I’ll write of our sexuality so intensely—Eros so elaborately—you’ll be amazed, I suppose (though I’m not interested in amazing you, rather in a full phenomenology of bodied atmospheres). I will capture the heart of Literature, psychalogy [sic], and “existential” philosophy in a height of all that can be said of somatic play.
But not today. Yet, the thought occurs to me as I’m witnessing the ambiance while eating a slice of Cheeseboard pizza (not a sexy moment, I know) before grocery shopping, after my Saturday coffee at Peet’s up the way, each time there still occupied with a few pages of Peggy Kamuf’s To Follow: the wake of Jacques Derrida because I only open her book for the few minutes of coffee. So, traversing her recollections is taking forever, fine. “To look him in the eyes was to see someone seeing you see, which sounds a bit dizzying,…” (72)
…and perhaps it was, but I would say rather that one had then the physical sensation of trembling in the awareness of being more-than-one to see. His gaze held yours, did not let it disappear into the merely seen or looked at of an object of perception. Wordlessly his eyes said: you are another, altogether other, looking now at me. This quality of the gaze was neither transfixing nor piercing, but…expansive and moving. It moved one into the open space where one’s own look does not return to itself and can never see itself.—as if affirming a “blindness” (a very Derridean theme) in joys of disclosure.
Indeed for Jacques, writes Peggy, “the central trait of every self-portrait is blindness. The blind man or woman would thus be the supreme figure of the artist.”
We find each other in the dark with all our senses that absence of light may heighten. Entwining arms and legs, a metonym of woven selves (at best), serve listening and feeling expression that may move all the times of our lives into a singular geotrophy, lovely fabrications, and all elations.
“…[A] gaze or eyes that touched one as if they were fingers…,” figuring, implying sensibility embracing saucy darkness, I’d think, in love with all possible transposing beyond tangible geologies (e.g., literal gardens).
His great text on the sense of touch at the heart of the work of his friend Jean-Luc Nancy begins with just such an image[, sans my transposing,] in the form of a phrase that, he writes, invaded and touched him before he saw it coming: “When our eyes touch, is it day or is it night?” (Touching, 2)….He asks: “let’s see, can eyes manage to touch, first of all, to press together like lips?” (ibid.). He who pretends to ask that question would surely have known that, yes, they could—and they did.Her phrasing recalls to me Heidegger’s rubric, during his “Conversation on a country path”: a “regioning of that which regions,” like a radiant gravity, starring some mind’s telic cohering, I say.
I will mention one last trait about the immeasurable radius of Derrida’s radiance at the gatherings his work made happen….
His taste for laughter never seemed to fail him,….and indeed in all his writings, laughter punctuates even the most serious discussions….a sustaining tone always running in the background….From our backstage we wrote in the dark, we improvise to others’ need to believe in literality (without literarity) and lightness dimly touched by insight.
All of the public events with Jacques that I recall, including all the weekly seminars I attended in Paris or at UC Irvine, were visited by bursts of laughter, usually provoked by his own exuberant sense of wonderful absurdities and ironies or by his incomparable attention to the surprises of language. With each outburst, one sensed his immense joy in being alive to and with others.