Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 262: Desert Islands Part II

NASA image of Bikini Atoll

The second of 5 excerpts to be posted over time from Gilles Deleuze's Desert Islands.

(Read Part I on Day 258)

But everything that geography has told us about the two kinds of islands, the imagination knew already on its own and in another way. The elan that draws humans toward islands extends the double movement that produces islands in themselves. Dreaming of islands‚ whether with joy or in fear, it doesn't matter‚ is dreaming of pulling away, of being already separate, far from any continent, of being lost and alone‚ or it is dreaming of starting from scratch, recreating, beginning anew. Some islands drifted away from the continent, but the island is also that toward which one drifts; other islands originated in the ocean, but the island is also the origin, radical and absolute. Certainly, separating and creating are not mutually exclusive: one has to hold one's own when one is separated, and had better be separate to create anew; nevertheless, one of the two tendencies always predominates. In this way, the movement of the imagination of islands takes up the movement of their production, but they don't have the same objective. It is the same movement, but a different goal. It is no longer the island that is separated from the continent, it is humans who find themselves separated from the world when on an island. It is no longer the island that is created from the bowels of the earth through the liquid depths, it is humans who create the world anew from the island and on the waters. Humans thus take up for themselves both movements of the island and are able to do so on an island that, precisely, lacks one kind of movement: humans can drift toward an island that is nonetheless originary, and they can create on an island that has merely drifted away. On closer inspection, we find here a new reason for every island to be and remain in theory deserted. An island doesn't stop being deserted simply because it is inhabited. While it is true that the movement of humans toward and on the island takes up the movement of the island prior to humankind, some people can occupy the island‚ it is still deserted, all the more so, provided they are sufficiently, that is, absolutely separate, and provided they are sufficient, absolute creators. Certainly, this is never the case in fact, though people who are shipwrecked approach such a condition. But for this to be the case, we need only extrapolate in imagination the movement they bring with them to the island. Only in appearance does such a movement put an end to the island's desertedness; in reality, it takes up and prolongs the elan that produced the island as deserted. Far from compromising it, humans bring the desertedness to its perfection and highest point. In certain conditions which attach them to the very movement of things, humans do not put an end to desertedness, they make it sacred. Those people who come to the island indeed occupy and populate it; but in reality, were they sufficiently separate, sufficiently creative, they would give the island only a dynamic image of itself, a consciousness of the movement which produced the island, such that through them the island would in the end become conscious of itself as deserted and unpeopled. The island would be only the dream of humans, and humans, the pure consciousness of the island.

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