Strangely Ordinary

by anti-orpheus

As a prelude to a discussion about “the ordinary” in its various guises i.e. (1) its illusory manifestation as a privileged space impermeable to the threatening uncanny of “real world” politics; (2) as the radical ordinary reclaimed from the seeming greyscale of the neoliberal West and its culture industry:

“Themes of “wonder” and the “marvel of Being” are suspect if they refer to an ecstatic mysticism that pretends to escape the world. The theme of scientific curiosity is no less suspect if it boils down to a collector’s preoccupation with rarities. In both cases, desire for the exception presupposes disdain for the ordinary. Hegel was un-­ doubtedly the first to have this properly modern consciousness of the violent paradox of a thinking whose own value is as yet un-­ heard of, and whose domain is the grayness of the world. This or-­ dinary grayness, the insignificance of the everyday—which the Heideggerian “one” still bears the mark of—assumes an absent, lost, or far away “grandeur.” Yet, truth can be nothing if not the truth of being in totality, that is, the totality of its “ordinariness,”just as meaning can only be right at [à même] existence and no-­ where else. The modern world asks that this truth be thought: that meaning is right at. It is in the indefinite plurality of origins and their coexistence. The “ordinary” is always exceptional, however little we understand its character as origin. What we receive most communally as “strange” is that the ordinary itself is originary. W i t h existence laid open in this way and the meaning of the world being what it is, the exception is the rule. (Is this not the testimony of the arts and literature? Is not the first and only purpose of their strange existence the presentation of this strangeness? After all, in the etymology of the word bizarre)1 whether the word comes from Basque or Arabic, there is a sense ofvalor, commanding presence, and elegance.)”

Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, trans. Robert D. Richardson and Anne E. O’Byrne (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2000), 10.

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