with THE BEST BUSINESS IS NOBODY’S BUSINESS
artwork by RODRIGO NAVA RAMÍREZ
Coping with a new loss, we are probably all tempted to think of our process as a journey through the “five stages of grief”—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in no particular order. A kind of all-too-accessible discourse that imposes itself on us in times of uncertainty and to which we cling in bad faith or mauvais foi, as Sartre described the inauthenticity of those who evade the responsibility of understanding themselves. We stop asking questions when we hold on to explanations based on clichés and platitudes to quickly relieve our anxiety. Questions like: what do we really lose when we lose something we love?
At this point in my life, with so many losses behind me, I am rather more skeptical. But in 2022, I still had confidence in my ability to reach some ultimate truth within myself. I was willing to ask myself all the questions I needed to ask if I was to find out what, exactly, it was that I was losing when I lost something. Under no circumstances would I have allowed myself to indulge in bad-faith discourse, in clichéd delusions, or at least that is what I thought. And what allows me to remember this attitude so vividly, so many years later, are the hundreds of pages of a diary I used to write and that I found this morning in the attic. Out of the blue, it fell off the top of a shelf when I was looking for toys for my niece and her friends, staying over for the weekend. Looking at it lying there, covered in dust, I thought it was a sign of something. So, a little while later, I sat with my tea at the kitchen table, and read it so carefully that I almost didn’t notice the fuss of the girls in the other room. Despite my messy handwriting and the chaotic structure of those pages, it is clear I was trying to find a kind of order. I was trying to dissect all my relationships to the ultimate cause, and to find something common to them all.
As I read, I also noticed that this dynamic had become intriguingly radicalized that November.
At that time, I had just lost my job at Stillpoint Magazine and threw myself into the pages of The New Black, where the British psychoanalyst Darian Leader beautifully addresses grief (“reaction to loss”), mourning (“the work of thinking through loss”), and melancholia (“unresolved loss”). As far as I can see on the page dated November 20, the one thing that particularly struck me was what the author presented as four processes of the work of mourning:
1. “The introduction of a frame to mark out a symbolic, artificial space.”
2. “The necessity of killing the death.”
3. “The constitution of the object (involving the image they occupy for us).”
4. “The giving up of the image of who we were for them.”
I leave it to you to read the book for an in-depth analysis of these phases. But hopefully their titles are evocative enough to warm us up, to give us a clue as to what they are pointing at, our first and most important relationship as humans, our most precious object of love —language.
According to Darian Leader, when in mourning we put a frame on something (1) and separate it from the rest surrounding it, it loses its status as a pure object and becomes a representation of it, a place held linguistically by its name. Killing the dead (2) implies that the loss has to be registered beyond objective reality, i.e., symbolically. We constitute the object (3) because it is not only the object we lose but also the place it occupies in our linguistically-structured unconscious. And we must give up the image that the lost object had of us (4) because the place given to us by others provides us with an identity in a social world where we need to have one. Frames, representation, symbolic death, occupying symbolic places … accepting such an idea of mourning implies, among other things, embracing the fundamental role of language in our lives and simultaneously, inviting us to separate ourselves from it.
Language creates symbolic spaces; without it, we would be unable to recognize any other love object that comes later and that we may lose: not our father, our friend, nor our lover or our colleague. But what allows us to see sometimes does not let us see at an optimal distance, as in the famous Chinese proverb of the fish that cannot see the water. For Lacanian psychoanalysis, water is language. And psychoanalysis invites us to take a little leap out of it: constructing a phantom (with words) and traversing it, analyzing the logic of our discourse, the signifiers we repeat daily, and the signifiers they refer to, in an endless chain to the unconscious. We thus arrive at what we unconsciously think the Other wants from us and the many things we do to satisfy that supposed demand. Or plural demands. And, if we are fortunate, to free ourselves from it a little.
But I wonder about the function of knowing the psychoanalytic theory of mourning while in mourning itself. As Freud suggests in his text Wild Analysis, knowing something is not the same as knowing it unconsciously, registering it symbolically for a change.
ARIADNA GARCÍA LLORENTE writer
RODRIGO NAVA RAMÍREZ artist
Rodrigo Nava Ramírez (he/him) is an artist and web programmer from Mexico City. Throughout his work, Rodrigo seeks to reframe digital technologies—such as the web, AR, live streams, geolocation and biometrics—as tools to explore spaces that are materially and temporary restricted, allowing alternative spaces for representation capable of escaping western logic and structures. the emancipation of technology as a true decolonizing act of resistance.
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