In some circles two English words now mark different but related formations which may or may not correspond to a possible distinction in French between labyrinthe and dédale. It effects how one reads Susan Sontag’s parenthetical remark in “Under the Sign of Saturn” about Walter Benjamin. How to make sense of the remark in a world where “labyrinth” is not automatically synonymous with “maze”? First cite:
With these metaphors, he is indicating a general problem about orientation, and erecting a standard of difficulty and complexity. (A labyrinth is a place where one gets lost.) He is also suggesting a notion about the forbidden, and how to gain access to it: through an act of the mind that is the same as a physical act.
A maze has dead ends. A labyrinth like that at Chartres is a perpetually winding road, deadendless.
How can one get loose for/of oneself in a labyrinth? Get dizzy. The inward curving leads to a loss of bearings. North and south become “demapped” from the body’s usual orientations. In a maze all of square corners the body can at least retain its left-rightedness.
One gets lost in oneself. To loose oneself is a game of ilinx. There are no dead ends. All is porous and permeable. The game begins by listening to oneself, the vibrations of the membrane in contact with the world.
Sontag after a fashion provides the image of an open self by relating Benjamin’s story about drawing a synchronic view of a person and their history (not to be confused with a being in time):
Once, waiting for someone in the Café des Deux Magots in Paris, he relates, he managed to draw a diagram of his life: it was like a labyrinth, in which each important relationship figures as an “entrance to the maze.”
Like a labyrinth. Stress on the mise en abyme: picture about a life story within an anecdote. Entrance implies exit. Note not any maze: the maze.
Out by the in door. Turning upon oneself. Spinning. Relating. The ear’s labyrinth, like a shaken compass, translates the self. Even more minimal than the full body rotation “sur place” is the bobbing head. The reading rocking head. In and out of the plane. Back and forth along the same plane. And also the steady head and the steady book, locked in place, moving together to the rhythmic movement of upper body anchored to the pelvis.
Three entanglements between the reader and the read that disappear when listening, hearing while the hands are otherwise occupied, not holding eye to text.
Adage: when we listen we do not pray.
And so for day 12