political commands have always had their dissenters
March 20, 2017 11:09 AM   Subscribe

"The only way to stay sane under its light is to not look at it, to almost pretend that it doesn’t exist. All the old rites and superstitions that once warded off mystical evils have been condensed into one single command, so vast and monolithic we’ve forgotten that it’s even possible to disobey: Don’t look directly at the sun."
posted by griphus (71 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel one shouldn't look directly at the Daily Mail, either. Fuck fascists, and fuck their newspapers.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:27 AM on March 20 [22 favorites]


Also, I sometimes fear that the words, "He did not read the fucking article" may feature on my tombstone ;-)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:29 AM on March 20 [13 favorites]


... by which I mean: [this is good].
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:30 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]


If I remember correctly, you don't want to look directly at the Sun because it will cause the true name of God to become lodged in your head which will give you debilitating migraines until you give yourself a power drill lobotomy.
posted by ckape at 11:33 AM on March 20 [27 favorites]


But the drilling doesn't come until after you've been beaten to within an inch of your life by a carload of Hasidic Jews.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:39 AM on March 20 [7 favorites]


For reference: solar viewing glasses, inexpensive enough to protect your whole neighborhood
posted by hank at 11:44 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Mama always told me not to look into the eye's of the sun
But mama, that's where the fun is
posted by Splunge at 11:47 AM on March 20 [13 favorites]


If I remember correctly, you don't want to look directly at the Sun because it will cause the true name of God to become lodged in your head

"When the Sun hits your eye /
like the constant of Pi /
That's a-YHWH!"
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:53 AM on March 20 [113 favorites]


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU STARE AT THE SUN?
The benefits of looking directly at the sun might outweigh the costs.


#slatepitches
posted by leotrotsky at 11:54 AM on March 20 [15 favorites]


What Bataille advocates isn’t necessarily a collapse into pure unreason but an attempt to subject the highest powers to their own standards, to stare in the face of kings and monsters, and ask “why must you rule?” If you use reason to interrogate reason itself, it’s revealed as being utterly arbitrary. In other words, looking directly into the sun is an immanent and dialectical procedure, the source of a radically democratic mode of knowledge, and the only way to free humanity from oppression. It’s the highest crime, not because it’s forbidden by law, but because every unjust law depends on our refusal to stare into the sun. But we can break all injustice forever, at the small cost of losing our eyes.

lolwutno. #notwhatdialecticalmeans #hasntreadhegel #continentalphilosophyisnotatoy
posted by leotrotsky at 12:02 PM on March 20 [6 favorites]


The last paragraph echos Zizek in his recent PBS talk. In contrast the historical connections using this sun metaphor is a humorous argument. But I think the dialectic goes further: not looking at the sun could help with emancipation as well. The last sentence of the essay is clever because it subtly permits that; to put it differently current social conditions have a relationship to the preceding historicist argument.
posted by polymodus at 12:09 PM on March 20


lolwutno. #notwhatdialecticalmeans #hasntreadhegel #continentalphilosophyisnotatoy

almost as if there were some kind of joke there? …nah, couldn't be
posted by RogerB at 12:14 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]


[Hey y'all I like sun jokes and Pi references too but there is a whole article there you could read and respond to at this point maybe.]
posted by cortex at 12:32 PM on March 20 [6 favorites]


if you can't RTFA at least stare directly into the sun for a few minutes before commenting
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:37 PM on March 20 [14 favorites]


I'ma be a dissenter and not stare at the sun.
posted by theora55 at 12:38 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Surely you mean a "dissunter".
posted by Etrigan at 12:43 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I rate this article Aten by the way
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:45 PM on March 20 [23 favorites]


And then, skipping ahead a few decades, there’s Tila Tequila.

I assert that every work of continental philosophy, indeed all philosophy, can be improved by adding this sentence.
posted by chavenet at 12:59 PM on March 20 [21 favorites]


I've stared directly at the article for many minutes and I'm still blind to its charms. Maybe it'll help if I stare at Tila Tequila for a while instead.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:07 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]




griphus, could you expand on why you found this article interesting? I'm having some trouble with it as well but I come in with a pretty strong set of negative emotions re: Sam Kriss and I think I'm reading past its virtues. (I did really like the description of the lasting psychological effects on Newton and Tequila and others of the literal behavior of staring into the sun. Reminded me of the game Sunless Sea, which does some cool shit with the sun-as-law + the sun-as-addictive-force that's exactly contrary to Kriss' final conclusion here but draws from the same emotive sources.)
posted by peppercorn at 1:25 PM on March 20


I didn't read the whole article, but I read some of the first part, and there's one thing that puzzled me: while I'm not surprised to hear that there was a religious taboo on staring directly at the sun, I'm assuming that didn't last long - did it?

Because honestly, the only justification I ever got for "don't look directly at the sun" was "because it'll hurt your eyes", and on the few occasions I've tried looking directly sunward the moment of "YOW that's bright, never mind" was enough to reinforce that.

So from a common-sense argument, wouldn't that be ENOUGH of a justification for "don't look at the sun", and why do we think mankind would have needed to come up with another one?

...>Unless the religious injunction was more of an explanation? You know, instead of "the rules thus say that you should not look at the sun because Helios will get mad", it's more like, "yeah, it hurts when you look at the sun - and the reason it hurts is because Helios got mad."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:34 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]


Are you sure you want to observe Ms. Tequila?

Yeah, these articles are going into the Worst Timeline Case-Studies file. Ugh.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:47 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Are you sure you want to observe Ms. Tequila?

Well, she certainly doesn't sound terribly bright, so that's probably safer than staring directly into the sun...
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:53 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


could you expand on why you found this article interesting? I'm having some trouble with it as well but I come in with a pretty strong set of negative emotions re: Sam Kriss and I think I'm reading past its virtues.

Unfortunately, a big part of why I posted it is that I'm sort of overly fond of Kriss' writing, esp. when it's not explicitly about contemporary politics.
posted by griphus at 2:03 PM on March 20 [5 favorites]


There’s a persistent legend that Galileo went blind after looking at the sun through his telescope. It’s not really true — his observations were all carried out around sunrise and sunset, and his later blindness was most likely unconnected
I don't think his later blindness necessarily was unconnected.

There were some recently linked eclipse viewing instructions that said something like 'don't look at the eclipse with your naked eyes even if you have the Sun completely masked out', and my reaction was 'how absurd and paternalistic', but then I remembered reading that the Sun's corona extends hundreds of thousands of miles into space around it, is very hot (>100,000K), and is therefore a strong source of UV light.

So if a person were to look toward the Sun a lot near and before sunrise and near and after sunset, it might not be uncomfortable, but could result in a lot of UV exposure from looking at the corona under the mistaken impression that it was just another patch of blue sky.

Cumulative exposure to which might explain Galileo's late blindness, and maybe part of the prevalence of snow blindness in the Arctic/Antarctic, where the Sun spends a lot more time skimming along and just under the horizon.

on the few occasions I've tried looking directly sunward the moment of "YOW that's bright, never mind" was enough to reinforce that.

So from a common-sense argument, wouldn't that be ENOUGH of a justification for "don't look at the sun", and why do we think mankind would have needed to come up with another one?


Maybe because looking near the Sun isn't uncomfortable but is dangerous too?
posted by jamjam at 2:13 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]


Of course the UV wouldn't have made it through the glass of the telescope, but Galileo could have gotten exposure from looking in that direction as he positioned it.
posted by jamjam at 2:21 PM on March 20


I didn't read the whole article, but I read some of the first part

tell me more
posted by beerperson at 2:22 PM on March 20 [9 favorites]


Maybe because looking near the Sun isn't uncomfortable but is dangerous too?

Indeed. I have a sun filter for my telescope which is certified as completely safe. I'm still nervous when I use it. I first have to carefully examine the entire filter in front of a strong light to search for even the tiniest pin prick hole. That's all it would take to etch my retina like torching a creme brulee.
posted by Splunge at 2:29 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


It's actually impossible to gaze directly at the quidnunc; scientists tell us that this is due to local spacetime anomalies, but Pliny tells us that the ancient Dacians attributed it to the effulgentia sapientiae
posted by Segundus at 2:57 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Staring at the sun as it gradually burned itself black, Tequila saw something others have seen before her.

The lyrics to Black Hole Sun?
posted by nubs at 3:00 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


JERRY: What were you doing?

GEORGE: Well, it's not my fault. You poked me!

JERRY: You're supposed to just take a peek after a poke. You were like you just put a quarter into one of those big metal things on top of the Empire State Building.

GEORGE: It's cleavage. I couldn't look away. What am I, waiting to win an Oscar here? This is all I have in my life.

JERRY: Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun, you don't stare at it. It's too risky. You get a sense of it and then you look away.

SEINFELD Episode no. 56 "The Shoes" (Original air date 4 Feb 1993)

posted by Modest House at 3:18 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


From the NPS eclipse faq:

Can I use my naked eyes to view the eclipse at totality?
Yes, BUT only during the brief moment of darkness when the sun’s disk is completely covered and the sky goes dark (1 minute to 2 minutes, 41 seconds, depending upon your location). During this brief moment of darkness is the only time the sun can be directly viewed—only for a moment, however, as the corona of the sun can still be seen and is extremely bright. This is never true for annular or partial solar eclipses! NEVER look at the sun, except during totality, without approved solar-viewing devices.

posted by Pyry at 3:34 PM on March 20


I'll be the dissenter. I have looked at the sun often. I looked at the sun today before I opened metafilter. I looked at the sun at points throughout reading this.

(More a glancer than a starer.)
posted by joeyh at 4:11 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


It is fine to drink Capri Sun, but please take a look at the clear bottom pouch before you pop that straw in. It will all be fine. Don’t worry.
posted by unliteral at 4:20 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


I found it an interesting article - lots of half-baked connections to this and that, which is fun - right up until he tried to draw a conclusion at the end. Based on the evidence presented in the article, the person on whom we are to depend to "break all injustice forever" is Tila Tequila. Seems doubtful.
posted by clawsoon at 5:26 PM on March 20


Man, tough crowd. I liked this.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:33 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


Newton was a nut who deformed his own eyeballs to see what would happen. The Johnny Knoxville of his day. Of course he practiced Extreme Sun Staring. He also drank mercury.

He knew John Locke who wrote about justice.

"every unjust law depends on our refusal to stare into the sun. But we can break all injustice forever, at the small cost of losing our eyes"

I'm usually pretty good with metaphors but I'm just not seeing it here.
posted by irisclara at 6:12 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


joeyh: ME TOO! I've glanced or at least spent a few moments looking at the sun and my eyes have so far been fine (even when tested). I don't make a regular habit of it but it doesn't seem to bother me as much as it bothers others.
posted by divabat at 6:17 PM on March 20


> I'm usually pretty good with metaphors but I'm just not seeing it here.
I see what you did there ;)
posted by runcifex at 7:23 PM on March 20


Now that was a magnificently overthought plate of beans.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Sam Kriss is a treasure.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:42 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


That was one big feat of frenzied metaphor-humping.

1. Heap of poetic phrases
2. ???
3. We can break all injustice forever!
posted by ostro at 7:51 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


1. Heap of poetic phrases
2. ???
3. We can break all injustice forever!


2. Appeal to Philosophy
posted by irisclara at 8:04 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Fun read, thanks!
posted by Lyme Drop at 8:11 PM on March 20


P.S. Right now Sam Kriss's homepage contains, in order, the following:

1. An essay about writing and identity.
Sample quote: "One form of the discourse in question, an instance: Don’t write thinkpieces about Beyoncé (or whatever) if you’re not a black woman. You will not understand the subject-matter, not properly, it will be a waste. It isn’t for you. (As if the commodified culture-object is ever really for anyone.)"

2. An essay about Paul Joseph Watson
Sample quote: "Whether Sweden is a good place to be or not (it’s not, but where is?) isn’t really the issue . . ."

3. An essay called "Melancholia after Fidel"
Sample quote: "How could a famished world like this continue to sustain someone like Fidel Castro?"

4. An essay about how much he hates Hillary Clinton, published November 9, 2016.
Sample quote: "She was running not because there was anything in particular she wanted to get done – look how slippery her positions have been on just about every issue – but because she wanted it, the big chair and the big desk and the first female President; she decided that it was her turn, that it was hers by right."

Fuck him and fuck his stupid little beard.
posted by ostro at 8:17 PM on March 20 [17 favorites]


This writer about philosophy, culture, and politics has other essays about philosophy, culture, and politics on his homepage? You don't say! It's inexcusable, really.
posted by RogerB at 8:34 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]



2. ???
3. We can break all injustice forever!


I think that's the superficial reading. I read it as, if you try to apply all the examples and the referenced philosophical issues, then the explicit conclusion at the end is false; he's deliberately saying it ironically. The absolutist statement should be a clue that the piece is making a more oblique point than that.

I've seen the author's blog before, but I haven't bothered to read it carefully to make sense of it. He's definitely writing more from a UK context.

Also, he is demonstrably more knowledgeable about Lacan than the average person. Whether his interpretation is good is another matter.
posted by polymodus at 8:42 PM on March 20


If you are implying he has something positive to say about Paul Joseph Watson it would be hard to be more incorrect.
posted by atoxyl at 8:57 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I generally take Sam Kriss as a little tongue-in-cheek - not always, but very often - and find him pretty entertaining, occasionally insightful, more often entertaining than insightful. But I haven't read Hegel so what do I fucking know.
posted by atoxyl at 9:00 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I think that's the superficial reading. I read it as, if you try to apply all the examples and the referenced philosophical issues, then the explicit conclusion at the end is false; he's deliberately saying it ironically. The absolutist statement should be a clue that the piece is making a more oblique point than that.

I mean, if you can provide clarification of the more oblique point, I'd love to hear it, because I was definitely nodding along for a significant portion of the essay (Tila Tequila, black sun, etc) thinking "huh, these connections really do have something to them." Then it just kind of plopped off into . . . denial of authority? denial of the concept of authority? self-sacrifice? conscious sacrifice of the benefits we gain from societal "order"?

Maybe I'm just being denser than most readers here, but if this is actually the reader experience he was going for, blech. I think I just don't believe in political essays that communicate through glancing gestures. Whereof one cannot speak one should remain silent.
posted by ostro at 9:08 PM on March 20


If you are implying he has something positive to say about Paul Joseph Watson it would be hard to be more incorrect.

No, of course he doesn't like Paul Joseph Watson. But when you don't like Paul Joseph Watson but you characterize other people's response to his Sweden fearmongering as "the usual smug liberal chuckling, tragedy in Ikea, the great fika massacre, as if terrible things aren’t happening in Sweden and everywhere else every second of the day," that's not what I would call a gift to political discourse. Not to mention ending your essay with (in reference to the subject, a right-wing demagogue) "The lonely boy from South Yorkshire has travelled a long way in search of something, and he’s not found it yet: a scratch behind his ears, and a few comforting words. Good boy. Good boy. Goodnight." Nah, actually fuck you.

I realize that this whole "alas, I can do nothing for you until you cast off your blinders, so better just pose around stylishly some more" schtick is kind of a Marxist classic at this point, but it has always sucked, it still sucks now, forever and ever, world without end.
posted by ostro at 9:29 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]


I have no intention of trying to talk you into liking Kriss' shtick - in fact sometimes it's too much for me, also - I'm just saying if you're reading his intent in that Watson essay as anything but thorough, brutal dismissal I think you're a long way off.
posted by atoxyl at 9:54 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


That was enjoyably weird. I definitely was saying, "wait, what is this??!" out loud for a significant part of my reading.

My question is about this publication: what is it? Their interface is interesting and very phone-reading-friendly. But did I just read an ad for Capri Sun? I'm confused.
posted by latkes at 10:11 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


I once took a pair of binoculars and stared into the sun for over an hour. heck i'm curious like a cat, i have a couple of friends they call me whiskers
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 10:29 PM on March 20


My experience of looking directly at the sun is that afterwards I have a dark afterimage that kind of floats around my vision, like the little transparent dots you can see sometimes (that I think are your rods and cones maybe?), sort of following where you are pointing your visual focus at. The longer I stare at the sun, the darker the afterimage is (and the more it occludes what I'm looking at), and the longer it lasts. Extrapolating that perception makes it easy for me to imagine what vision damage from excessive sun-staring would feel/look like. Dark clouds floating in front of everything you see.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 10:39 PM on March 20


(Same with critiquing politicians btw, just like in TFA.)
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 10:40 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


slappy_pinchbottom: right, now imagine it didn't go away.
posted by rhizome at 11:08 PM on March 20


Grepped the article and comments here. Didn't find Constantine.
posted by runcifex at 12:07 AM on March 21


I mean, if you can provide clarification of the more oblique point

The last line could be read as a quite poignant point, but what makes it work is the preceding set-up. In the last 2nd paragraph, the piece explains what's wrong with Kant's philosophy. Then the last paragraph is a recapitulation of the literary imagery throughout the article, and gives the post-Kant answer, basically, the concept of immanent critique. In those four sentences I can see similar ideas directly from Marx, Chomsky, Zizek, and others around the notion of scrutinizing injustice (and what's neat about this piece is how it disabuses the idiom "shining a light on injustice", because it's precisely those in power who apparently control the terms of discourse and the formulations of inquiry, etc.; the more apt idiom, according to this piece, is that they are the sun). So there's a whole ongoing dialog between writers all coming from separate approaches and backgrounds, working with ideas around injustice versus dissent. For example the idea of "highest crime" parallels a lot of what Chomsky said about legitimacy/legality versus power.

So the concluding line is cryptic with the hyperbole (really, "all"? "forever"? "small cost"), claiming that, wow, we can actually achieve emancipation, if we do a simple thing. A closely related line of thought is the idea that, no, it's an illusion that the power is in the state/institution because that's just failing to recognize that power is in the people, in each individual. But this piece is saying something more (perhaps Lacanian?): we exercise this power the very moment we choose to question authority, and it is in that that we become and/or know that we are free. When I read it that way, it comes across as a pretty heavy reminder/outlook on who we are and where we're at. It's really saying that freedom has no price, or something like that. But this doesn't mean I endorse this material.

So that's my reading of it, in terms of the connections that I'd make. But mostly I just liked the solar imagery, archaeological (see Foucault), creative writing aspect of it. Again, I don't know much about the author, but it's a nice break to be able to read other perspectives by living writers, and not just the famous names and bigwigs. What's funny is that Zizek has written public responses to this author and there was a terrible flame war between them. I have no idea what that was about.
posted by polymodus at 12:53 AM on March 21 [4 favorites]


The sun is flat, too.

#Blinding_Sarcasm
posted by Amor Bellator at 1:56 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Well, it's a bit of a shame that a piece that sets Newton, Jung, Sade, Bataille, Tila Tequila, and Montgomery Burns a-dancing together under a shit-smeared Black Sun doesn't make room for poor, old, Harry Crosby, too. Rarely has a man so hotly sought to taste that solar anus.

ONCE MORE KRISS IF YOU WOULD BE BEDAZZLED!!
posted by octobersurprise at 7:19 AM on March 21


Are you sure you want to observe Ms. Tequila?

Stick with Suntory tequila. You get the sun, the tequila, and none of the Tila.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:25 AM on March 21


I mean, I like the poetry of the metaphor, but I could not stop my inner pedant from screaming over and over "BECAUSE IT WILL HURT, THAT'S WHY!"

I did enjoy a lot of the imagery, though. I've always been fascinated with metaphors of light and shadow. I once wrote a story that featured a brief appearance by a fallen angel, which appeared to the protagonist as an utter void, a shadow of pure blackness, and it wasn't until later that he realized it had actually been shining bright, just too brightly to be perceived.
posted by Scattercat at 8:00 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Also also, I nearly wrinkled my nose with habitual Sam Kriss-infused impatience at the Paul Joseph Watson piece—surely nothing could be more of a two-backed beast of straining metaphors than Kriss on Watson—but it's funny. And not funny in a merely dialectical manner, but, you know, chuckleworthy. We may disagree on whether Alex Jones was ever enjoyable (he wasn't) and we may disagree on whether Hillary Clinton belongs in prison (no more than most), but this is a v nice line:
His fears aren’t even human fears; he lives in terror of big scary buildings, people he doesn’t know, crowds of drunk people, and fireworks – in other words, the things that are frightening to a dog.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:02 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


> Stick with Suntory tequila. You get the sun, the tequila, and none of the Tila.

But I don't want to drink Tories. They're godawful.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:24 AM on March 21


In our next edition, why the command not to try to breath underwater is rooted in an agrarian, populist fetishization of "land" as the fundamental embodiment of value underpinning the economy of our inevitable, politically-docile, utopian future.

I really, genuinely can't tell whether this article is intended to be parody or not. I hope it is, and that its intended audience will understand it as such. Clearly, I'm not in that group.
posted by eotvos at 11:58 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]


leotrotsky, i'm not a hegel expert, but kriss' use of 'dialectical' seems correct to me. the thesis "the sun is a source of light", is negated when you look at the sun and see darkness (the antithesis). then, when you stop looking at the sun (the negation of the negation), you do not return to the thesis but the synthesis, which contains elements of both the thesis and antithesis; your vision returns but there are dark spots - the sun can be understood as both a source of light and of darkness.
oh, and it's immanent because the contradictions are contained in the concept of the sun. is there something i'm missing here?
posted by thedamnbees at 12:32 PM on March 21


Joseph Plateau (of Plateau's problem) is another scientist who may have gone blind from staring into the Sun:
Fascinated by the persistence of luminous impressions on the retina, he performed an experiment in which he gazed directly into the sun for 25 seconds. He lost his eyesight later in his life, and attributed the loss to this experiment. However, this may not be the case, and he may have instead suffered from chronic uveitis.[9]
posted by jamjam at 10:04 PM on March 21


How things are
It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times in fits and starts. It breathes, it heats, it eats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id. Everywhere it is machines–real ones, not figurative ones: machines driving other machines, machines being driven by other machines, with all the necessary couplings and connections. [...] We are all handymen: each with his little machines. For every organ-machine, an energy-machine: all the time, flows and interruptions. Judge Schreber has sunbeams in his ass. A solar anus. And rest assured that it works: Judge Schreber feels something, produces something, and is capable of explaining the process theoretically. Something is produced: the effects of a machine, not mere metaphors.” – Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:57 AM on March 22


Death, like the sun, cannot be looked at steadily or directly.

François de la Rochefoucauld – 1678
posted by y2karl at 12:13 PM on March 22


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