On the Unbearable Likeness of Being

likeness

On the unbearable likeness of being; or who the fuck is Alice?

by Jeremy Fernando (sb rmx)

 

The question that haunts all modern society is that of the individual. It takes the form of either "who am I" (the question of identity) or "what is my place in society" (the question of relative value). Even though they may seem to be unrelated they are actually the same question, for the notion of individuality is meaningless without a point of reference, an externality: in other words, there is no self without another, the other, all others.

And here, if we listen carefully, we can hear an echo of Jean-Luc Nancy's beautiful phrase, singular-plural. In order for any singularity, we have to take into account plurality: which also means that the selection of any singular version, meaning, act, is always already a moment of violence against all other existing possibilities. For if every act is but one of the potentially infinite possibilities (since they are possibilities, one cannot know in advance how many variations there are) there is no way to know if the decision made is a good or bad one till it happens; more than that, there is no way to legitimately choose one over any — every — other. Hence decisions, acts, choices, are always already made in blindness; all one can know is that one is choosing.

But as Milan Kundera so aptly points out, the fact that each decision is made "in an instant of madness" (Kierkegaard) does not make it any easier: the "lightness" is indeed rather unbearable. For the lightness of each decision does not refer to us, but rather to the fact that there is no grund: thus, the onus, and hence responsibility, for each decision falls squarely on our shoulders.

This, though, merely exacerbates the paradoxical situation of individuality: in order to be responsible one has to be able to take responsibility, which would entail a certain notion of the self, and more precisely a self that is independent of all the other factors affecting that same self. Otherwise we would be able to escape this responsibility by pulling an Adolf Eichmann: "I was merely following orders."

But if the notion of a self is meaningless without correspondence to other(s), where would this singular notion be located?

We can hear echoes of this very same question in blogs; where the very notion of the self and its relation to the other, every other, is being addressed. For in order to be a 'blog' it has to be a singular object (even if two, or more, blogs share the same name, each blog is a singular entity onto itself and no other); however, in order for its existence to be known it has to be acknowledged by another, some entity other than itself. Even if the blog was the work of a single person, and (s)he was the only other that referenced it, it would still, and only, be known if that referencing happened in another venue, platform, site.

Hence, what is crucial is that there are two separate situations in place, and more importantly, there is an exchange between them. One must never forget that an exchange can only take place when there is a ground of similarity; whether real or simulated (even if there was a difference) is irrelevant. Even in their difference (for, there would be no need for any exchange if they were exactly the same), there has to be a certain sameness, likeness. Perhaps it is in the very paradox of similarity and difference that the true profundity of likeness comes to light: the alikeness of the exchange must first be liked before the differences that allow this very exchange come into play. And what is being exchanged is nothing other than data.

Here, we must not forget all data bears echoes of datum (thing given). More specifically, the situation of this giving is one where the parties involved are of an unequal standing (for instance, a master to a slave): hence, there is no expected reciprocation of this gift. This is opposed to munus which is a ritualised gift, and where exchange is the order of the day. Since a datum is an unexchangeable gift, this suggests that it can also be objectless: in other words, what remains important is that the gift is in the giving. And it is this aspect of the gift that Marcel Mauss, Georges Bataille, and Jacques Derrida, focus on when they explicate their notions of a pure gift. And if the giving of the gift is the gift itself, perhaps one can argue that the reception is equally important. This suggests that what truly matters in this notion of giving is time itself: what is sacrificed (for, in giving, something is given even if there is no object), a sacrifice that is objectless, "that doesn’t have to be consumed by fire" (Bataille), is the time taken to both give, and receive.

In the context of blogs, it is the time taken to link, share, give, and the time taken to read, re-post, re-link.

Which brings us back to the question that we were attempting to meditate on. The singularity of the self is not located in some notion of self, but rather in that moment of decision, choice, where the self has no choice but to reify momentarily in making that choice. In this moment of absolute blindness — where one is choosing despite lacking any legitimacy — the self is doing nothing but exposing its own unknowability, its own otherness.

At the moment of sharing a blog, the blog is exposed as nothing but the moment of sharing. In other words, all blogs only are singular, are itself, at the point of being shared — sent, read, spoken about, written on.

Swapped.

And it is in this spirit that I am sharing a dear friend’s blog. I present to you, one of my favourite thinkers, writers, photographers: http://alicereneztay.com/

And if you’re still wanting to know who Alice is, surely you’re missing the point . . .

_____

Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and is the author of 5 books, the most recent being Writing Death. Exploring other media has led him to film, art, and music; and his work has been exhibited in Seoul, Vienna, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is the general editor of both Delere Press and the thematic magazine One Imperative; and is a Fellow of Tembusu College at The National University of Singapore.

(down the rabbit) holey space

a breath of fresh air, redolent of vuvuzela blossoms

there was a public outdoor screening on a restaurant wall a few nights ago at the end of the street where i live: "bangladesh defeats england in historic cricket victory." it was not projected through the partition but rather reflected upon the building’s facade. closer, yet further away.

oh, i *do* remember our identity tourism in tucson. there were cast-iron sculptures of lisa nakamura's body on every building, just like antony gormley in london. "inverted post-colonialism," i think, was the vogue.

context is not only a spatiotemporal phenomenon, but a (matrixial) psychic phenomenon as well. context suggests an increasing tendency towards harmonized (and dare we say synchronized?) co-resonance. it seems to me that context itself constitutes the stasis of monotony and that the coming-into resonance of and through alterity is what creates the openness.

did you know that amsterdam is the steampunk version of second life? delanda said they created this shit back in the 1400s! and then at some point lewis carroll wrote a virus and messed up the code. the game still plays in my console, but the graphics are a little distorted, you know?

how does third place, the "runner up in the exceptional case," change the relation between numbers one and two ("the best winners")? the ontogenesis of the third is an alter-accomplishment in its own right, no? how do we understand the third in terms of multitude and the very being-in-language of which virno, agamben and nancy speak? how does the third come into resonance of and through alterity? is openness created?

children both shy and fearless; translation, mistranslation, smiling without voices; does it really matter? tonality, don't think in terms of romanization! a new iron curtain; public, private, third spaces; be a switch; but it wouldn't be a very honest emotion if you could turn it off like a switch.

or am i flailing?

crushed blossoms in a vase of water

Gestures Sacred and Profane

Two temporal vectors

Notes from sportsBabel, September 2008:

Structurally, late modern sport operates along two primary temporal vectors: it is at once the eternal recurrence of a particular sporting history wrapped in the warm folds of nostalgia (or better, what LCD Soundsystem might call borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered century) and a continual preparation for contagion, processing, incarceration and trauma.

Somewhere in between this implicated past and future is the now of consumption.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

Presidential Fist Bump

The micropolitics of contagion

This past weekend I was at a college basketball game in Toronto. Like many other cosmopolitan cities with a mobile corporate class, an ethnically and culturally diverse population, and readily-available vectors of connection by land, air and water, Toronto has become a locus for the swine flu virus that has been spreading around the world. The discourse networks that link (and compress) the city are continually relaying locally-relevant information concerning H1N1 contagion, diagnosis and prevention. A strange mixture of fear and apathy hangs in the air.

As with those from every other walk of life, athletes are being hit by the virus and forced into varying degrees of illness and quarantine. Sporting contests have become a threat matrix of opportunity for contagion with the other. There was a moment of hesitation after this particular game ended, the players shuffling as they remembered the directive not to shake hands with the other team. Instead, each competitor was able to "fist bump" his opponent in a respectful post-game gesture.

Are we witnessing what Paul Virilio might have called the pollution of proactivity?

A personal history of the fist bump

Fist bumping appears to be a relatively new phenomenon. The awkward attempts by courtside celebrities in recent television narratives suggest as much, anyway, and Barack Obama's hip gesture with Michelle Obama the night he claimed the U.S. Democratic Party nomination more clearly punctuates the unfolding text. But I can personally remember a culture of fist bumping in basketball as early as 1995, when I transferred schools and began playing for a new university team, and I am quite certain that the phenomenon predates my own ethnocentric bias.

In other words, it is not new.

Notably, the first team I played for was pretty monoculturally white, while the second team was much more ethnically and culturally diverse, drawing players from across the country and internationally, including such cosmopolitan cities as Toronto or Montreal. The processes of negotiating alterity on the court and in the locker room and into the more diffused conduits of the campus town were more readily present for me than they had been on my earlier team. Handshakes — a form of touching — became a particularly important factor in these negotiations. And the fist bump was one of these significant tactile forms for me, at first primarily between myself and certain Afro-Caribbean teammates, before diffusing to include my relations with almost everyone else on the team.

At that time the fist bump was performed as a form of gestural communication between the players and not by spectators or "consumers" of the sport, whether televised or no. Basketball provided a vector of exchange distinct from that of the market. A temporary community was formed. In this sense, it is to President Obama's credit that he laces on a pair of shoes every once in a while and plays the game himself.

Digital, contagions

Notes from sportsBabel, August 2009:

Of course, when we play pickup basketball (or any other form of physical culture, for that matter), we sweat. This is the fact of our very being-in-the-world as athletic bodies.

Sweat bears a paradox, though: it is at once a positive form of olfactory writing or inscription that signifies our athletic poiesis, and a liquid-haptic vector of waste, filth, toxin, or contagion.

This does not prevent us from touching the other, however, in our sweaty athletic-becoming. The abjection secreted by this paradox commingles-with and washes-through those bodies one comes into contact with during production and passage. So long as both of us are sweaty, it doesn't matter. This is as true in sport as it is in labour as it is in sex.

But what if one's hand was dry? Would the desire to touch the other player's sweaty palm remain?

This is not a post about fisting

This is not a pipe - Magritte

Holy space

Upon expressing my surprise that the basketball players were fist bumping their opponents to prevent the spread of swine flu, I was informed that the local Catholic Church was doing something similar, replacing the handshake of peace between fellow parishioners with the bump of a closed fist. Not having seen it in person myself I wasn't certain, but this blog post seems to suggest that such a virus prevention strategy is indeed emerging in the church's holy spaces. Peace be with you, accompanied by a fist bump.

When does the flip take place? When do the subjects of hierarchical spaces become those of social meshworks? When does alterity curl? When does the fist bump as gesture of solidarity become a generalized strategy of capillarized power? When does it become a micropolitics of response to contagion?

At the threshold of touching, it appears.

Dispatches from the future

"The Panther Moderns allowed four minutes for their first move to take effect, then injected a second carefully prepared dose of misinformation. This time, they shot it directly into the Sense/Net building's internal video system. At 12:04:03, every screen in the building strobed for eighteen seconds in a frequency that produced seizures in a susceptible segment of Sense/Net employees. … Subliminally rapid images of contamination: graphics of the building's water supply system, gloved hands manipulating laboratory glassware, something tumbling down into darkness, a pale splash" (William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984).

"He managed not to recoil when she took his hand. He was getting information from her. Let her touch him as long as she kept talking" (Octavia Butler, Clay's Ark, 1984).

Dunking as cyborgian ballistics

Notes from sportsBabel, September 2009:

For the longest time the primary skill required for success in basketball was a certain marksmanship that allowed one to quickly determine trajectories and shoot the ball into the basket. Height was certainly favoured, but only insofar as it allowed those shot trajectories (and corresponding rebounds of missed attempts) to be shorter and more precise.

Dunking, however, changed the sport forever. While a genealogy of the dunk as a particularly Afrocentric form of cultural expression needs to be accounted for here, suffice it to say in the meantime that while it originally favoured the extremely tall player the athletic skill set changed to favour the quick, explosive leaper: Earl "The Goat" Manigault, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins, and Herman "The Helicopter" Knowings. Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter. James White, Justin Darlington, and Guy DePuy, to name but a few of these artists.

With dunking, the athletic body itself assumed a ballistic trajectory in order to stuff the ball into the goal both efficiently and emphatically. Any understanding of the dunk as an expressive art form in its own right must acknowledge this a priori corporeal basis of the athletic agent.

An aside from Planet Lovetron

The year is 1979. Twice within a month, at the mid-way point on a temporal trajectory between Parliament-Funkadelic's Mothership Connection and the novels by Gibson and Butler quoted above, Darryl Dawkins of the Philadelphia 76ers shatters a glass basketball backboard by dunking. If we can say that the dunk is the expression of an athletic body's ballistic trajectory and if the basketball court apparatus is the factory of the professional basketball economy, then does Dawkins not become the nomadic warrior smashing an organ of state striation?

Perhaps like those who smashed clocks and looms before him?

Affirmatively, we want the funk. Can a true choice to engage with the apparatus even be possible in the absence of possibility for such a refusal? Do we not shape the yoke of our existence?

As if channeling George, Bootsy and the rest of the P-Funk connection, Dawkins named the dunk "the Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." And thus it bears repeating: any understanding of the dunk as an expressive art form in its own right must acknowledge this a priori corporeal basis of the athletic agent.

Now consider LeBron James (as Business LeBron), who suggested in a recent Nike television commercial that "dunk contests are bourgeois." What relationships would you perceive between these two performers nearly three decades apart? Consider meme and rhythm sciences in the process. Defer judgment.

Consider it a little longer. Just do it.

A third temporal vector?

Do we follow the interwoven threads of an Afrofuturist aesthetics and politics — as laid out by Mark Sinker, Mark Dery, Kodwo Eshun, Paul Miller and others — to locate the relational connections between black science fiction and music? Do we locate similar connections between basketball and Afro-American or Afro-Caribbean forms of music such as jazz, funk, dub, hip hop, rap and jungle/dnb?

Do we see the passage of the pickup basketball player to the league basketball player as what Deleuze and Guattari would suggest is a temporary capture of the nomadic war machine? Do we see the fist bump emerge from being a strictly tactile form of communication to become an object of information for the integrated spectacle? Do we see that in the "surgical space" of the stadium, the fist bump meme has been rendered a carefully-controlled vector of signification?

And when a real contagion (H1N1) generates a new state of fear, do we witness the relatively open-handed gesture of the handshake become the closed yet equally expressive gesture of the fist bump, effecting a flip (of switch, of moebius twist) between the sacred and the profane? Do we suggest the fist bump returns as an Afrofuturist form of the "ghostly DNA" that Gibson refers to in Neuromancer, mutated from earlier variants of Black Power and the raised-fist salute?

Finally, do we presume that Larry, Angelo and Lupus Yonderboy of the Panther Moderns were white?

Secret Whispers

The hipster is rarely an artist.

So suggested Norman Mailer in The White Negro. Embedded in his critique of the racial politics of white backlash, one imagines he is referring at least in part to the question of poiesis: the hipster is born of representation while the artist exists at the threshold of creation and representation. The artist is the one who creates, the one who fashions the beginnings of order from an otherwise roiling sea of chaos (to borrow from Deleuze and Guattari) while the hipster, on the other hand, represents the creative process of the artist in his presentation of self.

Chainsurfing

If Mailer was literally writing of and from that roiling sea, he might likewise have suggested:

The poseur is rarely a surfer.

A Doubling

Is the surfer not an artist of the body? (Interestingly, the Polynesian cultures from which surfing originated considered it an art form and not a sport.) Two articles offer the briefest glimmerings of an answer. In the first, "How to Surf," Clifton Evers sets out to teach the academy just that very thing. Right away, his exercise proves futile since what he trying to describe to us is the corporeal act of surfing — not its representation, but an actual being-in-the-world. In short, he is trying to describe to us the surfer in the throes of affect, the embodied sense of self and the navigation of intensity while riding through the waves. It is impossible to fully capture the sensation in words, for it is pre-language: it requires a moving body for a similar affect to be generated. (Get on a board and ride!)

In "Beyond 'Decorative Sociology': Contextualizing Female Surf, Skate, and Snow Boarding," Holly Thorpe describes the processes by which surfing cultures are signified, commodified and re-sold to non-surfing markets as well as back to the original surfers themselves. As surfing becomes a sporting "subculture," authenticity becomes always already compromised by the gaze, the spectacle, commodification and discourse. It then cannot be separated from the demands of late capitalism. (Get on a board and ride! But are you wearing Billabong?)

The surfer, the skater, the traceur: at once existing at the threshold of a body culture distinguishable from the linearity of rational modern sport — as well as a non-conformity or critique of elements of consumer culture — and its own spectacularization and contribution to the conformity of consumerism. Part of this has to do with documentation, or the archive: if the surfer is an artist of the body, then how does one represent the practice without crossing the threshold?

Post-Literacy and the Wave

According to Marshall McLuhan, the mode of communication of a society was one of the determining factors towards how the surrounding environment was perceived by individuals, and thus the aesthetics and politics that may emerge as a result.

Resample:

[O]ne of McLuhan's primary frameworks was the distinction between pre-literate, literate, and post-literate societies, which are classified based on the dominant mode(s) of communication of the day. Pre-literate societies communicate primarily by the spoken word; literate societies emerged from the introduction of the phonetic alphabet and the Gutenberg press and communicate predominantly through book form; and post-literate societies are those that are characterized by the electric communications technologies of telegraph, telephone, radio, television, personal computer, satellite, etc. McLuhan's hypothesis was that post-literate societies — that is, those who live in the electric age of communications, such as ourselves — would very much resemble pre-literate (ie. "tribal") societies in the way that they acted, both as individuals and as a collective.

For McLuhan, the reliance on auditory and tactile forms of perception for the pre-literate society had consequences in the way that space and time were perceived: the former as a resonating sphere and the latter as a circular process. With the introduction of linearity in alphabetic writing, accelerated by the distribution potential of the printing press, the perception of space and time similarly began to shift: the former became a geometric container in which perspectival vision extends and vanishes at a point on the horizon, and the latter became an unfolding of a linear process that begat the cause and effect thought of the Enlightenment.

So what of the perception of space and time in the post-literate or electric age?

The problem I have with McLuhan's framework is that I don't think it adequately considers the vector of change. Those entering the Electric Age are emerging from the visually-oriented, linear mindset of the literate age and all that it represents, and no matter how closely we may indeed resemble pre-literate tribal peoples in their behaviours and sensory ratios, it must be noted that this will be a categorically different group of people given that we are vectoring away from the Print Age.

In other words, there is no clear-cut end point to the literate age and corresponding start point to the post-literate age: we are at the cusp of a slow inexorable transition in communication practice and the perception of space and time produced as a result.

Sinewave Evolution

To advance a perhaps-radical thesis, is it possible that while in this cusp the becoming-electric society exhibits a dynamism or interference between visual and acoustic-tactile sensations, which manifests itself in a perception of space and time that exhibits circular and linear properties at once? In other words, an eternal recurrence crossed with time's arrow to give us the wave as the emerging means of perceiving space and time today?

Surfing and Documentation

Of course not everyone in post-literate societies perceives these waves equally, for we are all to varying degrees still bound in the linearity of the literate age and the social structures of commerce and dwelling it has produced. While it is relatively easy for most to perceive those waves which the surfer calls home, it took a particular assemblage of social, economic and technological constraints for the Zephyr skateboard team to perceive similar waves in the asphault tundra and concrete swimming pools of 1970s Los Angeles.

Similarly, hang gliders found waves in air currents, snowboarders found waves on the sides of icy mountains, parkour traceurs found waves in urban architectures, and wakesurfers found waves in the powerboat jetwash of otherwise flat lakes. Urban gait surfers hope to find waves in the flows of public/private pedestrian traffic. Waves are everywhere to be found, even in something as simple and readymade as a chain strung between two posts (the relation, see right).

As Deleuze reminds us, surfing has replaced the older sports.

Let us advance then a perhaps-radical politics to complement the perhaps-radical thesis: those who can find the waves need to make them perceptible to those who cannot. If the ways in which we communicate, the ways in which we sense and perceive the space and time of our environments, are bound up in an aesthetics of politics and a politics of aesthetics, then an embodied and performative engagement of electric society and the waveform is our best bet towards challenging the linearity of capitalism (which, because it is absolutely based upon the principle of exchange, precedes its non-linear outcomes) and finding a hinge point of global sustainability. Virno's communism of capital?

A problem arises. As we mentioned earlier, refusal and consent become bound together when the style of surfing, skating, snowboarding practice — the style of waves — is raised to the level of documentation. In the refusal of a particular aesthetics and politics, on the one hand, wavestyle also plants the seeds of its own reterritorialization and contribution to consent through the networked spectacle. The new bodies of consent produced by this reterritorialization also surf waves: those of immateriality and electromagnetism, those of radio, television and data. We should be discussing two waves instead of one. Since mathematicians will point out that sine lags behind cosine in the becoming of waveform functions, maybe a sine wave of representation to follow a cosine wave of performance?

Sinewave Evolution 2

We are left with a conundrum: How to communicate the existence of embodied surfing potential in its myriad forms and work towards realizing such a new perhaps-radical politics without documenting the performance and contributing to a regressive politics of representation, fear and desire? This conundrum has lurked in the shadows for centuries, embedded in what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as the hydraulics of nomad science. One cannot document the act of surfing, the poiesis of being-in-body and becoming. Like secret whispers passed throughout history from breath to ear, then, one can only document the wave.

(thanks to a. staley groves for his thoughts, both presenced and networked)

Asymmetrical Relations

Almost exclusively, the modern sport project is founded upon the principle of symmetrical relations between competitors. We can understand this desire for symmetry along many dimensions, all of them instrumental. First, we can understand symmetry in terms of body composition, as in weight class, gender, disability, etc. This usually has to do with the question of produced force: in combat sports we separate by weight class so that the "weaker" opponent does not get hurt, while males and females usually do not play together due to perceived differences in strength. A useful contrast may be made here with the Japanese sport of sumo, in which all weight classes compete against one another in combinations of power and speed that do not privilege one over the other.

In theory, symmetrical relations also means that the same equipment is used by each athlete or team, though in practice this is a highly contentious area of sport. For example, the controversy over asymmetry in the 1988 America's Cup sailing regatta regarding what boats could and could not be used resulted in a New York State Supreme Court challenge. On a less dramatic scale, we might consider the new swimsuits developed by Speedo, which may only be available to certain athletes for the Beijing Olympics this summer, giving them a decided advantage in the pool.

And as the instrumentality of technology physically integrates with that of the body, things become even more problematic. Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee sprinter from South Africa, had to take his case to the world Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to be allowed to compete against able-bodied runners, since the International Olympic Committee had previously ruled that his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair biomechanical advantage in terms of energy return per stride. But David Howe of Loughborough University makes the interesting case that Pistorius' eligibility to compete against able-bodied runners in Beijing and beyond is immaterial; the real travesty, rather, is that as a double amputee (and thus possessing a smooth, symmetrical stride) Pistorius has been able to hone his skills in competition against single amputee sprinters (and their awkward asymmetrical gait).

As we further delve into into the question of symmetrical athletic bodies, we find the World Anti-Doping Agency. Any asymmetries arising in athletic competition must be grounded within the unitary athletic body in its genetic predisposition, refined through aptitude and hard work, and expressed through the poiesis of sporting performance. Substances, methods and other enabling technologies are permissible in this ethic of sport so long as they are supplementary to the organic unity of the athletic body and do not penetrate or pollute. And WADA claims the sovereign right to penetrate athletic bodies to make sure that such a symmetry persists.

Finally, we might understand symmetrical relations in terms of the number of athletes competing against one another in team sports. Every modern sport form first codifies in its rules the exact number of athletes that may compete for each team. In ice hockey, rugby league and other sports, one of the gravest threats is to have a player taken off the field and sent to the penalty box (or "sin bin") for their transgressions, forcing a numerical asymmetry. Here, useful contrasts may be drawn with the postmodern form of professional WWE-style wrestling, in which two or three wrestlers will routinely gang up against another. More grounded in modern sporting forms, the Situationist Asger Jorn critiqued this very principle of symmetry and its basis in binary thinking with his three-sided soccer.

In basketball, there is no such thing as a penalty box, though it is not impossible for there to be a numerical discrepancy in players. Once a player earns five fouls (six in the NBA), they are ejected from the game and a different player may substitute in their stead. But if there is no substitute available, either because too many players have fouled out, because of injuries, or because the roster was incomplete in the first place, then the offending team is forced to play at a numerical disadvantage. This happens rarely in major, sanctioned league competition, but occurs quite often in less formal men's and women's recreational leagues since a team might only begin a game with 5 or 6 players.

This is not to suggest that it is necessarily better to be the team with the numerical advantage in such a situation. In fact, quite often it is the opposite since the team with extra players over-passes the ball in order to get a perfect shot, and ends up thinking rather than reacting. I can recall winning a game in men's league with three healthy players and one playing on one leg due to a severe hamstring pull, since the other team couldn't figure out how to take advantage of the situation.

But all of this is all about a particular structural form of competition. In pickup basketball, on the other hand, competition can be equally as valued, yet not as obsessive about symmetrical relations. The pickup game is always already asymmetrical by virtue of those who participate on any given occasion.

6:45 a.m., New City YMCA, Chicago
No one in this gym knows I'm keeping a "diary."
No one knows what I do for a living.
No one knows how old I am. Unless someone checks to see whether I wear a wedding band — and guys don't generally look for that kind of thing — no one knows whether I'm married.
No one knows if I have kids. Or siblings. They don't know if my parents are still alive.
What kind of car do I drive? Or do I walk to the gym? Where exactly do I live?
No one has asked. No one cares. We don't talk about it.
And that's just fine.
If we were to talk, I'm sure we would find that some of us have a lot in common — kids, jobs, interests. Some of us might become permanent friends. Happens all the time, on the court and off.
But we don't talk.
We share one interest, intensely, for about one hour, twice a week. We talk about as much as we need to. Some friendly greetings before the game, and then the chatter of the game — "nice pass … check … ball's in … foul! …"
We generally try to learn our teammates' first names before a game starts, but we don't always remember them or use them. "Good finish, Jimmy" is about as personal as it gets. Over the weeks and months, faces and names tend to become more familiar, but that doesn’t mean we’re friends.
Not every pickup game is like this. But this one is. And I like it.

(Royce Webb, SportsJones)

In modern sport, despite the best efforts of authorities, relations can never be fully symmetrical no matter how much they are codified in language. But in the case of pickup basketball, a temporary community in which the only thing in common is that the players have nothing in common, the community is entered into freely as an act of mutual consent (cf. Nancy). As the basketball player has recently come to understand though, the resultant asymmetrical relations aren't too asymmetrical and that he will cherish always.

Overexposure, Presence, Absence

Living intensively.

Take the basketball body. It reaches its pinnacle when it achieves a state of flow, when the process is more important than the product. When instrumental learning (250 jumpshots, ballhandling drills, weight training) becomes imperceptible such that it lives freely through its technology and arrives at perhaps the ultimate expression of thinking as life technique, the Gelassenheit of letting be, just living in embodied form.

Take the arena. An enclosed, spectacular, productive space. Like The Truman Show, only all are actors and all are Truman. Paradoxically, it is a safe haven, as it is the place where the basketball body can achieve flow, the place where love and hate rage can be most fully expressed in the beautiful potential of communion with other basketball bodies.

As he lives through his technologies in these moments and spaces, he finds an embodied intensity of exteroception, proprioception and interoception (Massumi). All perceptions are hyper-attuned. The affective power of an absent touch, the silent scream of revulsion at a present grasp: sublime and vulgar are perhaps not as far apart as one might think. The harsh gaze of the other — athletes, coaches, referees, spectators, TV cameras, surveillance — that soon softens to an amniotic fluid he cannot be without. In these moments and spaces he is naked yet inscribed. He is overexposed.

* * *

What about emotion? Is this beyond the affect described above? Or, as affect becomes thought, may emotion also become conscious? And in becoming conscious does it become performed and thus a form of language?

"Speak in a language that has a lot of quiet to it. Practice impossible writing. Silence is the origin of language" (Schirmacher).

The basketball player knows of the vulgar mechanization of _______, the numbing of the body as it merges with the machine-desiring (not desiring-machine) of the network, and the shards of disconnected thought _______ that mosaic the matrix of the mind _______. Yet the greatest love _______ and in the process artificial life was lived.

* * *

Heavenly bodies know all and see all. If he went on the march, Sabina would gaze down on him enraptured; she would understand that he had remained faithful to her.

(Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being / Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí)

Stupid Franz. (What can Brown do for you?™) Don't jump off the bridge after someone into a rough river when you will likely drown in the process. Don't be so emotional … calculate, dammit!

But can one calculate the obsession of the basketball player who finds his ultimate expression under the harsh-soft light of the arena as he enters a state of flow?

"Obsession makes life intensive … so long as you are capable of forgetting" (Schirmacher).

He cannot forget. His courage in the arena does not extend to his entire life technique. Nor will it. Condensation forms on the designer sunglasses he wears to the post-game press conference. Tears of a cyborg body that mask the emotions he must always conceal, repress, make absent. "For there is no end to the folly of the human heart" (Woolf).