synthetic zero


July 28, 2005

My dad writes me this interesting email:


I picked up an obscure book of conversations by Japanese scholars and there was one with Jacque Derrida when he came to Japan for a symposium or something before he died.  One Japanese guy's contention was basically that deconstruction notion is useless in Japan because there is no construction to deconstruct or statement to that effect.  I think Derrida wouldn't agree though as he was a guest and apparently a polite guy didn't totally object especially as he didn't know anything much about Japanese culture.  And aside from the guy who studied with Derrida in the US the other guys (there were two others) didn't really know much about Derrida though they were philosophy scholars who taught at some of the same institutions where Derrida taught such as Columbia, Yale and Irvine.

The thing that I got out of these conversations is that obviously Derrida and others realized what we tend to do in the Western societies is to work towards completion while the Japanese do not work so much towards completion as work in progress.  They don't really understand what it means to complete anything, the reason why they tend to tinker endlessly with cars or motorcycles for example.  Their products tend to become in time totally different concepts altogether without ever becoming obsolete.  Derrida did cite an example of the Izumo shrine in Japan which is rebuilt every ten years so in a sense it's always under construction.  And he cited this as an example of "deconstruction" in Japan.  Also, it became clear to me that what Derrida and other western philosophers are afraid of is that "completion" or "arrival" equates death or "revolution".  Killing and dying is a constant result of Western civilization and somehow they are trying to change it structurally from within.  The idea of void is not so much that is empty but rather it is a state of non-completeness as everything is in the process of journeying or moving.  One is afraid of stopping and the other does not understand what stopping means.

- Dad.

I think the Japanese scholar who claims Japanese don't do "construction" didn't really understand --- everyone constructs, all the time (in fact this is a basic tenet of Zen as well). However, it's certainly true that Japanese culture has a tendency to be skeptical of these constructions, not to hold onto them as tightly as other cultures do, perhaps, partly because of the influence of Zen and similar philosophies. Derrida clearly had a feel for this when he referenced that shrine.

Today had pizza at Grimaldi's, a famous brick-oven place in Brooklyn. Waited 45 minutes to get in. Worth the wait, though I have heard there is an even better pizza place in Brooklyn to try.

I'm now becoming obsessed with the idea that I should have an even nicer bike than my trusty Specialized Allez, which I love dearly. I went to the bike store today and test rode a Specialized Tarmac Comp, the cheapest version ($2200) of their Tarmac line which tops out at $7100. Specialized is known for putting high-end performance in even their bottom of the line bikes; I've felt very lucky and happy to have an excellent performer in my low-end Allez. However, I've been wondering --- how do these expensive bikes feel? So I tried it at the store --- blown away is all I can say. I was flying down the street --- so fast I wasn't sure if I'd even reached Houston when I found I was already at Canal. This, after a long, tiring day of biking around the Central Park a few times and almost all the way down to the bottom tip of Manhattan, yet on this bike my legs still felt fresh, I could sprint up and down these streets. There's something really wonderful about the idea that one can transport oneself, without needing to buy gallons and gallons of gas, at relatively high speeds... and a beautifully designed machine, a bicycle, can make you feel as though you're being propelled, even though the motive force is your body.

July 22, 2005

In the local bodega:

Storekeeper: It's very nice weather, isn't it?

Woman: Oh, it's so hot.

Storekeeper: Just wait until it's winter, you'll wish it were summer! (pause) Human nature is never satisfactory [sic]... (smiles, rocking back on his heels) ... We're always moving around.

What a great choice of words: "always moving around." He didn't mean physically -- he meant that we are always moving; feeling as though we need to move from the situation we are in to another one that is supposedly better. (This in itself not necessarily bad --- it's the nature of being alive. But not seeing the humor in it: that can be sort of bad.)

Amber writes:

Writing should be a search, a quest through words, whose only direction is the beyond of words – life in its pure sacred immanence...
I agree, but on the other hand, everything is in the direction beyond words, whether it seems to be or not. Still, it's worth it to keep the "beyond words" in mind, if you can; I find it easy to live there, but harder to write about it. The words seem so frail, so incapable of even touching the vastness I feel in a single fractured instant. Even "instant" doesn't cover it, because there are infinities in the partial folds of every cracked moment --- experience comes as layers upon layers of fleeting stuttering flashes, not a continuous flow, which is a composite illusion, persistence of vision.

Saw Howl's Moving Castle last night: good movie to see in the summer heat.

July 19, 2005

Many questions can be answered, but one cannot: why is there something rather than nothing? If there was absolutely nothing, it wouldn't even be nothing, since there would be no "something" to contrast it with. Absolutely no reference points whatsoever. There wouldn't even be a void, a receptacle for something. There would just be ... nothing. Brianna, I know you're reading this. What do you think?

July 13, 2005

Asha sends me this endlessly distracting link: tetka.

July 6, 2005

Back from Canada and lovely Portland. I can't express everything that has happened right now, but I will post this quote:

Everything is not real.
-waiter at the Pukk vegetarian Thai restaurant