Monday, November 23, 2009

The Self in Motion

Historians of psychology tell us that the self is contingent. That is, the idea of what it means to be a self is different, in different eras, places and times. Aeschylus’s self looks outward and finds its meaning in community. Augustine’s self is internal and searches every crevice of inner life for an authentic expression. And the modern or post modern self in America is empty.

Forces surrounding the continuous rise and crisis of capital have shown us that every attempt at meaning is essentially meaningless, that every great story or redeeming narrative from tradition is no better than any other. Everything that was once foundational has been redacted into the veneer of an ad campaign. The American Revolution? Are you talking about Chevrolet trucks?

Yes, this is the era of emptiness. And there is nothing to be done in such a jilted age other than buy stuff. The emptiness, so the story goes, can be filled up, for a time, by things that you can buy. Like self help books, trips to Disney, and motorcycles.

In the saddle of my newest machine, the Pharmacon Atlas, I think that maybe the jaded archaeologists of selfhood are right. The blight that tore at me during my convalescence was lifted a bit the moment I got on the bike for the first time. It was sleek, familiar and yet new, like people wish their lovers could be. It was rolling on spent rubber and in the buying of it I experienced a golden moment of happiness and bright possibility. Fill me up, object. I have missed you.

The engine was strong and it cared not that every muscle I used to ride a bike had atrophied since my wreck. I took it from dealership to home in absolute terror that every car, truck and lorry on the road would betray me and sideswipe me into oblivion. Every time I applied the brakes my wrist ached and when I got home I discovered it swollen beneath the brace. I should not have ridden it. Probably I should not have ridden it the days after as well. But what force can be more normative in this age than immediate jouissance?