deliberate literally means to weigh in remove. While we think that the truth is something that is apparent from any perspective once we reflect on it, I am here suggesting that the sole purpose for this weighing in remove is to allow a space in which the truth can be created. It’s an opportunity for the narrative to be established.
To deliberate, to my mind, is to create a social (political, ethical, whathaveyou) caesura: it is a break in the continuity of the proceedings, but not to stop the story, rather it serves as an emphasis of tempo. A flourish surrounding the use of time itself, so important to communicating that the music space has been delineated, crucial to demonstrating meter in verse. To deliberate in making one’s decision, in arriving at a verdict, is a creative act. The more I think about the films of Atom Egoyan–especially The Adjuster, The Sweet Hereafter, and Adoration–the more I am convinced that failed deliberation is the central theme in his movies. Throughout each of the listed films above there is a tension between the facts presented in the shots and the audience’s attempt to learn about the situations being viewed. As I’ve stated in an earlier post, to experience something is to suspend our fact-making habit and to concede that what makes life livable is the possibility of any number of other things happening.
We can’t believe without the question of what else is possible. Paradoxically, we have to believe that truth and reason are what we have established them to be: true to what they described and that the principle of excluding possibilities until we identify what we are seeking is located. These are always done in the future anterior; a messianic history (these messianic calculations are always forbidden, yet the history of messianic calculations is long and detailed). Like the Messiah, what we find is that he is already here, his time is always already upon us.
This is important for how we think about politics and ethical relating. As it stands we are the inheritors of a system of Law that seeks to rest in Truth; a truth that is forever and always. A jury is told that conviction can only occur when they are beyond a state of doubt as to the facts of the matter. This is important because the truth doesn’t reside in the memories of those performing in the trial, i.e. witness–memories are subjective. But that phrase, “memories are subjective,” is telling, isn’t it? We are made subjects, we become someone, an agent capable of actions, through memory–an untrustworthy substance.
If we believe that Justice is something that only occurs in the presence of one’s maker, is it possible to ever have a just society? This is the central question in my discussions of spectacular agency.
Don’t we have this backwards? Shouldn’t the truth not be unchanging, but rather it be characterized by being true to what came before us and acting in a manner that can be trusted by those still to come? Judgement (the crucial activity in maintaining a just society) is then an activity of bridging. Like the caesura of deliberation, but perhaps closer to a similar literary term, kenning. To ken is to know through relation to the matter at hand or in discussion. But we will save that examination for another time.