Aplinkkeliai dėkoja lietuvių kilmės filosofui, vertėjui, keliautojui, fotografui prof. Alphonso Lingiui už parodytą dėmesį ir intenciją bendradarbiauti mūsų puslapyje. Pateikiamas tekstas „Seduction“ („Gundymas“) publikuojamas pirmą kartą. Šio teksto vertimą į lietuvių kalbą galite perskaityti čia:
In a canoe on a lake at night, we hum, we sing softly, picking up the rhythm of the waves and ripples of the lake, of the voices of the frogs and cicadas. The rhythm, the cadences go on by themselves; the pacing of our humming, our soft singing do not issue out of initiatives on our part; instead the rhythms of nature captivate us and reverberate in our voice, activate our voices making them resound.
To speak is to take an initiative, to have intentions. In speaking we formulate words to order to refer to situations and events. In listening to language, we attend to the stream of sound breaking into word-units, the conventionally coded sounds that relay us to the meaning, the message, and to the things or events being referred to. We are only marginally aware of the voice—the pitch, timbre, resonances, pacing of the voice.
Understanding the meaning of one another’s words is supposed to bring us together, but is it not the words added to our irritations and jostlings with one another that produce contempt, humiliation, subjugation and resentment, enmity and war? The words deviate our animosities from hand to hand confrontations into ruse and subterfuge, cunning and deceit. Language was invented by humans, Voltaire remarked, in order to conceal their thoughts.
The voice has powers of its own; it makes the words commanding, forbidding, menacing, guiding, inviting, consoling. But first, it is the voice, and not the words, that makes contact.
To distinguish the sounds just enough to be relayed to the meaning, to have our attention directed to the things and events referred to, is not to make contact with someone. We hear and obey the instruction on our GPS without making contact with anyone. To our question, the store clerk says “See where it says ‘Men’s Shoes’—turn left there for the exit.” The meaning of the words is anonymous, and they direct our attention to the store exit. The meaning turns our attention to, leads us to the distant. We turn from the clerk to the exit.
When someone addresses us, his or her voice makes contact with us. Someone greets us: “Hi!” It doesn’t mean “high” as opposed to “low”—it doesn’t mean anything. “Hello.” “Hey Al, how’s it goin’ man?” How extraordinary—our so sophisticated philosophies of language do not account for it—that this voice aimed at me touches me, makes contact with me, with everything I can mean by “me.” Even if I refuse to respond, or answer with the voice of the role I have assumed—answer as the professor, the father, the busy citizen—I know inwardly that this voice has penetrated through my role, my garb, to make contact with me.
Now we hear the tone of that voice—the pitch, the volume, the pacing. Our voice spontaneously picks up the tone, responds with that tone. In our conversations, the excitement or the serenity, the fatigue or the vitality in the other’s tone of voice invades us and animates us. A student bursts into our office, and addresses us “Excuse me, do you have a minute?” in an frazzled, twitchy tone of voice. If we slowly look up from our papers and answer “Yes, what is it?” in an officious, measured and flat, tone of voice, before we refuse what she has to say we refuse her.
The one who greets us is in the tone; her position, her stance, her implantation in the stable or quaking world are there in her tone of voice. Her confusion, her anxiety are in the pitch, accent, syncopation of her voice. Her vulnerability, her exposedness are in the timbre, resonance, overtones of her voice. Her vitality, her nervousness, fatigue, pain are in the lilt, volubility, intonations, pacing of her voice. Her singular inner life, her wellspring of energies and drives and aspirations are in the tone of her voice. Her life makes contact with us, penetrates us, animates our voice. Her life quickens our own.
The contact begins things together. A task. We recognize a guy we chatted briefly with in a bar pushing at his car stuck in the snow; he yells: “Hey buddy! Give us a hand!” A escapade. They yell “Come on!” as they race to the cliff to jump to the icy river below. An entertainment. Riding by our place on her bike on a sunny Saturday morning, she calls “Hey come on! Get your bike!” An adventure. He is standing in the African street where people are rushing and shouting and he calls “Hey hurry down!” to us at our hotel window.
Seduction is all about making contact, coming together, abandon each to the other. A seductive voice makes contact, invites kisses and caresses. The voice hums, purrs, laughs, sobs, gasps, sighs, intones softly songs banal and everywhere in the air, sings ostinatos and arpeggios. The seductive voice also utters words, sometimes words that abruptly condense, articulate, and define a turbulence of confused feelings and thoughts. Most often, however, the words are commonplace, unserious, insignificant, childish. Repetitions, puns, words indifferent to truth, without commitment. Words that do not say what they mean, that insinuate transgressions as insignificant, innocent play. The most audacious, perverse, deeds and abandons proposed are disguised in words that, if one wants, really mean nothing at all. Words that disconnect practical concerns, objectives, judgments, intentions, that open a vague, gauzy free space. Words that dissolve into murmurs and laughter. Every traveler has been seduced by a voice whose words he or she hardly understands.
It is not the meaning, but the specific properties of the voice that makes these vocalizations seductive–the timbre, resonance, overtones, intonations, melodic lines, rhythms. Each of us has a personal range of these qualities in our voice. And for each of us, there is a specific tone and cadence that gives its insinuating powers to the seductive voice.
The voice is naturally seductive. It quite artlessly finds tenderness, affection, and lust in its tone and breath.
School administrators, insurance adjusters, policewomen wilfully strip the sensuality out of their voice, leaving it dry and distant. Their words march in step like soldiers in uniform.
The intonations, resonances, consonances of the seductive voice are not directional but rhythmic and repetitive. This voice caresses our contours and surfaces. We feel someone’s resonant breath not in our inner ears, but across our face, spreading down our hands, our abdomen, our loins. The voice, its tones and cadences, like caresses, arouses random eddies of pleasure and torment.
The seductive voice is all approach, closeness, intimacy. It is low-pitched and secretive, soliciting attention to it. It closes off the boistrousness of the others; it vocalizes to muffle the rumble of the world. The seducer and the seduced are bent over like conspirators, not conspiring against others, conspiring to exclude the others. When the seductive voice is heard from the outside, its vacuity, its commonplace words and facile phrases sound ridiculous. When it is overheard, the voice of the seducer is stopped, its passion sours into embarrassment and anger toward the others who listened in.
The seductive voice becomes husky, dissonant with sighs, coughs, laughter and tears breaking in it, churned by the breath of a body heated and agitated. It continues of its own momentum, its rhythms, its cadences spreading, circling, ensnaring the seducer, like a song that absorbs the singer. The seductive voice is not a free-floating vocalization, like the information broadcast in airports; the seductive body approaches in it. It is localized on the moist and trembling lips; comes to us in the channel opened by the eyes gazing upon us, the nostrils visibly draw in the breath it resonates. The seductive voice dissolves the opposition between the inner body and the outer surfaces that conceal its workings. In the seductive voice and the seductive face that approaches in it the whole substance of the seducer is present for us, zone of agitation and warmth, desire, pleasure and torment.
The face without voice remains at a distance. The most beautiful, most carnal face that does not murmur withdraws into a spectacle, leaving our longing expiring in the transparent but barrier space between us.
Bank clerks, high school teachers standing before a room of adolescents heated with hormones, women CEOs who strip the sensuality out of their voice, also separate their voices from their faces. Their voices are just in the air, and become the geometry lesson, geometry audio, the bank regulations, the company policy. The voice of geometry quite disconnected from the sagging face and jowls of the teacher, the voice of law resounding in the air disconnected from the bony face of the CEO with twitches in her nose.
The voice without the face does not caress us, embrace us. In Kobo Abe’s novel, and the film Hiroshi Teshigahara composed with Kobo Abe, The Face of Another, a chemical researcher suffers an explosion in his laboratory; his face is destroyed. He was wearing goggles, so his eyes are undamaged, but his face is now covered with hard keloids, so that he can no longer smile, frown, raise his eyebrows, fill his cheeks. His face as a sensitive and susceptible substance is congealed into a spread of immobile hardness. His superiors affirm that his job is secure; his work is appreciated as before. At home, his wife is as faithful as before, devoting herself intelligently and attentively to his convalescence. But when, in an upsurge of lustful passion, he attempts to approach and embrace her sexually, she cannot respond. For the one who approaches us sexually is not the genitals; the mouth, the tongue, the eyes, the cheeks, the chin, the breath, the voice are integral to the sexual body, and we cannot be aroused by someone without a face. This is palpable in the film where for the first third of the film, he occupies the screen most of the time, his head wrapped in bandages, leaving only slits for his eyes, nostrils, and mouth, speaking all the time—and we find the idea of taking such a one to bed becomes more the more inconceivable, repellant.
Seduction is a vortex of sincerity, of authenticity. The whole matter of authenticity has vanished from contemporary philosophy, for which the decentered, vacated subject speaks texts whose meaning is not in some subjective intention but in a convergence of other texts. And indeed in most interchanges of talk, sincerity and authenticity are irrelevant and ignored. It really does not matter if the clerk in the store is speaking with his or her own voice, if he or she sincerely believes what he or she is saying about the bargains and the preferred customer cards; of course our neighbor says that he likes the furniture we bought and that our baby is beautiful. In the course of the day most of the things people say to us, it really does not matter if they are sincere or not, if they really personally believe what they say, if they are authentic or not.
But sincerity, authenticity, are at stake in seduction. The seductive voice ends in seduction, which is not a relay toward, or symbol of anything further. Seduction is sincere, like hunger and thirst are sincere. Seduction is not the Hegelian-Kojevean desire, which is desire for ends beyond ends, for the infinite. In assenting to the seductive voice, we abandon ourselves to kisses and caresses and voluptuous penetration, abandoning our will, our destiny, our self-respect. The voluptuous abandon is not a manoeuvre to use this abandon for our designs. The presence of the other closes off the distances and horizons toward which we are no longer fleeing with desires, ambitions, fantasies. Our body is no longer the zone of darkness behind the environment that spreads luminously about us and lures us. We are now in all the seething energies of our substance, offered, abandoned to the embrace of another. A climax of authenticity, in Heidegger’s sense: Eigentlichkeit, being on one’s own, existing all one’s being. Being all there and being oneself, and giving oneself.
The seductive voice comes with a singular face and impassioned body localized here, in this volume, these surfaces and contours, these eyes, these soft lips, this hair, these wrinkles and moles, this breath, this smell. Nothing is so one’s own as one’s seductive voice!
To be sure, the seductive voice may begin with phrases and tones picked up from literature or cinema. But when we begin to be captivated, our voice picks up the other’s tone, cadences, silences, and the other ours, the words, the gaze answer one another, and the seducer ceases to be a personage from literature or cinema to spiral in our voice and we hear a voice never heard before in a carnal body like no other.
The seductive voice induces reverberations in us. Our sensibility is invaded by that voice, infected with, penetrated by it. Our breath embraces that voice, inducing the embrace of our arms, our chest, our lips embracing the lips and the breath from which it issues. Insinuating the embrace, the penetration of genitals, the fire and explosion of the generalized laughter of the body: orgasm.
The voice seduces, to erotic display and play, and to orgasm. Eroticism is both pure artifice—body piercings and body painting, filmy and impractical garb, willowy and stomping dances, teasing, wit—and natural. Elaborate and fantastic courtship behaviors have been much documented among jewelfish, whitefish, sticklebacks, cichlids, and guppies, among fruit flies, fireflies, cockroaches and spiders, among crabs, among mountain sheep, antelope, elk, lions, and sea lions, and among emperor penguins, ostriches, pheasants, and hummingbirds. From the most ancient times humans have borrowed the fantasies of other species, adorning themselves with plumes, furs, and shells, parading, and dancing impala dances, crane dances, displaying, challenging, teasing. Although our brother apes do not sing, virtually no mammals sing, humans have borrowed the songs of birds, such that with these artificial and profoundly natural vocalizations the seductive voice is rhythmic and melodic.
But the seductive voice, and all the fantastic erotic elaboration of the voice and the body and its gestures and games, is destined toward the voluptuous abandon of denudings, kisses and caresses, and orgasm.
Seduction is not power, is not conquest; it is complicity. Seduction is dissolute; exposing oneself to the other, one’s integrity, wholeness, sufficiency, one’s good sense, one’s self-respect are abandoned.
As our bodies become orgasmic, the postures collapse, legs and thighs roll about, hands and fingers move in aimless contact, allowing themselves to be stroked and crushed. Our lips loosen, soften, glisten with saliva, lose the train of sentences; our throats issue babble, giggling, moans, and sighs. Our sense of ourselves, our self-respect shaped in fulfilling a function in the machinic and social environment, our dignity maintained in multiple confrontations, collaborations, and demands, dissolve; the ego loses its focus as center of evaluations, decisions, and initiatives. Our impulses, our passions are freed from responsibility. The sighs and moans of another pulse in us, the spasms of pleasure and torment of another irradiate across our cheeks, our bellies, our thighs, our loins. Our bodies tighten, grope and grapple, pistons and rods of a machine that has no idea of what it is trying to effect. Then it collapses, melts, gelatinizes, runs. There is left the coursing of the trapped blood, the flush of heat, the spirit vaporizing in gasps and sighs.
Our long tradition of libertine literature from Lilith to Casanova and Don Juan has made seduction equivalent to duping, deceiving, deluding someone. But typically the one seduced now demands fidelity and exclusiveness, commitment. But seduction is committed only to erotic play and orgasm, terms and ends in themselves, and nothing further. Erotic play elaborates variations that start and stop without initiating action. Orgasm does not progress or build on itself; it recommences.
Our commercialized media makes seduction equivalent to dupery. In the globalizing capitalist world, economic crises are not the result of limits in production; industrialization, now increasingly robotized and computerized, can easily be increased. Instead, the problem is markets, the problem is to continually increase consumption. People have to be induced to purchase materials, products, and services for which they have no need. Sultry voices and teasing images of bodies are broadcast artfully associating commodities with voluptuous pleasures. But the duped consumer obtains only trivial and frivolous pleasures; the seductive voice is everywhere heard in advertising, but the body, the orgasmic body, never materializes.
I am here only nodding at this vast field of quasi-seduction in order to say that it works only by invoking the promise and memory and reality of real seduction.
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