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Tag Archives: Thymotics

The Limb-loosener of Rilke: The Torso of Dis/Integration

 

In my last post on the limb-loosening powers of Eros discussion flowed in two directions, over at Complete Lies, and then a bit in my comments section. The principle question is whether jouissance as an unbearable pleasure, something that would turn to pain if sustained, is the model for what the drive is. My sense is that just qualified “pleasure” is a sign of intensity beyond the limits of the system, so to speak, but that these are or can be modulated. What came to mind was Rilke’s terrific (literally) poem of Apollo’s torso that is fittingly limbless (and paralyzed). It calls to mind the Thymos (and its correspondent deinos) that burning core physiological ember that Greeks felt in their breast, and Sloterdijk’s Thymotics [written about here]. What happens beneath limbs that have been loosened:

Archaic Torso of Apollo

 We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

 

gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.

 

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced

beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders

and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

 

would not, from all the borders of itself,

burst like a star: for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.

The poem is nearly unspeakable. Commentary, like hanging cloth on marble. Yet I came across this odd animation of Rilke himself reading the poem, culled from the past of voice and photograph, uncannily brought to life with over-modern software now at the hands of memory. Talk about ghosting the poem, itself a kind of singing torso:

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

 

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

 

Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz

unter der Shultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

 

und brächte nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

 

Some alternate translations offered here.

And another animation of Rilke’s “Der Panther” by the same fellow here.

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The Bristling of Wheat, The Warming of the Thymos

I was talking with my wife today about how our Cattle Dog pup’s fur bristles with fear/excitment when she steps out at night and smells the air, to howl or bark. She was saying how we all know what this feels like, despite our species differences, and what came to mind were a wonderful word-image of Homer’s on how the thymos of an angered man can come to be “warmed” or “softened”. This has consequences I believe for a general theory of Thymotics, as I joined Sloterdijk to advocate perhaps a different notion of economy. 

…and his spirit (thumos)
was warmed (ianthē), just like the dew upon the ears of corn
of a ripening crop, when the ploughlands are bristling (phrissō):
even so, Menalaos, was the spirit (thumos) in your heart warmed (ianthē)
Trans. Nicholas Richardson (Chapter 23 @ line 600)

Richardson translates these lines beautifully, showing their circular structure. The image is that of a thumos (heart, spirit, passion) that upon being warmed by the sun, simply evaporates, bringing the crops to grow. This is in restorative relation to the other images of desire, earlier in the Iliad describe as being vapor-like (kapnos) in the context of loss: the honey-sweet thumos that waxes like kapnos in anger at 18.110 where Achilles savors his anger over his lost Patroklus, and then Patroklus’ psuchē which goes into the earth like kapnos vapor, where Achilles cannot grasp it, 23.100. Instead here, in the shadow of Achilles’s adjudication, the thumos is warmed like dew is, under a divine sun. The bristling of the corn-wheat, phrissousin, has rich meaning; the word can mean anything from physically bristling to having a chill or a shudder, or even holy awe.

What does it take to see the whole world as bristling?