On Snowflakes

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Snowflake

“Occurrence itself – or origin – is ‘communication’, sperm and egg slide into each other in the heart of the sexual storm.” [Bataille. “Games of Chance” – Guilty]

Descartes, in 1635, sketched snowflakes. He observed the Amsterdam snowflakes, sketched them and took notes; to use a pun, he waxed, meditatively. He observes:

These were little plates of ice, very flat, very polished, very transparent, about the thickness of a sheet of rather thick paper…but so perfectly formed in hexagons, and of which the six sides were so straight, and the six angles so equal, that it is impossible for men to make anything so exact.
I only had difficulty to imagine what could have formed and made so exactly symmetrical these six teeth around each grain in the midst of free air and during the agitation of a very strong wind, until I finally considered that this wind had easily been able to carry some of these grains to the bottom or to the top of some cloud, and hold them there, because they were rather small; and that there they were obliged to arrange themselves in such a way that each was surrounded by six others in the same plane, following the ordinary order of nature.

Six years later, Descartes would go on a meditative journey through the inferno of scepticism, questioning that very same order of nature, the perfect form, and the obligation he perceived in the snowflakes. Descartes’ encounter with the snowflakes, however—most probably due to the limited knowledge of the time—, is a missed encounter. Perhaps (and I only say this to compel you to read on) his whole philosophy, his scepticism and his dualism would have been altered if he had noticed the disorder inherent in the formation of every snowflake, the aleotary pregnancy of clouds at freezing points. Perhaps if Descartes “saw” this, he would have renounced God as the soul mediator between him and his fellow man and never penned an ideology of radical doubt. And it is no secret that in secular terms radical doubt becomes hope.

No two snowflakes are alike—Descartes missed this. Humanity’s dire need for explanation often projects purpose on symmetry, an order to disorder, and identity to difference. No two snowflakes are alike, and not because there is a unique order to each one, but precisely the opposite, there is a unique disorder: the temperate disorder of that multiple Mother we call Nature.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden also evades this in Fight Club: “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” Palahniuk a la Durden is committed to an adolescent reading of Nietzsche (Nietzsche as the philosopher of angst and teenage nihilism), and his renouncing of the uniqueness of snowflakes-as-identity is only true as a fascist-breeding argument against consumerism (does not Tylder Durden typify the heterogeneous sovereign head of fascism par excellence, commanding a homogeneous army which, through David Fincher’s lens, is follow the neo-Nazi archetype?)

Both René and Chuck miss the point of the snowflake, the former in his assertion that it’s ordered (or intelligently designed), the latter in his belittling of its uniqueness—as if it’s ordered and programmed by the consumer apparatus of late capitalism. “You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else” (star dust?); yet there’s an aleotary element. A snowflake is only a snowflake due its chaotic journey between cold and colder temperatures, between different levels of pressure, between different wind speeds as it falls and between the different surfaces it lands on. Temperate mother, change me with a gust of wind.

…And how different Noor can be the next time, as I am, as you are…we journey from chance to necessity everyday. The condition of existence are contingent – coexistent.

***

The subway opens its doors.

Noor sits on my lap, he wears a pink wig. The artificial hair reaches his shoulders, his fingers are still stained with paint.

“How do you like my eccentricity, mother?” He laughs. I ignore him. “You wanted me to change didn’t you? Or does this change bother you, father?” He continues.

“How did you art exhibition in Beirut go?” I ask him.

“Well I’m in New York now, so Beirut loved it! They loved me!” He hangs like a monkey on the subways car’s ceiling railing.

“I’m glad to hear that, I’m proud of you.” I have never seen any of his paintings.

“Well of course you are, you created me,” he chuckles, “but Beirut, the people she loves and makes famous, she shits out. We’re the excrement of its society. All our poetry and paintings – we’re the world’s best sewage system. If you’re loved, you’re left. Right out to the Mediterranean…we are not the window, we are the anus and the mouth.”

“Tell me more,” I want to discover.

“About the anus and mouth? Or about my screaming and shitting?”

“About your painting Noor. Try to describe it to me.”

“You always ask for the impossible.”

“And that’s why you should answer!”

“All right then, here’s one I call “Embroiled in Fate””

We reached our destination, and out of the subway station, skidding icy streets, we went. Noor started to speak.

To be continued.
Coming Soon: Embroiled in Fate

“[…] that one necessarily ends up speaking of communication by grasping that communication pulls the rug out from under the object as well as from under the subject (this is what becomes clear at the summit of communication, when there is communication between subject and object of the same type, between two cells, between two individuals).”

“Communication still is, like anguish, to live and to know. The extreme limit of the ‘possible’ assumes laughter, ecstasy, terrified approach towards death; assumes error, nausea, unceasing agitation of the ‘possible’ and the impossible and, to conclude – broken, nevertheless, by degrees, slowly desired – the state of supplication, its absorption into despair. Nothing of what man can know, to this end, could be evaded without degradation, without sin (I think, by taking a more negative view of the situation, the stakes being ultimate, of the worst of disgraces, of desertion: for one who has felt himself to be called once, there is no further reason, further excuse; he can only remain where he is)” (Bataille – “The Torment” from Inner Experience]

800px-Sketch_of_snow_crystal_by_René_Descartes

Sketch of Snow Crystal by Rene Descartes

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