The art of tracing part IV: the AlphaBeta of tracing

Being somewhat of a mythical Atlantis of mathematical and logistical thought, Point A continues to direct us, away from itself, toward the by now immensely crowded Point B. We can't stay at A, the water is rushing in. All the roads lead to B (46 million results on Google cannot be wrong). B is where the party's at; where the noise is; B is for Babylon, or Babel; the point that will break.

In this
Hegelian blueprint, this rise-and-fall-of-empires for dummies, the kernel of the western concept of progression is discernible. A and B are molar essences, thesis and anti-thesis; beings that will be purged in the disturbing fire -- or drowned in the tsunami -- of becoming, and merged into synthesis (at the cost of destroying everything behind, as when the bridge crumbles apart behind you in given Nintendo-game). This, according to Serres, is how the diagram of history proceeds; via sacrifice, expulsion, and scapegoating.
That's not time, only a simple line. It's not even a line, but a trajectory of the race for first place - in school, in the Olympic Games, for the Nobel Prize. This isn't time but a simple competition - once again war. The first to arrive, the winner of the battle, obtains as his prize the right to reinvent history to his own advantage (Serres & Latour, Conversations, p. 49).
How does Serres handle this "generalized athleticism" (as Deleuze & Guattari call it), since he does not want to contribute to the relentless arrow of linear time? Simply, by starting that little time-machine of his, that he calls general comparitivism. Instead of strolling down the one-way street of history, he ties his shoes, grabs a fire-ladder, and ascends to the fractal skyline of the city's rooftops, 'an area strangely void of explorers'. Tracing begins.

One common notion of Parkour is that it is 'aiming to get from A to B the fastest' (wikipedia). Other related definitions might formulate something about moving forward in the most corporeally economic way. I have reasons to suggest that there is more to this seemingly simple scheme; if this coarse definition, fastest and most economical, really captured what tracing is about, Parkour would be nothing more than just another lifestyle commodity in the service of neoliberal freedom, only more ascetic and servile (buddhist-capitalism as Slavoj Zizek would have it).

Why would a traceur aim to get from point A to point B the fastest? Silly demonstrations of prowess between friends? Escape? That may be so, but, according to Oli Mould, Parkour should be understood 'fundamentally as a process of movement'. Speed, most certainly, is central to tracing, but not as a means to select a victor. Instead speed is necessary for the traceur to establish the relation between A and B; 'He is a and not only a; he is b as well; he can be the inverse, the opposite, the contradictory. A is b, Q.E.D. This is the very logic of denouement. It was not possible; well look it is possible' (Serres, The Parasite, p. 207 ).

To trace is to be the relation between A and B; to trace is to, by a swift displacement between allegedly incommensurable positions, confirm the beauty of a dichotomy (and concomitantly dedichotomize it without necessarily de(con)structing it). To trace is to '[a]rrive at the magic formula we all seek -- PLURALISM=MONISM -- via all the dualisms that are the enemy, an entirely necessary enemy, the furniture we are forever rearranging' (Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 20-21).
I am [t]racing towards synthesis. [...] this synthesis will no doubt be made more through comparitivism than by sequential linking, more through Hermes's swift travels than by deduction and solid construction. [...] The synthesis will be made, more probably, among fluids (Serres & Latour, Conversations, p. 73).
Such a synthesis-in-flux implies that the philosopher-traceur will be able and willing to reclaim the flooded Atlantis.

1 comment:

  1. Apropos approaching Atlantis: the issue of Leviathan (Hobbes; Latour & Callon) must be handled.