The Lacan Hour (part one)
I saw a blog post recommending readers consider a scene from a Kevin Spacey film, (The Life of David Gale) before "making your wishes for the new year" [isn't it resolutions?].
The scene is where the Gale character lectures in a fluid and detached style (very suspicious in itself) on Jacques Lacan's concept of the object of desire (what Lacan terms the "objet petit a"). The Spacey character summarizes the object of desire as;
"Fantasies have to be unrealistic. Because the moment, the second that you get what you seek, you don’t.- you can’t- want it anymore. In order to continue to exist, Desire must have its objects perpetually absent. It’s not the ‘It’ that you want, it is the fantasy of ‘It’. So, Desire supports crazy fantasies."
Sure, coming from a commodity driven cultural apparatus that we call Hollywood, the desire for 'things' seems to be the most logical form of desire. Who else is going to sell us our dreams if it is not the dream factories of the USA.
While the Gale character does back away somewhat from the 'things' perspective of desire with this final statement of the scene:
"So the lesson of Lacan is: Living by your wants will never make you happy. What it means to be fully human is to strive to live by ideas and ideals and not to measure your life by what you have attained by your desires but those small moments of integrity, compassion, rationality, even self-sacrifice. Because in the end, the only way that we can measure the significance of our own lives is by valuing the lives of others."
It remains an abstraction of Lacan's ideas based on the plot of the film and not Lacan's work in my opinion. I don't think the goal of Lacan's philosophy was compassion. Rather self-knowledge and critical understanding of the language matrix we are born and die in is a better summary of his mission. This weakening of Lacan's raison d'etre is understandable when we consider the Hollywood film industry as a primary site for the hegemony of the sign. I refer to a Lacan website I found:
"Desire, in other words, has little to do with material sexuality for Lacan; it is caught up, rather, in social structures and strictures, in the fantasy version of reality that forever dominated our lives after our entrance into language. For this reason, Lacan writes that "the unconscious is the discourse of the Other." Even our unconscious desires are, in other words, organized by the linguistic system that Lacan terms the symbolic order or "the big Other." In a sense, then, our desire is never properly our own, but is created through fantasies that are caught up in cultural ideologies rather than material sexuality. For this reason, according to Lacan, the command that the superego directs to the subject is, of all things, "Enjoy!" That which we may believe to be most private and rebellious (our desire) is, in fact, regulated, even commanded, by the superego."
While we are on the subject I would like to mention Mary Klages introduction to Lacan which I found years ago and still consider an excellent summary:
"Lacan says this is what the unconscious looks like--a continually circulating chain (or multiple chains) of signifiers, with no anchor--or, to use Derrida's terms, no center. This is Lacan's linguistic translation of Freud's picture of the unconscious as this chaotic realm of constantly shifting drives and desires. Freud is interested in how to bring those chaotic drives and desires into consciousness, so that they can have some order and sense and meaning, so they can be understood and made manageable. Lacan, on the other hand, says that the process of becoming an adult, a "self," is the process of trying to fix, to stabilize, to stop the chain of signifiers so that stable meaning--including the meaning of "I"--becomes possible. Though of course Lacan says that this possibility is only an illusion, an image created by a misperception of the relation between body and self."
The pure intersection of Lacan, desire, language and film occurs in the work of the madman from Ljubljana, Slavoj Žižek.
From The Perverts Guide to Cinema
As Žižek points out, film is not part of the 'the red pill', "fictions which structure our reality. If you take away from our reality the symbolic fictions which regulate it you loose reality itself." We need to "perceive not the reality behind the illusion by the reality in illusion itself." This is something Hollywood is never going to be able to deliver.
So my thought as we go into another solar cycle is to continue my actions towards discerning illusion from reality. Making art from it and then spending time with the art. This makes me happy, egotist that I am.
Happy new year!
(this is the 200th post for the year on this blog...which also makes me happy)
Philosophy makes me happy as well...am I normal?