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Archive for the day “January 17, 2013”

Trace as a Mark of Future and Past which is Neither: Thinking In Jewish VI

Trace as a Mark of Future and Past which is Neither: Thinking In Jewish VI

Trace as a Mark of Future and Past which is Neither: Thinking In Jewish VI

Being exists in existential time, neither in the past or in the future but in the now of the moment. What then appears as linear time is the leavings of the trace, that which defers to memory or to a projected future that may or may not occur. Freud thought of the trace as a reserve to protect against making dangerous investments (decisions) in the moment of existence. For Derrida, the idea of the trace is inseparable from the artifact of writing, that which records the moment by selecting what is to be remembered. The now, the moment of existential time is preserved through the primacy of writing which is inseparable from the idea of differance, a neologism representing the idea of the recorded trace that can only be found in the written word.

The trace produces a simulacrum of preserved moments, a recorded memory that, standing apart from the author, is subject to the signification brought to the page by the reader. While the text appears to be clear, there is no absolute identity or meaning contained within the words on the page. While an extracted meaning constructed by any given reader may be different than that of any other reader, no single reading nullifies the preserved text. Nothing is added or subtracted from the text; merely the contagion of differance (there it is again) is brought to bear on the text. Meaning does not reside in the signifier, rather meaning is only found in relationship to other things, perhaps another text, to a conversation, to a critique, to a piece of art. In this sense, there is no origin of any text, no original meaning; the very idea of meaning is open to radical interpretation.

What is called into question is the very idea of space and time. The text, once committed to paper (or some other relatively permanent medium), is an artifact suspended in space and time. It exists only as a record, as words on a page, pages on a shelf, until such time as one chooses to read the words contained therein. Whether the words were written yesterday or thousands of years ago, the text remains an artifact until it is unearthed and read. Only then are the boundaries of space and time breached and exposed to this very moment in time, the moment of existential time, of being itself. Coming into contact with being, the text is then articulated by a reader, given meaning relevant to that reader and leaving a trace in the very existence of that reader before it is returned to the cobwebs of obscurity, to be taken up at some other time by a different reader (even the same reader re-reading a text is a different reader.)

Let me offer some practical implications as I am beginning to formulate them:

  • The Talmud argues that the Torah is complete as it is written, that not one word, not one letter, may be added or subtracted from the text. In this sense, the Torah is an artifact of the revelation at Sinai, read and re-read in ritual cycles.
  • That being the case, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of commentaries have been written (and spoken) interpreting the meaning contained within the Torah itself, especially where the Torah itself is unclear as to meaning
  • That these implications are largely in keeping with a deconstructive reading of the Torah and that no deconstructive reading is any more valid than any other, providing their opening premis is valid and according to all available evidence, in short, a warranted assertion as to meaning is not an anything goes assertion.

I write this as I am waiting for Rabbi Mendel to arrive so we can study more together. I think these are questions I must put to him to see where my own thinking diverges or merges with his. Oh boy, this is fun.

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