Preliminary Expressions

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Beirut:

by Youssef Doughan

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with the rhizome and the word was multiplicity.

I have been thinking of Noor for a long period of time. He’d only appear fragmented, as if whatever material created him held the intensive potential of forming only bits and pieces of his body; was my imagination just another abortion? A paternal imagination lacks the maternal components needed for perfection, or at least, completion. It wasn’t until chance whispered the ruinous lyrics that a muse came to my assistance, and Noor presented himself to me completely. I fell to level zero, to a place with no differentiation between a phallic one—author, authority, father —weighed down by the immanence of his pathetic image. He looked old; few strands of grey hair sprung below his bowler hat. His eyes didn’t seem to move together symmetrically. His clean-shaven face revealed the wrinkles a life of toil and work would provide. But his fingers were smudged with an array of colours mixed together; his fingernails were dark as if he had touched the end of the rainbow and caused the collapse and merging of the seven colours. His hand reached out to his glasses and he took them off as if he didn’t need them, as if my imagination was at fault to put them on his face. He threw the glasses away and looked at me with a sense of disbelief and murderous horror. His sharp eyes made it seem as if I’d illegally nailed him to a reality he didn’t wish to be part of, and with a quick sudden movement, he kicked me to the ground and stomped on my body with successive superhuman stamps. But the floor was also a wall.

Noor took me underground and I saw the rhizome.

In the 1970s the power of words exhibited itself like a Shakespearean fool. But like every performance which dares to open up a space for change, its reception was violent.

The Rhizome is the hidden content of every plant. It lies underground and survives fires and fungus and parasitic insects. It connects to everything around it, to the rock and soil, to the roots of vegetation, to the bases of buildings and the ruins of ancient civilizations. It is like a vine, but it does not climb; it simply spreads like the heat of the black sun. One cannot demarcate neither beginning nor end. All of it seems like a massive middle-part, different plateaus connecting to each other like a neural network. It has no centre, and no organization. It is a multitude of labyrinths stringed together; each entrance is an exit, and each exit an entrance. On each gate, Ariadne’s thread becomes a part of Penelope’s web. The Rhizome network flows like the movement of nomads across vast deserts; the mapping of their movement spells out multiplicity; and the multiplicity excludes any possible trace of a victorious one over another.

In the 1970s multiplicity was misunderstood for the dividing line of a bipolar separation. Multiplicity became the opposite of unity. Blood was shed in excess, and the war had the quality of excessive consumption and not of conquest, as if the sun would cease to blaze if the bombs had stopped; the sun, they thought, was the fruit of their bloody madness.

“The sun is black!” Stray dogs howled as they scampered through the rubble of the continuously destroyed city. When rubble had covered the earth like the veil of Maya and nothing was left to destroy, the bombs headed elsewhere. The streets, resting after a period of explosive exhaustion, slowly witnessed a rite of spring in the form of greenery, and the deathly Green Line sprouted; the rhizome expressed itself through the green shrubbery. It grew along the long horizontal street, not longing for the sun or the stars.

Beirut/New York:

Van Gogh would be ever more frustrated today; neither his brush strokes nor his cypress trees would or could satisfy this city. He’d cut off both ears, and all in vain. While arbour forests reach out vertically towards a sky, and the city of yesterday mirrored such growth, the city of today deceives. Don’t be mistaken by the façade of tall buildings: this city is the tain of the mirror; it identifies with difference and expands virulently in all directions like a rhizome. At each point, larval, embryonic, with the potential to trap within it all kinds of manifestations. But the manifest image remains voluptuous like Andres Serrano’s lower lip swelling like the reception of Piss Christ and Tarantino’s hackneyed brilliance: the space of previous products displayed in homage of a past still expanding and mushrooming like a drop of ink in water. The murderers of Guy Ritchie’s London crime sagas infuse it with a comic charm that seduces every observer. And every observer necessarily becomes an actor; and actors sustain the part. Of course, all of us actors know that we would not be seduced if we did not allow it. There is beauty in the hospitality we see in the tain of the mirror, the hospitality of no-reflection. “Be what you want to be,” the city tells me, “on condition that you don’t try to represent me.” So Van Gogh cuts off both of his ears when he looks at the tain of the mirror. 

New York:

The subway station is humid; putrid smell, disgust enters nostrils and fills the pores of the skin. Rats on the tracks squeak, I await the train, thinking of Noor, a link to Beirut I forge out of necessity, but not in any dutiful or obligatory manner. Noor, my being-there without being-there, I supplicate through him, joy and answers to host of unanswerable questions.

My snow boots weigh heavy on my ankles and there’s yet a rime to see. The pouring is liquid still. An accordion starts playing, stray notes, as if experimenting, but only building up. Black coloured nails touch the keyboard on the right, wine coloured nails press the buttons on the left. The sound is slowly congealing, solidifying – outside, there is silence, no passing cars; hail is formulating – and the song gathers itself around these discordant notes.

Recognition. The body behind the accordion moves, dances, swivels. Lux Aeterna causes shivers as it sounds from the accordion, punched by black and wine nails. This experience, the end of all possibility—and at once, solidification, falling snow, ecstasy and communication—and there is nothing; there is no one.

To be continued.
Coming Soon: On Snowflakes

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