Against Binaries

One of the greatest understandings I ever had of salvation came from Nagarjuna . Nagarjuna says, “as long as you are capable of distinguishing between Moksha and Samsara, you are in Samsara.” Salvation is a situation where you know that the thin line of separation that existed between things have evaporated. Salvation is possible, perhaps only when we ease all the binaries that are binding us. Fall of humanity must be defined as a fall into two possibilities of one reality. We are always confronted with an either/or. Is there a way to embrace all the possibilities of a reality ? At least is there a way to not be in binary?
What are the stifling binaries we are confronting every day? These are the monstrous dualism we see around: Body/mind, man/woman, young/old, self/other, pure/impure, part/whole, Being/being. These are the categories that prevent us from achieving the wholeness we destined to achieve. The value of sacraments lie in abolishing the binaries: Baptism makes everyone children, marriage makes man and woman of one body. Philosopher Julia Kristeva appreciates this sacramentality of religion. She recommends, In Strangers To Ourselves, that “we surmount the theocratic dualisms of pure and impure, Saved and damned, native and stranger; for she argues, such dualisms lead to sacrificial scapegoating and war. The big work of our civilisation is to fight this hatred – without God.”
Our identities become a slavery when they confine us to a category diametrically oppose to another category. It is something Susan Sontag, a hugely influential writer, senses. She writes, ” The young-old polarisation and the male-female polarisation are perhaps the two leading stereotypes that imprison people.” This polarisation denies us two ways of perceiving and feeling and constrain us to single cottages of existence stitched with safety pins. When our fluid existence is intransigently flattened into a label, it becomes a violence to another mode of living. Sontag resist this stereotyping because of its inherent violence, ” the values associated with youth and with masculinity are considered to be the human norms, and anything else is taken to be at least less worthwhile or inferior. Old people have a terrific sense of inferiority. They’re embarrassed to be old. What you can do when you are old and what you can do when you are young is as arbitrary and without much basis as what you can do if you’re a woman or what you can do if you’re a man ”
when the word continues to divide itself along racial lines, nationality, religion and culture , we have to grasp the fact they are inventions made to exclude others. Binaries are exclusions. Sontag turns against this exclusive nature of binaries, ” For people to understand themselves in this way seems to be very destructive, and also very culpabilizing. These stereotypes of thought versus feeling, heart versus head, male versus female were invented at a time when people were convinced that the world was going in a certain direction – that is toward technocracy, rationalisation, science, and so on – but they were all invented as a defence against Romantic values.”
Derrida attacks the insidious predicament of binaries. As a poststructuralist, Derrida condemns the belief that all the binaries are natural. Derrida’s Point is that they are imposed and they are the reasons of hierarchies. Light is before dark and right is before left because they are inherent in a given structure of a given culture is the idea that light is better than dark and right is better than left. This is absurd and this is a human construct. Derrida thinks that by destroying the hierarchy, we can erase the line between the binary oppositions.
In his essay “The Restricted to General Economy” he emphasizes that a “master” cannot exist without a “slave” and that in some sense because a slave is no longer bound by the responsibility to maintain life like a “master” he is actually a “master” while the “master” becomes a “slave” to those things that maintain life! He goes even further by showing that these binary oppositions are absurd because you would never understand master without slave, white without black, light without dark, etc.
Derrida uses ‘deconstruction’ to expose the wrongful preconceptions and contradictions buried in our use of language. Smith defines deconstruction as “a deeply affirmative mode of critique attentive to the way in which texts, structures and institutions marginalise and exclude ‘the other’, with a view to reconstructing and reconstituting institutions and practices to be more just”. Along with deconstruction Derrida uses another concept,’ presence ‘ which means “what is most real, true or important is what is most Present.”Most language will speak of generic human as “he” For Derrida, this Signifies that the language has horribly fallen into the trap of believing that there is certain ‘ideal’ that must be followed. In this case, masculinity would be the Ideal over against femininity. This is absurd according to him. There is no concept of “he” if not for the equal and opposite “she.” Therefore , masculine pronoun as the ideal pronoun signifies a mistaken concept of “presence.”
According to Laruelle The Real which is also the One is an instance which is beyond the dichotomy of Matter and Idea, beyond the dichotomy of Body and Mind. Laruelle renounces the philosophy of Hegel which progresses on the confrontation between thesis and antithesis. Laruelle knows that nothing good will ever come from confronting its own anteriority.
By seeking to destroy binaries and dualisms, we don’t annul the difference that exists between man and woman or body and mind. Dual is acceptable because it provides an avenue for thinking about two-ness without resorting to relationship. What is not acceptable is a binarical nelahonship which glorifies one at the expense of the other. According to Laruelle twoness is overcome by oneness; the transcendental is overcome by immanence.
Hardt and Negri sensed the calamity that lurks through a unity that is created by the working of binaries,” The old three part dialectical, which would make a unity of two conflicting subjectivities will no longer work. Its claims of unity and integration at this point are just false promises.” Mao’s One becomes two is also deplored by Deleuze as ” the most classical and well rejected, oldest, and wearist kind of thought.”
When we speak against binaries, we are speaking against the grand narratives that have fixed things forever and have sculpted the formation of two. All these fixations have done a lot of harm, they have made us forget the flux we are in. they have denied us the changing propositions that we need to acquire. Even God changes, He/she laughs away her tears.
How can we be a whole? or more than a whole? This prose poem by Anne Carson may be of help:
“It was a blue winter evening, the cold bit like a wire. Isaiah laid his forehead on the ground. God arrived. Why do the righteous suffer? said Isaiah. Bellings of cold washed down the Branch. Notice whenever God addresses Isaiah in a feminine singular verb something dazzling is about to happen. Isaiah, what do you know about women? asked God. Down Isaiah’s nostrils bounced woman words: Blush. Stink. Wife. Fig. Sorceress— God nodded. Isaiah goes home and get some sleep, said God. Isaiah went home, slept, woke again. Isaiah felt sensation below the neck, it was a silk and bitter sensation. Isaiah looked down. It was milk forcing the nipples open. Isaiah was more than whole. I am not with you I am in you, said the muffled white voice of God. Isaiah sank to a kneeling position.”

How To Be A Reluctant

The title can be added with further implications: How to withdraw, how to abscond, how to shorn off, how to be undecided, how to let go, how to wait, how to dissipate and how to resist.
There are two sorts of people, people who are ever ready and people who hesitate, people who seek an opportunity to involve and people who barely try to be present. There are leavers and involvers. People who belong to the first group are called active, dynamic, strong, powerful, Flamboyant, passionate and etc. They are the visible people. People who belong to the second category are called lazy, inactive, and etc. They are the invisible people.
In the Religious circle, majority belongs to the first category. Only a fractional majority belongs to the second category. Most of the religious people are ever ready to assume power, they are reluctant only to exit from it. They do everything to cling to the golden threads of appropriation. Their crimes are the crimes of the decision. Those who assume power as if it’s their birthright will misuse their position. Their decisions will be decisions stained with nepotism and corruption. They will make division among people to perpetuate their power. As Simon Leys says, “Half of the misery in this world is caused by people whose only talent is to worm their way into positions for which they otherwise have no competence.”
I am not endorsing the second category but we need a third category who shall save us from the fallacies of decisions. Jesus is a proponent of the third category, the category of a reluctant doer. Jesus says, “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus seems to know that hesitation is a mark of genuine willingness and readiness is a sign of deception. The one who said ‘yes’ is conscious of his option ‘no’. One who said ‘no’ is disturbed by the ‘yes’ he could not say. Every great invention was made by people who were reluctant , who were not sure of what they were doing. Einstein showed that light is made of packets: particles of light. Today we call these ‘photons’. He wrote, in the introduction to his article that explains his discovery:
” It seems to me that the observations associated with blackbody radiation, fluorescence, the production of cathode rays by ultraviolet light, and other related phenomena connected with the emission or transformation of light are more readily understood if one assumes that the energy of light is discontinuously distributed in space.”
Italian Physicist, Carlo Rovelli writes about reluctant sentence with which Einstein begins:
“These simple and clear lines are the real birth certificate of quantum theory. Note the wonderful initial ‘It seems to me …’, which recalls the ‘I think …’ with which Darwin introduces in his notebooks the great idea that species evolve, or the ‘hesitation’ spoken of by Faraday when introducing for the first time the revolutionary idea of magnetic fields. Genius hesitates.”
It’s true , Genius hesitates and fool hurries up. Remember the famous phrase, “devils rush in, where Angels fear to tread in.”

We are charmed by the capitalism of decisions. Decision uses digitisation method to differentiate one from another, effecting in all sorts of exploitations. Then why can’t we experiment with indecision? If decision means to “cut out”, indecision means to “don’t cut out.” Because indecision is an analogues event. Alexander R. Galloway observes, “as radical non-cutting, indecision integrates entities as one, and it does so at the level of the generic facticity of being. This holds for humanity, but also for the generic facticity that binds the human together with chimp, mouse, or microbe. Indecision binds humanity together with massively macro events like climate change, as well as micro events like the intimate mutual recognition of self with other, or the acts of mercy, love, and sacrifice ” So Indecision shares nothing with that kind of cowardice and corruption, the worst kind of lifelessness, barely concealing a contempt for the world and those living within it.
Tiqqun declares , “The more I’m anonymous , the more I am present.” All our efforts to promote ourselves to visibility will be tragically defeated by death. Trying to become present is political and trying to become anonymous is ethical. By becoming anonymous I am giving chance to someone to be present who could otherwise never be present .
To be present means to be monitored and fall under all sorts of surveillance. Tiqqun writes, ” from now on, to be perceived is to be defeated.” Galloway adds further prophesy, ” to be perceived is to be identified, and to be identified is to be removed from life.”
How can we defy the powerful and exploiting emperor? This is the question Hardt and Negri rise in their book, Emperor. They say by ”exodus and “desertion.” “Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage was fundamental notion of resistance, in the era of imperial control it may be “desertion.” Is it a sort of escapism? Is it not allowing the emperor to flourish? According to Hardt and Negri in the biopolitical contest exodus is the form of class struggle, “this exodus doesn’t mean going elsewhere. we can pursue a line of flight while staying right here.”
Our existence should not be an insult to one who failed to exist. everything that could have existed, exist in a virtual world. Our presence can be a failure if we don’t respect their non-existence. A heavy existence, a presence that is an occupation will be erased without a trace. while a fleeing existence or nomadic presence will be preserved, new stories will be added to it, new beauties will be sprinkled on it.
Jesus embodies this hesitancy. He hesitated almost thirty years before his redemptive work. He was reluctant to do miracles though he did it. He was reluctant to die, more than death he loved life. Now he is reluctant to come back, we are waiting for centuries.
Hesitancy is genuineness.

Letter To A Priest

Dear Priest,
I am also a priest. But there is a hell lot of difference between our priesthood. From your appearance, I presume that you are someone who is destined to be a priest. It is your birthright. You somehow inherited those high, solemn clerical gestures. I am just someone who bechanced to be a priest. If you are invited, I might be called. I always wonder how could I came to be a priest! I have a nagging sense of guilt whenever I do my priestly duties. I suppose that you are quite comfortable in your wardrobes. I always disliked this “destiny.” I wish to wash away everything of ‘destiny’ which is instilled in me by nature. Destiny is inhuman. I am a fan of ‘spirit,’ The spirit that does not destine anything to anyone, instead, engage itself in a playful game of chance and haphazardness and make things happen.

In the beginning of ‘Ulysses,’ the question is asked: “What is God?” To which Stephen replies: “A cry in the street.” I think you don’t like this definition of God. Your God cannot be a crying God. Your God is the triumphant God of judgements and accusations. Perhaps your God may be just like you, full of assertions. Now there is an excessive demand for priests like you, the preachers of the word of God. Still I wonder how your word of God preaching fail to announce Christ! Christ is not merely Bible. He is far greater than Bible. There are situations when one can really confuse Christ with the bible. Do you belong to a new crop of priests who does not read anything other than Bible? They seem to have made Bible a book of sufficiency and betrayed its call to the imagination.I heard that a current famous preacher says to priests to not to read anything other than Bible? If he got this order to issue fatwa against books from his holy spirit, I really feel sorry for his holy spirit. There are many people who missed God by reading bible alone. Their interpretation of whole life in a godlike manner contained within itself revolt against God. They could not practice an atheism which has a redeeming power to purify faith. Their ever-readiness for salvation pulled them to damnation. Their faith was so solid that eating up that same solidness came up the worms of mistrust and evil.

Last time when I heard, you were erupting like a volcano, because you were dealing with a hot subject: sex. You told the congregation how horrified you become when you see girls in miniskirts and jeans. You chastised the girls who wear churidar without the shawl. Your background energy was some extra pious people who confessed to you that they can’t pray when those girls are in the church. In the name of God you condemned and judged milestones around the neck of all those who made men stumble. You were furious against the human body which fails to be a body of the religion.

Why your God is so sexually obsessed? Why can’t he be less impertinent and less hypocritical with regard to sex? How masquerading we become in our hate against human body!The problem is not in the miniskirts. We should be horrified by the way people are exploited and left as garbages than by the sight of a female breast. It’s not nudity but dress which is the indication of the shame we have inherited.Levi Strauss, the famous anthropologist discovered an aboriginal community which had no relation with outside world. They were roughly four thousand people. He found them naked but handsome and happy. By the time he went to study them again the christian missionaries had already reached there. Now he found them all dressed but ugly and unhappy. We destroyed them making christians which is not of the Gospel nor of the Christ. You have by-hearted the Bible without grasping its spirit. Bible is God’s endless and despairing struggle with organised religion which cannot survive without witch hunting. In new Testament Jesus clearly counts priests as the enemy of people.

In his phenomenology of the spirit, Hegel wrote that evil resides in the very gaze that perceives evil around itself. This is what Slavoj Zizek calls as reflexivity:the standpoint from which we perceive a state of things can be itself part of the state of things. Jesus did not fell into this trap of reflexivity. He was not censorious like us. To the woman caught in adultery, he said: “Neither do I judge you.” Jesus was accepting the fact that as a human being he did not have the right to judge another human being.
As Paul Ricoeur informs, “christianity doesn’t believe in sin but in the remission of sins.” If we loose hold of this truth, the accusation philosopher Deleuze levels against St. Paul may become valid. Deleuze accuses paul of “inventing a new type or priest even more terrible than its predecessors”, because Paul relies on the doctrine of immortality to intensity guilt and sin in order to create “doctrine of judgment.” one of your serious problem was that girls wear the dress of boys! Technically this is known as transvestism. But do you know catholic church has a saint who is a transvestist? Her name is St. Joan of Arc. They burnt her at stake because she wore boy’s dress. Bernard Shaw wrote a beautiful drama about her. At the end of the drama agnostic Shaw asks a tragic question,”O God when this world will be ready to accept your saints?” This world will never be, as long as there are priests who are in search of heretics to burn at stake.
Jesus was a man on the road, settling on nothing. But his church is stagnant because of the immovable and bureaucratic clergy. They take themselves too seriously and imagine themselves to be the custodians of truth. All our intimidations from the pulpit have managed to destroy the reality of messianicity. Thus in the hands of priests, Christianity became a yoke of vicious circle. Preachings in shalom T.V amount the vicious circle we are entangled in. Recently I watched an Irish movie, ‘Calvary,’ which tries to show a good priest. In the movie we see the confession of a young man who suffered unspeakable sexual crimes from an evil priest. Now the young man wants to kill this good priest because he feels that his revenge can be equal only if he kills a good priest of the church. He finds no use in killing a bad priest. The good priest revolts against this injustice placed upon him. And his life is toppled over. He hires a gun for his self-protection. At the end of the movie we see him in a beach unarmed accepting his fate. The young man comes to take his revenge and he points his gun at the head of the priest and asks whether he has any regret in life. To which the priest replies “Yes I have, I could not read Moby Dick.”

At the end of the day, these may be the only regrets haunt us, that we did not converse with the great art forms of the world. Reading is an excellent way to practice ‘transcendental homelessness.’I like the writings of a Jesuit priest Boris Gunjević. There is rare charm in his writings and there is flipping of the coins in his writing to decide what is good and bad. He wrote placing his trust in books as a way to be part of humanity, “Someday when we get around to writing a genealogy of our failures, inadequacies, and disappointments, an important place in such a study will be the books we never read, for whatever reason.” Every book we have not read reduces our horizon and shows how pitiful we are. Boris Gunjević has this revelation, “The books we never read will be one of the indicators of our anachronisms and our flawed humanity. When our imagined defence systems crumble and we are betrayed by our own mechanisms of denial, only then will reading preserve the dignity of the loser.” Isn’t it something scary?
God did not create the world with any functional end in view but simply for the love and sheer beauty of it. God is such a beauty crazy that he rebukes anyone who passes without noticing the subtle pink colour of His recent flower. Anyone who believes in such a God will not touch a flower without its permission and will not rebuke however naked it. At least art can save us from the worst situation of being megalomaniacs.
Being a priest is a dangerous thing. If you don’t guard against yourself, you may fall into most abominable crimes. There are some who go to any extreme to destroy the reputation of his brother priest to perpetuate to their own power. The whole effort of Jesus was to eliminate the elements of power, the power of God and man. So that he may reinvent himself as Christ.
Literary critic James Wood narrates the contradiction that a priest may get into:

“Growing up in a religious household, I got used to the sight of priests, but always found them fascinating and slightly repellent. The funeral uniform, supposed to obliterate the self in a shroud of colourlessness, also draws enormous attention to the self; humility seems to be made out of the same cloth as pride. Since the ego is irrepressible—since the ego is secular—it tends to bulge in peculiar shapes when religiously depressed. The priests I knew practiced self-abnegation but perfected a quiet dance of ego. They were modest but pompous, gentle but tyrannical—one of them got angry if he was disturbed on a Monday—and pious but knowing. Most were good men, certainly less venal than the average; but the peculiar constrictions of their calling produced peculiar opportunities for unloosing.”

Dear Priest,
You know how to be a priest. But you don’t know how not to be a priest. That is the heart of the matter. I know a priest who knows how not to be a priest. He does it so artistically. His name is Jijo Kurian. He has no time to measure the length of Mini Skirts instead he engages with various social issues defying all establishments. God is ready to appear before him as a cloud or tree with all His magic so that he may photograph him. More than being a priest or bishop lets be human beings accepting our predicament and frailty. Jesus detested self-righteous and loved sinners. Jesus message is that God is on the side of sinners despite their viciousness and he calls his Father who is neither judge nor an accuser. We, human can never achieve self-righteousness but only self delightedness. Let us engage in a project of self-transformation which is never possible without the unfathomable source of love and art.

A Poor Man

Jesus never seems to has famished, other than his fasting in the desert. He even had a treasurer. But St. Francis’ poverty is an extreme option. His followers took it to a level of anarchism and church had to intervene and suppress certain Franciscan movements. When St. Francis insisted that one shall not own anything, St. Thomas Aquinas proposed a moderate version. According to St. Thomas whatever you have is your own but when you see someone in need, give him what is yours. From where St. Francis got this extreme notion of poverty? It came from his biggest revelation that, ‘God alone is enough, rest can be abandoned’. Francis was afraid to miss God, what if He is hidden behid a piece of paper or a pin? Francis relingished everything that could hide God, however subtle it is. He was even ready to abandon heaven for the sake of God.
In St. Francis’ frugality, Paul Ricoeur sees the logic of Superabundance. Francis doesn’t advocate frugalness as a means of being virtuous, but Ricoeur thinks that Francis is performing a more radical act. According to Ricoeur he “overturns the underlying hypothesis of the modern world driven by exclusive possession, fear of scarcity, in short, the economic.” St. Francis’ frugality is a way of passing on to others what is not one’s own. Ricoeur thinks that Francis sunders the meaning of gift by a sort of metanoia, “because it has been given to you, you give in turn”. So St. Francis makes a rejoinder to superabundance with frugality, a gift should remain as a gift for another.

Camus wrote, “My poverty was full of sun rays.” He also said, “I will bow my head only before a man whose head is immersed in lofty ideals and before a man whose head is high even in his penury, in-between lies the society which I disdain.”
We all need a saint, a saint whose eyes are full of tears because he is not poor enough to deserve God.