Zygmunt Bauman on the Other and representation

Mystery–noted Max Frisch–(and the Other is a mystery), is an exciting puzzle, but one tends to get tired of that excitement. ‘And so one creates for oneself an image. This is a loveless act, the betrayal.’ Creating an image of the Other leads to the substitution of the image for the Other; the Other is now fixed–soothingly and comfortingly. There is nothing to be excited about anymore. I know what the Other needs, I know where my responsibility starts and ends[…]But as György Lukás observed, ‘everything one person may know about another is only expectation, only potentiality, only wish or fear, acquiring reality only as a result of what happens later, and this reality, too, dissolves straightaway into potentialities.’ Only death, with its finality and irreversibility, puts an end to the musical-chairs game of the real and the potential–it once and for all closes the embrace of togetherness which was before invitingly open and tempted the lonely self. ‘Creating an image’ is the dress rehearsal of that death. But creating an image is the inner urge, the constant temptation, the must of all affection…

From Zygmunt Bauman’s “Forms of Togetherness,” in Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality. (Blackwell: Cambridge, 1995) 44-71.

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