my precarious (Sputnik Sweeheart)

December 9th, 2009 | 3 comments

So that’s the way we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us – that’s snatched right out of our hands – even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness. (Murukami, Sputnik Sweeheart 207)

…and in the Norwegian night sky, a spiral, lighting the heavens for over two minutes, what is this strange sight

"the mysterious lysfenomen""

"the mysterious lysfenomen"

What gains greater notice — this spiral or the infelicities of Tiger Woods? The media attention is resolutely focused on the AfroAmerican groin as usual; the strangeness of the night sky passes us unnoticed. Perhaps because it gestures not toward what we already know – that Tiger, like 99% of us, thinks the confines of marriage a sham, and that human life be too short to not divest it among many – but toward what we don’t know. This light, the sky, these are unassimilable objects. Though reported and noticed as they do not escape all perception (that which does passes us by without a trace — perhaps), such events constitute a counter-event. A slip within symbolic systems. Such slips make possible all kinds of escapes and exit strategies.

Sputnik Sweetheart, the novel by Japanese writer Murakami, depicts an exit strategy. A novel not unlike Antonioni’s L’Avventura, it revolves around a missing character and an island. A missing loved one, but one loved without the return of affection. A nonreciprocal relationship. And then a search: the would-be lover missing. A third character involved, another woman, and the island itself. Unlike Antonioni, who traces the disintegration of empathy as the protagonist loses interest in his lost lover, quickly shifting his affections to another (the best friend of the missing woman), Murukami leaves us only with a disintegration of contact with the world itself. A Japanese man in Greece; the uncontact with the world is complete.

Contemporary labour has a touch of unreality about it. Its production incomplete, uncontact with a world that misses that which is most significant. When questions are replied with reprimands. Precarious labour has an existential taste of the immaterial to it; that one’s actions benefit an unseen master, with effects ultimately satisfying to no one, least of all to oneself. Missing is the substantial content of the work. Thought applied to work, to the possibilities of its overall transformation, is emptied of itself by way of negation from above. The workforce is kept impermanent by way of permanent threat of underemployment. And yet employment is all there is for the most of the many, in the strictest ontological sense.

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