Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 263: Desert Islands Part III

statues at Easter Island

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

(Read Part I on Day 258 and Part II on Day 262)
For this to be the case, there is again but one condition: humans would have to reduce themselves to the movement that brings them to the island, the movement which prolongs and takes up the elan that produced the island. Then geography and the imagination would be one. To that question so dear to the old explorers‚ which creatures live on deserted islands?"‚ one could only answer: human beings live there already, but uncommon humans, they are absolutely separate, absolute creators, in short, an Idea of humanity, a prototype, a man who would almost be a god, a woman who would be a goddess, a great Amnesiac, a pure Artist, a consciousness of Earth and Ocean, an enormous hurricane, a beautiful witch, a statue from the Easter Islands. There you have a human being who precedes itself. Such a creature on a deserted island would be the deserted island itself, insofar as it imagines and reflects itself in its first movement. A consciousness of the earth and ocean, such is the deserted island, ready to begin the world anew. But since human beings, even voluntarily, are not identical to the movement that puts them on the island, they are unable to join with the elan that produces the island; they always encounter it from the outside, and their presence in fact spoils its desertedness. The unity of the deserted island and its inhabitant is thus not actual, only imaginary, like the idea of looking behind the curtain when one is not behind it. More importantly, it is doubtful whether the individual imagination, unaided, could raise itself up to such an admirable identity; it would require the collective imagination, what is most profound in it, i.e. rites and mythology. In the facts themselves we find at least a negative confirmation of all this, if we consider what a deserted island is in reality, that is, geographically. The island, and all the more so the deserted island, is an extremely poor or weak notion from the point of view of geography. This is to its credit. The range of islands has no objective unity, and deserted islands have even less. The deserted island may indeed have extremely poor soil. Deserted, the island may be a desert, but not necessarily. The real desert is uninhabited only insofar as it presents no conditions that by rights would make life possible, whether vegetable, animal, or human. On the contrary, the lack of inhabitants on the deserted island is a pure fact due to circumstance, in other words, the island's surroundings. The island is what the sea surrounds and what we travel around. It is like an egg. An egg of the sea, it is round. It is as though the island had pushed its desert outside. What is deserted is the ocean around it. It is by virtue of circumstance, for other reasons than the principle on which the island depends, that ships pass in the distance and never come ashore. The island is deserted more than it is a desert. So much so, that in itself the island may contain the liveliest of rivers, the most agile fauna, the brightest flora, the most amazing nourishment, the hardiest of savages, and the castaway as its most precious fruit, it may even contain, however momentarily, the ship that comes to take him away. For all that, it is not any less a deserted island. To change this situation, we would have to overhaul the general distribution of the continents, the state of the seas, and the lines of navigation. This is to state once again that the essence of the deserted island is imaginary and not actual, mythological and not geographical.

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