when reading Baudrillard


Having finished a rather long immersion of reading, I picked a book out of the TO BE READ shelves completely at random and began to read the complex and mystifying pages of Jean Baudrillard’s The Perfect Crime which in his own terms cannot be explained. One of the ways I find it useful to tackle something obscure but likely to be fruitful is to convert the words into something of my own invention. Hence…

when reading Baudrillard

you have to read between his lines
of what is definitely a something-or-other
to find the nothing hidden there
masquerading as something
but really no more than a complex illusion
depicted in a great variety of different ways

reading between the lines does eventually
offer something back to the lines themselves
when you place a bet on the idea that you will
come to recognise an infinity of invention
– otherwise you’ll spit blood at traversing
miles of words with no concrete referent
which is what he’s demonstrating of course
viz there’s nothing between thinking
dedadedahdedah dididah dedadedadedah
and what you choose to call the Real
except the plastering on of words words words

for dedadedahdedah dididah dedadedadedah
you may practise substituting any radio chat
political speech discussion at round table
or religious disservice tedahdedahdedah
godwisdomdahdedahdedahhisglory dumdede

and I think I agree: a set of virtual realities –
all my words too we join in with any old
discussion with this chorus (ready now?):
dedadedahdedah dididah dedadedadedah

After that came more dedadedahdedah dididah dedadedadedah didi because every now and again the light began to dawn – with persistence things began to make a pattern which seemed to transcend the words on the page.

every confusion of thought

with the order of something Real –
the alleged faithfulness
to the real of thought
which has cooked it up
out of nothing –
hallucinatory – just that

out of a total misunderstanding
about language
which is illusion –
the bearer of the continuity
of the void – the continuity
of the no-thing at the heart
of what it pretends to say

Yes, I know the void, the emptiness at the heart of everything we contrive to say but we persist in ‘cooking things up’ (Baudrillard’s very words) to justify what we imagine we’re here for.


a book ends

with the disappearance
of its object
having altered
whatever it might have been
leaving no trace –
impenetrable enigma

Things click! Coming to the end of reading any book I used to be terrified that on closing it for the last time all its words would disappear, all the thought-images that had been with me for many hours would scuttle away off into the darkness of the void. Since having learned that things both click and stick to emerge in the Spring of the mind like daffodils in places where you never planted them, I am no longer terrified. But Baudrillard is not talking about an experience of that kind: he is asserting that you can write a book about a series of events or a bundle of ideas, transform them by the words you use (language has that effect – it transforms what you imagined you were writing about, as now) but it will all disappear in a sudden flash – what the heck was that all about? Like all those yesterday

clouds

many white ribs of them
slowly across June blue –
lazy afternoon
when I might just as well have been elsewhere
(my mate Mick died –
for over thirty years we made a beautiful book)

crow caw
& murmur of distant radio –
how many times in your life?
something there is that always comes from elsewhere:
distant voices and a dog barking

without doubt bits of
what we might just as well call ‘reality’
as call it anything else
which as a whole gestalt
I suppose I can be said to have invented for myself –
perhaps misguided to say
it’s anything other than an invention –
this fundamental illusion that drags me along
with it and has done for as long as I remember

the others down on the lawn
(though they will have sensed
if not seen ribs of cloud (white) moving slowly
west to east heard if not registered the crows
and the dog and the radio playing somewhere
even maybe looked up at the pollarded and rampant
horse chestnut at the end of the garden)
will have constructed it all
in a vastly different way from me

I invent the world;
the others on the lawn (one of whom
will shortly make my dinner) invent a version of me
& all that goes with me and imagine in their turn
all that I have left behind me and (come the hour)
will move towards

we each of us betray ourselves by appearances
the sole traces of continuity –
it is true that the world is sensed
but it hides itself behind appearances:
dog crows shadows on the parched lawn
merely represented by these words of mine
in at least more or less conventional order –
they do stack up – you’ll have heard & seen
it all yourself
I myself am a cipher
a nothingness a point without time or space
held in place for the time being
by dog crow & distant radio
and all remembrances of same:
shadows on so many lawns
and the ins & outs of sunlight at an open window
sighing at its passing sometimes inventing
singular permanences for myself – roles
participation in important activities functions
imagining them to be beyond invention
concrete definitions which in the coldest light of day
turn out to be illusory (if entirely honest) certainties
– corners of being where you trap yourself
into performing pirouettes for others
like that workman who gets into his blue van
and drives off to yet another day of artifice

dark corners that haven’t been swept out
for many years undusted mirrors
with poorly defined multiple reflections of your self
– all those others interminably discrete parts of it;
they could disappear with bold intention

we invent those others – the shadows on the lawn
in the likeness of ourselves
who sometimes play a wayward tune upon
the unstringed lute of self

but there are those more nebulous things
than dogs & crows & shadows on a lawn
or clouds – one could easily stoop to using
that whiteness in the sky as metaphor for belief
ideology intellectual constructions
of all kinds and feelings – clouds
passing with a more or less powerful swim
in the tough angelic regions of the night

all those evanescent objects of belief & commitment
have disappeared from the world stage –
those whose offices were once driven
by sure belief & principle
now simply make it all up as they go along:
beliefs subject to personal whim
& principles go gaily by the board;
there’s a dumb social trance vacant & vacuous
lacking any meaning negative passion
born of high indifference abstracted
irresponsible enervated reliant upon
the virtuality of things elsewhere
and therefore doomed to crystalise
on any old thing whatsoever

we all move in our own bubble
like increasingly distraught satellites
no destiny now since destiny is only possible
when we intersect with other beings –
our concocted trajectories do not intersect
on information highways (or any other highways):
we see only those travelling in the same direction
but no more than fish do when they suddenly
veer off towards the same hidden goal –
less risk of an accident
but no possibility of meeting

the shadows on the lawn the radio voice
the endless bulletins the new news
at the new court just the old news revamped –
enslavement to data systems
and obscene calculations total efficiency
& performance voluntary servitude
imagining ourselves to be masters of the universe
mastering nothing
virtual masters
of a virtual reality

One of Baudrillard’s central themes is that the world of e-technology has produced the grand illusion that there exists a parallel ‘reality’ that people plug into when they switch on computer or laptop or dive into hand-held mythologies of any kind. The parallel reality has become the only reality for many; they have come to rely on its certainty, its apparent truth – it’s so well organised, so neat and tidy, so rapid, more rapid than the artificial brain in the head, that it seems to be highly desirable: it’s a love affair.

We are stranded in the void owing to things got up by… who knows what?

in the nineteenth-century

PHGosse English naturalist suggested
that all geological & fossil traces
of the origin & evolution of species
(including the human) are a simulation
contemporaneous with God’s creation of the world
4004BC as in the biblical account

everything going back beyond that
into the depths of time was just got up by God
in his infinite kindness
to bestow an origin & history on our world
intended to create the illusion of elapsed time;
God gave us a past in order to soften
the unbearable confrontation
with the world as it is product of an act of force
on the part of a higher will

we cannot imagine the brutality of the creative act
but God has perhaps taken this into account
and in compensation provided us
with a simulacrum of history
to make existence bearable

did God really take pity on the human race
or is this merely a gratuitous joke
to mock us once again by holding out
the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of origins
whereas it’s just a mirage:
God evil genius of simulation
might just have contented himself
with creating the world without inventing
this trompe-l’oeil anamorphosis

product of his malicious pleasure
which makes him quite a likeable fellow
even if future archaeologists are doomed
to live with permanent uncertainty

In The Perfect Crime, where this ‘poem’ was ‘found’, Baudrillard argues that we are now living through a huge simulacrum of reality created not by God but by human beings intent, whether they know it or not, on creating mass illusion to make existence just bearable… The Trump l’oeil is now an example of the evil genius of simulation…

there is no point identifying the world

we cannot even identify our own faces
since mirrors impair their symmetry;
to see our own face as it is would be madness
since we would no longer have any mystery for ourselves
and would be annihilated by transparency

might it not be said that man has evolved into a form
such that his face remains invisible to him
and he becomes definitively unidentifiable
not only in the mystery of his face
but in any of his desires?
it is the same with any object which reaches us
only in a definitively altered state
even when it does so on the screen of science
in the mirrors of information or on the screens of our brains
thus all things offer themselves up without a hope
of being anything other than illusions of themselves
and it is right that this should be so:
fortunately the objects which appear to us
have always-already disappeared; fortunately
nothing appears to us in real time
any more than do the stars in the night sky;
if the speed of light were infinite
all the stars would be there simultaneously
and the celestial vault would be an unbearable incandescence;
fortunately nothing takes place in real time
otherwise we would be subjected where information is concerned
to the light of all events and the present would be
an unbearable incandescence; fortunately
we live on the basis of a vital illusion
on the basis of an absence an unreality
a non-immediacy of things; fortunately
nothing is instantaneous simultaneous or contemporary;
fortunately nothing is present or identical to itself;
fortunately reality does not take place;
fortunately, the crime is never perfect

Hmmm… Well, there we are or aren’t. There you have it, or don’t, as the case may be… Anyway, now I’ve finished reading The Perfect Crime by Jean Baudrillard and closed up the final page, a certain pattern has emerged but, apart from these few words on a page, it will without doubt all disappear.

dedadedahdedah dididah dedadedadedah didi

 

7 thoughts on “when reading Baudrillard

  1. When I was around 10 I would ride my bike past a cigar shop my father and I would frequent after church on Sunday mornings. I was just beginning my future as a criminal and noticed the comic books were kept on racks outside and unguarded. After observing this gift of an opportunity I planned the perfect crime because for the criminal all their crimes are perfect, withstanding any impulse problems that can occurs if one is working with others, but since this crime was going to be a solo effort, I knew it would be perfect.

    Later in the week I hopped on my bike and raced toward the rack of comics, as I was passing them by I leaned over and grabbed as many comics as I could, between 7 and 10 books. As I raced away I realized that no one had spotted me, it went just as I thought, perfect!

    The man who owned the store was a gruff World War 2 veteran who my father liked very much, I could tell this because my father didn’t offer many people the time of day, to him people were generally stupid and he said this often, “Patrick, that guys is an idiot, he talks about the war as if he misses it,as if it was something more than killing people, stay away from him.” But this shop owner was someone he admired, for what I didn’t know then, but he admired him for his guts. He also had two kids a year or two younger than me and they were good guys.

    My perfect crime wave continued until I heard the shop owner telling my father about the money he was losing one Sunday morning. Suddenly the perfect crime began to move around inside me, I began experiencing doubt, guilt, shame, and although I had stolen a first edition Spider Man comic, and a first edition Thor comic (both worth a ton of money later) coming up with a perfect crime to return the comics was not easy. Thoughts began to circle in my brain, I finally gave up and kept the comics. They would be lost later on as a reminder of my perfect crime.

    3. Postmodernist thinkers like Baudrillard don’t give enough credit to the transcendent powers of the human mind. They are surely right to say that our contemporary world mocks transcendence, and that our media landscape has been configured to leave people bemused and benumbed in the ever-tyrannical now. But they fail to see that the human mind is able to look far and wide into the nature of things and to offer up a critique. This capacity itself is not nothing. There is still something great about just being able to speak the truth. Bertrand Russell understood this point well. In “A Free Man’s Worship” he writes. Philosophical Society.com

    A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking Mother. Bertrand Russell

    I am reading a Biography right now by Mark Eisner (a writer I admire) of Pablo Neruda, a book much different from “The Perfect Crime,” but they both have something wonderful to offer and that is, Found Poems. In this glob there is proof of that statement and soon their will be proof of my own efforts. The sense of reality is like trying to see God with our own eyes. Intellectual exercises can and do offer us a quiet space to squirm, fidget, take a walk in frustration, sit curled like a cat, restful in our own satirical “I” keeping at bay other annoying I’s by opting our energy into Meta I that I am happy to say is now capable of experiencing external considering from a vast distance.

    Who doesn’t enjoy the idea of the perfect crime, especially against the rich. Bravo, Robin Hood!

    It takes hard work to become good at something: music, poetry, painting, prose, dance, ect. and within all of them there exists a perfect crime, a crime that’s playful enough, robust enough, vivid enough to break free from the System.

    There are no more great myths in today’s economic market, the shame is there isn’t any more shop keepers to play the role of initiation. How I long to say I’m sorry but it was the perfect crime, does that count?

    I am nothing, a no-thing, empty, drifting around the next bend. I am the rain and sea, lover of verse, a con man who plays fair. I have no operating principle, just a postmodern man, building art without genius or greatness.

    My first steps were down a bank
    filled with junk, coffee cans, broken plates,
    glimmering mirrors discarded or lost,
    and at the bottom the trains, the hobos
    filling their pockets, encouraging me to join them,
    criminals all of us, dreaming of the next train,
    the rumble, the freedom, the future of this nation,

    men who kill in God’s name and their passive
    bodies, bellybuttons loaded for more.

    Forgive the speed in which this was written, I babysit my grandson every day now and must get going, thanks Colin!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. the most radical

    metaphysical desire –
    the deepest spiritual joy
    – not to be here
    but to see like God
    who does not exist
    which enables him
    to watch the world
    in his absence

    I suppose the irony of post-modernism is that, having tried to debunk the great myths of the past (Platonism, Marxism, and so on) in itself it creates its own great myths. The Perfect Crime, for Baudrillard, as I understand it – it’s been a rather lovely tussle to get to this point of simplicity – is similar to a boy on a bike nicking comics from a hard-up newsagent who has no idea of the ‘crime’: we have no idea of the crime that ‘technology’ – great impossible abstraction – perpetrates on us; we do not realise that it plays with us, seduces us by presenting the illusion of power over the world; ‘reality’ disappears behind images which mask the disappearance and so we must continue to imagine ‘reality’ in spite of technical simulacra which create a profusion of images in which there is really nothing to see; all just screens & images; behind all technologies there’s a game of transformation.

    How long before there comes a sense of guilt & shame at the perfect technological crime beginning to move around inside us? Murderer & victim are one so it’ll be rather a long time coming,

    The main objection to reality is its propensity to submit unconditionally to every hypothesis you can make about it – it demonstrates an unrelenting servility to thought processes. I don’t know whether these are Baudrillard’s words or mine – they’re just scribbled in a notebook without attribution – but it could be a great post-modernist mythology. We can only ever keep on producing grand theories.

    All you have to do is to step into Meta-I to get into the Beyond which would be another perfectly criminal myth were it not for the grandson who delights in having a babysitter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The main objection to reality is its propensity to submit unconditionally to every hypothesis you can make about it – it demonstrates an unrelenting servility to thought processes

    Joe Campbell said that mythological thinking does not come from the head, like G he claimed it comes from the whole being. In my experience (what else is there?) it’s fitting to go down inside so that one can get a sense of a certain quietness, a calmness that offers us slobs an alternative to all the madness. Again Colin I must go, our cat is crying for food, now he’s the real criminal in our lives, and a good one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Late to the party yet again, Colin – and this time completely lacking anything useful to say. Baudrillard is completely unknown to me, and alas will probably remain so, given my ever-growing to-read list of Buddhist and philosophy books, not to mention all the new novels I still hope to read and all the classics I still hope to re-read one fine day. No way will I live long enough, I’m quite certain! But as usual, reading the insightful prose and poetry in your glob, and Patrick’s creative comments in response, more than make up for whatever I’m losing in not being acquainted with Baudrillard. Thanks to you both!

    Like

  5. The party is probably the greatest myth of all time. I agree with Patrick here (as always!). Baby-sitting the grandson, reading Buddhists texts, responding to my grand-daughter’s requests for musical scores for her piano trio – what more could one want? Then we meet up here any old time – it’s all present. And it’s always great to do so.

    ‘…In a distant country surrounded by water, the people believe the crabs are responsible for the movement of the tides. As they move, the crabs make waves, and as the waves move they whip up the wind…’ From a notebook of Baudrillard’s!

    Liked by 1 person

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