Pt. 12

Jordi Martoranno, “Pleroma-Uroboros”
Jordi Martoranno, “Pleroma-Uroboros”

[L]ove must be reinvented, that’s obvious. — Arthur Rimbaud[1]

The reinvention of the world without the reinvention of love is not a reinvention at all.
— Srećko Horvat[2]

A dialogue about love is utterly crucial to the remaking of the modern world in writing.
— Leslie Scalapino[3]

In The Radicality of Love, Srećko Horvat calls the practice of revolution an expression of love — at least, he claims, “if it wants to be worthy of its name” — and this denomination grounds a crucial amendment: “The worst thing that can happen to love is habit,”[4] what with that worn patina of resignation — becoming-pedestrian, -routine. Rather than make love de novo, we endure it, suffer it, so that, to recognize oneself as numerous, to sublimate one’s solitude through the richness of shared experience means folding the Other into an abstraction (“the-Other-for-me) — a “vision-in-one,” to borrow François Laruelle’s nomenclature, that cedes love-making for love-draining. Our love is reduced to advantage, aspiring to generic fungibility to better serve common ends (though love’s ends, in situ, are far from common). Worse, we convince ourselves (through habit) that we know the Other, possess knowledge that, gained through sheer force (of habit), provides a blueprint through the penetralium, the monad’s inner sanctum, where we might discover the true nature of the great mystery of living singular-plural. Hegel likely had the rote in mind when suggesting that love can serve, alternately, as “what animates and what deadens.”[5] While any revolution (worthy of its name) upends habit wholesale — animates our love — habit deadens through possession, control, use. In the face of jeopardy — true risk — one’s self preservation concedes to habit’s comfort, because love’s animation threatens an “indefinite openness”[6], flirting with the void still yawning betwixt. In Judith Butler’s Hegel, dialectical vacillation between animate and inanimate aims[7] teases out “what’s still living in love,” surplus potential resonating between the fixed poles of comportment, skirting foreclosure by recognizing, finally, that “nothing carries the root of its own being in itself”[8], not even love (if not especially so). To sense “what is living in the other”[9], to locate still-coursing anima between, is to effect a diremption that strips living tissue from gangrenous necrosis (or the rotting flesh of law).

To fulfill law, Paul suggests “love is the fulfillment of the break that he accomplishes with the law”; it must, ironically, become the “law of the break with law, law of the truth of law”[10]. To “fulfill” in this context is caesuric, to put to bed, locating one’s “root,” the very possibility of ontic self-enclosure, in the becoming-entangled of Catherine Keller’s “plurisingularity.” To occupy this space is to adopt a level of generosity, sorge (care), that manifests itself as the suspension of egoic desire, overriding the primacy of self-serving-satiation in a kind of kenotic (or self-emptying) compulsion. “Love is an uneasy state: it is unstable, permeable to all winds”[11], Etel Adnan writes, “the most important matter that we will ever face, but also the most dangerous, the most unpredictable, the most maddening. But it is also the only salvation I know …”[12]. To wade through negative capability requires a level of plasticity that unsettles the apparent ontological flatness of the diurnal (and any clarity one might derive from approaching the Other’s thrownness). To occupy this “splace” (Badiou’s immanently embedded — always, already — “space of placement”) the subject rejects “knowledge” of the other (really, knowledge as such) because, for Keller, “Love picks up where knowing leaves off”[13], and for Paul, “knowledge will come to an end” while “love never ends.”[14] To love is to relinquish faith in epistemology, because to know is to concretize (in order to know). In fact, for Badiou, “love is not [even] an experience of the other, but an experience of the world or of the situation, under the postevental condition that there are Two [at least].”[15] Intimacy reconfigures the state of the situation through a lived fidelity to the event of the multiple. While the two (or more) positions are tethered to disunion, only to be mediated by their faith in the force of encounter, to “make love” is to embrace the impossibility of plurisingularity, whatever it will have meant, so that love, as a truth procedure, demands the transformation of the subject in light of her sheer proximity to the radical unknowability of the “beloved.” As such, like Adnan, Badiou suggests that love’s risk “must also be something that innovates. Risk and adventure must be re-invented against safety and comfort,”[16] so that the impossibility of our comportment tears through the placid backdrop of domestic docility. Agape decenters my primacy, demands world-facing engagement. To love, then, is to bridge “the abyss separating individuals, and the description of the fragile nature of the bridge that love throws between two solitudes”[17] while never presupposing that we’ll finally make our way across.

In Katarina Kolozova’s The Cut of the Real, love is “revolutionary” (in Horvat’s sense) because “The need to exit the real of one’s radical situatedness in oneself, namely, one’s situatedness in the last instance, is an act of love, an act of attempting to reach out to the other as the instance of salvation from one’s radical self-enclosure”[18], which is to encounter the other through the perception marks of her umwelt rather than through the lens of my own. To string together a multiple requires bridging enclosures that ultimately won't sync (and certainly can't be privatized): “Love’s identity in the last instance is that always already ultimately failed striving to surpass our indestructible — except by the advent of death — enclosure in ourselves, our own unbeatable real, to surpass and be relieved from our radical solitude(s).”[19] Because, as a unilateral expression of grace, there is no confidence in reciprocity. Kolozova asks, “Can we love (establish a “relation of fidelity to” and “produce a truth of”) the other in her or his (or its) radical solitude, in her or his (or its) unmediated singularity and uniqueness while all relationism and expectation of reciprocity is suspended? [...] “Can we love (or establish a relation of fidelity generating truth) in a radically unilateral way?”[20]

To risk love is to enter the “pleroma,” the totality of the fullness of shared experience as it presents itself in intimate disseverment, bridging and preserving difference as the distension of multiplicity. Werner Hamacher suggests that “The complement [that “‘being,’ which grounds, as though in their unity, those spheres which have come apart in possibility: subject and object…”] [...] leaves open the ‘abyss’ between subject and object. Pleroma is what fills up every lack and, as such, is both a part and the fullness of being at once. Like being and love, pleroma unites what has been distinguished.”[21] But it does so as a disjunct vision-in-one: to experience the fullness of love is not only to risk, as Adnan suggests, but to suffer the impossible through perpetually dissonant asymmetry. In fact, theologian Roland Faber calls love (like revolution) “the event of the impossible”[22]: 

Pure love as love of multiplicity is neither pure gift nor the event of the happening of said gift, but the difference between these as gift and as event. Her multiplicity is not a set of objects, but the activity of folding, of complication, in which gift and event are collected “together” as indefinite difference, that is, as the indifference of gift and event. Pure love is indifferent. Yet this indifference is in/different, that is, only in difference to that she differentiates and in which she is always already differentiated.[23]

Resonating somewhere between gift and event, gift as event, the poem is a cipher of the khoric abyss of in/difference, lived concretization that viscerally resists abstraction from nunc stans. To love in practice is to inaugurate an intercarnational umwelt spanning the abyss between, an event of encounter, of generosity: usufruct rather than possession. Because the Other is a transcendental abstraction who can be sniffed out, “intuited,” through kharis, the poem is an invitation to (and interface for) encounter. While writer/reader and reader/writer find themselves splitting world(s) in an intimate (immanent) proximity, the poem is ultimately an organ of capture, isolating generative ruptures for productive (dis-)engagement. It’s lawlessness, the fulfillment of its lawlessness through amorous practice, is precisely what grounds the generosity of encounter. Rather than teach, rather than serve as a vehicle of knowledge, the poem asks readers to risk the open at the lip of the (pluri)singularity's event-horizon, to find what’s still living in love.  

1. Arthur Rimbaud, “Delirium,” A Season in Hell (New York: New Directions, 2011).

2. Srećko Horvat, The Radicality of Love (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2016), 20.

3. Leslie Scalapino, The Front Matter, Dead Souls (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996), 1.

4. Horvat, 4. 

5. Judith Butler, “To Sense What Is Living in the Other: Hegel’s Early Love,” Documenta (13): The Book of Books (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012), 415. 

6. Butler, 416.

7. Shoutout to Brenda Iijima.

8. Hegel quoted in Butler, 417.

9. Butler, 418. 

10. Alain Badiou, Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 89. 

11. Etel Adnan, “The Cost of Love We Are Not Willing to Pay,” Documenta (13): The Book of Books (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012), 95.  

12. Adnan, 96.

13. Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 292. 

14. Keller, 297.

15. Alain Badiou, Conditions (New York: Continuum, 2008), 181-182. 

16. Alain Badiou, In Praise of Love (New York: The New Press, 2012), 11. 

17. Badiou, In Praise of Love, 87–88.   

18. Katerina Kolozova, The Cut of the Real: Subjectivity in Poststructuralist Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 113.

19. Kolozova, 119.

20. Kolozova, 122.

21. Werner Hamacher, Pleroma: Reading in Hegel (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 93–94.

22. Roland Faber, The Divine Manifold (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014), 3.  

23. Faber, 6.