01 September 2010

I was born...

I have a new wrinkle. I found it just now looking in the mirror back at me.

It's just above the inside corner of my left eyebrow. I didn't have this wrinkle as a 28-year-old. It is my 29-year-old self peaking through the younger facade.

I thought that a few musings on this day of days would be somewhat appropriate. Especially since I just returned home from a graduate seminar on feminist theories of natality, Hannah Arendt's reworking of the persistent emphasis on death by Western philosophy. Natality is the primal condition of being born, of the coming-into the political by a subject. It is hope and change. We all experience natality but only in its absence. I say, "I was born on September 1, 1981 in Seattle, Washington," but I wasn't really there. We weren't there as a fledged speaking subject capable of expressing our immediate potentiality.

I was born... to two loving parents who had all the hope in the world for me. Although Arendt's concept of natality is not limited to physical birth, the capacity for each human being to be born presents them with the potential for political agency. To be part of a public, and act in such a way to enables the potentiality in others, can liberate the staid ideology of the old guard focused on the second absent event, death. At death, we return to an unspeakable state. Death can be witnessed but not experienced. To what extent does birth imply a more public event? As the mother becomes mother and child, the splitting of one into two is not reversed with death. In death, two becomes one in the return of our physical body to the earth, but this can only be seen as a political, public act if we ascribe agency to the earth. By grounding this theory in the inorganic, or inanimate subject, vital matter assumes a subjective role over the dead.

Back to the wrinkle. The intersection of birth and death is life, an event that can be experienced. We can speak about life. We can act with intention, thereby fulfilling the promise of natality given at birth.

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