---- by William Pawlett
  Destiny is intimately linked to some of the most difficult ideas in Baudrillard's vocabulary,inparticularseduction,theobjectandfatalstrategies.Baudrillard isnotinterestedinthenotionofindividualdestiny(youwillmeetahandsome stranger, and so on), but the destiny of the object, its cycles of appearance, disappearance and reappearance. Indeed, for Baudrillard, '[destiny] comes to us from the other. Each is the destiny of the other. There is no individual destiny' (IEx, 84). There are a number of exchanges, experiences or spaces where what we might ordinarily call the 'subject', person or individual, becomes, according to Baudrillard, an object. This notion of becomingobject is crucial to Baudrillard's understanding of destiny.
  For Baudrillard destiny is rarely sensed in the 'indifferent spaces' of modern life (FS) where people (as 'subjects') are confined by instrumental rationality, purpose and time constraints. Yet where action is governed by a set of 'entirely arbitrary rules', rather than by norms or laws, in spaces such as those of ceremony and ritual, games and traditional dance, destiny, Baudrillard contends, is given free reign. Ceremonial or ritual space is enchanted not indifferent: time/space relations are altered, ceremonies unfold in their own time, 'the ceremony contains the presentiment of its development and its end . . . [Time] must have the time to disappear' (FS, 207). Further, the rules of the game or ritual leave no place for legal, moral or psychological considerations; indeed, all that holds together 'the subject' is suspended, returning only when the game or ritual is over.
  Baudrillard's oft-repeated example of the play of destiny is based on the old Iraqi folk tale known as 'Death in Samarkand'. A soldier, on his way to market, sees the black-cloaked figure of Death apparently beckoning him. Terrified he flees and begs his king to lend him his fastest horse so that he may escape to the distant city of Samarkand. The following day the king asks Death why he frightened his soldier. Death replies 'I didn't mean to frighten him. It was just that I was surprised to see this soldier here, when we had a rendez-vous tomorrow in Samarkand' (S, 72). The soldier is destined, inevitably, to meet Death, who is himself 'an innocent player in the game' (S, 73).
  There is a direct line of development from Baudrillard's positions concerning ritual initiation, his arguments on seduction and his thinking on destiny: 'the initiatory fact of seducing and being seduced . . . consists in giving you a destiny, and not only an existence' (FS, 165-6). Destiny then comes into play as a dual or 'double life' that unfolds beyond biological existence. That which reappears or returns signals a double life of destiny; 'each individual life unfolds on two levels, in two dimensions - history and destiny - which coincide only exceptionally' (IEx, 79). Baudrillard seems to derive this thinking from Nietzsche's notion of the Eternal Return (IEx), though this influence is allusive not formative. Freed from biology, from historical change, from social norms and moral laws that define the 'subject', the double life is one of becoming object, becoming other, metamorphosing not by choice but by the hands of fate.
  The opposition between chance (randomness) and determination (causal connection), Baudrillard argues, is a modern construction built on the denial of sacred and ceremonial social forms; he insists 'the truth is that there is no chance' (FS, 182), 'Nothing is dead, nothing is inert, nothing is disconnected, uncorrelated or aleatory. Everything, on the contrary, is fatally, admirably connected - not at all according to rational relations [. . .], but according to an incessant cycle of metamorphoses, according to the seductive rapports of form and appearance' (FS, 185). Games of chance such as gambling involve, for Baudrillard, a passion 'to upset the causal system and the objective way things proceed and re-engage their fatal linkage' (FS, 189). But how can events be 'fated'? Writing on the death of Princess Diana, Baudrillard states 'if we assess all that would have had not to have happened for the event not to take place, then quite clearly it could not but occur . . . no Dodi and no Ritz, nor all the wealth of the Arab princes and the historical rivalry with the British. The British Empire itself would have had to have been wiped from history' (IEx, 136).
  And we prize such fated events, such spaces of destiny; for Baudrillard 'each of us secretly prefers an arbitrary and cruel order, one that leaves us no choice, to the horrors of a liberal one where . . . we are forced to recognise that we don't know what we want' (FS, 206). Our fundamental passion, he asserts, is to be drawn out of the (hyper-)reality of rationality and causality and to be placed within a 'pure unfolding' of destiny. Further, with causal, temporal and subjectivist illusions suspended, there is, for Baudrillard, renewed potential for symbolic relations with the other: 'if I am inseparable from the other, from all the others I almost became, then all destinies are linked . . . being is a linked succession of forms, and to speak of one's own will makes no sense' (IEx, 84). 'There is in this symbolic circulation, in this sharing of destinies, the essence of a subtler freedom than the individual liberty to make up one's mind' (IEx, 85).
  According to Baudrillard, the processes of writing poetry and (radical) theory, like ritual, impose a set of rules of the game that must be followed and so can suspend the illusory opposition between a causal determined universe and one of freedom and choice. Words, signs, and things seduce each other with the subject reduced to their conduit, forging connections through 'chain reaction'; this is the 'order of destiny'. In both language (wit, slips of the tongue, poetry, theory) and in material, 'socio-political' registers destiny appears 'where events attain their effects without passing through causes' (FS, 192), moving in a predestined linkage. In 'chance' meetings and encounters and in 'socio-political' events things sometimes seem to happen in a flash, 'in advance of the unfolding of their causes' so that 'reasons come after' (FS, 198). We are seduced by the rapid flashes of appearance and disappearance, sometimes following them without thinking. Rationality, by contrast, seeks to invent causes to dispel this play of appearance and disappearance, to make them more 'solid'. However 'no event can put an end to the succession of events, and no action can definitively determine what follows' (IEx, 87).
  Ultimately, Baudrillard suggests that both the world of destiny and the world of reason and causality are 'equally groundless' (FS, 206), but while the former seduces and links us to the Other, the latter bores and frustrates.
   § death
   § fatal
   § object
   § seduction

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.


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