Thursday, October 8, 2009

I ain't got no soul

I'm a materialist, though I'll cop to being pretty ignorant about what that means. Still, because of my beliefs I find it hard to see any value in discussing the soul in a serious way (rather than as dramatic-license style handwavium, say), which is why I'm not sure about the value of Ramon Fernandez's essay* 'In Search of the Self' beyond providing the quotation (from somewhere in the Search--exactly where, I don't know) you'll find below.

The quotation, which I had to chew over several times before I could get anything out of it, is worth your time, particularly if you view it as similar to the point of view of a Doll being wiped and imprinted. I'm uncomfortable with all the wiping too.

At whatever moment we consider it, our total soul has only an almost fictitious value, in spite of the numerous tally of its riches, for now some, then others, are unavailable, and this, by the way, just as much whether they be actual riches or those of the imagination. . . For to the cloudiness of memory are linked the intermittences of the heart. It is doubtless through the existence of our body, similar for us to a vase in which our spirituality might be enclosed, that we are induced to suppose that all out internal goods, our past joys, all our sufferings, are perpetually in our possession. Perhaps it is just as incorrect to believe that they get away or come back. Anyhow if they remain in us, most of the time they do so in an unknown domain where they are of no service to us, and where even the most usual ones are pushed back my recollections of a different order which exclude all simultaneity with them in consciousness. But if the frame of sensations in which they are preserved is caught again, they in their turn are endowed with that same power of expelling all that is incompatible with them, of installing solely in us the ego which lived them. Now as he whom I had suddenly rebecome had not existed since that distant evening on which my grandmother had undressed me upon my arrival at Balbec, it was quite naturally, not after the present day which that ego was unaware of, but--as if there were, in time, different and parallel series--without any solution of continuity, at once after the first evening of yesteryear, that I was adhering to the minute in which my grandmother had leaned towards me.

A few comments:

The emphases are Fernandez's rather than Proust's. They do help you find your way through the paragraph.

There's nothing hinky going on with the grandmother--just think of the narrator remembering his experience as a little boy.

The bit about the 'ego which lived them' being 'installed in us' is pretty on the nose for what happens in the Dollhouse chair, isn't it? I wonder what kinds of things were installed before software. Paintings mostly, I guess.

Isn't it funny that the 'different and parallel series' might make you think of Buffy and Angel?

An essay by Marguerite Krause, available for the next week on, about Angel's soul, reminds me that all this business of soul-swapping and Doll-wiping and soul-seeking (not just soul-searching) can be thought of as one continuous meditation on the nature of the self.

*found in Proust: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Rene Girard, Prentice-Hall 1962

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