Sunday, January 18, 2009


“In the destructive element immerse.”

- Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim)
Perhaps one of the worst things about the traumatic experience is the passivity. In comparison, all other passivities seem mild. Tragic self-overcoming begins when, in the deepest passivity, one experiences the upsurge of something that is in radical opposition to that passivity. To delve into the trauma in search of the bitterest truths about human nature and ourselves – that is the only way to transform passivity into activity, because it is the only response that accords one’s disorder the contempt it deserves. Though the choice to immerse oneself in the process of tragic reasoning is the turning point, there is nothing heroic or grandiose about its assumption. This act is only equal to the terror that attends it. The possibility and terms of change are here experienced for the first time as an existential process that involves far more than thought and deliberation. Change is the process of engaging conflicts that have a deeper hold in one’s psyche than anything else. Hamlet can think all day, yet until his thought crashes against the concrete circumstances of his inner paralysis, nothing can happen. Agon is that destiny of the human being which is only engaged when the effort at reversal confronts that within oneself that absolutely resists that effort. This is the battle that must be engaged.

Memory can only take one so far, and ultimately, one must engage the conflicts it recovers. The only way to do so is by immersing oneself in the traumatic space. Minimizing or resolving the situation is the thing most to be feared, since thereby the destructive force is given the power to extinguish anything within that opposes it. What we are is a result of what we do in those situations that are pregnant with the conflicts that define us. This process would have us stand before the prospect of living without the thing the super-ego gives us in return for our obedience: certitude, direction, and the comfort of those guarantees that protect us from the burdens that a free subject must take upon itself. The call of the tragic is the call to suffering. Suffering is the deepest voice within us summoning us to our innermost possibility: to live out the full complexity of our relationship to ourselves by engaging the agons that define and maximize it.

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