The Eternal Return


I came across this from “Difference and Repetition” as I was making a reply to Hitomi on ‘A Different Repetition’: “For it is perhaps habit which manages to “draw” something new from a repetition contemplated from without. With habit, we act only on the condition that there is a little Self within us which contemplates: it is this which extracts the new – in other words, the general – from the pseudo-repetition of particular cases. Memory, then, perhaps recovers the particulars dissolved in generality…It is in repetition and by repetition that Forgetting becomes a positive power while the unconscious becomes a positive and superior unconscious (for example, forgetting as a force is an integral part of the lived experience of eternal return).” (p.8-9).

This makes me think of the cult movie “Paris, Texas” directed by Wim Wenders, written by Sam Shepard. Harry Dean Stanton’s character is portrayed as wilfully wandering the American desert to forget. It’s a powerful image and one which perhaps illustrates Nietzsche’s ‘Eternal Return’. Am I on the mark here? What do you Nietzsche fans think?

Here’s the amazing opening scene from Paris, Texas:


8 thoughts on “The Eternal Return

  1. Oh Wim Wenders!!! \o/ cooool
    Sorry I just couldn’t help myself from reacting…
    That image reminds me of Buddhists who practice walking. It’s a kind of meditation to them.

    Yes when you referred to Deleuze, I thought it might be related to Nietzsche. But It’s more than 10 years ago that I read these books. It seems to me my memory was not correct. I remember the writer was mentioning his disease to explain Eternal Recurrence (Return?). Maybe it was like Nietzsche needed to live with it, rather than to overcome because his disease was incurable.

    I am not sure about forgetting.
    I just make what I think interesting.
    If I erase the dark side from my works, they become just pretty.
    Sunshine, flowers, beautiful things, etc. of course I like them, too. But they are not all of our world.
    They are not what I want to show in my works.

    1. Yes, I think you’re right. Deleuze mentions this in a general way relating to illness: “No doubt it is repetition which already binds; but if we die of repetition we are also saved and healed by it – healed, above all, by the other repetition. The whole mystical game of loss and salvation is therefore contained in repetition, along with the whole theatrical game of life and death and the whole positive game illness and health (cf. Zarathustra ill and Zarathustra convalescent by virtue of one and the same power which is that of repetition in the eternal return). (Difference and Repetition, p.6-7).

      I think there are things we would all like to forget. When the mechanism to forget is based in repetition, that’s where it potentially gets interesting or dangerous, given the particular circumstance. I think your point of your work just becoming pretty if you erase the dark side, illustrates what is involved in the eternal return. It’s the yin-yang, the negative positive, the pretty and the grotesque. The one defines the other, gives vitality and meaning to the other. Without that dichotomy, the world is just plastic make-believe, as you suggest.

  2. Cool, I am surprised you understand my works well! Though I am not really for dichotomy, I believe things are made by the balance of different elements.

    I guess Deleuze considered illness is in Zarathustra’s belief? Well, many British people don’t believe in Salvation after death any more. But gathering what we have discussed, we can consider, in our current capitalism society, that salvation might be believed to come after success. If our society contains any illness, I guess what we want to forget is the fact of being a part of the mechanism and repeat our life in it to let the system going.

    Oh my cat seems a bit sad to me! (9×9 )

    1. I’m pleased to know that you think I do understand, I’d be a poor curator if I didn’t! You raise an interesting point between dichotomy and balance. While dichotomies suggest the gap between two complete opposites, I think balance only comes through understanding the separation between those opposites. So to my mind, seeking balance is understanding difference.

      Yes, I think a growing sense of social malcontent is coming from those feelings of desperation at seeing a future limited by forces outside of our control. We’re beginning to see the real limits of personal liberty and are disillusioned to realise we were given a fantasy rather than a reality to believe in. I think this is particularly true in the US.

  3. Oh okay. I don’t know if this is my stereotype idea, but I have heard that wealthy New Yorkers often do plastic surgery. I used to be criticized in Japan because of my natural looking: not spending much time nor money for cosmetics, wearing the same old cardigan for years, etc. (it’s funny to me that Europeans think of me as a fashionable lady). I understand that you get sick of the culture where people value more outer than inner beauty and intelligence. 🙂

    1. I think any wealthy country goes in for plastic surgery, the French are pretty keen on it too. I think it is true one can become disillusioned with ones culture, especially if you are a thinking, sensitive individual, a culture focused on external beauty and youth would be fairly limited in intellectual stimulation. But are there many cultures that are so limited? Most cultures have deep histories and creative heritage, whether a contemporary society decides to engage with that history is the difference perhaps. It’s interesting that you mention this Hitomi, because I’ve come across a few references lately to Asian societies which are very focused on outer beauty and superficialities. Do you think this is a particular concern in Japan?

  4. Hello,

    I guess the explanation of why some Japanese (not all) people are obsessed about their beauty, is a mixture of the old machismo society, some traditional ideas and also being wealthy as you mentioned.
    But in the term of plastic surgery, I don’t think many Japanese ladies do it.

    I think in Japan, there is an idea that some polite words and elegant manners make a person beautiful. Which is completely the opposite of what French people say: “the clothing doesn’t make the monk”.
    And also, the work environment is still badly made for women in Japan. I mean, I don’t think Japanese young men are macho. But some parents bring up their daughter to be pretty rather than intelligent because they believe it helps her to find a husband and make her life more secured.
    A friend has also told me she wears perfect make up and cloths in order to avoid bullying. So there must be some social pressure in some communities.

    In fact for many of them, I guess fashion is a way to enjoy their life.

    I have to finish a few works. I will check the discussion later in August. 🙂

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