Saturday, January 28, 2012

Truth as Provocation

I have been reading Katherine Moody's blog for a while now and she is on to something.  She is helping to open space so that reified concepts such confession, truth, love are somehow returned to the event that they attempt to apprehend. Recently she posted a long quote from Derrida describing his notion of "invitation" vs "visitation".  I was first introduced to this tension in Jack Caputo's "What Would Jesus Deconstruct" an important, readable and significant book.  
That confession and truth is de-centered from a rational abstract conception that I somehow can objectively stand back from while the same time "owning" and is returned to an embodied event that disturbs, initiates and agitates is crucial. Truth does in fact "fall upon us" much in the same way that it did Moses - "take off your shoes you are on holy ground" NOT "one step forward and you will be on holy ground".  The event had happened, perseveration was not an option and to do so would have been an abstraction way from the event, away from reality, away from the visitation in to a space that I control and so diminish.  Truth is provocation that demands my life, my soul my all. To be found "in the truth" is the continual act of creation all the way down. Or as my AA friend's say: We must act ourselves into a different way of thinking. 
Here is the Derrida quote via Moody:
[Confession is] not matter of knowledge. It’s not a matter of making the other know what happened, but a matter of changing oneself, of transforming oneself. That’s what perhaps Augustine calls “to make the truth.” Not to tell the truth, not to inform – God knows everything – but to make the truth, to produce the truth.
What does it mean to “make” the truth? If you make the truth in the performative sense…, it is not an event. For the truth to be “made” as an event, then the truth must fall on me - not be produced by me, but fall on me, or visit me. That’s “visitation.”
I distinguish between hospitality of “invitation” and hospitality of “visitation.” When I invite someone, I remain the master of the house: “Come, come to me, feel at home,” and so on, “but you should respect my house, my language, my rules, the rules of my nation” and so on. “You are welcome, but under some conditions.”
But “visitation” is something else: absolute hospitality implies that the unexpected visitor can come, may come and be received without conditions. It falls upon; it comes; it is an intrusion, an eruption - and that’s the condition of the event…
…it must fall on me - either from above, so that I cannot see it coming, like a bomb or an airplane or God [Derrida is speaking sixteen days after 9/11], or behind or beneath, but not in front of me.

Jacques Derrida on the event of confession, from “Composing ‘Circumfession,’” in John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon, eds., Augustine and Postmodernism: Confessions and Circumfession (Indiana University Press, 2005), p.23.

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