Exploring ignorance (6)

Exploring ignorance (5) continued…

(f) What does all this have to do with exploring ignorance?

Section (e) of the exploring ignorance series discusses a passage from page 22 of Take Today:

dialogue as a process of creating the new came before, and goes beyond, the change of “equivalents” that merely reflect or repeat the old. (italics added)

Earlier on this same page “dialogue as a process of creating the new” is called “innovation” and “innovation”, in turn, is described through a citation from the Richard Wilhelm translation of that “4,000 year-old management manual”, the I Ching:

[The Creative] does indeed guide all happenings, but [it never becomes manifest;] it never behaves outwardly as the leader. Thus true strength is that strength which, mobile as it is hidden, concentrates on the work without being outwardly visible.

The bracketed portions of the citation are omitted by McLuhan.  The second one — “it never becomes manifest” — seems to have been skipped in error since it is not marked by ellipses and, moreover, it is easy to see how such an error might have been made through the repetition in the passage of “it never be-“. Indeed, there was good reason to include this clause since the citation continues, as if repeating it, that this power “never behaves outwardly”, “is hidden”, and “concentrates on the work without being outwardly visible”.

Now it is imperative at this point to ask: is this power “hidden” and not “outwardly visible” essentially (such that any attempt to illuminate it would be deformative and distorting) or is it accidentally “hidden” (such that it can and perhaps should be illuminated)? Or again, If this power “never becomes manifest” is this because of the way it is, retreating in favor of its relata, or is this because of some failure on our part to unveil it?

There are important reasons to come down in favor of the first of these alternatives and to hold that this power is essentially hidden on account of the way it “guide[s] all happenings”:

  • If dialogue” is first of all the dialogue of the ontological with the ontical, the power relating them cannot ‘be’ the one or the other. Even to call such a power “hidden” seems to make more than is fitting of ‘something’ which is neither in Being or in being, which is neither ontological nor ontical, but between them.
  • If “dialogue” in this sense is ground, any attempt to frame it would convert it to figure, to, that is, what it essentially is not. 

When McLuhan specifies that “dialogue as a process of creating the new came before, and goes beyond, the change of ‘equivalents’ that merely reflect or repeat the old”, he implicates a power of which we are essentially ignorant. Not on account of some weakness or inability on our part, but on account of its ‘concentration’ (as the I Ching has it). “Ignorance” here is not a term of subjective blame; it is a term of objective depth.

Perhaps, then, the exploration of ignorance is above all a subjective genitive: not the exploration of what (= objective genitive), but the exploration of whom (= subjective genitive).  Because it can never fittingly belong to us as some kind of object within our media, the need is for us to find a way for our media to belong to it.

To be continued in Exploring ignorance (7)….


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