The Lacanian “New Sincerity” of Drive My Car
Considering David Foster Wallace, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Lacan, Bringing It Forth, and the Arch of O.G. Rose
Ryusuke Hamaguchi has directed the greatest representation of Lacanian thought in art I personally have ever seen, and I hope to have explained and captured why in my audio review of his masterpiece, “Drive My Car and Lacan.” If you can, before reading further, I would suggest giving that review a listen.
The movie combines a few of Murakami’s stories together from Men Without Women, and Hamaguchi managed to hang the script together on Lacanian psychoanalysis, which I personally did not find as present in the short stories. Murakami’s stories are exposition heavy, and the Lacanian effect of Drive My Car requires us not to know explicitly the inner lives and thoughts of the characters (there must be “lack”); furthermore, the woman telling stories after sex in “Scheherazade” is unrelated to “Drive My Car,” which is a critical element to honor Lacan by connecting fantasy-generation to sexuality, which also means the themes of “drive” (“desire”) and the more sexually androgynous driver (“there is no woman,” to allude to Lacan), are divided in Murakami. Now, Murakami must be given credit for generating these Lacanian elements in the same short story collection, but ultimately I think Hamaguchi manages to bring Lacan out in the unique way he combines the stories together. Again, this is not to belittle Murakami — Hamaguchi would have never made his movie without him — only to say that the Lacanian genius of Drive My Car is mostly, in my opinion, found in theatres.
I’ve already recorded an analysis on the movie, and I do not want to repeat myself here; however, I did want to draw attention to a point I said more in passing, which is that Drive My Car strikes me as an example of a “Lacanian New Sincerity” (which could perhaps be associated with Metamodernity, but I’m not sure). This no doubt sounds strange, but I hope here to elaborate on what I meant. Ultimately, I will argue that embracing “Lacanian New Sincerity” is necessary for us to become “Absoluter Knowers” and “Deleuzian Individuals,” which is necessary today, given “The Conflict of Society” which is now becoming “visual” and undeniable, causing social dysfunction. What I will describe here is my idea of what we should do given Belonging Again, the problem of “givens,” the tensions of freedom, and the like. Basically, we must exercise “The Scholé Option” and condition ourselves to “Bring Forth The Real/Beautiful” from the place of a “real choice.” “The fate of beauty is the fate of us,” and ultimately “the fate of beauty” will be determined by our success of failure to become “Absoluter Knowers,” “Deleuzian Individuals,” and/or Sublime.
Some philosophers suggest that it is not their responsibility to “solve our situation,” but to only describe it so that we can better understand our plight. Indeed, this is an important function, but I’m not sure if “knowledge about how self-deception works,” for example, is the same as “overcoming self-deception” or “living with self-deception.” Yes, knowledge is probably a necessary prerequisite, but that means it’s only a step in a full development (knowing “there is no salvation” is not salvation, even if a positive development). As suggested by Drive My Car, in addition to knowledge, something of the heart must also be involved. We are not “brains on sticks,” after all, but “bodies with brains and hearts” (“brains/hearts,” per se, the connection being even more profound than suggested by “and”). Where our brains are, our hearts may not be, and so we must work to assure that our brains and hearts are together — Pascal was right when he famously told us about how our hearts know what our minds do not. ‘We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart,’ which is to say the mind and heart only learn fully together.
But this work will require us to have confidence in what we choose to do and to let go of what is holding us back, the doubts and uncertainties. Drive My Car shows that we should give up our thoughts that we can ever avoid “acting” and thoughts that we “ought” to stop “acting,” for this is impossible. We cannot escape living amid, in, and between The Symbolic, The Real, and The Imaginary, which is to say there is “no exit” from “The Lacanian Trinity.” And so Drive My Car would free us from trying and encourage to “forget about it,” in the sense that we should put our focus instead on “acting from the bottom of our heart,” for there is freedom to be found in “self-forgetfulness.” No, we shouldn’t “ignore” Lacan (that would be pathological), but instead read Lacan, accept Lacan, and then integrate ourselves with Lacan so that we’re just “living Lacan” without even thinking about, similar to how Hegel would have us read Phenomenology of Spirit and then move on. “Self-forgetfulness” is not “avoidance” but rather “getting lost in our role” — a great performance.
“The New Sincerity” is a phrase from David Foster Wallace which warned that we were taking irony and cynicism too far and ending up in an “infinite absolute negation” (to borrow from Kierkegaard), which has been explored in Belonging Again, and ultimately describes an infinite deconstruction where society devours itself. For Wallace, to avoid IAN, we required “a new sincerity,” but Wallace also realized that this would not be easy. Indeed, to this day, it doesn’t seem we have found a solution to the problem, and we can see “The Meaning Crisis” as partly emerging from the failure to realize a “New Sincerity.” Lacking this, we seem intellectually unequipped to counter people like Putin and Dugin from separating Russia from the Global Order to avoid the Neoliberalism perceived as causing “The Meaning Crisis” — hence why I’m so taken by Drive My Car. It would seem that Japan, the nation that I believe is furthest down the road of Metamodernity, is starting to trace out an alternative — “A Lacanian New Sincerity.”
I am not sure if “sincerity” is a topic Lacan ever elaborated on, which I don’t mean to state as a critique: my intention is only to suggest that there is an “opening” for further work. As discussed in the audio analysis, it is not possible for us to escape the “Lacanian Trinity” of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real, a point which could dishearten us, but Drive My Car suggests that it is possible for us to find life and “sincerity” amid this inescapable situation. Drive My Car accomplishes this by removing from us the possibility of escaping “acting,” which in one way seems terrible, but then at the same time it frees us of feeling like we need to be sure we aren’t acting and always being our “true selves.” Instead, we are freed to “act well” and find our “true self” as a “genuine self” in the acting, which we in a way shouldn’t even think of as “acting” (though I will use that language), but rather as just “alive.” All action is acting: every act is an act (Blondel is Lacan). So let’s stop worrying about if we’re acting: we’re simply not in a place to tell.
In addition to the part in Drive My Car where a character says that she cannot act unless she knows the dialogue, suggesting Lacan again and our need for the Symbolic and Imaginary (both of which are linguistically constructed), a main line of the movie comes from the female driver after they return back to her hometown, where she tells the protagonist that her mother “acted from the bottom of her heart.” This line sums of “The Lacanian New Sincerity”: the best any of us can do is “act from the bottom of our heart.” But we alone are stuck with our heart: we cannot judge or say for sure how much the people around us are “acting from the bottom of their hearts,” which is to say we need to be humbler. In this way, Drive My Car wants us to focus on ourselves, which indeed is frightening, suggesting why the movie is not telling us to “ignore Lacan” but to “integrate with Lacan.”
Ah, but that requires facing ourselves, which risks an encounter with “The Real,” and indeed, perhaps we look too long and too far. When Dante ascends toward God, he is indeed in danger, of being reduced to ash like Semele for experiencing too much of God’s glory too soon, suggesting that one false move and God would “practically” be a creature in Lovecraft. One smile too wide from Beatrice, and Dante would be no more, and yet Dante climbs on. Likewise, we must take courage, develop discernment, cultivate wisdom — the journey to face “The Real” (which we perhaps can never fully face) and reach “the bottom of our hearts” will require much work and “conditioning.” And there will be many obstacles we will have to have overcome, say avoiding “metamentality,” the conflating of “critical thinking” with criticism, the appeal of “being right” over “determining the right” — all topics explored in The True Isn’t the Rational. If we fail, even if we “know” we should “act from the bottom of our heart,” we will probably not reach “the bottom of our heart,” and so the idea of “The Lacan New Sincerity” will ultimately just be an idea in service of self-deception, Hegel’s Self-Consciousness, The Imaginary, and The Symbolic (A/A).
When we aren’t sure if we “ought” to be acting or not, then it becomes hard to “put our heart” into our performance, and we said before that our brains/hearts must be invested in something for us to really be “present.” If we still subconsciously believe “we shouldn’t be acting,” or still have doubts about if “self-forgetfulness” (as we’ll explore) is the right focus, then we will be “holding ourselves back,” and that will “hinder our performance.” Great actors give themselves over entirely to their roles, and we must do the same if we are to prove able to Bring It Forth. If we cannot Bring It Forth and “condition” ourselves around Sublimity, the problems outlined in Belonging Again will likely prove to be our downfall. “Bringing Forth The Real/Beautiful” (Sublimity), suggests a solution to The Meaning Crisis which doesn’t require us to lower our standards like Dugin, Putting, and “a Thomas More who caves.” Considering this, our choice today might be between “learning how to ‘be-come’ our acting” (A/B) or instead falling into temptation for division, bad tribalism, and Putinism.¹
“Our heart” is a key focus in Drive My Car, for we can be tempted to search for “the right action” or “right way of life” to determine the best and most authentic way to live, but this is the brilliance of Drive My Car in showing that we cannot draw clear lines between “reality” and “acting.” The most genuine moments in the movie tend to occur in plays, and we are told that Chekov brings out the truth inside of people (which suggests that real and everyday life do not). It is while in a play that “the truth” can come out, which automatically destabilizes our natural understandings of where “The Real” is located. We can experience “The Real” in everyday life just as much as we can experience it in a play: in fact, art might be uniquely good at helping us encounter “The Real,” though we tend to think the exact opposite (after all, art is fictitious).
Why might art prove useful in this way? Well, it might be because “The Symbolic” is the social sphere, and a theatre drama (to focus on a single example) is the creation of a new and alternative Micro-Symbolic within the Macro-Symbolic, which unveils two things. First, that “The Symbolic” can be created, and hence that it is not objective and nonarbitrary (this is for “givens” to break), and second that hence “The Symbolic” can be escaped. This changes everything, which is perhaps why we (subconsciously) don’t value art in society, because it is such a radical threat to unveiling the nature of “The Symbolic.” Hard to say, but plays and drama can unveil the entire Lacanian Trinity, precisely in drawing limits on where “The Symbolic Order” can apply. In a play, we can yell at people and commit murder, while outside on the streets of New York we cannot. “The Macro-Symbolic” is left at the door of the theatre, which unveils that “The Symbolic” can be left.²
Christianity taught people that they were “fallen” and “broken,” and that acknowledging this was necessary if we were to be saved. This suggests that we had to admit our failures in “The Symbolic Order” to accept God’s grace. To accept our sinfulness transformed our entire self-imagine, and in a similar way accepting the possibility of art transforms the entire horizon of what is possible in the world (for good and for bad). When a doorknob breaks, it becomes “visible” to us, which makes us realize doorknobs can break. Thus, we think of the possibility of “a new doorknob,” one we choose. Likewise, when we realize “The Symbolic” can be broken and changed, it becomes clear that we can create our own Symbolic, which also means it’s possible to create a Symbolic which is “more like “The Real” than not. And so we can “approach The Real,” which is necessary (though frightening) if we are to Bring Forth.
Talking about “the backwardness” of Jesus, Walker Percy once said that if the world is standing on its head and you want to show it how to stand up right, you have to look like you are standing on your head; similarly, if humans are “ontological paradoxes” (as I have attempted to argue, notably in (Re)constructing “A Is A”), then we have to do something paradoxical in order to “get ourselves straight.” Acting is paradoxical, occupying a space of “real/fake”-ness which flirts between the real and the unreal, which is to say there is something about acting which is fundamentally A/B and aligned with Hegel’s “becoming” (after all, are not actors always trying to “become” their characters?). Hence, in acting, humans are doing something paradoxical which aligns with their paradoxical ontology, and thanks to that alignment (like the moon and sun aligning in an eclipse) it becomes possible for “The Lacanian New Sincerity” to occur and thus for the genuine (“Bringing It Forth”) to occur.
Regarding Jesus, the end of Drive My Car blurs acting and religion, and suggests that even if religion are all false, religions have functioned to help people “act from the bottom of their heart.” This “sincere acting” is the essential act we must cultivate and focus on, which is to help us not escape “The Symbolic” (this is impossible and perhaps a problematic desire of Deleuze in opposing “representationalism”), but instead learn to humbly accept that we require it, like Dante accepting that he could handle seeing all of God immediately, before “his eyes adjusted” and he couldn’t handle more of Glory. We cannot flee from “The Symbolic” or take on “The Real” directly, but we can start by creating our own Symbolic, in a play, and from there gradually work ourselves closer to “The Real.” To create a Symbolic is to acknowledge Symbolics can be created and entail arbitrariness, which is one step toward “The Real,” and then since we our dealing with our own Symbolic, we will likely not receive strong acknowledgement or praise from the Macro-Symbolic, which will force us to say that the creation is something we want to do, which forces us to examine ourselves and wonder who we are — another step toward “The Real.” Then as we begin creating and participating in “the creative act,” we can increasingly encounter the hardship and frustrations of the work, making us ask time and time again about why we are trying to do it — further acts of approaching “The Real.” We’ll have to confront “The Imaginary,” “The Symbolic,” and likely come to the place where we function as our own motivation for our work. This is “intrinsic motivation,” a critically important step, but also a place of approaching “The Real.” If we are choosing to do x on our own, then we are entirely responsible for x, and x is an expression of what we want for all the world to see. They might criticize it. They might attack us. “The Symbolic” might make us an enemy. And this risk makes us even closer to “The Real.”
Do see the progression? Do you see how art and “creation” help us approach “The Real?” It is arguably very irrational and foolish to counter and oppose “The Symbolic,” for we will likely fail in our creative work and be scorned. But since we are paradoxical, this “irrationality” seems necessary, for A/B is “irrational” relative to A/A, but really and ultimately A/B is “nonrational.” But we cannot “get” to the “nonrational” except through a road that feels “irrational,” and this is hard, but it is also what we need as “paradoxical beings” to find “alignment’ (“the eclipse”) and so encounter the possibility of Bringing Forth.
“Intrinsic motivation” is a key concern of O.G. Rose, and we could say that when we gain it we create an “Intrinsic Order’ within the “Symbolic Order” (we “fight fire with fire,” per se), for there is indeed a logic and order the is created by intrinsic motivation. It is not chaos, but something akin to a jazz improvisation, as described throughout Belonging Again. Improvisation is the way toward “The Real,” which makes sense, seeing as approaching “The Real” is to lessen the involvement of “The Imaginary” and “The Symbolic.” But improvisation is not madness, and even though Deleuze was correct that schizophrenia could be a way to avoid “capture,” we cannot be totally unintelligible. We need order, but the order of jazz can only be known and understood by those who participate in it. There is protection from the outside.
I would like to stress more why we all must act and cannot escape “act-ing,” emphasizing that everything “could” be acting, and hence it’s impossible for us to know for certain that we aren’t acting in terms of the external — hence why we must adjust our metrics to the internal experience of sincerity, which is still existentially terrifying though, do note, and also requires a society of trust, which will not be easy. “Absolute Knowing” and trust are strongly connected, for it cannot be proved to us that the people around us have come to terms with limits and “otherness,” thus negating/sublating Self-Consciousness into Reason. Rather, we can only trust.
Drive My Car shows us how there are times when “the truth” comes out in acting in a play and times when “the truth” comes out in an everyday car ride, thus “blurring’ the lines between truth and fiction. If we never get at “The Real,” which is to say our experience of “The Real” is always to some degree mediated, then arguably all truth entails some degree of a lie. “Lie” might be a strong word here, but the point we see throughout thinkers like Freud and Lacan is that “deception unveils.” What we try to hide is that which there is a great likelihood entails a truth; otherwise, we wouldn’t bother trying to hide it. What we say is often what we say to “redirect” versus “direct in the right way”; what we say we want to do is often what we want people to think we want to do; and so on. Yes, all of this can be called fakery, lying, and deception, but if it’s literally the case that none of us can directly handle “The Real,” then all of this is more like “necessary coping mechanisms.” We require “The Imaginary” and “The Symbolic” to filer and live with “The Real,” or otherwise our brains and minds will fail. This is the fate of the protagonist’s wife in Drive My Car, which perhaps suggests that she did indeed hope to tell her husband the truth and put “The Real” into language — an act which can prove to be too much.
Lacan alludes to Christian theology in his work, and the doctrine of “fallenness” seems particularly useful. That said, I also think “God’s Hiddenness” could prove helpful for Lacanian Psychoanalysis, for as God hides from us so that we can live our lives and the world not come to end, so we “hide” from one another through “The Imaginary” and “The Symbolic” so that we are not destroyed by “The Real.” Dante tells us that nobody can look at the sun directly, that God must cover and hide himself so that we are not overwhelmed and destroyed, and something similar seems at work here: we must “cover” and “hide” ourselves and others (to us) so that “The Real” does not overwhelm and destroy us (we’re made in “the image and likeness” of God, after all). However, there is still progress in Dante, for it’s possible for the eyes of Dante to adjust as he travels so that he can handle ever-more light from the sun; likewise, though Beatrice cannot smile for Dante in the lower levels of Paradise without destroying Dante, the higher he climbs, the more her lips can express. So it goes with us: though we cannot handle all of “The Real” (without losing our minds, perhaps), we can come to gradually handle more of it. And thus our metric ceases to be “handling all The Real” and/or “finding our true self,” but instead becomes “trying to sincerely get a better handle on The Real,” in the same way Dante sincerely tries to handle ever-more of God, fully aware he’ll never be able to handle all of it. The inability to complete a task doesn’t necessitate suffering an utter failure.
If we understand that God simply can’t unveil himself without ending “the creative act” of the universe, then we can change our metric from trying to “see God directly” to instead trying to “better see God indirectly.”³ Our metric shifts from trying to overcome “the gap” between the finite and the infinite to instead trying to live well with “the gap”: in a way, we could say we stop trying to be (one with) God and instead learn to live as human beings. And with our metric so changed, we could live differently and better, I think, for we could come to accept our finitude and its necessary condition, which in turn could help us avoid pathologies, neurosis, and effacement.
Critically, since we learn from Lacan and Drive My Car that we must always be “acting,” which is to say we can never close “the gap” between us and “The Real,” that means we’re always where we need to be for an “eclipse” to occur, per se — we’re always right where we need to be for “genuineness” and Bringing It Forth. The “eclipse” of a paradoxical action with our paradoxical being can occur in acting (as mentioned before), and that is indeed what we’re always doing — we’re always in the position of “a special case.” Far from realizing “The Lacanian Trinity is inescapable” being a source of despair and hopelessness, the realization could be for us to see everywhere we go as giving us what we need for the possibility of an “eclipse” and realizing our “sincere self” (versus “true self”). Once we accept we cannot escape “lack” and Lacan, thus “negating” that possibility from ourselves, we are “sublated” into a world where a “Lacanian New Sincerity” becomes possible and possible everywhere.
Now, I want to stress that this is not an invitation to do whatever we want however we want, which is to say that accepting “acting is everywhere” doesn’t mean we are allowed to act however we want (which is an impression one might get from the “own line of flight”-work of Deleuze and Guattari, but I will not push the point too hard). There are rules in good art, as there are “rules” in “good acting”: chaos is not Bringing It Forth. This point is explored notably in The Fate of Beauty, but basically I want to stress that realizing that we are “acting” doesn’t mean we are “free to do anything.” There is “order” to art, but this is the order of a jazz improvisation, as described in “Labels, Names, and Poems” by O.G. Rose, and similarly we will not find “harmony” if we don’t learn to “harmonize” with others, which requires restraint (to allude to “Soloing, Harmony, and Singularity” by O.G. Rose). This suggests why ultimately the art of Bringing It Forth requires a “return to common life” and “real choice” to commit to others, for then we will “choose” to act in accordance to others, thus making our determinations become expressions of our freedom (to allude to Hegel and The Absolute Choice).
Even if we “act from the bottom of our hearts,” it doesn’t follow we will necessarily “act well,” so we must “learn the art” of doing so. This gets us into the “art-form” of Conditionalism, the epistemological practices of The True Isn’t the Rational, and other topics explored in O.G. Rose. All of this is another topic: here, I only want to make the argument that we shouldn’t worry about trying not to act. We must act, and this is no sin.
By “negating” from us the possibility of escaping “The Lacanian Trinity,” Drive My Car forces us to change our metric and suggests that we should instead do everything in our power to be genuine and sincere, to mean what we do versus look for actions and ways of life which cannot be fake or misunderstood. Dante knows he cannot fully reach God, but he can still act like he will “from the bottom of his heart.” In this way, Dante is a kind of “act-or,” which is to say he is “acting” in a manner to approach God, the act of which doing well requires him to “act like” he can reach God, when in his head he knows this is impossible (God is infinite). Likewise, Drive My Car would have us “act” like we can handle “The Real,” the act of which will help us better “integrate with lack” so that we avoid pathologies, all while knowing well that it is impossible for us to fully handle “The Real.” But we can try, and we must try if we are to find “the intrinsic motivation” which we require to overcome “The Meaning Crisis.” Life is given to those who are willing to die, and the brave who die in living do not experience their death, while the fearful experience dying until their eyes finally shut for good. All of us die, but courage is how we die while we’re still alive. Bravery is faith, and intrinsic motivation the willingness to act when we cannot see anything to motivate us. Bravery is acting when our eyes are set on the unseen. Embracing Hegel’s “contradiction,” Absolute Communities see what is not there, and so they can create.
We are paradoxes, and so it is in the paradox of art that we can express “The Real/Beautiful.” We will fail to express “The Real” if we either see ourselves as not a paradox or participate in Symbolic Orders “as if” they are not paradoxes, which is what happens to most of us most of the time. Art though can slice out a special space in the middle of the Macro-Symbolic Order to create a Micro-Symbolic Order, which unveils the truth that Symbolic Orders can be changed and that we can escape them. With this realization, it becomes possible for “The Real/Beautiful” to “break through,” which is for “The Lacanian New Sincerity” to break through. It is around this possibility that new communities must orbit, communities of Absolute Knowing.
Drive My Car would have us realize that we simply cannot make our metric for finding and determining “The Real” something external and “representative,” for a lie in one context could unveil a truth, while in another it might just be a lie, and so on: every action, statement, and the like could just as easily mean x as it does y (‘[Schrödinger’s Cat] is all,’ we could say, alluding to King Lear). This being the case, we have to change our metric to something else, mainly what is “beneath” all of the action and “representative,” that being “the heart.” Ah, but the only heart we can know is our own, and hasn’t Lacan told us that we are infinitely full of self-deception? How can we ever hope to act from “the bottom of our heart?” The phrase “the bottom” is important here, for it means we have to work hard to “get to the bottom” of our heart — but what hope is there for us to do that? Little, I’m afraid, as there is no hope for Dante to ever fully experience God — we ultimately don’t have full control over that, or so it would seem given the inescapability of “The Lacanian Trinity.” But what we do have control over how sincerely we try. ‘The heart has its reasons…’
We don’t always have control over if we overcome self-deception, and even if we did we couldn’t know we succeeded (certainty is impossible, and that feeling might just be a product of self-deception), but I think we do have control over how genuinely we try. Well, at least, I think we might have a better shot, though I don’t deny “sincerity” could be in service of self-deception. However, “a better shot” goes a long way over time, for even though we will still fail and make mistakes, we could improve. As “the idea of creativity” can be in service of ideology, so “the idea of sincerity” could serve to deceive the subject, but at the same time I do think “the act of creativity” is socioeconomically important (as I describe throughout O.G. Rose), as “the feeling and act of sincerity” are very real and consequential. It is this feeling and act I want to focus on, which is where I think the possibility of “sincerity” can arise (versus in “the idea” of being sincere).
“Certainty of thought” is indeed impossible, but can’t I be certain that I am happy? I don’t mean when someone asks us at the store if we’re having a nice day or if we feel good — no, I mean in the raw experience of happiness. We can absolutely lie about being happy, but don’t we know we are happy when we lose ourselves in something we love? I mean, really lose ourselves? I think we do, and this is shown in Drive My Car: when characters really “lose themselves” in roles, we don’t question if what we are experiencing is “real” in the sense that it is genuine. Similarly, I think we “lose ourselves” in Bringing It Forth and know we have Evoked something — even if a moment later the certainty is gone.
The scene in the movie of the two female actors outside comes to mind, which is interesting, because they are clearly acting, and yet something radically “real” breaks through. The lines they utter are fake, the movements of their bodies arranged, and perhaps even the looks on their faces are forced — after all, it’s all part of Chekov’s script. And yet words like “fake” and “real” seem inadequate here: through it all, something “break through,” something real and genuine. Something “genuine” is evoked and we experience it, even though it’s remarkably difficult to locate where “it” is and how we know “it” is present. We just “apprehend it,” suddenly and all at once, and we feel certain “it” was there in this world where intellectual certainty is mostly impossible. This connects with thinking in “Conditionalism” and “On Typography,” which is to say that “The Bringing It Forth” algins with “the Aristotelian metaphysics of apprehension” which is defended throughout O.G. Rose. When the female actors express “A New Sincerity,” we apprehend it like the letter “t,” “a,” and “c” suddenly and all at once falling into “cat.” We simply “get it.”
Is this “getting it” an act of certainty? I have spent much of O.G. Rose critiquing “certainty” and replacing it with “confidence,” and I stand with my critiques, but perhaps there is a difference between “intellectual certainty” and “certainty of apprehension.” I am certain that I am experiencing my hand when I look at it, though I don’t know if what I experience is in fact what my hand “is” — there is a strange mixture of certainty with uncertainty. “The certainty of apprehension” expressed here seems to occupy a similar middle zone, which might help explain why a metaphysics erected on apprehension is useful for fighting “The Meaning Crisis.” Too much certainty leads us into dysfunction (as argued throughout O.G. Rose), but too little certainty does the same — indeed, a middle zone is needed, and that seems to be where “apprehension falls.” We know that we feel something, that we “get” something, but we also will struggle to put it into words. We have confidence, but we lack explanation — and yet that seems best for us, in our paradoxical nature (A/B).
A world of Absoluter Knowers and Deleuzian Individuals, as discussed throughout Belonging Again, is a world of people and communities practicing and accepting “Lacanian New Sincerity.” They are people who “know their limits” and have “integrated with lack,” and thus they have changed their metric from being “whole selves” to “sincerely doing their best.” They are Dantes who accept they cannot ever fully experience God, and yet at the same try to “adjust their eyes” so that they can handle more of what they ultimately cannot entirely handle. “The Real” is too much for any of us, and none of us can perhaps fully accept the reality that “pure being” is impossible (without causing effacement), that we will always be “incomplete,” but we can learn to “fail better” and “die better,” which is to say we can learn to more generally face and accept “The Real.” This requires us to acknowledge that our selves are Imaginary and our social lives Symbolic orders, which is to say we must all acknowledge that we are acting. But it is impossible for us not to act, and so we should not lose heart because this is our plight (similar to how God does not hold against us that we are not God): rather, our metric should not be “are we acting or not,” but instead if “we are acting from the bottom of our heart.” This is the best we can do. The best we can do is get lost in the performance.
“To get lose in the performance” — this sounds like “flow,” and indeed I think it has something to do with “flow,” which also has something to do with “intrinsic motivation,” topics of great concern for O.G. Rose. Indeed, I do think that the Absolute Knower and/or Deleuzian Individual is intrinsically motivated, as I also think art and beauty are critical in the cultivation of intrinsic motivation (for these train us to “condition ourselves” to apprehend the world differently and anew), hence why it’s appropriate that “acting” is central to Drive My Car. Where there is “intrinsic motivation,” which is to say where an individual is “lost in an act for the sake of the act itself” (where First Mover and Final Cause combine, alluding to Aristotle), then the Bringing It Forth can occur, the act around which I think people and communities today must orbit so that we can avoid the social tragedies and effacements described in Belonging Again (regardless if there is an accompanying belief in God or not). Where there is “intrinsic motivation,” there can also be “self-forgetfulness,” which is when the Imaginary and Symbolic seem to “practically vanish” (though not technically or permanently) and thus “The Real” break through.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Tim Adalin of Voicecraft on “The Phenomenology of Voice,” and in that conversation we discussed the mysterious “Bringing It Forth” that can occur in speech. We discussed the mysterious Evocation that comes with speech, which is “behind” the words and signifiers, and we really tried to explore the “It” which is “behind” words and that make them possible. There are moments where this “It” can glimmer forth and we can glimpse it (to use language from A Philosophy of Glimpses), which occurs when we successfully “Bring It Forth,” and it was noted in the discussion that learning the art of Bringing It Forth seems paramount for the establishment of new communities in our world today, where “The Conflict of Society” is losing “plausible deniability” and the challenges of Pluralism growing. Thanks to Drive My Car, I think the conversation of Mr. Adalin and myself can fitted into a framework of “Lacanian New Sincerity.”
Lacan tells us that the subject is structured according to language, and in “The Phenomenology of Voice,” Mr. Adalin and I discuss how language is what makes possible Bringing It Forth while at the same time making The Bringing It Forth so difficult to accomplish. If we didn’t have selves structured by language, we couldn’t “act from the bottom of our hearts,” but that very Imaginary Self is what makes “acting from the bottom of our hearts” so difficult: what makes possible the genuine is also what makes possible self-deception: God is hidden because God is God. But as God must be hidden, so too we must deal with a self that makes possible self-deception if we are to have any possibility of Bringing It Forth: there is no easy road, but that doesn’t mean there is only a road with a dead end.
What is the difference between “A Glimmer of the Real” and “Bringing It Forth?” Is not one terrifying while the other is beautiful? Yes, but there is a long history of terror and beauty being combined, say in God. There are even some theologians who say that “God is hell,” in the sense that those who hate God experience God has “infinite torture.” Of possible theological interest, this is a way to solve the problem of why God would create a hell, for God doesn’t so much create hell as God just exists and entities choose to relate to God either according to love or hatred. This transforms “the problem of hell” into “the problem of free will,” which would take another paper to discuss, but the point is that God can be both Heaven/Hell, based on the way we “bring ourselves to God.” One orientation leads to an experience of God as Heaven, while another orientation leads to an experience of God as Hell. A similar logic applies here: when we experience “The Real” without cultivation, it is a terror, but with cultivation it can be “The Beautiful.” God gives saints incredible challenges, and if God gave these challenges to those who weren’t ready, it could perhaps be taken as evidence that God was the Devil. But for those who are “conditioned,” the challenges of God are gifts, opening up new horizons of The All Possible.
A man who can lift a hundred pounds could be crushed under a thousand, and yet both “challenges” involve weights. The lifting of a hundred pounds could make someone stronger and more capable, while the thousand pounds could cause an injury and frustration. We can handle only what we are “conditioned” for, hence why we must ascend gradually from Dante toward “The Real,” perhaps like a ball stuck in an orbit that comes back around a little closer each time. “The Real” is “The Beautiful,” different experiences of the same Something or [ ] (to use a symbol from “The VORD” by O.G. Rose).⁴ And this suggests why we should not wish for a life without “The Real,” despite how terrifying “The Real” might prove, which is to say we should not hope to live without “The Lacanian Trinity,” seeing at that trinity is necessary for us to handle “The Real” (and gradually more of it). For us to accept Lacan is for us to accept act-ing, which is to accept that to act is to act.
We should seek to Bring something into the world versus find something in it; we are to Bring Forth more than consume in. I don’t mean to suggest that consumption is always bad, but a world of consumption is a world which will find itself “finding value” in consumption, and this will lead to scarcity and “Zero Sumness” (as discussed in “The Dialectic Between Creativity and Energy” by O.G. Rose). But if we are in the business of Bringing Forth, then we will add value to the world, and we will focus on consumption to be in service of Bringing Forth and adding to the world. This will indeed contribute to “intrinsic motivation,” for though there is not always something around us which we can consume, we always are “carrying around the room inside of us” out of which we can Bring Forth. Creativity is “noncontingent”: there is no environment in which it cannot theoretically occur, while consumption is contingent on there being something to consume. If we value Bringing Forth, we will culturally value creativity, and this will stress the cultivation of intrinsic motivation. A world that is motivated differently is a different world, for it runs a different motor. To be motivated to Bring Forth is to be motivated differently. It is a new “line of flight.” It is to avoid “capture.”
To Evoke is not to consume; a world of Evoking will be far more Non-Zero Sum. Yes, I will have to expand on this argument in The Fate of Beauty, but I wanted to note it here to say that “The Lacanian New Sincerity” will also help us address or socioeconomic crisis. It will help us move off an economy of scarcity and dwindling Nonzero Sumness in favor of creativity and the joy that comes from intrinsic motivation. I would never claim that mental illness is “just” a matter of motivation, but a loss of motivation goes a long way to causing depression and hopelessness. If we could create a world that cultivates intrinsic motivation, we could help create a world that fought “The Meaning Crisis.” Something that is getting in the way of achieving that world is a failure to embrace and accept “The Lacanian Trinity,” as Drive My Car would encourage us to do. In “negating” the “true self” though, we can “sublate” into sincerity.
“The Real” can be “The Beautiful” if we relate to [ ] as “Absolute Knowers,” accepting “The Lacanian New Sincerity,” which we can then Bring Forth as “The Beautiful” and orbit “Absolute Communities” around, thus addressing the challenges of Belonging Again. And this is why Dostoevsky was right, I think: beauty can save the world.
Many philosophers today talk about “The Event,” an occurrence which changes the meaning of everything that came before it and that announces the birth of a new paradigm. All of history must be rewritten and reconsidered in light of “The Event,” and perhaps we can think of “Bringing It Forth” as an Event which occurs in the life of an individual that transforms the entire horizon of what is possible in a person’s life. Once we see a green cat, the whole world suddenly becomes a place where green cats are possible; likewise, once we experience “Bringing It Force,” the world becomes a place where Bringing It Forth is possible. This also transforms our relationship to “The Real,” where suddenly “The Real,” existentially terrifying and overwhelming, can also be Something Else, “The Beautiful.” God can convict and terrify us, and, again, we could also say that God himself is Hell to those who hate God (for God is everything). Similarly, for those who don’t accept “The Lacanian Trinity,” then perhaps “The Real” must be terrible, but if we can “integrate with lack” and become “Absolute Knowers,” then “The Real” can be “negated” into a Something and then “sublated” into “The Beautiful.” This is “The Lacanian New Sincerity.” This is why mastering the skill of Bringing It Forth matters, as shown in Drive My Car. This is why “conditioning ourselves” to Bring It Forth matters.
How do we “meet the condition” to Bring It Forth? Well, we must first change our metric from trying to deny and escape “The Real” to instead accepting it, while also simultaneously accepting that we can never fully handle “The Real” (as belief in God both as ascent to the existence of a Being who we can never fully know in His existence — a strange and paradoxical move). But this acceptance is not merely intellectual but must also be “full body” (for we are indeed embodied), and this is where “the return to common life” and “real choice” are so critical (as stressed in The True Isn’t the Rational). We must commit ourselves to a real and lived life, a place where we fully feel and experience our “lack” and “incompleteness.” We cannot be and do everything, and so we must commit to something, versus live in denial that we cannot achieve everything and wholeness. Once we “return to common life,” as we are taught by Hume, we can feel like “the world is real” while also avoiding the temptations for “autonomous rationality.” This can lead us into accepting “nonrationality,” which we must if we are to believe in “The Real,” which is fundamentally “nonrational.” We must feel like “the world is real” (versus a simulation, as discussed in “Homo Egeo” by O.G. Rose), which requires “a real choice” we cannot escape, and we must be open to “the nonrational” (which is for us to integrate with “otherness,” a move from Self-Consciousness to Reason in Hegel, which is to move from A/A to A/B). Once we are so committed and acceptant of A/B (“integration with lack/otherness”), then we don’t just “intellectually accept The Real,” but “full bodily accept The Real,” and that means the Bringing It Forth can occur. For we are “here,” and thus the great “there” can break in and unveil the world as a place of “here/there”-ness — a place of “The Absolute.”
Another reason why perhaps “The Real/Beautiful” breaks through in art so well is because great art requires us to be “full body,” and it requires us to “fully commit” to “the role,” which simulates a “real choice.” Even if the artistic experience or performance is temporarily, it can be a kind of “micro-simulation” of how we should live our entire lives: we are in art fully committed to something, treat it as real (we do not ask if Chekov is really a simulation, funny enough, suggesting that “knowing it is imaginary” helps us overcome “The Imaginary”), and we also seek for something “other than us” (Hegel) to take us over (actors try to “become Chekov,” per se, or become their characters). All of this adds up to creating a “contained experiment,” if you will, which expresses “The Lacanian New Sincerity.” When this is accomplished, we can Bring It Forth and experience “The Real” as “The Beauty.” The terror of God becomes Beatific.
When the two female actors in Drive My Car have their deep and sincere moment outside, performing Chekov, we witness Bringing It Forth. We witness how “The Real” can substantiate “The Beautiful,” but this can only occur if we stop trying to deny “The Real” and if we accept “The Lacanian Trinity.” Our metric for “the good life” changed accordingly, we can then become “Absolute Knowers” and “Deleuzian Individuals” who “Bring Forth the Beautiful,” and in this way contribute to overcoming the great problems explored in Belonging Again. As I hope the book has made clear, previous models for social design will not longer prove adequate, which is to say that we need something new. And here, I believe, is what Absolute Communities must do:
1. Teach people that we cannot escape “The Lacanian Trinity.” This is to “accept our limits” and become “Absolute Knowers,” integrated with “lack.”
2. Teach people that the meaning of life is “to act from the bottom of our heart.” This is difficult, for it requires facing and approaching “The Real,” and that can destroy us. Hence, we will need courage, discernment, wisdom — the subjects of The True Isn’t the Rational (especially the epistemological works).
3. Teach people that we cannot act “from the bottom of our hearts” unless we “lose ourselves” in the performance, which requires us to make a “real choice” and committed to a way of life. This is Hume’s “return to common life,” and it also entails “The Absolute Choice” described in O.G. Rose, for it requires me to “treat as real” that which is outside of me (“otherness,” as Hegel discusses). I choose to commit myself and embed myself in that which isn’t me, which is for me to believe that how I experience things is not necessarily identical with all there is, which is for me to accept limits on my subjectivity. I deny that my A/A is “a self-relating positivity” and instead choose to see myself as “a self-relating negativity,” which is A/B. I have thus chosen both to commit myself to a way of life, and chosen to view what is external to me as real: I have both chosen A/B over A/A and chosen to commit to A/B, until death does me part. In this way, “The Absolute Choice,” “The Real Choice,’ and “The Return to Common Life” all overlap, as I must learn and realize to have a chance of then “doing these.” But, indeed, I must then do.
End of the learning phrase.
4. Once we are committed to a way of life, then “otherness” becomes real to us, which is for us to move from Self-Consciousness to Reason, which is for us to move from A/A to A/B and accept “nonrationality” (that “the true isn’t the rational”). At this point, we move from “Absoluter Knowers” to “Absoluter Doers,” per se (though I often use the terms interchangeably), which means we are living “Absolute Knowing full body.”
5. “Absolute Doers,” it is now possible for us to Bring It Forth, not just randomly or unsystematically in a performance, but regularly and well. We can develop the skill of Bringing It Forth, which is to say we can “condition ourselves” to better experience it, to better share it, and to better “create the conditions around us” to incubate further Bringing It Forth. The better we master this skill and art-form, the more glimpses of Bringing It Forth we can experience (to use language from A Philosophy of Glimpses). This is for us to also learn “self-forgetfulness,” as Timothy Keller discusses, which is arguably what great actors do when they “lose themselves in a role.” And all this is for us to determine “the fate of beauty,” which is to say we help save beauty from our lives. Where there is beauty, “intrinsic motivation” can be cultivated, for we are “intrinsically motivated” toward the beautiful.
6. Where there are “Absolute Doers,” there can be Absolute Community, and this can be places which “Bring Forth the Beautiful,” precisely because they honor, revere, and respect The Real (like “reverential fear” of God). Given what has been described in Belonging Again and the inescapable tension at the heart of all social orders (“The Conflict of Society”), a tension which is now becoming “visible” and undeniable, Absolute Communities today seem to be our only hope for avoiding socioeconomic collapse. The fate of beauty is the fate of us.
7. Where we realize the possibilities of “Bringing It Forth” and “The Beautiful,” we realize that the world is a place where “The Beautiful” is possible, and this can make us “intrinsically motivated,” radically transforming the socioeconomic order for the better (as explored in “Joy to the World,” “The Creative Concord,” and many other works). So “intrinsically motivated,” we as humans will finally realize “the Platonic forms” according to which we are supposed to live our lives, “the tracts” and “orbits” along which we realize the fullness of ourselves (as described in “Geometry, Astronomy, and Platonic Forms as Ordering Principles” by O.G. Rose). “Orbits” move planets “on their own,” and so the place of “intrinsic motivation” is the place of realizing our “form.” And there new worlds can be Beautifully “formed” and Brought Forth.
Considering all this, we might here be finally suggesting how we can learn and cultivate “intrinsic motivation”: accept “The Lacanian Trinity.” Act. We are act-ors. We are in a performance. Go. Just go. If we accept all of this is just acting and must just be acting, then everything which exists is part of the act. Acting is everything. Acting is life. And so we must act. We ought to “intrinsically motivated.” Because the best acting comes from “the bottom of our heart.” Just do something. Improvise. Act. Great actors are great improvisors. Great improvisors train themselves in “intrinsic motivation,” in the ability to “move themselves” and thus leave Plato’s Cave on their own.
To act from “the bottom of our heart” is to be intrinsically motivated, for “the bottom of our heart” cannot be extrinsic from us in the world. It must be “in us,” and so a motivation from “the bottom of our heart” must be intrinsic. And if we understand that it is impossible for us to not act, it becomes easier to believe we aren’t doing something wrong in acting. That we’re not being fake. That we’re not being inauthentic. Are the girls in the practice of Chekov inauthentic? No — they Bring Forth. Everything in this life can be fake. Everything can be real. It is all Schrödinger’s Cat. The only authenticity is genuineness, but this sincerity is found not in escaping the play and acting toward some “wholeness” or “true self,” but in “losing ourselves” in it all Something More. This is “the freedom of self-forgetfulness,” as Timothy Keller describes: this is the bliss of Bringing It Forth. Of being lost in Something Bigger than ourselves. Of being lost in “otherness,” only possible in the place of Reason (A/B) versus Self-Consciousness (A/A). So let us forget trying to escape “The Lacanian Trinity” into our “true selves,” and instead make our goal not our “true self’ but our “sincere self.” Our genuine self. Our real self. Let us not focus on our “true self,” for we will never find that; instead, let us focus on sincerely doing our best to approach “The Real” so that we might “Bring Forth the Beautiful.” The fate of beauty is the fate of us, after all, and in choosing this effort, we can find motivation for ourselves. The dragon has the prize. Sublime.
As Daniel Zaruba insightfully put it, Hamaguchi and Murakami present us a new and compelling vision of the heroic: despite our shortcomings and paradoxical strangeness, we can keep going. Improvise. Act. If we can forgo our obsession with our “true selves,” our ideals, and the like, and instead seek to live sincerely and from “the bottom of our hearts,” even as our partners suffer, our work alienates, and our children leave us — then we can prove ourselves noble and beautiful. This point also brings to mind the work of Dr. Cadell Last on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where Nietzsche stresses that we should be “self-overcoming” and not “other-overcoming” (a point that also links our thoughts here with Hegel), which is to say we should forgo hierarchies and status. Again, Daniel Zaruba put it beautifully:
‘It is not about rising above everybody else, but it is about enduring one’s fate with sincerity and humility, despite the many hardships life throws at us. I would also say this is how we may be able to juxtapose a heroism that is based on extrinsic motivation versus one that is based on intrinsic motivation. The former tries to achieve things such as honor, wealth, status and so on, i.e. things which obtain their value through the validation of others, while the latter ‘hero’ tries to be sincere to himself.’
“The true self” is to be negated/sublated into “the sincere self,” the individual who makes a “real choice” to face life and take life as it comes. “True selves” demotivate, I think, for the goal is unclear and never seems to arrive, and it is hard to be motivated by something that never feels to arrive (as if Waiting for Godot). The “sincere self” motivates there, not only because it feels like doing something, but also because it feels like it can arrive. “Ideas are not experiences,” which is why civilization is in trouble, yes, but it’s always why we should focus on “sincerity.” “The true self” is always an idea, while “the sincere self” is an experience. It can push us to dance like a star. To Bring Forth is to answer Zarathustra. He Brought.
Yes, I know that by the phrase “true self” people often mean their “sincere self” (I myself am guilty of ths), but I’m afraid the word “true” can cause confusion. Words are sticky, and quickly “true self” comes to mean “noncontingent self” and/or “Platonic self.” This is what I hope to deconstruct, emphasizing that we need to think of “true self” as only having value when it means our “sincere self” or even “real self.” I will use here the language of “The Real Self,” for we have discussed Lacan extensively, and if were have successfully argued that “The Real” and “The Beautiful” are two sides of the same coin (different only because of our orientation to the Something), then we could actually discuss “The Real/Beautiful Self.” What we Bring Forth is “The Real” which horrifies us as “The Beautiful”: the Something which makes Lovecraft possible is the Something incarnate in Christ. Thus, our goal is to “act from the bottom of our heart,” and in doing so it becomes possible for us to be our “Real/Beautiful Self.” This is the Absolute Knower and Doer, the Deleuzian Individual — “The Real/Beautiful Self.” Is there a word which could replace “Real/Beautiful,” something less clumsy? Yes, but only if we remember the word always means “Real/Beautiful.” “The Sublime Self.” “The Sublime Community.”
This is “The Lacanian New Sincerity,” perhaps, our final option, given the warnings described in Belonging Again. The Sublime Community is “The Game A/B” that I think we need to seek, for Sublime Communities could operate socioeconomically, incubating the artifex, and “make space” for difference, thus handling Neoliberalism and Globalization, as hopefully the work of O.G. Rose has made clear. This is the goal of “The Scholé Option”: we are seeking Sublime Selves and Sublime Communities to Bring Forth and join “The Event.” This will not be easy, for it will require radical levels of trust, for everyone must be responsible for their “own sincerity,” and yet Absolute Communities are ones in which people accept their limits and need for “other-ness” (A/B). In limits and lacks, we trust, and where there is trust there can be love. And that is where there can be Sublimity — come and see. Between Sublimity or effacement, we can act and choose life. The bottom of the heart is where we belong again.
¹I should note here that some people believe psychedelics, meditations, and other practices might help us “lose ourselves” in Something Bigger. For more on that, please see the work of Ethan Nelson at Becoming Conscious, such as “Open-Sourcing the Transformational Process with Psycho-Tech Protocols.”
Open-Sourcing the Transformational Process with Psycho-Tech Protocols
So the question for us is what Meaning 3.0 might look like. Can we architect culture that balances the salvation of…
²If we wanted to use Heideggerian language, we could say that art unveils the possibility of “different houses of being,” as does language, which fits with Lacan in thinking that the subject is structured according to language. This also suggests why the use of language in Drive My Car further strengthens its connection with Lacan.
³For God to be “experienced directly” would be the start of Heaven and Eternity but end of the possibility of “new beings,” though that is a theological point which would have to be elaborated on.
⁴Perhaps OM and YWH are terms used to refer to the Something — I don’t know — and I hesitate to blend the categories of “The Transcendent” and “The Real,” for this would be to blur Philosophy with what I call Alterology. Still, I don’t deny the possibility of “The Real” leading to “The Transcendent,” though that might be a step beyond the Bringing It Forth I think we can discuss in Philosophy without stepping into Philosophical Alterology (not to say this step cannot be justified — it’s just that such is another topic for another time).