Difference Delirium

The Goldberg Variations are a difference delirium to me — order within this will to infinity.

In proposition 57 of The Monadology, Leibniz writes, "The same town looked at from different angles appears completely different, and is, as it were, multiplied perspectively. In the same way, it emerges that, because of the infinite number of simple substances, there seem to be as many different universes as there are substances. However, these are only different perspectives on a single universe, according to the different points of view of each monad." That is to say, from God's perspective, there is only one universe (leave it to Borges to flesh out Leibniz's possible worlds) but there are an infinite number of perspectives on and of that universe, each different.

And this, Leibniz continues in #58, "is the means for obtaining as much variety as possible, but with the greatest order as possible. In other words, it is the means for obtaining as much perfection as possible."

To create as much variety as possible and yet not give way to chaos; to create a grammar of existence that can breed infinite difference: What a will! Leibniz isn't driven to order the world, to classify the world, to limit the world. Or, rather, he is driven to create an open order with infinite classifications and infinite limits. For Leibniz, the world is full, contained, and infinite. That's even stranger!

Leibniz's world is delirious as every piece of matter is infinitely divisible: within every drop of pond water is an infinite number of ponds, each infinitely divisible, each containing an infinite number of ponds. It approaches the sublime, threatening to explode our cognition, if not our bodies. But his world is not sublime — it is not just infinite stuff but an ordered infinite stuff, everything connected to everything else and, together, forging the world itself. Each monad expresses the entire universe — from its perspective. 

It is this will to delirium, to maximizing difference, that attracts me so strongly. I love this image, this thought, this world view: to see this way is to see the world shimmer, glimmer, and glow. And this is what I want from logics, from ideas, from notions and thoughts and beliefs: I want difference delirium.

This is my attraction to rhetoric over language. The sophist sees perspective in every utterance, argument in every direction to infinity — not combat or conflict, mind you, but the staking of positions, the forging and undoing of territories both visible and invisible. There is no stable ground, no "background" (whatever the fuck that is), no place where nothing is moving — not to the sophist.

This is my attraction to Bergson who sees a world always and already in motion — a world of creative evolution. Change, for Bergson, is not something added to the world: it is constitutive of the world, constitutive of matter.  That is so fucking incredible! Matter — the stuff of the world — is constituted by change! The world is an endless ooze dense with infinite interactions of infinite variety.

And yet it's still not chaos. It's not just a mumble jumble of stuff. There is order but it's not order from above. It's emergent order as things follow immanent laws.

This is why I am so enamored of Lucretius who, in seeing atoms fall through space, finds swerves, inclinations, a tendency to go this way or that.

And, of course, Leibniz, Lucretius, and Bergson are all quite different from each other. I don't want to conflate them but to express a common will: a will to difference delirium.  It's what I find in Sarah Sze, in Matthew Ritchie, and Julie Mehretu — mappings of this delirium yet each in a very different style, with a very different world view.

I like to see the world this way. It feels enlivening, vital, invigorating. I may enjoy Kant now and again, and maybe even a tad of Hegel, but only in as much as they become these incredibly strange constellations in the teem.  I like right angles and geometry and conceptual categories — as long as they're thrown into the mix. This makes life even stranger, even more delirious, like seeing the lava lamp ooze suddenly form a perfect square.

Do I need this delirium to be true? This is beyond truth and lies. It does feel right to me — right, here, meaning that it feels like health. Everything in its right place and there are an infinite number of things and an infinite number of right places.


Anonymous said...

Really interesting that you posted this today, as I just had my last class on The Monadology and am currently writing a paper on Bergson's duration (which if you think about it, the very act of writing a paper about that concept is kind of self-defeating or at least really bizarre).

What I love about the Leibniz I've read so far is that idea of "worlds within worlds." Thinking about Derrida's idea of "free play" in this sense, or a de-centering/re-centering almost doesn't even make sense...what is the center in this impossible-to-reduce multiplicity? You get down to this little speck, and then look farther, if you can, and it explodes. And what you thought was the center was really just a bomb waiting to go off, another rupture into innumerable multiplicities.

While most people would think that this sort of thing is only the terrible byproduct of some unwieldy axioms or first principles, and explain it away theoretically, Leibniz makes it his center. Sort of shifting the whole idea of the center away from "the destination" or "the things themselves" to more like a football huddle. Okay, we've gotten here from these plays, what now? Break. Run the play. Everything unexpected, then regroup. In football, it lasts sixty minutes; in life, it precedes and succeeds you. Every next play is based on the previous play, but your play only constitutes a minute amount of time relative to the whole game...a bit of it is yours, the rest is other people's. And so you've got to screw up quite a bit, and try to figure out from the other team just how you got there. But it's like trying to work backwards in a chess match. The multiplicity is irreducible — frightening if you are tied to certainty; liberating if you revel in possibility.

(Oh, and amazing video, by the way).

drwatson said...


I just wrote this, so this is probably just a desire to share. But thinking about this piece that you've written along side this short little thing I've written seemed to fit.

dustygravel said...

Watching Glenn Gould: (chuckle chuckle...)4:oo Mr.Gould leans back and sweeps his hands, a prime mover, a confident critic of
his(?) own work as a "composer, interpreter, listener" "and it was good".

Later on at the piano Glenn Gould plays at first quietly then the tune starts to pick up at 9:26, those higher registers of the piano are always tinkling water to me. The camera eye pans up we see Glenn's psychotic face quivering as if he's speaking baby talk back to the piano, "poppa loves baby!!"Then at about 10:40 the parental pathos reaches the goggling point, when the crazy old man looks as though he is about to shout his frantic fatherly pride to the world. It's mine all mine!! His brain child running around the house terrorizing the baby sitter like some dainty fawn mindlessly tromping all over the forest fauna (by the way drwatson I read your post, Jerry McGuire and Truth ). Or maybe the tune is a whole house hold of 30 weird little finicky runts, all doing there damndest to destroy every pace of fine china in the house. Yes! Indeed their kind of like Leibniz’s monads committing cosmic anarchy on Prince Ugiens estate.

Hay, and you know that it's a historical fact that Bach liked to revel in Leibniz style anarchy as David Shavin writes in his article, Thinking Through Singing, "Bach was perhaps the most prolific proponent of G.W. Leibniz’s method, both of problem-solving, and of organizing the powerful instrument of the mind."

And what is Leibniz's "powerful instrument of the mind?" the sweat anarchic dissonance inborn in all harmony. "The imperfections which exist in the universe are like the dissonances in an excellent composition, which, in the opinion of those who well understand the connection, contribute to make this [the composition] more perfect," his words.

But this all begs the question...
Who’s the real father?

heres a link to the Thinking Through Singing: http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_97-01/004_bach_mus_off.html#n1

and for who ever cares Bach's musical revolution: