26 January 2009

roland barthes is a good coffee talker

The Absent One

absence/ absence

Any episode of language which stages the absence of the loved object--whatever its cause and its duration--and which tends to transform this absence into an ordeal of abandonment.

I have returned to this text several times, and have not gotten very far into it for many reasons. But this venture, I got stuck in this discussion of absence. Ghosts, absence, shadows, skeletons, fossils--all of these things have been clamoring around and I think I have found a great question for myself.

"Now, absense can exist only as a consequence of the other: it is the other who leaves, it is I who remain. The other is in a condition of perpetual departure, of journeying; the other is, by vocation, migrant, fugitive; I-- I who love, by converse vocation, am sedentary, motionless, at hand, in expectation, nailed to the spot, in suspense--like a package in some forgotten corner of a railway station. Amorous absence functions in a single direction, expressed by the one who stays, never by the one who leaves: an always present I is constituted only by the confrontation with an always absent you," (13)

My main interest in this passage comes purely from the basic understanding that "I" is defined by "other" and how that relationship pans out in human interactions. Putting aside the broken heart's longing, I see this in terms of physical bodies moving through space. One body, the "I", is the point of reference so that the literal "other" body is the one that consistently stays in motion, stays in absence. But stepping away from this for a moment and thinking in terms of my own travels for the days/weeks/months/years, I have to see the point of reference not being the "I" or the "other" but being a location where the two bodies interact.

If it is a space/location/place that becomes the reference point, then what happens to the "I" in relation to the "other". It would seem that I have become just as transient and absent as the other. In fact, if the other has stronger ties to the location than I, it can be said that I am the absence as I continually depart and journey away.

My question in essence then becomes, where is the I and where is the other if both fit the model of the transient? Is there a point where I and the other intersect and both become others? Or would that not happen if I-other must exist as opposites?

I am intrigued by this switching of identities because it seems to be less hopeless than barthes suggests. Essentially he sets up the Lover-I to be in constant anxiety and agony over the vanishing Other. Again, setting aside the heart's longing, I feel this back and forth may be changed if the projection of self is changed.

Rather than define I based on a vanishing you, I feel an interesting take is to define I on an intended location for both I and other. One location, with one time and in one space.

But after all of this is said, I'm not sure if I'm far off from what Barthes was getting at in the first place.

I suppose this is just a thought about how I consider myself to be the dynamic, transient entity in this mix and in my pattern of travel and life, it is I who leaves the others. And if I buy Barthes' logic, then I've become other. It's got holes, but I can't get it out of my head.

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