As we shall later point out, though, it is a certain special kind of desire which is relevant for our theory of cymbalism. We shall argue that there is an important distinction between desire qua desire, and what we shall call the ‘otherness’ of desire. This latter sort of desire has an object as its object. However, the kind of desire relevant for our theory of cymbalism is not this latter sense of desire, rather, the relevant sense of desire is desire qua desire. Although we shall explain this notion of desire in more detail below, we can note to begin with that desire qua desire is essentially semantic, by which we mean that this sort of desire is necessarily the object of a certain signifier/symbol, or signifiers/symbols.
My Old Man
Let us consider some more words. For example, consider “old men need less sleep than young men, but the slumbers of old men are increasingly numbered”. This is a well known theory, of course. The cymbals of Keith Moon and John Bonham map isomorphically with the desires of the young. Contraposing, the symbols of the Buddha transcend age, but may still be found wanting. For instance, Buddhism states that we must free ourselves from desire (and also hatred, and delusion), to achieve nirvana. Nonetheless, words had to be employed in order to make that statement. Were those words found wanting? If so, such use of words undermines the whole theory of Buddhism. ‘Nirvana’, like many similar words (e.g. ‘banana’, ‘sultana’, ‘Havana’, ‘Valhalla’, ‘Heaven’, and so on) is just a word which is found wanting. What do such words want? If we reply ‘other words’, then we are back where we started, for these words also will be found wanting. When we ask the same question of these other words, i.e. what is it that they want, if we reply ‘yet more words’, it becomes apparent that we are ensnared in a never-ending cycle of words wanting other words, wanting other words etc. ad infinitum. (This would be particularly ironic for Buddhists, who presumably wish to break free of all such cycles, yet they insist on using words to state their theory, leading to the very situation just described. It should be noted however that our theory of cymbalism is not restricted to Buddhism.)
To avoid the kind of never-ending sequence described above, we need to offer a different sort of explanation regarding the object of desire of words that are found wanting. Our contention is that the object of desire in question is not other words, however it is not objects either. Rather, the object of desire of words that are found wanting is desire of a certain kind. At least, this is what we shall attempt to demonstrate here, using certain words. That is to say, the words which we shall use are certain, yet they may still be found wanting. We freely admit this, because only in such admission can symbols clash against cymbals. Our theory of cymbalism concerns a certain juxtaposition of symbol against cymbal; only once this juxtaposition has been shown, can we see that symbols, but not cymbals, are found wanting. (If our theory is to be able to explain the desires of words, it also must also nonetheless also explain the world of desire, too: we shall return to this point below.)
Before proceeding, at this point it may be interesting to note that in discovering the desire of symbols, we can reveal their true essence, which turns out (perhaps surprisingly) to be reflexive in nature. For instance, consider the word ‘green’. Does it not, intuitively, have a green essence, at least under certain familiar conditions (which for the time-being may remain unspecified)?
Now, consider the following – the symbol ‘green’ is found wanting. What does it desire? To be ‘blue’? To achieve nirvana? But then consider this - if green were blue, or if nirvana were blue (or even green), nirvana would still exist, and so would those symbols that reside there (so to speak), also including the word ‘green’. Thus, if nirvana exists at all, in any sense, it may not contain words that are found wanting. In reply, one may use the words that perhaps nirvana in some sense does contain words that might be found wanting if only anyone could achieve nirvana. However, this is such a difficult task that no-one has in fact found such words. The fact that they have not been found wanting does not show that they do not exist.
Our answer to this sort of objection is that its very statement employs words that may be found wanting. As such, it does not matter whether nirvana itself contains (so to speak) words that have not yet been found wanting (or indeed, whether the very word ‘nirvana’ itself is found wanting). Since the words “perhaps nirvana does contain words that might be found wanting if only anyone could achieve nirvana, but this is such a difficult task that no-one has in fact found such words” may themselves be found wanting, the very statement of the idea that there are words contained in nirvana that have not been found wanting is rendered somewhat otiose.
More pertinently though, what we are now in a position to see is that the object of desire of a word which is found wanting is not another word, or an object, rather, it is a desire, which reflects the nature of the word in question. There is an essential link between the word and the desire which is its object.
Perhaps one may claim that our theory of cymbalism is susceptible to exactly the same kind of objection that was mentioned above, i.e. that it is stated in terms of words (symbols) that may be found wanting. Our reply to this objection is that we do not deny that certain words in which our theory is stated may be found wanting. However, we do deny that our theory is ultimately about symbols. All words, considered as symbols, may be found wanting, including those which we have used to state the theory of cymbals. The key question is this: what is the object of desire of such symbols (viz. those that are found wanting?)
Our contention is that the very statement of the theory of cymbals, (expressed using symbols) exposes the fact that all symbols may be found wanting. Stating the theory (even in terms of signifiers/symbols) reminds us that the object of desire of certain words (viz. those words which are found wanting) is to crash with each passionate heart-beat. In other words, although our theory of cymbalism must of necessity be stated using words (symbols) that may be found wanting, the very statement of the theory elicits the realization that the object of desire of words that are found wanting is not other words (symbols), rather, it is to crash with each passionate heart-beat, in a sense which is to be further explained, below.
Before we proceed any further, perhaps it may be helpful to sum up our position thus far, and to consider some more objections, as follows. The object of desire of all actual words that are found wanting (i.e. all actual word-like symbols) is to crash with each passionate heart-beat, i.e. to serve as cymbals, rather than as mere symbols. This raises the question; are there any possible symbols that might be found wanting that nonetheless would not behave in this manner?
We do not want to rule out the possibility of such symbols, a priori. However, we think that the existence of such symbols is unlikely, at least relative to this possible world (i.e. the actual world). For instance, consider the possible signifier/symbol ‘unvowelitude’, which is not currently in common usage. One might be excused for thinking that this signifier/symbol is so bizarre that it could under no circumstances serve as a cymbal (i.e. crash with some passionate heart-beat). Nonetheless, despite initial appearances, there may indeed be occasions when the symbol ‘unvowelitude’ could indeed serve to function as a cymbal, in the sense which we have defined (see the next section below).
Conversely, what of the objection that our theory of cymbalism ignores the possibility that there may be symbols that are not found wanting? We may reply to this objection quite simply: although we think the existence of such symbols unlikely, we do not rule out their existence on a priori grounds. However, if any such symbols do actually exist, or might possibly come into existence, we would merely say that since our theory only addresses symbols that are found wanting, the existence or possible existence of symbols that are not found wanting does not fall within the purview of our theory, and as such they do not constitute a difficulty for it.
This Flight Tonight
Consider the following possible sentences:
1. “When did you first become aware of the unvowelitudinance?”
2. “This passage incorporates an element of consonantic re-appraisal which is quite unvowelitudinous.”
3. “I don’t appreciate your unvowelitude.”
4. “The unvowelittude of her later work was extraordinary.”
In each of the sentences above, the relevant instance of the signifier/symbol ‘unvowelitude’ (or derivative thereof) at least prima facie, can be seen to function as a cymbal in the sense that we have described (note also that we only require that ‘unvowelitude’ functions in the manner we have suggested in at least one of the possible sentences listed, not necessarily all of them).
We mentioned above that our theory of cymbalism should explain the desires of words, yet in so doing, it also must also nonetheless also explain the world of desire. Up until this point, we have focused primarily on the first part of this explanatory task, but have said very little about the second part. How can our theory of cymbalism explain the nature of the world of desire?
Essentially, our answer is that only if words can transcend language in the way we have suggested (i.e. as words qua cymbals) may desire exist qua desire, rather than as an unspecified phenomenological state. It should be noted immediately that we are not concerned with desire considered in the purely dispositional sense, as in e.g. our having a desire for world peace, or that human beings someday achieve the feat of interstellar space travel, or something else equally abstract. These are desires that we may have despite our being currently unaware of having them, in consciousness. Rather, the world of desire to be explained by our theory of cymbalism is the world of conscious, phenomenological desire. Such desire is characterized by its having a certain felt quality in consciousness – there is something that it is like to have such desires. The desire for sex, hugs, chocolate roll and so on are examples of the kind of desire which are relevant for the theory of cymbalism.
A Case Of You
The point we wish to emphasize is that phenomenological desire cannot even exist qua desire, unless it exists as the object of desire of certain symbols, viz. those that are found wanting (i.e. all words, considered as symbols). Desires, in the phenomenological sense we have defined, may exist qua unspecified psychological states, of course, but this is quite a different matter. Human beings and other animals may have desires considered in this sense, but they would not count as desires qua desires, for desires in that sense are necessarily the object of signifiers/symbols. In other words, they are the object of words that are found wanting. This sense of desire (i.e. desire qua desire) contrasts with the former sense in which desire is nothing more than an unnamed, unspecified, psychological state – the essential ‘otherness’ of desire.
Desire qua desire is essentially linguistic: to have such a desire is to have a desire for something which can be described using words. And yet, the object of desire of words that are found wanting is not an object – to assert this would be just as incorrect as asserting that the object of desire of words that are found wanting is another word, or symbol. Putting the point the other way round, words that are found wanting have desires (not objects) as their object, i.e. to crash with each passionate heart-beat, in one way or another. In contrast to desire qua desire, the ‘otherness’ of desire, although still desire, is in a sense ‘blind’. Such desire has an object as its object, but the object, being unspecified due to the absence of symbolic reference, is not the object of any symbol.
The Last Time I Saw Richard
The distinction just mentioned is perhaps the most important aspect of our theory of cymbalism. To emphasize it, and conclude our essay, we may give some examples of sentences that are illustrative of desire qua desire, contrasted with examples that illustrate what we have called the ‘otherness’ of desire. Remember, it is desire qua desire which is relevant for our theory of cymbalism, not desire considered as otherness.
Consider the following sentences:
1. “The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in sixty-eight and he told me, all romantics meet the same fate some-day – cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café of unvowelitude.”
2. “Richard, you haven’t really changed, I said, except that now you write with so much unvowelitude, my eyes tear up when I read your consonants.”
3. “Richard got married to a figure-skater, and he bought her a dish-washer, and a coffee percolator, and he sits at home now most nights with the T.V. on in deep unvowelitude and all the house lights left up bright.”
4. “Only a phase, these dark café days of unvowelitude.”
For the purposes of this essay, the significant feature of the sentences above is that the second and third are instances containing the use of the signifier/symbol ‘unvowelitude’ in the desire qua desire sense, pertinent for the theory of cymbalism. In these two instances, the symbol in question functions as a cymbal, i.e. it desires to crash at the relevant passionate heart-beat, in the sense we have explained. (Although in the first sentence, the appearance of the signifier/symbol ‘unvowelitude’ may seem to be a literal usage, this is actually incorrect, as in that context it functions in a consonantic sense.) In contrast, the first and last sentences above contain instances of the use of the signifier/symbol ‘unvowelitude’ which function in a consonantic fashion (viz. consonantically, whatever this may denote).
We leave the reader with the following words, which may or may not be found wanting:
“A bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow-tie and she said “Drink up now, it’s gettin’ on time to close.””
We would like to thank Professor J. Mitchell for her helpful comments on various drafts of this essay.
track listing for Blue
1. All I Want
2. My Old Man
3. Little Green
7. This Flight Tonight
9. A Case Of You
10. The Last Time I Saw Richard