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NOTE: I received feedback from my tutors with regards this essay, and in consequence, as a result, have intended to make changes. The following lines, however, are unedited and the essay is as i submitted it end of parol 2012
Lines Of Flight and Literature
Author‟s pre-reading notes This essay is written in fulfilment of the requirements of the Self-Directed Study Module, Mlitt Continental Philosophy, The University of Dundee, 2011/2012. Each section of this essay, except the first two, is headed with two subtitles. The use of alternate subtitles is due to more than one reason; firstly in accordance with the author‟s right to self-expression, secondly in allusion to a certain musical album the author had once been especially fond of. Further, the use of alternate subtitles provides the reader with more than one perspective, or point of entry, to choose from while maintaining the reader‟s status as reader. The author has included a biography of cited works, but wishes to state that the list would extend to an unreasonable number of texts if every text used, however indirectly, is cited. For a useful reading of this essay the author suggests the reader to read, at least in part or in summary, the works listed in the abstract. Other readings and non-textual material (movies, music, other media) which may help show and/or support the essay are included in the additional materials section. The author‟s guides in writing the essay have been numerous, and many suggestions have been made by various people. However, the author abstains from listing their names so that none are neglected from mention and so none are expected to bear responsibility for any mistakes or disagreements.
Lines Of Flight and Literature
Abstract: Readings from “On The Superiority of Anglo-American Literature” are presented, explained and discussed while giving examples from various sources. The main focus is on Deleuze‟s concept of lines of flight especially as seen in works of literature. Various aspects of Deleuze‟s philosophy and commentaries on it are seen to emerge, suggesting their validity and providing further support for their claims while avoiding repetition. The essay cites examples from Anglo-American and non-Anglo-American texts to show that the concepts presented are neither exclusively continental nor particular to any one culture, as the title of Deleuze‟s essay may suggest.
“It is human to lament, human to weep with them that weep, but it is greater to believe, more blessed to contemplate the believer.” – Soren Kierkegaard.
Introduction In the essay “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature”, from Dialogues by Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, the authors‟ claim that Anglo-American literature stands superior to other literature is expressed. Deleuze uses examples from French literature and his critique of French literature to give reasons for this perceived superiority. Throughout the essay Deleuze uses the concept of lines of flight to describe a certain perspective on reality. Deleuze develops, and uses this concept further in A Thousand Plateaus, in collaboration with Felix Guattari. This essay will also seek to explain what is meant by lines of flight in literature. This will be done by drawing on examples from texts such as Kierkegaard‟s Fear and Trembling. A juxtaposition of Kierkegaard‟s thoughts on faith and Deleuze‟s lines of flight will be given in order to clarify potential confusion between the two. Further examples will be presented from The End of Faith by Sam Harris, and Hunter S. Thompson‟s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Carlos Castaneda‟s writings will be used to show similarities in Deleuze and Castaneda‟s world views, and to further elucidate what is meant by the line of flight in Deleuze‟s conception of it. Finally, The Conference of the Birds by Farid Ud‟Din Attar, as an example from non-Anglo-American literature will be reflected upon. Since in Deleuze‟s philosophy, betrayal is connected and present with lines of flight, an exploration of the meaning of betrayal in Deleuze is given with examples from the aforementioned texts. It is important to note that Deleuze‟s language of authorship is French. Lines of flight are a translation from the French, lignes de fuite. In his translator‟s note in A Thousand Plateaus, Brian Massumi states that flight is simply the translation of fuite that is most fitting. It does not signify flight as birds, insects or planes do. The French dictionary, Littré, defines fuite as the action of flying, meaning to flee, or to escape. The lexicon cites the flight from Egypt as its example (Definition: fuite). Simply put, fuite is to get away; to leave or to evade as the
Holy Family did when faced with the threat Herod posed by the decree issued to murder all new-borns under the age of two. French literature according to Deleuze‟s “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature” is like the French people, “too human, too historical, too concerned with past and future. They spend their time in in-depth analysis. They do not know how to become, they think in terms of historical past and future.” (Deleuze and Parnet 37). Deleuze‟s essay is expressive of his contemplation of the believer that Kierkegaard regards as more blessed than “to weep with them that weep” (Kierkegaard 17). It is greater to believe as in Melville‟s Moby Dick than to bleed in the course of a melancholy life as portrayed in Sartre‟s Nausea. In a nonliterary context French musician Yann Tiersen‟s “Monochrome” on his album Le Phare is a good example. Instead of lamenting the French literature he perceives as inferior, Deleuze directs his gaze elsewhere to the west and to the north in admiration, and contemplation of a superior literature. In doing that, according to Kierkegaard, he is blessed. Lines of Flight And Faith; readings from Kierkegaard‟s Fear And Trembling We proceed from here to distinguish between the movement of faith in Kierkegaard‟s Fear and Trembling and lines of flight as developed by Deleuze. In order to proceed we first review/present the main themes from Kierkegaard‟s work. In the book of Genesis in the Bible is recounted the story of Abraham, and how he complied after God demands he present his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Kierkegaard proceeds to retell the story from different perspectives and to show that it was by faith that Abraham was able to follow through with God‟s command, and win both his relationship with the deity and his relationship with Isaac his son (10-14). Johannes de Silentio, Kierkegaard‟s chosen pen name for this book, then presents a discussion of faith in relation to modern times and describes what he calls the movement of faith as carried out by the knight of faith. The movement of faith is so that what is given up in resignation, is then redeemed by regrasping the object of initial desire, thus attaining after having letting go (Kierkegaard 47-49). There are many lines of flight discernable from Biblical story of Abraham, and one of the main ones taken up in Fear and Trembling is the flight from the ethical. It is shown that on the ethical plane man can achieve the highest in terms of earthly matters. Abraham, however, takes flight from the ethical in order to reach what Kierkegaard dubs the religious, in a direct relation to God. This relation is absolute and bears no relations to the judgments, traditions, or expectations of men. Thus seen, Abraham is shown to have taken flight towards a greater life, a greater mode of being, or becoming as Deleuze would rather have it described, becoming a man of God, not merely a man who believes in God. This is exactly what Deleuze means by flight, though it isn‟t necessarily a flight towards God, it is always a flight towards what is more real, and not towards the imaginary as in art. Quoting Lawrence, Deleuze wrote, “Cross the seas, cross the seas, urges the heart. Leave love and home” (qtd. in Deleuze and Parnet 41) Abraham crossed the desert or the wilderness, with no intention other than to abide by the urge to remain absolutely loyal to God, even while betraying love and home by ignoring his ethical duties of being a father and husband.
Deleuze explains that lines of flight do not necessarily include movement. He wrote, “To flee is not exactly to travel, or even to move. ...because flights can happen on the spot, in motionless travel” (Deleuze and Parnet 37). Deleuze supports this later by presenting the relation between writing and flight, and shows that flight occurs while the writer sits at the writing desk. Before that morning when he set out to Mount Moriah with son in hand, Abraham had already taken flight in his heart and mind. His flight had taken place in that same place where later philosophers see bad faith, or false consciousness. He had taken flight from the ethical plane and from ethical duty, as mentioned before, simply by taking the decision to follow through with God‟s wish and command. The route to Moriah may be seen as the realization of this decision, its consequence. This independence of flight from motion is to be explored and explained further in the coming examples. It has been shown that faith is an essential component to Abraham‟s line of flight since it is a flight towards a deity in whom the protagonist has faith and since Kierkegaard writes with a concern for Christianity in particular. Yet, faith may be excluded, or deemed not necessary as a component, if the flight is simply towards another life, a different course of life, expressing a departure from the normal and the expected yet not necessarily towards the religious or God. Further, the movement of faith is not itself a flight, nor a line of flight. Kierkegaard wrote while describing the knight of faith, “I move a little closer to him, watch his slightest movement to see if it reveals a bit of heterogeneous optical telegraphy from the infinite, a glance, a facial expression, a gesture, a sadness, a smile that would betray the infinite in its heterogeneity with the finite.” (Kierkegaard 39). The relation described in this quote, of the infinite to the finite is, however, betrayed in flight but not in the movement of faith.
Putting An End To Faith (or The Flight of The Joker) The End of Faith, subtitled “Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason” is a book by American author Sam Harris, one he wrote in wake of the events which unfolded on September 11th 2001. Harris starts his book with a fictional account of the last moments in the life of a suicide bomber as he boards a bus leaving its terminal. Whether or not such events are in accordance with what Deleuze means by line of flight is moot. It may be considered a line of flight if indeed the truth is found to be in accordance with the suicide-bomber‟s beliefs and those supported by his sheikhs, educators, or trainers. That is to say if in fact he flees life and world towards a promised paradise as a martyr and not a murderer. This, however, is an object of theorizing and has never been validated empirically or otherwise. The whole idea of life after death is a subject of question, let alone if bombing oneself and several anonymous others is the way to go about in preparing to be on the heavenly side of it. We see through this example an individual‟s erroneously perceived line of flight, which is actually a flight from life, rather than towards it. Thus, suicide bombing and other similar ways out, such as school shootings in the U.S. which have always ended with the assailant‟s suicide, cannot correctly be called lines of flight according to Deleuze. However, it may useful to take this and similar incidents hypothetically as a line of flight in order to clarify the idea of betrayal in Deleuze. The example of a suicide bomber is useful in
showing a very obvious and undeniable betrayal. The betrayal is complete since the bomber has escaped life itself not only aspects of it that he finds disagreeable. The betrayal is double, as Deleuze explains is the case in a line of flight, since the protagonist himself is betrayed as well as the other(s), whether victim or observer, including those who prepared him for suicide-bombing and those who ordered him to it. In a line of flight, which leads to further life, and towards creation as Deleuze explains, the protagonist would have betrayed a life, a set of conditions or an environment towards an unknown that is better, in its otherness, to what one has taken flight, or fled from. Flight is always an escaping from, and not towards a particular or premeditated destination or set of choices. This is why Deleuze cites the horizon time and again, since one cannot know what is beyond it. The line of flight is a fleeing from a preconditioned life, to another life in which one may find self in harmony with nature. In Abraham‟s example is shown a flight towards an even greater relationship and covenant with God, in the hypothetical case of the suicide bomber, a flight towards paradisiacal pleasures and rewards. Lines of Flight In A Savage Journey (or Dinosaur Hunting) In the second chapter of A Thousand Plateaus, “One or Several Wolves”, a “schizo dream” is referenced, I am on the edge of the crowd, at the periphery; but I belong to it, I am attached to it by one of my extremities, a hand or foot. I know that the periphery is the only place I can be, that I would die if I let myself be drawn into the centre of the fray, but just as certainly if I let go of the crowd. This is not an easy position to stay in, it is even very difficult to hold, for these beings are in constant motion and their movements are unpredictable and follow no rhythm. (29)
Having taken faith out of the necessary constituents or components of the concept of a line of flight, one finds examples of flight and lines of flight in the post-beat novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by American journalist and novelist, Hunter S. Thompson. This novel is subtitled “A Savage Journey into the Heart of The American Dream”. That the novel, and the film based on it, are both fictionalized is alluded to in Thompson‟s choice of names for his characters. Duke, representing himself, is accompanied on his missions to cover events by his attorney Dr. Gonzo. In any English or American dictionary gonzo is defined as a style of writing characterized by exaggeration, bizarre ideas. The word is from European origins meaning idiot, or fool. Reference to the movie is not due to deviations from the novel or additions to it, but because of the nature of the medium of film that shows vivid visual correspondences to Thompson‟s text, providing more in terms of focus on the textual description and less in terms of imaginary filling ins, and offshoots on the reader‟s part. This novel is rife with lines of flight as the protagonists flee in various occasions. Their flight takes form as extreme deviation from social expectations and norms as well as from capture and/or persecution by the police as they continually acquire and ingest large amounts of
drugs which occupy prominent positions on the government‟s list of controlled substances. (source needed? e.g. DEA list/schedule of illegal substances, place of lsd, cocaine etc on these lists). Besides the frequency of flight and the lines it traces, the novel has other qualities that allude to Deleuze‟s philosophy, and may have directly or indirectly sourced from it. Deleuze wrote, in “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature”, “It is never the beginning or the end which are interesting; the beginning and end are points. What is interesting is the middle. The English zero is always the middle. Bottlenecks are always the middle. Being in the middle of a line is the most uncomfortable position. One begins again through the middle.” Deleuze contrasted this with the French who, “think in terms of trees too much: the tree of knowledge, points of arborescence, the alpha and omega, the roots and the pinnacle.” (39) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins in the middle with the opening lines, “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold” (Thompson 1). Later, but still at the start of the novel, from the middle, Duke and Dr. Gonzo are driving through the desert on the road to Las Vegas when Duke remarks, “it‟ll be a goddamn miracle if we can get to the hotel and check in before you turn into a wild animal” (Thompson 12). Deleuze‟s philosophy has as of its main issues what is called becoming. One is never is something or someone, but continually becoming one thing or another. An example of animal becoming, or the anxiety associated with letting one‟s self go in the direction of becoming-animal is seen in the previous quote from the novel. The concept of becoming will be further discussed with reference to Melville‟s Moby Dick which Deleuze cites many times in “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature”. As a first example of a line of flight from the novel, we look at the scene in the bar of the hotel Duke and Gonzo arrive at first. Duke is under the effect of LSD25, a powerful substance which has significant effects in minute doses measured in micrograms. He stumbles into the lobby and is rescued from a potential situation with the receptionist by his attorney, and they are both directed to the bar while their suite is made ready. Like all the others at the bar, shown as regular, or stereotypical Americans, Duke is shown with a drink at the bar. The effects of LSD25 have subsided for a short time and then kick in again as the snacks in a bowl on the bar start to be transformed into worms and insects. Looking up from the carpet as it too comes to life oozing with viscous substances, Duke sees that the whole congregation of people at the bar have turned into vicious reptile-like creatures. Naturally, he gets very scared and is again brought to safety away before causing irreversible damage by Dr. Gonzo, his attorney. The line of flight is especially relevant to the use of LSD25 in this context since it is unlike alcohol in effect, availability, and frequency of use with regards the American society as a whole but even with respect to the protagonists. It is peripheral among drugs, and one which pushes its user to the periphery. It alters perception so drastically that at the climax, which can last several hours, one does not have any proper conception of time, and the grip on ordinary reality is kept by no more than a hand or foot if even that. Duke didn‟t guess he would look up to see the hotel bar overrun by reptiles. It is in agreement with Deleuze‟s concept of flight, “A flight is a sort of delirium. To be delirious is exactly to go off the rails”
(Deleuze and Parnet 40). Betrayal, as is proper to flight, is observable in this example. As seen at the start of his visions the bowl of nuts and snacks turned into worms and bugs, in a show of resistance to be offered as nutrition and sustenance to someone who betrayed the system of consumerism and excess it supports and which brought it to its current state. In the absence of a God in the traditional sense, consumerism, especially in this scene, may be seen as the God which the masses are worshipping by continual consumption in excess of any recommended reasonable amount. By ingesting LSD25, Duke had turned his back on the society which he finds himself in, albeit only at the periphery, and in turn, it turns its back on him. We see a sample of society as the group that allegedly agrees on the legislative status of LSD25, that it should remain illegal and out of reach, while justifying excessive alcohol consumption one way or the other. Throughout the tale, Duke, and Dr. Gonzo continually take flight in the nick of time and before matters get out of hand. Whether by checking out without paying the bills, or getting rid of Lucy whom Dr. Gonzo had brought along to the next hotel, before she becomes a real liability, their flight was always successful. With each event in the novel, lines of flight betray themselves, while the protagonists continuously go off the rails shooting off in various directions. Thompson, in writing, does not go into the details of the protagonists' emotions or thoughts but the novel proceeds along lines of light detailing instead what occurs along them, in terms of events and observations. This is expressed with greater detail in the motion picture. Just before the ninth chapter with “Flight into Madness” as part of its title, Thompson ends chapter eight with, “So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high watermark − that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back” (36).
Flight and Seeing, readings from Carlos Castaneda (or The Eyes Of Flight) The right kind of eyes is also what Don Juan meant to teach Castaneda to exercise and use. Throughout his writings, which we will make use of here, Castaneda distinguishes between two kinds of seeing. For that extraordinary visionary mode of seeing where one could see the lines of the world, Castaneda used italics in the text. Otherwise, seeing would just be written normally with no special type. Of his twelve books, Castaneda‟s Teachings of Don Juan; A Yaqui Way of Knowledge is regarded with most favour in academic milieux. This may because it was the first of the series, and because, in the second half of the book, is presented a scholarly analysis of the preceding anecdotal field notes. Castaneda had first sought out Don Juan Matus to gain knowledge about psychotropic plants and their usage. This lead to what is described as an apprenticeship of Castaneda to the Yaqui shaman, and to more experiences with people Don Juan introduces Carlos Castaneda to as detailed in the twelve books. The right kind of eyes is necessary in order to see the world according to the sorcerer‟s explanation. By reference to Plato‟s cave allegory, and Heidegger‟s reading of it in The Essence of Truth, the sorcerer‟s explanation of the world is something akin to the description of the outside world the philosopher recounts as he returns to the cave with the
intention to free people. Don Juan always maintained that it was he who found Castaneda, and not the other way around as he chronology of events suggests. In order to understand the sorcerer‟s explanation Castaneda had to let go of his rigidity and preformed ideas, and to trust Don Juan and what he was having him go through and experience. This is just as the philosopher on return must both free the caveman from the shackles, and also proceed to drag him out into the real world where the sun truly shines. In Heidegger‟s reading we see the stifling of the philosopher‟s line of flight, “Today the poisoning would consist in the philosopher being pushed into the circle of those who are interesting and about whom one writes and gossips, those in whom, within a few years, certainly no one will no longer be interested” (62). With Castaneda, we see that Don Juan was constantly letting him take flight, and teaching him ways with which to continue to flee, whether through the teaching of movements, or the use of plants and mushrooms. To flee not from the gruelling task of learning as Don Juan used to say, but towards the real world, and true seeing. As an example of seeing as opposed to seeing, in the notes for Sunday, “6 August 1961” and “Thursday, 17 August 1961” from The Teachings of Don Juan, we see there is a discrepancy in recounted experiences according to Castaneda, and according to Don Juan and the others who were there. One of them is aware of the sorcerer‟s explanation and the other is simply partaking in an experience with a potent hallucinogen. While Castaneda recounts only seeing a dog and interacting with it, Don Juan explains he saw Mescalito, the ally or guide contained within the plant Don Juan had ingested, even though the shaman hadn‟t ingested any. Another sitter, named John, explains that Castaneda and the dog pissed on each other, and Don Juan insists that it wasn‟t a dog, or at the very least not just a dog, but had other significations, and things which the shaman saw. Although Castaneda's writings are usually brushed aside by the academic community as fiction, at best, there are critics who present different ways of reading and using his texts. Quoting Deleuze and Guattari, Anna Powell wrote, “Their assertion that they prefer the books to be “a syncretism rather than an ethnographic study, and the protocol of an experiment rather than an account of an initiation” places use-value above issues of authenticity” in an article in the section “Pharmacoanalysis” entitled “Castaneda and Becoming-Primitive” as part of her book Deleuze, Altered States and Film (56). It is also in this tradition of narrative practice or taking field notes that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was written. Amidst allegations of fiction, Castaneda found favour with critic Daniel C. Noel, who mentions this quote by a certain Joseph Chilton Pearce praising Castaneda's books in an article entitled “Taking Castaneda Seriously” as part of the compilation entitled In a Wayward Mood. Pearce says of Castaneda, “the principal psychological, spiritual, and literary genius of recent generations” (qtd. in Noel 67). Carlos Castaneda‟s experience of writing itself is in accordance with Deleuze‟s view of writing. For example, in Literature and Life, Deleuze wrote, “The writer returns from what he has seen and heard with red eyes and pierced eardrums”. In Castaneda‟s case there were often similar effects, and effects of a similar nature that he experienced after a meeting with knowledge whether instigated by Don Juan‟s strategies, or by the ingestion of hallucinogens. In “On the superiority of Anglo-American Literature” Deleuze describes the writing
experience, “The becomings contained in writing when it is not wedded to established orderwords, but itself traces lines of flight are quite different”(43). With regards Castaneda, it was experiences with the Shaman and his thoughts and reflections on these that were tracing lines of flight, in reality prior to writing. This sets Castaneda‟s writing aside, if it is taken to be a true account rather than fiction, from other texts that Deleuze cites such as Moby Dick. Later in the same essay, Deleuze clarifies, “The great and only error lies in thinking that a line of flight consists in fleeing from life; the flight into the imaginary, or into art. On the contrary, to flee is to produce the real, to create life, to find a weapon.” This is the crux of Don Juan‟s teachings, and he follows this exactly all the way down to finding a weapon when he introduces Castaneda to objects of power. Referring to quartz crystals in this particular instance Castaneda recounts, “that they were usually hurled to kill, and that they penetrated the enemy's body and then returned to their owner's hand as though they had never left it.” (Journey to Ixtlan 122).
Deleuze and Lines Of Flight in non-Anglo-American Literature, (or The Fly‟s Eyes In Writing) Perhaps a good example in non-Anglo-American literature of Deleuzian Lines of Flight is to be found in the translation to English of the 12th century poem The Conference of the Birds, usually referred to as a mystical poem. It is said that author Farid Ud‟Din Attar (ال دي ن عطار ,)ف ري دof Persian origins, Nishapur to be precise, wrote it as an allegory or metaphor of man‟s striving towards God, or in Deleuzian terms, man‟s becoming. The poem sees preparation for a journey of a group of birds led by the hoopoe, across seven valleys seeking their king, the Simorgh. The valleys are translated in this edition as the valley of the quest, love, insight into mystery, detachment, unity, bewilderment and finally poverty and nothingness followed by their discovery of the Simorgh. Before and during their journeying are told many anecdotes and tales relevant to the birds‟ progress. The stories are from folklore, and other sources including Attar‟s creativity and personal insight and life experiences. That the poem consists of and is a good example of showing line of flights is not, which would be erroneous, simply because it is told in the context of flying birds. While the birds do travel by flying, they also flee, or escape and continue to do so through each and every valley despite the valleys‟ seductions of love, knowledge, and unity with god, to cite but a few of the valleys, until they reach their goal, The Simorgh. Throughout the poem, the use of puns is employed, which serves also to add to its poesy. With this in mind, it is necessary to mention that Farid Ud‟Din Attar is only the author‟s penname, his real name commonly cited as Abū Ḥāmed Moḥammad bin Abī Bakr Ebrāhīm. We investigate this choice of penname, and possible reasons for this choice. Firstly it is necessary to rid the name of phonetics, or these alterations to the word which serve as a guide in pronunciation. Pronunciation aside his name is composed of three parts, Farid, Al-Din, and Attar. Farid Al Din can be said to be his first name, and Attar the author‟s last name. By investigating the meanings of these words according to one of the main Arabic Language lexicons (the different lexicons are in agreement over the definitions, meanings, and uses of
words in general, and these words in particular), Lisaan Il Arab, or The Arabs‟ Tongue, the following is shown: • Farid ( :)ف ري دThis word has as its three letter Arabic root, the word Fard, which is used to signify the one God Allah in his singularity and absolute uniqueness. Farid is a name which signifies someone unique, comparatively. Its meaning is along the lines of “chosen one”. • Al-Din ( :)ال دي نthis translates into the religion, or more precisely in this context, the way. • Attar ( :)عطارthis word is still in common use today, and can be found in bold type on the signposts of herbalists stores in Egypt for example, as I am sure in other Arabic and Persian speaking cultures too. It is derived from the root „itr, meaning perfume and attar a perfumer, or someone who prepares perfumes.
According to the article with his name as its title in the Encyclopedia Iranica, the man whose penname is in question practiced pharmacy, a profession he continued after his father‟s passing and based on the latter‟s tutelage. A closer look at the cultural role of a herbalist/pharmacist shows that it was not uncommon for such a person to be seen as the local shaman, offering remedies varying from the curing of disease an illness, to offering perfumes, and other substances that may alter perception, or appease the senses. The usage of the word attar, especially in the days long gone but also quite prevalent today, is to indicate a shaman of sorts.
Further, his name can be split into two instead of three parts, Farid Ud‟Din and Attar, According to the same article in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, and in accordance also with the short biography Dr. Iraj Bashiri wrote, Attar sometimes used these separately in authorship, Farid Ud‟Din or Attar. Farid Ud‟Din combined means the chosen of the way, or signifies one who is unique among a group, a chosen or elect among them. The name Farid Ud‟Din Attar combined means the chosen one from the way of perfumers or pharmacists or as we have said before, of shamans. This is the meaning derived from his name as a name, but its linguistic structure allows it also to be a phrase. Thus understood, as a phrase and not a name, it translates to say that the chosen one is from the way of perfumers, herbalists or shamans. It is difficult to pinpoint his exact intention at picking this name, but I am inclined to believe that he used it for its double meaning, as name, signifying himself, and saying something true about himself, and as phrase, bearing witness to a particular perceived truth.
Further still, and by making use of deconstruction, the word Attar is found to mean even more. Attar is written in either language‟s characters as .عطارTo split this word into two we have the first letter “ ,”عpronounced „Ayn, which is also the word for “eye” – not a known
sound in English or most European languages – and طارtar – pronounced with a heavier t which is not a letter in itself in the English language nor used as a significant sound – meaning flew, the past tense of fly. Worthy of note is that in common usage, طارtar, is used like fuite or its translation to English flight, meaning fled or escaped. His surname deconstructed as shown translates into eye flew. Of course on translating it to English a further pun is provided, one which perhaps it would be gonzo to claim Attar was aware of. I invite you to recall here David, the prophet and king‟s saying in Psalm 32, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye.” (21st Century KJV, Psalm 32:8) With this in mind, and by reading the text, we see that Attar was exactly following a line of flight, his eye‟s line flight. The meaning of eye here can be extended beyond signifying a human‟s two eyes to mean the eye of the mind, or of knowledge.
Perhaps he chose his name as a preamble to the text, the poem, to come, as an introduction without introductions. Within his name is kept and shown both the premise of the knowledge he will impart, that is to say I flew therefore I know, and the method of writing, that is to say by tracing the lines of flight of his experience. To acknowledge sources he used, and inspirations or influences he benefitted from, our previous statement can be expanded to include not only his life-experience but his knowledge which includes knowledge acquired by reading. A notable influence on Attar‟s The Conference of The Birds, is Ahmed Al Ghazali‟, the younger of brother of the famous Islamic philosopher and theologian, Muhammad Al Ghazali, Resalat Al Tayr, or The Letter of The Birds, letter here meaning a letter in correspondence as are sent by mail, and not a letter in the alphabet. The text is in no way considered a source text for mainstream Islam but to Sufism, a multiplicity of groups on the periphery of Islam (Encyclopaedia Iranica, Attar).
At the start of the poem, the birds gather and the hoopoe is welcomed as their guide, “Dear Hoopoe, welcome! You will be our guide;/ It was on you that Solomon relied” (29). Other birds arrive and are greeted each according to its unique qualities and traits, as well as its arrogance, pride or other pitfalls. Rare falcon! How long will you be So fiercely jealous of your liberty? ……………………………………… Break nature‟s frame, be resolute and brave, Then rest at peace in Unity‟s black cave! (30-31) The pigeon, as he is welcomed, is urged to take flight from self and fear, Dear pigeon, welcome – with what joy you yearn
To fly away, how sadly you return! Your heart is wrung with grief, you share the gaol That Jonah knew, the belly of the whale – The Self has swallowed you for its delight; How long will you endure its mindless spite? Cut off its head, seek out the moon, and fly Beyond the utmost limits of the sky; Escape this monster and become the friend Of Jonah in that ocean without end. (31) As if in accordance with the preceding words of the poem, Deleuze professes the ultimate aim of literature in another essay, “Literature and Life”, “The ultimate aim of literature is to release this creation of a health or this invention of a people-that is, a possibility of life-in the delirium” (6). Deleuze, in the same article, explains the writer‟s role, “as seer and hearer, the aim of literature: it is the passage of life within language that constitutes Ideas (7).” The Hoopoe proceeds to describe the way. The poem proceeds and the Hoopoe unravels a description of the way. Listening to their guides, the birds complain, and show pride, or laziness, false-humility and outright arrogance, and try to find excuses, and the Hoopoe answers them sometimes rebuffing, sometimes motivating, but always with one intention in mind, and that is to embark on the journey and reach the Simorgh. Between the actual conference the birds are engaged in, of complaints and rebuffs and motivation, Attar retells tales. There are many lessons to be learned from the stories, which also operate along lines of flight. The main intention remains to coax the journey onwards and to dispel the illusions, worries, and excuses that bid the birds, and the readers, to stay in one valley or another instead of traversing through each and towards the Simorgh. This is done perhaps to draw on that space between the dialogues of the birds, and the relevant tales of men, and inviting the readers to become in that space, vis-à-vis the tales told. The stories are to keep the relevancy of a proposed journey of birds to the reader and humanity at large in check. It is important to emphasise here that flight in the phrase line of fight is to flee, escape, and to get away, towards life, towards creation, and towards truth. This being said, we proceed to see that this is also what the Hoopoe is beseeching the congregation to engage in. Attar makes sure the link between the allegory and reality is kept clear and alive through the use of these anecdotes, tales from folklore, and stories of wisdom. Deleuze maintains, “It is the same thing to sin through an excess of reality as through an excess of the imagination.” (Literature and Life, 4). The reader is invited to reflect on the birds‟ fears and excuses, and then to find relevancy in the stories which follow, from human culture, tradition and religion. I believe the reader is further invited to participate and engage in a bird-becoming and
journeying towards his/her own king or Simorgh. The bird-becoming is not necessarily in order to fly as such, but to notice that area of qualities and natures which birds and men share. It may also be to emphasise that men are unable to fly as birds do, and inspires them to follow a different meaning and approach to flight, linguistically as well as practically. While the birds do fly, their fleeing is what matters to men not their actual bird-flight, which barely has any mention in the poem since the poem is mostly a description of the journey to come. Reading on, we find it is a flight towards life, and as such qualifies as a Deleuzian line of flight. The the birds are shown their current lives are worthless unless they strive towards the real, The Simorgh. In reply to “a bird who claims to be satisfied with his spiritual state”, the Hoopoe says, Hell‟s Pride has filled your soul; Lost in self-love, you dread our distant goal. ……………………………………… All your austerities are just a cheat, And all you say is nothing but deceit. (148) In reply to another bird “who cannot leave his beloved”, the Hoopoe says, “How long then will you seek for beauty here?/ Seek the unseen, and beauty will appear” (110). We find out towards the end of the book the Simorgh is also a pun. In Persian, si murgh simply means thirty birds, the number that arrived and made it through the valleys. There, at the end of their journey, they were greeted by a herald who gave them a letter each to read, and, When its contents had been duly read The meaning that their journey had concealed, And of the stage they‟d reached, would be revealed(217) ……………………………………… The thirty birds read through the fateful page, And there discovered, stage by detailed stage, Their lives, their actions, set out one by one – All that their souls had ever been or done: (218) ……………………………………… They gazed, and dared at last to comprehend They were the Simorgh and the journey‟s end. (219)
This is reminiscent of Raoul Duke‟s role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While he did what he did once in order to cover a sporting event, and then to participate in the press conference, the whole novel is about neither of these events, but about him and his experiences, outlooks and discoveries, besides the relations and insights he discovers as he goes. The novel is modelled around the events, in which they happen in the matter of course of Duke‟s portrayed life. Again Deleuze refers to Melville, “Of course, literary characters are perfectly individuated and are neither vague nor general, but all their individual traits elevate them to a vision that carries them off in an indefinite, like a becoming that is too powerful for them: Ahab and the vision of Moby Dick” (Literature and Life, 4). The same can be said about the birds and their encounter with the Simorgh. In answer to their whispers of awe, stupefaction, and incomprehensibility, they hear their Lord‟s voice, “„I am a mirror set before the eyes, / And all who come before my splendour see/ Themselves, their own unique reality‟” (219). From here, it is suggested that they begin on another line of flight, after reaching this point de fuite, the vanishing point as if in a painting, in the Simorgh‟s realm. Their task this time is to re-member themselves, and here, followed by one more story of a king who ordered his beloved‟s death, the poem ends, as the birds disappear in the Simorgh‟s splendour, away from mortal sight.
Conclusion (or Deleuze and the Rendering of a Fractal) By reading “On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature” it is clear that among the texts Deleuze is fascinated by is Herman Melville‟s Moby Dick (Deleuze 36, 38, 42, 44). Melville‟s book begins, after a long series of cited extracts from various sources collectively in the section titled prologues, with “Call me Ishmael” and we are then taken on the journey Ishmael is going on, his line of flight or the answering of his prayers (Melville 1). That Melville exactly had Deleuze‟s idea of a line of flight in mind while writing, and that this idea far precedes Deleuze, is readily deducible. It should be obvious even if we focus only on Melville‟s choice of a name for his protagonist. The remainder of the novel is to find out in what way his prayers were answered, which is his line of flight or the action of God‟s raising from the commonplace to the extraordinary. Ishmael survives to fulfil his prophesied stature, and the character may be said to have survived because of his choice of name, this itself in echo of St. Paul‟s words to the Romans, “For “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”” (21st Century KJV, Romans 10:13)
The work of Gilles Deleuze is seen to have implications on narrative practice, cinema, and the images of thought. While lines of flight are clearly traceable and present in texts that predate him, “Deleuze develops and names the detailed concept” (Williams). In modern life, applications of the concept of lines of flight are present online as well as in hardware.
Applications such as Trip Advisor‟s “Cities I‟ve Visited”, “Google Earth” with its variety of services, and other stand alone and add-on programs are widely used in social media and for personal records. Navigation devices are commonplace in vehicles of all types and brands taking to the streets nowadays, and the user usually has the option of planning ahead, or tracing a cartography as the journey progresses. This may be done while motionless and is therefore in keeping with the concept of lines of flight.
References: • Attar, Farid Uddin. The Conference of the Birds. Trans. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. (London: Penguin Books 1984)
• Bashiri, Iraj. “Farid Ud‟Din Attar”. http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Poets/Attar.html
• Castaneda, Carlos. The Teachings of Don Juan; A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. (Washington: Washington Square Press 1968)
• Press 1991)
Castaneda, Carlos. The Eagle‟s Gift (Washington: Washington Square
“Farid Ud‟Din Attar”. Encyclopedia Iranica.
• Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet. “On The Superiority of Anglo American Literature”. Dialogues. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. (New York: Columbia University Press 1987)
• Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus; Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press 1987)
• Deleuze, Gilles, Daniel W. Smith, Michael A. Greco “Literature and Life”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Winter, 1997), pp. 225-230. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press)
Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling. Trans. E.H & H.V Hong.
• Powel, Anna. Deleuze, Altered States, and Film. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2007)
• Thompson, Hunter S.. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; A Savage Journey into The Heart of The American Dream.
Williams, James. “Thursday”. Message to the author. March 15th 2012.
Littré. French Dictionary. Online version.
• Lissan Al Arab. .ل سان ال عربArabic Lexicon. http://baheth.info/all.jsp?term=ف ري د
English/American dictionaries. www.dictionary.reference.com.
The Holy Bible 21st Century KJV. www.biblegateway.com.
Additional/Supporting material: • • Apophysis or other fractal rendering programs. Computer software. Dhafer Youssef. “Holy Lie” Digital Prophecy. Enja Records.
• Keiji Nishitani. Religion and Nothingness. Trans. Jan Van Bragt. The University of California Press. London. 1982. Pg 5-6. • • • Radiohead. Hail to The Thief. Prod. 2003. Parlophone Records. Touching the Void. Dir. Kevin Macdonald. Prod. 2003. Film Four. Yann Tiersen. “Monochrome” Le Phare. Prod. 1997. Ici D'Ailleurs
• Barron, Stephanie. Exiles + Emigrés; The Flight of European Artists from Hitler. 1997. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. • 326 – 340 • “The german migration: is there a figure in the carpet?” Martin Jay. pg “The great migration”. Hans Magnus Enzensberger. pg 374 – 385.
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