Federman Remembering/Remembering Federman

There is a photograph of Federman behind bars in Time Magazine. 1970. He had been arrested as a faculty member for actively being an intellectual, instead of merely teaching students harmless information. He protested the war. The police arrested him and 45 other faculty members. Federman was struck over the head; he believes by the police. Michel Foucault bailed Federman out of prison. I honestly believe you need to read that sentence again for all that it means, and, since I dare not trust that your will do so, I will do this: Michel Foucault bailed Federman out of prison.

I have always wanted Foucault to bail me out of prison. Or at least out of this Victorian mess of a sentence that desires to say all that cannot be said, all that remains quiet beneath signs of another time.

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The Failure of Failure

Failure demands a mindful discipline, not casual mistake-making. Therein lies the rub, you sweet innocents, those of you virginal souls who celebrate what you feel is beneath Beckett’s “celebration” of failure. Only a fool celebrates failure. That is why it is so easy to post Beckett’s unnameable frustration onto social network pages. People desire their friends to click “like” to further celebrate their public display of failure. Your friends “like” that you failed. No, wait, they “like” that you have the narcissistic “courage” to publicly expose yourself. (Oh, sweet Jesus, bring back the Medieval stocks…) And that you will easily succeed the next time. (This is one, and only one, of the many differences between you and Saint Teresa de Avila, who insisted that she be locked in her room to experience her tremors privately, rather than be used as a public display of religious ecstasy. I doubt Saint Teresa would have used Facebook status updates to announce her new moments of ecstasy.)

Most people will never truly fail. Failure takes too much work. Most will merely make mistakes, and mistakes are simply careless errors that any fool can make and that any fool can correct. Failure, on the other hand, is soul diminishing. It rips into your heart and muscle. Failure is complex desires run amok by someone trying to go deeper than is possible, and no amount of “correction” can fix failure. Failure tears sentences apart at the very seams, and demands a whole new way of seeing and of being in the world and with their work.

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Squirming forever at the edge of desire

Write, not to have written, but to be writing. Write because, inside the moment you are writing, you are in love with the moment of the act of writing. In fact, if you are a mathematician, approach your problems with the same desire. Love the moment of the complexity of the problem. Make the moment tremble with wanting. If you do this, you can never be disappointed, because you are writing out of a love for writing, not out of a desire to be seen as a writer. 

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