“To be a speaking subject is to have already assumed one’s fundamental vocation as survivor of the painful losses – the structural catastrophes – that accompany one’s entrance into the symbolic order. Furthermore, according to poststructuralist readings of the modern project in particular and of Western thinking more generally – what Heidegger called onto – theological and Derrida has variously termed logo-, phono-, phallo-, and ethnocentric thinking – the violence of this tradition may be traced to a repression of these catastrophes, to a disavowal of the opportunities for the necessities of bereaved thinking, speaking, writing. And it is precisely this work of denial and repression of the inherent fragmentation of a life in the symbolic order which produces the pile of wreckage that, in Walter Benjamin’s famous thesis on the philosophy of history, grows skyward under the melancholic eyes of the angel of history. The violence of history grows out of a refusal or an inability on the part of the members of a society to assume the vocation of mourner-survivor of what might be called the violence of the signifier. In the writings of numerous poststructuralist theorists, historical suffering is believed to spring from a failure to tolerate the structural suffering – the always already shattered mirrors of the Imaginary – that scars one’s being as a speaking subject.
Numerous examples of the homeopathic pattern of mourning exist in the texts of ancient mythology. One thinks, for example, of the story of Apollo and Daphne in which the object of desire is transformed into the laurel tree from which the god then cuts and fashions a wreath. This construction of a figure or trope bearing the traces of the lost object displaces the desire for possession into a realm of material and formal laws, a realm of play or art. The cutting off the tree together with the weaving of the wreath out of the severed leaves represents an ambivalent troping or turning from the organic matrix into a transitional space organized by the unnatural codes of the Symbolic. The partial “demotivation” of the figure of consolation – its capacity to be exchanged and grafted – is what allows it to become a sign or title of power and vocation: the floating signifier of a legacy. Recall also hat it is Peneus, Daphne’s father, who, at his daughter’s behest, performs the metamorphosis that triangulates the god’s desire for possession at the same time that is endows him with the legacy that will help him to master his loss. The story of mourning, in its most primitive form as a drama of self-constitution in the face of mortal loss in later lie, comes full circle by describing a triangle.
A similar, homeopathically patterned performance of mourning is enacted in Pan’s invention of the pipes out of the reeds into which Sphinx had been transformed by her sisters. This story, as Sacks notes, offers a rich portrayal of “one of the most profound issues to beset any mourner,” namely “his surviving yet painfully altered sexuality”:
“In the story of Pan’s invention of the pipes, we have a clear example of how the sexual impulse is continued yet displaced onto a symbolic of itself, and onto an instrument for assuaging the sorrow of that displacement. Granted, the pipe or the flute is appropriate to mourning, for it joins a sighing breath to hollowness. At the same time, its phallic nature is obvious, ad it is far from arbitrary that the goatlike Pan, associated with Priapus, should be the one to invent this woeful, reedlike instrument; or that he, together with the flute’s blend of plaintiveness and oblique sexuality, should be so integral to the elegy.”
In each of these mythological performances of “consolatory figuration” the cutting and subsequent shaping of an organic material – its transformation, in other words, into a medium of art – empowers the mourner to survive his loss. In both cases the mourner inherit’s the power and title of singer and poet. Commenting on the parallels between these ancient tales of successful mourning and patterns of oedipal resolution, Sacks remarks:
“At the core of each procedure is the renunciatory experience of loss and the acceptance, not just of a substitute, but of the very means and practice of substitution. In each case such an acceptance is the price of survival; and in each case a successful resolution is not merely deprivatory, but offers a form of compensatory reward. The elegist’s reward, especially, resembles or augments that of the child – both involve inherited legacies and consoling identifications with symbolic, even immortal, figures of power.”
The self constitutes itself by homeopathically integrating the loss of its narcissistic fantasies of centrality and omnipotence.”
What is being suggested in the above excerpt regarding film production in Germany following World War II, is that the film artwork was actually an avenue for the German people to reshape the Nazi interlude and keep it alive in their lives. They had just be detached from a “father figure”, Hitler, who served to reinforce their ego-ideal.
In making a comparison to forms of symbolic restructuring, consider the following photo:
One may assume, upon first inspection of the photo, the individual may be suffering from a form of gender disphoria or disturbances during the Oedipal phase of development.
However, the primary reason for given for the necessity of this type of surgical procedure is to try and achieve heightened sexuality or advanced sexual pleasure. Since the mind is the seat of orgasm, and the mind is also the seat of the ego, one might associate a form of empowerment through the manipulation of the genitals. One might also inquire as to the psychology responsible for the “numbing” of the sexual pleasure or what psychic pain may be preventing the full enjoyment of consummation in the sexual act? An interesting question to posit regarding culture here as well, “Is this procedure mostly performed on white males?”