Beyond the Tower of Babel

Text contributed by Oleg Koefoed and further conversation among network members...

Or the pain of not knowing how to express ourselves and managing to do so anyway... this is what you, Francesca, Insa, Hans, made me want to say, while reading some of your thoughts that make me smile, as I sense that there is something going on.

Beyond the Tower of Babel

Here we are, with all our different tongues. What is the sustainable way to deal with that issue? We all long to speak, to sing, in the voices that made us what we are. The voices that fill our throats and our minds, echoing in our beings, and defining our becoming, as well as the voicing of the event that has not yet been spoken. And there we stand, singing, whispering in the tongue given to us by history, so that we may speak within the same space. We suffer, for its proximity is not sufficient for us to feel the making of events that form our becoming. And we suffer, for it is still too filled with the histories of wars and defeats, too heavily weighed by the agony of cultures thrown to the ground as the words of the common tongue are spoken.

Where do we go, then, for a voice that will bring us the force of the evental, a voice that does not isolate us in the solitude of those who speak and are not heard? A voicing that lets us listen to it as we recognize in it the thousands and thousands of voices growing out of the loos of silence is what we seek, but where do we find it? Should we struggle to learn the language of one tribe that has won the battle of the spoken and written word up to this day, will that do it? Or should we fight one another until we reach another order, dismissing all languages that are not strong enough to survive? But what if something else was wrong in this approach? What if there is not one language for every culture or the choice between the natural languages that we have learned to recognize?

Let us assume for an instant that every event breathes life to a new voice, if not an entire language. In the sustainable event, this does not necessarily imply that other languages are destroyed, but is means that a meeting and melting takes place between the voices that are born in the intuitive space of the event, and the voices that speak to us out of the midst of cultures and histories entering and being reduced from their totality by the event itself. Intuition is precisely this, the possibility for voices born in the evental zone, voices (or maybe just voicing, see *ricognizioni marginali* ) that are born out of the intertwining of substantialities and spatialities in reciprocal detotalisation. And as the event is the zone in which intuition is made possible, let us try to look at voices speaking across linguistic traditions as events that make more and more voicing possible. This event is where languages are born, where the wealth and growth of sense and nonsense may play joyfully with one another across the limits of our understanding.

If we take our point of departure in the destruction of the tower that was said to unite all of humankind in one linguistic tribe, then the question that has filled the minds ever since has been which road to take from there? In the history of the West, the dominating story over the past centuries has been the one of reconstructing to tower in other forms, but with same essence. The West has been (and is still, to some extent) a dream of erection, not just in the masculine sense, but in the sense of the erection of a new tower, one that would and will unite humankind under the shadows of its uniform and unique language and voice. This story of course has many versions, the romantic being one of them, the one of modern realist politics being, at least on the surface, a quite different one. This vision justifies so many acts of dominance and control, be it obviously violent or disguised as paternal care. And still, in spite of all the bloodshed and all the tools of control, it never seems to lead anywhere nearer its own fulfilment.

Let us leave this story for now, though it is so much longer than that. Let us look at a slightly different version. One that says that I will not cry for the loss of the tower, I will not seek to build a new one, I will not attempt to bring us all together under the weight of one voice whispering in the back of our minds as we hear the multiple voicing of the evental becoming. Why not turn around the dream of the tower and play instead with the possibility of letting events happen. Events in which voices speak that have other bodies, other shapes, other rhythms, like the voices that are born when I swim in the cold water of the sea, or when I look into the wordless depths of my daughters loving gaze. But also the voices born when you meet the force of a body filled with hatred and despair, longing for an instant to destroy you and then being halted by something, by the twitch of a voicing that only lives for that moment in life, just time enough for the killing to be broken for now.

This is another long road, so let me make it short. Let me just welcome everyone into the zone where voices are more than elements of languages, where tensions are more than voices becoming, where sustensions are more than matters of force against one another, the deadly tale of dialectics from whose effects we are still trying to recover. What is born in this zone has no obligation to become a language, to erect a masterpiece or even to make any particular sense as such. Freedom must be a fundamental element of sustension, and I prefer to use this word for now, so I do not have to explain here and now why sustaining is not preserving, but becoming and letting become. Let me call it sustension, and call for a zone in which all the thoughts and invitations and desires may bend into new words, new shapes, or less than words and less than shapes, seeing that the small sometimes contains the inexplicable wealth of the virtual as we almost grab it. Surely, this zone and the stepping into it implies a great risk of being taken by that from which we feel that we cannot withdraw (Blanchots indésaisissable), rather than producing the grasp of the be-griff (concept). Be it so, for all the force of concepts, I believe there is time to let them become and time to suspend their becoming for a moment of lingering in a zone of uncertain multitude of voicing without closure.

In other words: let’s play, rather than limit ourselves. If you don’t know the word, write another one. If you don’t know another one, draw one, take a picture, do a dance, shape a stone, stop and think. Become more.

With and by love,


(by Oleg Koefoed, Apr 23 2007)

thanks Oleg, for yours words I can’t draw that, now, but I answer with a long long long long long long long long long and big SMILE

(by Francesca Cozzolino, Apr 24 2007)

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