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The Ground of Love                                         




The strip cartoon of urban life. Never-ending, seemingly infinite. The river of humanity caught at the flood tide, pavement on which no policeman may call a halt, rez de chausee peopled with restless souls, boulevard of waking dreams. The ground of humanity. A ground paved with humanity. The path of our collective existence. Place of our passage through collective existence: confronting us daily, lying in front (of us) all the time, before us (whichever way we turn). A one-way street. Before us and waiting for us (awaiting us) a stream demanding our immersion. The river of life awaiting our baptism. Our daily baptism of fire.


Appearing before us as an endless presentation, an endless parade. At once a road to nowhere and leading everywhere. A masque of confusion in which we look to sheen on the object, the glow of the commodity, look to the shop (as the refracted glint in the eye of the beholder) as the mirror for the self. A self  momentarily lost in all this movement; a self stabilised in the screen of windows (all so many screens embedded within the general screen of life, our window on the world).


Eye-level. Where the onset of the future is found in the on-rush of people and traffic. Ourselves present on the forward edge of this rush, occasionally looking away from the onslaught of the Other. Caught in the anonymity that comes down to the lack of self-in-others and the lack of self in others before one (for if we cast a self into the other, bless the oncoming corpse with a soul, then there may be no return of gift, then we too are become meat). Looking away: looking for ourselves in the windows, the arches and entrances that frame this zone of urban life; the goods that define us, the reflections that line this part of our experience and in which we recover ourselves (iLevel).


A self made through others, through objects... through the window.


So uncertain is the self of itself that it falls every time for the lure of glass; its offer of private recognition unmediated by the intrusion of others.


The trap of glass is two-fold. The solipsistic image of the self in a shop window, the ghost in the crowd. And the self wagered in the miniature mirrors of another's soul, the minute reflections that belittle us, that we convert into a self in the hyperbolic prism of our self-regard; a self activated in flickers, in sudden rushes, in flashes of distraction, in the glassy eye of the passing crowd, in the eye that follows us around along every high street, a persistent, faithful snare. In the glass of immateriality and of others. In the glass of the walls of the world.


The haunting of the house of the self, spectral images only seen in reflections, in super-impositions, caught in glass, as we are caught in the flesh; superimposed on unreflecting matter to be reflected in the eyes of others.


The cycle of stares, the reflection of self in the eyes of others, reflections (in windows) and further reflections on the commodities displayed behind the screen wall of the lowest urban level. Bought for use; but a use which is often the use of the self, a self shored-up against the stares of others. A circuit of love, uniting all; self, others and things. A visual circuit running through the bearers of the gaze, their home and their props. Ourselves, architecture and the commodity.


The place of purchase, the place of sacrifice. Purchase as sacrifice; the insufficiency of the self, assuaged by the act of purchase, and the money (the labour time already spent, accumulated, saved, materialised, as money) parted with - often with suspicion as to value equivalence. All the better spent, for this suspicion, for it reminds one, confirms one in ones belief, that this purchase is not only about gaining a bargain, or even about some notion of accurate equivalence, a precisely quantified exchange. But about something (almost) beyond money. Something to which the brute expenditure of mere material value must come second; our sense of quality, of a self as full, replete, completed, renewed by our purchases. The entropy of the soul, held back by the maintenance work of honour, of propriety, the work of love, a labour of love. To be bought by labour. The purchase as sacrifice. Its use value, its role on our games of self, our games of recognition; its exchange value to be further redeemed in the realm of signs.  The profit margin exists on another level; there is after-all a value added, a bargain; the purchasing of identity, performance, self. Whence the exultant transmutation of a dull and earth-bound money, the lead and paper in our pockets, into the gold of exhilarating self-presence. The Philosopher's Stone of identity is on sale in every high street.


In this intermeshing of commodity and personal and collective identity we have for too long assumed the former to be the active (seducing) partner. Yet what if the latter (through its reliance upon the gift relation) is also an active participant. Also at once, pre-existing and incited, maker and made; an evolutionary partner whose structures have awaited the dominion of the commodity, the multiplication of objects, for its full flowering, for the further continuance of its gift-borne structures into ever new forms of exchange. The commodity as the continuance of identity by other means (yet to be honest we must remember that the commodity is itself much older than capitalism, just as markets are as old as the division of labour - by geography, generation and gender at the very least). For this reason we must therefore speak at once the language of possession, lure, snare, but also the language of support, sustenance, growth. A self through objects (and others): but when was it not so? A self through sacred objects (and sacred others). Yet through them to where? Through to where? The finger of the impossible deixis points as it always has ... but to where? To what end? The guarantor is the more powerful for being untouchable, beyond reach. Even undefinable. Elsewhere (so, yet again, nothing new).


The union of the ground floor of the city and commodities; one vast unending market. The images caught in the mirror surfaces of windows and in our eager eyes, imprinted in the very matter of what lies behind them, reflecting us, capturing our image for them, inserting us into the secret life of objects. Why? As the matter, the ground of recognition. The means of placement (the means of hierarchy). The ground of recognition of the other through belonging, a recognition of the other as us; opposite and complement to other as not-us, not loved, not belonging to the 'brotherhood' of love, nor of desire as the consumption of the other, of ones desire as held (and as long as held) by the other - as sexual possession (of the other or by being held by the other).


Grounded love. From the sense of foundation (the eye of the other in others, in the object, in the commodity, as that which it is founded upon) to its limitation in giving, in the gift of self (the care and nurture of others). If recognition appears before us as the ground of love, it is as a love divided between desire (of self) and the gift of self. As a gift to self? Or to others? (But would this latter not be just another form of imposition; precisely a sacrifice of their selves, their time, to ones own). Tested and found to be a true gift only if offered as an option (only if refusable). It is finally a matter of sacrifice; of their sacrifice (of their time, their services, their self) or of ones own. Distinguishing point between desire and love. Admixture of both as inseparable sources of the self.


If our desire of objects is desire of self (our recognition, our community, our identity), then it is also refracted through the desire of others (for the desire of the desire of others). Our desire of others as the source of our own self-definition, of our sexuality, in the enumeration and distinction of our objects of desire (our bed-fellows), as of our fellows, friends, our source of community (those who always are looking with us as we look at ourselves). The desire which is always there in addition to physical desire - and the care which is the true work of love.


Narcissus and the pool. The face reflected in the pool. A self reconstructed in the quicksilver reflection of the ground: the love of self; the ground of self; the ground of life, the ground floor of our life; the mirror (the window of the eye, the eye of the window) the pool in the ground.


Identity/commodity. A self through objects; every one a treasured possession; everyone a collector and connoisseur. A connoisseur of their own selfhood; their pride and joy, their parade of masks. (A shelter rather for the vacuum of the consuming self, waiting to hover up objects, sucking in the dust of novelty, of new experience, than the profundity Nietzsche believed might lie hidden behind masks). The empty pool of the self in whose depths we perceive only reflections; purchasing, chasing reflections so that we might better recognise ourselves in them, each new reflection masking the sunken wrecks lying further down in the depths. Reflections of selves, reflections of objects purchased before, now sliding down into the sand of oblivion. On the surface, like a curtain permanently drawn, or a patina of oil, prism of borrowed light, the latest reflection that we take for ourselves (and as ceaselessly worried over by the motors of our internal monologue, the murmuring self-narratives of the caves of the self, echoing round the caves and caverns of the inner self, product of the motors of reflection, the image's detour into words, our latest reflection upon ourselves).


The true virtual lies on the side of the self; the mirror within. Built from the reflection of the objects, frames and thresholds on the ground of self-love.


(A rationalist's fable; when the tide of the sacred receded, bits were left behind. Now somehow those few lost shards have found their way into the soul of every exchangeble object, every commodity).


Spirit possession. It is object possession that enables the spirit to possess one: for one must possess objects in order to possess a spirit (be it one trans-generational sacred object, or a rapid succession of many transient ones).  To possess, to be possessed: to be possessed; to be...


A being whose modality changes as it flees, as if pursued, haunted, down the corridor of life. A passage lined with mysterious entrances, enigmatic openings. Frames of entrance, doorways; every threshold the switching-point of a new self, a new opening, another rite in the ritual of serial rebirth (as worker, assignee, supplicant...). The test of admission as augmenting the presence of self. Ordeal of admission yet to pass; the diminution of self awaiting its call...


Frames of the self. The ground floor as the frame of the face in the mirror; the frame as the architectural present (or recent or preserved past). The cladding of time that gives away (the) time.  All bidding, along with ones self, ones current mask(s), for a place in the future; the face that returns again, to the frame that will be, that will come to pass, whatever frame it is that will be, there, when next we pass.




Antidote to the poison left behind by the lost love of the stars.


Love on the Ground.




The eye of the Other (on the objects of the eye).


The ground of Love.





                                                                        Copyright 2004 Peter Nesteruk