Merleau-Ponty and the Melancholy Disability Breakfast…

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

Merleau-Ponty was much occupied by the phenomenon called “phantom limb”–it made him almost nuts. Do we retain a sense of the perfect body that haunts us? Is that perfect body a Platonic ideal? Does the body have any say in this? Is this a matter of the soul?

Reading him you want to say “sometimes a phantom limb is just a phantom limb. Have a phantom cigar my friend.”

Here’s Mzerleau-Ponty:

“Why can the memories recalled to the one-armed man cause the phantom arm to appear? The phantom arm is not a recollection, it is a quasi-present and the patient feels it now, folded over his chest, with no hint of its belonging to the past. Nor can we suppose that the image of an arm, wandering through consciousness, has joined itself to the stump: for then it would not be a ‘phantom’, but a renascent perception. The phantom arm must be that same arm, lacerated by shell splinters, its visible substance burned or rotted somewhere, which appears to haunt the present body without being absorbed into it. The imaginary arm is, then, like repressed experience, a former present which cannot decide to recede into the past.”

This is phenomenology as infantilization. Someday when I’m less tired I might tackle this. In the meantime I say as a disabled writer: us cripples don’t sit around fantasizing about wandering arms, not even in our subconscious. As for the idea of the former present which cannot decide to recede into the past let us suppose time is not concerned with volition, that what we say about it might be, but where the loss of limbs is concerned there’s no repression at all.

Non-disabled writers are such dears. They believe the body and its breakage is like losing lollipops. Bless their little hearts.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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