Saturday, March 21, 2009

Conversation with the Angel of Death

BB: "Brilliant with stars, the night will shake them
While music plays, in gentle ease
And wind will fill their sails and take them
To other undiscovered seas." [from Bertolt Brecht, "Ballad of the Pirates"]

TITUS LUCRETIUS CARUS: "The winds infuriate lash our face and frame,
Unseen, and swamp huge ships and rend the clouds,
Or, eddying wildly down, bestrew the plains
With mighty trees, or scour the mountain tops
With forest-crackling blasts. Thus on they rave
With uproar shrill and ominous moan."

BB: "And, at the last, a strange impression
While rigging screams and storm winds howl
Of voices hurtling to perdition." ["Ballad of the Pirates"]

Angel of Death: "Violence of the law before the law and before meaning, violence that interrupts time, disarticulates it, dislodges it, displaces it out of its natural lodging: 'out of joint.' . . . In the incoercible differance the here-now unfurls." [Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx]
. . .
Angel of Death: "This barricade was furious . . . It was huge and living and, as from the back of an electric beast, there came from it a crackling of thunders. The spirit of revolution covered with its cloud that summit whereon growled this voice of the people which is like the voice of God; a strange majesty emanated from that titanic hodful of refuse. It was a garbage heap and it was Sinai. . . . [from Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, as quoted in Derrida, Specters of Marx]

VG: [picking up up a copy of the New York Times and reading] "Loosened by a week of monsoon rains, the huge garbage mountain here -- the symbol of the nation's poverty -- had collapsed and smothered hundreds of squatters who made their livings picking through it with metal hooks for scraps of refuse. . . 'The Promised Land' is a real mountain, 50 feet high and covering 74 acres, the main dump for 10,000 tons of garbage produced in Manila every day. . . . 'There's always smoke, there's always fire, even when it rains,' said Paz Calopez, who lives at the edge of the mountain. 'The garbage is always glowing, even at night, and you hear popping sounds. We think it's batteries exploding. It smells worse than a bathroom, especially when the bulldozers come through. Then you really smell the smoke. You cannot breathe. Your eyes water.' And as the new mountain grew, a whole economy developed around it, with middlemen buying and reselling the salvaged scraps and shanty shops springing up to sell soap and shoes and bicycle parts and school supplies and ice cream. 'It's raw capitalism working here,' Father Bernardo said. 'And it really generates money. Millions of pesos revolve through here every day.' [NY Times, July 18, 2000]

BB: "Capitalism, with its anarchic system of production, only becomes aware of its own laws of motion in a crisis: as Marx said, it is the roof falling in on its head that gives it its first introduction to the laws of gravity." [from Brecht on Theater]

VG: [still reading] "Mrs. Ochondra said she could not stop worrying about her lost children. 'I know my sons miss me,' she said. 'They can't really sleep well at night unless they're beside me.' Looking back now, she said, her life seemed to be filled with premonitions of tragedy. She would wake at night and gaze at the faces of her children and smooth their pillows. 'At night during the summer, the mountain of garbage would just light up, and I would say to my husband: 'Look, it's like candles are burning,'' she said. ''It's like we are living in a cemetery.'" [NY Times, July 18, 2000]

Angel of Death: "[F]rom all lips arose a strangely satisfied and terrible cry, funereal in meaning and triumphant in tone: 'Long live death!'" [from Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, as quoted in Derrida, Specters of Marx]

Chuang Tzu: "Men say there is no death -- to what avail? The body decomposes, and the mind goes with it. Is this not a great cause for sorrow? Can the world be so dull as not to see this? Or is it I alone who am dull, and others not so?" [Chuang Tzu, trans. Lin Yutang]

BB: "And I saw that nothing was ever completely dead, not even what had died. The dead stones breathe. They modify each other and cause modifications. Even the allegedly dead moon is in movement. It casts light -- however strange -- upon the earth and determines the trajectory of falling bodies and causes the ebb and flow of the sea waters." [from Becht's Me-Ti, quoted in Frederic Jameson, Brecht and Method]


Because the fastenings of primordial parts
Are put together diversely and stuff
Is everlasting, things abide the same
Unhurt and sure, until some power comes on
Strong to destroy the warp and woof of each:
Nothing returns to naught; but all return
At their collapse to primal forms of stuff.

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