(In every exit there is the making of an entry...)
If in many ways a mirror image of entrance, exit does not constitute a full reversal. Despite a, more than superficial, sense of return and repetition, (more than sufficient to speak of ritual) the process is nevertheless not reversible. For there can be no return to the prior state, no full reconstitution of what has been altered, no undoing of what has been changed. This passage is written into experience; we have all been marked by it. The effect may be slight, but it is indelible; those who must traverse entrances and exits remain marked by the event. This uni-directionality, this lack of reversibility, this brute undo-ability, reminds us that the law of entropy also holds good for entrances and exits. One does indeed never pass through the same portal twice. The passage either leaves us disorganised, disorientated - a loss of form, lost in space, needing time to re-form; or it finds us reorganised and ready, our mental energy used to re-track, re-route, rewind (back) to the prior self, the self before entering. But the eradication of experience is not possible, such amounts of energy are simply not available (whether as sheer quantity of energy or as its qualitative equivalent, complex, expert, labour power). Or such a reversal might be dangerous for identity, for sanity (prominent physicists have argued that if the universe were to obey the laws of physics and go into reversal when it ceased to expand, then human life - with our being in thrall to uni-directionality- would not survive). In our societies too, the labour time expended to maintain, physical and spiritual culture is always less than the net effect of entropy, but the damage, the surplus of the latter above the process of cultural renewal and repair goes elsewhere (heat pollution, unrecyclable waste, etc.) And finally there is the heat loss of the universe, the final exit; the attendant spread of disorganisation (but elsewhere, always elsewhere); the tendency to disorganisation, entropy (material, organic, social reproduction, the only cure). Entropy. Destroyer of all. Guarantor of the uni-directionality of the arrow of time and so of history, of narrative. Of exits.
You watch yourself leave. (S/he exits). But it -a disfigured, ungendered, pronoun - is what leaves. It parts. Parts company with itself. Parts the two halves, the two selves (in and out, before and after). Sand awaiting a new tide. The eclipse between two suns. The body on the threshold. Remains for a moment inbetween. It, the body, in stasis. Inbetween. Impersonal. Now it begins to move. It, animated again. It exits, leaves its state of limbo... catches up with, rejoins its self. Takes itself out. (S/he exits). You leave.
Exits, into a wall of light, into wide open space, into an opening out and out into soaring heavens. Exits into world of potential selves, as yet unformed, into waiting space, unconfigured, the air of the street trammelled with the phantom roles that elbow one another for possession of the passing soul (in the institution they patiently waited their turn). For in the street (as behind doors) none may pass without first being possessed. Even in the open spaces of the street, even in places open to the sky, these (phantoms of identity) hover opportunistically, awaiting their turn. If less clearly defined than on the inside; they hover never-the-less. Regardless of the presence of light and air, they are carried along, called-up, incited, by the combination that makes social air solid, the stares of others and the assumptions we carry around with us as to the webs of power through which we pass. Through which we must pass (our recognition of power, of the potential for violence, of the aggregated demands of groups of others, whether real or imaginary, the food and fuel of these phantoms that pursue us) carrying at the ready our prefigured stock of masks, our defence and survival.
... sloughing of a self as we leave, like a layer of skin already drying in the wind, drying out with every step that takes one away from the place where the lost self once flourished. Leaving behind a dried and brittle leaf, a template, facsimile, a ghost to be reanimated on the moment of re-entry. Like a cloak which we use to wrap around ones self, with which to hide the self that remains (like the layer of fresh skin closest to the flesh in need of protection) the layer closest to the nervous system, bearer of the roots of identity. Site of a forest of torn ends.
Never quite to be forgotten, there remain behind the gendered roots of those lost selves (of 'them' selves). For the 'I' includes a 'he' or 'she' which are also selves; but less easily cast-off, less easily exchanged. Masks come gendered. A layer of skin with hooks, hooks that fasten their selves deep into the flesh of the body, interlacing with nerve and sinew, anchoring deep down into the bone. And even when the skin has been torn off, the anchoring points remain.
Shedding a role, changing the mask; every
street we step into prompts yet another face: a Carnival of Venice; a Masked
Ball. A perpetual
Every exit a ritual; a renewal of forgotten selves.
(... in every exit there is the making of an entry.)
Copyright 2005 Peter Nesteruk