For a few weeks now the world as we know it has changed – ever since an epidemic has breached the borders, from something far away, to something right here in front of our doorstep. A virus has become a global pandemic.
In common parlance the virus is a foreign body, a body in the sense of an element, that invades the human body from the outside and causes this body to become sick.
What is clear, is that a foreign body is no body, certainly does not have a body, it is rather foreign to the body. However, the term lends itself to the analogical effect of posing all ills as coming from elsewhere, from the outside, as foreign. Such is the banality of xenophobia.
Nevertheless, there is a low level of anxiety palpable in the atmosphere, an anxiety that came along with the first headlines in the news, on the one hand abstractions – the numbers, the statistics, the predictions, the logic of epidemics – on the other hand events – the amount of infections and eventually deaths, even images of the horror, from Italy in particular. Then also the words that carried a high level of meaning, like Unprepared, Overwhelming, Tsunami, 70 %, and Millions.
And the subjective response:
First, the moment of denial – can it really be so bad? Is it not just a flu?
Then the moment of seeing – this is really happening, it is really upon us. Inference, that governments do not choose to implement measures that harm “the economy” without very, very good reason, ever. The uncanny, a piece of real intrudes into the inertia. It becomes an event, when the instruments that punctuate our working life, seminars and congresses, start to be cancelled, along with travel.
Then the moment of understanding – one is living through a moment that is completely unprecedented in recent history, since the second world war. One is witness to this moment that will in time mark a before and after. BC, before Corona we might then say….
Separated by travel restrictions, the desire to be with those one loves, who one can’t be with, is strong.
Then comes a first moment of concluding – the anxiety is now manageable, after a week of hobby virology, one can pass to other things, to read, to think, to work.
Time, Jouissance, Desire
We are in a time, we live in a time, this is what one says when one wants to say ‘times’, ‘a particular time’ marked by a difference to another time.
Re-reading J.A. Miller’s Introduction to the Erotics of Time, serves to find a way to situate what the erotics of time, namely libidinal time, means for the speaking being who has a body, and who is, in this particular time of the corona-virus not only confined to a space, but experiencing time differently.
In my particular case, I have more time, or so it feels. This is not the case for many others, quite the opposite. This terrible pandemic and the sudden stop of all life in the outside world, has effected a break, subjectively experienced. The pace, the race, the haste, the rush, the frenetic speed with which our working community puts desire to work, has paused. Haste has a certain value in psychoanalysis, as a way to treat desire.
But at this precise moment, there is the present now. If before, one could see all around the dependence, if not addiction, to the screens, to all the flow of information, and for me this was associated with the cause of suffering, including a nostalgia for times before this monster of the worldwideweb was invented, and before it became “smart” – now there is a new time, and it has a space for desire. This is the side of inquietude, and not that of nostalgia – the two versions of time, Miller mentions, if the present is defined as impossible. But libidinal time means that the present is subject to an experience, and this experience relates to the function of object a. “Petit a as such renders time unhomogenous. It controls the narrowing and the dilation of the present” concludes Miller.
If the world of busy movement, events where one gathers, places one travels to, local or international, are all cancelled, and work excludes the meeting of bodies, then time is all of a sudden, and surprisingly, changed. It is a change that is felt in the body, has a relationship with object a, with desire, jouissance and anxiety, as routines, automatons, recurring events, the fantasy of a known future, has temporarily disappeared.
What replaces the absence of the rush outside?
When one can momentarily resist the communal experience of this One Signifier, Corona, one can find that which animates desire, singularly, which manifests in the experience of time.
 Miller, Jacques-Alain, Introduction to the Erotics of Time, Conference in Rio de Janeiro, April 2000