Music: Tori Amos: Scarlet’s Walk
I’m at the computer, again, composing lecture notes for tomorrow. I hate this last to the minute stuff. Cal, my tutor, even cut the catechism session short today because I seemed hasty. Anyhow, haste or not, I’m taking a break. Sort of. Here’s an epigram that I like:
What prompted the project was the surprise that I experienced when I read the interview in which Heidegger was asked to describe the nature of his relationship with National Socialism, and he said he didn’t really have a relationship, all he did was take a call from the SA storm trooper. . . . Heidegger certainly is a redneck in many ways and highly problematic as mortals go, but what interested me was this response, which is a very compelling response and non-response at once. If I had been the thinker of the call and had made the call on technology, warning that we live under its dominion in yet undecipherable ways, then I would clearly be codifying my response. I thought he was providing an access code to a truer reading. I went after it.
–Avital Ronell, interview with Diane Davis
. . . or, fantasies of Avital Ronell dispelled. I decided I needed to read the Heidegger Ronell kept riffing on, and suddenly, The Telephone Book has become, well, readable. It still resists me, this noisy text, but the key was the call, “What Calls for Thinking,” two introductory lectures given by Heidegger and collected in the Basic Writings edited by David Farrell Krell. Heidegger riffs on the meaning of “called thought” in a German wordplay that doesn’t quite translate I suspect: What do we name thought, and what kind of thought is hailed (called thought). This latter kind of thought, thinking that is called upon or called for, is the truth of telephonics (and tele-phonies, such as myself): whatever ever it is, it emplaces me, makes me beholden, and we are thrown into the stupidity, ignorance, and sort of abandoned, risky, potentially dangerous posture of answering. This would be, I guess, answerability Bakhtin? I don’t know with any certainty, but the words on the line do.
I’ve decided, then, to lecture a bit on Heidegger and the Ronell with the exemplar of the obscene phone call. The film, Black Christmas, an overlooked gem from the 1970s when manipulated recorded voices was all the rage in horror films (a project begun with The Exorcist and the backwards speech of Pazuzu, the Dung God whom the Priests mistake as THE accuser). In any event, if you’ve seen this film, you’ll know the source of my disappointment and the glory of the film: the cause for the strangeness of the multi-voiced phone calls from within are never explained. After the first phone call from “the moaner” in the film, one of the sorority sisters asks, “that can’t be just one person, can it?” Another retorts, “sure, it’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.” Well, there you are, the risk of hospitality and heeding the call (to conscience, to the Other): you may get someone threatening to kill you–or worse, Legion.