Friendship’s Infelicities

Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, editors. The Work of Mourning by Jacques Derrida. Preparing the ground, the editors lead up to a discussion of what it might mean to mourn for a generation by these thoughts on the cumulative.

Each time we mourn, then, we add another name to the series of singular mournings and so commit what may be called a sort of “posthumous infidelity” with regard to the others. Even worse, if friendship is always structured by the possibility of one friend will die before the other, then simply to have friends — more than one — would already be to commit this infidelity. The infidelity that occurs after death will have begun already before it. The singular friendship, the singular mourning, the first mourning, will have already been repeated; posthumous infidelity would thus structure all our friendships from the very beginning. If our friendships, and thus our mournings, end up being inscribed or iterated in a series relating each unique death to others, then this series would also appear fatally to presage other mournings of its kind.

What if the term “infidelity” were substituted by “a promiscuous serial monogamy”? What if each and every relationship (not merely friendship) were permeated by moments of attention that were evanescent? Where is the betrayal? Especially, when one realizes that Brault and Naas are referencing and infidelity “in regards to the others”, when one takes on board a practice of honouring the plural, my friend does not stand in memory as single and alone, he contains multitudes and yet the friend is a unique constellation.

Fidelity here is the flip slide of jealousy (not envy, jealousy, that is guarding access for oneself).

Mourning is a kind of filtering of the other’s relationship to us. All their other ties are subordinated to the one tie they have to us. Mourning is about our own woundedness. Mourning is a practice that keeps alive the promiscuous nutrients of relation and helps us husband our surprise: what the other has given we are able to repurpose and in such reimaginings we extend the giving. What this means is that the object of mourning circulates among many relations — friend, foe, stranger — for at any point in time I can project wounding, healing and simple delight by the mechanisms of memory. And the show is full of serendipity: to myself I am alien, faithfully alien.

And so for day 1046

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