… as Jacques Derrida tries never to let us forget, is that « to have a friend, to look at him, to follow him with your eyes, to admire him in friendship, is to know in a more intense way, already injured, always insistent, and more and more unforgettable, that one of the two of you will inevitably see the other die ».
That, as he teaches us, the very limit of friendship — when the friend is no longer with you, at least in person — is also its very condition.
That, without the risk not of death — which is not so much a risk as an inevitability — but the risk of loss, of being the one who is unfortunate enough not to have died, of being the one without the other whom one calls, has called, one’s friend, there is no possibility of friendship itself.
But here, one should bear in mind — even if this might always be a burden on one — that everyone dies twice: once bodily; the other time, when one is forgotten.
One would like to think that the two are sequential, but for those of us who are less fortunate, one can well be forgotten long before one is dead.
One can well be erased.
Which is not to say that forgetting can be willed: if that were so, as Nietzsche — perhaps somewhat ironically — reminds us, we might all finally be happy.
But one can always be renamed:
be un-friended, as it were.
Where what is implied is that — what this renaming brings forth is the notion that — one is no longer worth the risk. That calling you my friend brings with it implications, complications, perhaps even contaminations, that one is no longer willing to bear.
To the extent that thinking plunges into the night of non-knowledge, a wide range of surprise attacks ensue, bringing about not only what oppresses, but also unanticipated délices, the tremors of sensation that incite newness, stirring everything that we can’t be sure of — the unrecognizable, the future, mutations in being, unaccountable aggressions, the ceaseless dreariness of worry, the sparkles of caress …
— Avital Ronell
After all, as my dear teacher — as Avi — always reminded me, one has to keep in mind, respect the possibility that, the movement of thought and our bodies are potentially entwined. That since thought quite possibly moves, we might have to move along to it, perhaps with it. A moving that we were attempting during many of our walks; for, many of her teaching moments were conducted as we were walking in, meandering through, the woods of Saas Fee.
A walk that was always a little away, apart from the maddening crowd, as it were. Thinking with a little distance from everyone else, from all else.
For, one should bear in mind that the role of the teacher is distinctly anti-public, anti polis. As Socrates reminds us, the role of philosophy is the corruption of youth; not by turning them away from what is good — for, the one who loves wisdom is also a lover of beauty, truth — but by opening in them the love of wisdom, by opening the possibilities of and for thought, thinking, questioning. And here, we should attempt not to forget that when he was speaking of love, Socrates was referring specifically to philia: two way, in relation with, whilst never claiming to fully know another, whilst being open to the possibility of the other. Which suggests that this is a relationship that is reasoned, reasonable, within the boundaries of rationality; but, at the same time, always also open to the unknown, the potentially unknown, to the potentiality of the unknowable. And, we must try not to forget that even though this is a relationship of love, it is not haphazard, not completely reliant on chance: there is craft, discipline, tekhnē, involved.
But even as there is craft in thinking, even as there is method in this journey of thought, Socrates teaches us that wisdom only comes to one from elsewhere, from beyond; only comes to one at the point where the daemon whispers in one’s ear. Which means that even as one can attempt to teach another, that even as one might be able to be taught, be open to the possibility of being taught, the teaching is limited to the manner in which one might approach wisdom — one is not, perhaps cannot be, taught wisdom as such.
And if teaching, and learning, involves an approach, involves craft, this suggests that it requires practise; that it is only through constant repetition, praxis, that one might even begin to develop the skills required to open oneself to the possibility of the whisper. For, as Socrates never lets us forget, at the point when one hears the daemon, it is the craft that becomes art — nothing is said of the craftsman.
There is no artist;
only the gestures of the possibility of art.
At the point of wisdom, there is no teacher;
only gestures of the possibility of teaching.
Which might be why Avi didn’t tell, never sought to impose upon, to impart even, but instead always only conducted the flow of our thoughts as we moved — listening to its rhythm, its rises and falls, its tempo, its time. For, we should try to keep in mind that the teacher — the pedagogue — only guides, leads the ones, being taught: it is not a direct transference of information, or even knowledge, but a leading by example, as it were. Where the habits of the teacher — and by extension the teacher’s body, her habitus — is the very site of the teaching. Where, as Martin Heidegger teaches us, the true role of a teacher is to demonstrate learning: a teacher is one who learns better, and through watching her teacher learn, through repeatedly seeing her teacher learn, through mimesis, the student learns to learn.
Which means that: the teacher and the student are in a relation; where they are both open to the possibility of learning — and the site of this potential learning is in, is on, their bodies.
Which brings us back to love.
And the fact that love is the very condition of learning.
In the precise sense that even as the one who teaches professes — allowing all echoes of faith, unknowability, whispers of the divine even, to resound here — (s)he is always also an amateur. The one who teaches is the one that loves, is one in love (amore).
Bearing in mind that love always entails a risk —
it is never safe; and the one in love opens herself, subjects himself, to its dangers.
For, as Anne Dufourmantelle — dear dear Anne — continues to teach us, « l’amour, ici j’ose risquer le mot, avec appréhension certes, est un art de la depéndance. Il suppose donc que l’on s’y risqué ».
Which means that each moment of love is quite possibly already un pas au-delà; a step beyond and also a not-beyond, at exactly the same time.
Which also means that we can never quite know if we actually know. That truly knowing is always already also unknowable, might well lie in the unknown.
Thus, perhaps it is not just that knowing that we know is unknowable, but that unknowability is not only the limit but always also the condition of knowledge itself. That, the foundation of knowledge is its unknown, is a non-foundation; where unknowability is not its antonym, but its own foregrounding of its limits each time it professes, testifies to its knowing, to knowledge. Which means that each profession of knowledge is always also knowledge testifying to itself, bringing itself forth, a telling of itself — attempting to narrate what it is.
So, always also a moment of fiction,
A writing of itself.
Oh my friends,
there is no friend …
— Aristotle, according to Montaigne
Remember me …
Not only because friendship is not an eidos, a universal idea, to be applied, nor just that friendship is a relationship between the two or more in that relation (and thus, there cannot be a friend as such, only friends brought forth in what we call friendship). But, more importantly, that in every friendship, there is already the friend whom we have lost.
For, since one neither has control over what one forgets, nor is there an object to forgetting, not only can forgetting happen at any time, each act of memory, each moment of remembering, might well bring with it forgetting.
Which might well be why daddy Hamlet is pleading to be remembered: not just so that vengeance for his murder can be obtained, but that his name can be restored. For, he quite possibly realises that without being remembered in the proper way (in this case, in the way in which he thinks he should be remembered), without recalling, constantly calling out the fact, that he is the proper King, without being remembered in the way that he thinks is proper to him, he is not so much forgotten, but re-membered in other ways.
Which opens the possibility that remembering is always also an act of translation — a movement between possible memories.
And here, it might be helpful to recall Hubertus von Amelunxen’s beautiful reminder that, « every translation signifies the space-between, the gap, the historical chasm or the repression of history; translation is the most cautious form of communication since there is always the inherent admission of a certain departure and an uncertain arrival ».
Which might well be why even as we remember a friend, our friend, there is a certain inevitability that (s)he is already lost: not as such — nothing so dramatic, or banal — but lost to the one who remembers; lost in the very moment (s)he is being remembered.
All whilst trying not to forget Freud’s reminder — one which comes to us through, is transferred to us via, Judith Butler — that, « when we lose someone, we do not always know what it is in that person that has been lost. So when one loses, one is also faced with something enigmatic: something is hiding in the loss, something is lost within the recesses of loss. If mourning involves knowing what one has lost (and melancholia originally meant, to a certain extent, not knowing), then mourning would be maintained by its enigmatic dimension, by the experience of not knowing incited by losing what we cannot fully fathom ».
Oh my friend, there is no friend :
quite possibly not only an accusation, a complaint, but always also a lamentation. An I wish there were a friend …
Or perhaps — at least, there is a possibility of it being — an: even though « there is no friend », I am naming you, calling you, « my friend ».
Where perhaps friend is nothing other — and infinitely nothing less — than a name:
a name for another that one loves; a name naming nothing other than the possibility of friendship itself.
For Avital — my friend.
Keeping in mind that when one writes, that as I write, the word friend — after all, I should take responsibility for my inscriptions — we should bear in mind Avi’s reminder — even take responsibility for the fact — that « writing creates strange destinations and unassigned deviations, makes things happen and rouse out of a subterranean slumber ».
Even if there might well be no way that one can be held accountable for these unassigned deviations, these very destinations.
Even if there might well be some of « my friends » who will decide — based on my inscriptions, my declaration of friendship — that I am no longer their friend, that I am « no friend ».
But that is the risk I will take.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.
Jeremy Fernando reads, and writes; and is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and his, more than twenty, books include Reading Blindly, Living with Art, Writing Death, and in fidelity. His writing has also been featured in magazines and journals such as Arte al Límite, Berfrois, CTheory, Full Bleed, Qui Parle, TimeOut, Voice & Verse, and VICE, amongst others; and has been translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Serbian. Exploring other media has led him to film, music, and the visual arts; 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.