Friday, January 14, 2005

The Red Sun of Decision and Desire (Transparency IV)

. . .and the red sun of desire and decision (the two things that create a live world) rose higher and higher, while upon a succession of balconies a succession of libertines, sparkling glass in hand, toasted the bliss of past and future nights.

Nabokov, Lolita, Ch. 17

I want to look at two sections of the listed crystogram now. (The original passage can be found here. The list is here.) First, the component of the image that indicates a desire:
a sudden growth and assertion
a whole life
a concentration
a single desire to smoke
Now, I don't want to suggest that Luzhin (our heroic smoker) animates a "live world" so I will not, at least immediately, go looking for the indication of a decision here. But what we can see is the trace of Luzhin's beliefs. These are as tacit as his existence, as his desire to smoke (dulled by its continuous satisfaction), but they are explicated by a sudden discovery.
a shaking
a matchbox
a failure to evoke

Discovery is to belief what decision is to desire. Just as a decision may obey or disobey desire, so a discovery may confirm or disconfirm a belief. Luzhin discovers that there are no matches in the box, his shaking hand indicates the tacit belief that there would be. He now faces his desire and his world dies a little. He must decide to reconstitute it, to let the red sun rise again.
I confess, I am drawn to symmetry, and I notice here a growth set against a shaking, a whole life set against a matchbox, a concentration against a failure, a desire leaning on (what I am forced to posit as) a belief.

We are dealing with simple cases, just as Wittgenstein would build a philosophy of arithmetic on an analysis of the proposition that 2 + 2 = 4. The decision that is required is not especially difficult to make. Still, that is what this image evokes as we raise our rain-sparkling crystal to the sun.

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