The Island, the Promised Land, and the Desert // Derrida

On being.

“In this same light, and under the same sky, let us this day name three places: the island, the Promised Land, the desert. Three aporetical places: with no way out or any assured path, without itinerary or point of arrival, without an exterior with a predictable map and a calculable programme. These three places shape our horizon, here and now.” 

            Jacques Derrida, “Faith and Knowledge” (1998) 

The Island

This is where we meet. This is the room in which we sit together, on sofas, holding warm cups of coffee or cocoa in our hands, or cold beers that warm us, speaking across tables, arriving at and departing from some consensus. We disarticulate consensus into the multiplicity that it compoundingly affords. We smile and giggle, gasp, cry, and place our hands on one another’s shoulders in an effort to encounter one another. This is the coastline that circumscribes us in its infinity. We walk along beaches, by the sea, and of course, we feel oceanic, limited only by ourselves and by each other and by the other that breaks the limit of ourselves. We feel the coma of the numinous, because we ate too much of it. We lounge together under a sky that alights its radiance upon our scalps – the same light that touches each of us leaves its mark in a darkening on the skin, in varied colors, dependent on the each of us. When it burns we hurt, but we hurt together. It is the same light that reflects on the endless arrival of the ocean, the endless departure of the horizon, that draws into visibility the face of each grain of sand, too bright for our naked eyes. We are different here, together. We make life here, together, and at times, we fall apart. Everything that comes together falls apart, and in the falling falls together. The going and the coming are the same, and we are needful of them both. This island is not any one of us, but it comprehends the infinite incomprehensibility of our mismatched-ness. We have nothing in common, and we come to know this, luminously, on the island.

The Promised Land

This is the way we took to get here. We blazed trails in our minds and with our own two feet enacted them. We brought arrival into being when we imagined home, some destination or landing place, and we landed here. It’s not what we thought it was, not what we thought it would be. Our dreams of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow live in the lines we write in the dust of today, which we walk all over with every breath, die in the dust of today. Capernaum by the Sea – I once wished to write a song for you, both paean and elegy, one that would draw me toward you against the magnetism of disillusionment and self-doubt. I imagined a temple on your Mount, still shaking with the echoes of your beatitude. The world you offered us was not the same world at which we each arrived. This place is different than I could have imagined, but it was imagination that brought me here. You gave me a past life, an after-life. I live in the shadow of my last past life, beginning again. From the paths we walked down, we encroach upon the sacred site, holding in our sheepish arms the bundles of firewood, the tether, the sharpened knife. The place upon which we have decided is blanketed in a dust that cries for a further decision. Here is a locked door. Here is an inner sanctum that barricades itself against the oceanic breeze of the outside, the smell of salt and olives. If this is home, we have more ground to cover, but I am not alone here. And neither are you. Here is where we drive the mountain into the sea.

The Desert

This is the night before the day we arrive. Under the moonlight, certain halves of faces shimmer into phantasmal being. The light does not scatter across the land, but the land itself offers its nocturnal light, more and more obscure, to a sky that desires it. Faces for crowds, gathered under the cool night’s covers, asking for nothing but the chance to be born. We are the fruit of the night, what is cultivated in the absence of a sun that would peer into everything that can be hidden. We trust that some things simply cannot be seen: midnight. Though our eyes constantly fail to adjust, in such a world a mountain may as well be an ocean, and an ocean may as well surround a strip of sand. The nearest angels we find are the starry individuals suspended, like falling men, over what we feel to be our heads, but these we can ignore, knowing that the dust beneath our feet, undulating in the desert wind, offer enough guidance to we phantoms who seek only our own becoming. I do not know who I am. I do not know myself from you. We do not who we are, but we feel the sudden warmth of our proximity to something else. With every footfall, we cast our wager, desiring without expectation a better warmth, a deep unto deep. When another star falls from the sky, our half-faces, without name, wonder at the trail it leaves that dissipates in the lack of light, and for a moment we lift our own shadows to greet it. Welcome, friend. Take serenity in your indetermination, among the flocks of the unbecoming. None of us wait for the morning who have found a way in which to dance during the night, and so we hold each other’s hands, give each other the warmth of our bodies during a time-before-time in which we have needed it most. The day will come for us to meet, but until then, here we are, together at last.

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