A noise like the historical sum of all cafeteria accidents everywhere

Eschaton! Am I right? Let’s recap.

Otis P. Lord, Evan Ingersoll, Todd (‘Postal Weight’) Possalthwaite, and a handful of other little buddies, certainly not the least of which is the “suspiciously muscular” 12-year-old, Ann Kittenplan, descend upon a four court playing field to engage in a highly strategic, mathematics-rich, tennis-based game of global thermonuclear war largely perfected and oft game-mastered by Michael Pemulis who, on this cold Interdependence Day, keeps his tenuate-addled map on the spectator side of said playing field with Struck, Axford, Hal, and Jim Troeltsch, all “splayed on reticulate-mesh patio chairs in street clothes,” from which they ingest substances and observe the action of the younger players, Troeltsch calling the action into a disconnected headset.

infinite jest p338

I am of course jaw-dropped at Wallace’s pages upon pages of armegeddon-infused game theory, complete with math and references relevant to the political realities at the time of Infinite Jest’s writing. “SOVWAR’s bald and port-wine-stained premier calls AMNAT’s wattle-chinned president on the Hot Line and asks him if he’s got Prince Albert in a can.”

But it’s only when the first flakes of YDAU Winter descend upon the courts, bringing with them the sparks of true cataclysm, that my eyeballs become glued to the page. It is when young J.J. Penn, whose older brother Miles did terrible things to a little M. Pemulis back in the Allston’s youth prepubescent day, incurs the Peemster’s wrath by suggesting that snow on the courts could have implications in Eschaton’s in-game realities, a suggestion at which Pemulis hurls the full emotional weight of his much younger bullied self.

It’s snowing on the goddamn map, not the territory, you dick! [333]

And, in case you missed the point that this is where things get truly intriguing, Wallace tells us through Hal who, “finds the real-snow/unreal-snow snag in the Eschaton extremely abstract but somehow way more interesting than the Eschaton itself, so far.”

Axford, just to fuck with Pemulis, ratchets the situation up a few notches by suggesting that map and territory may be the same thing, but the real ratcheting comes when (poor, doomed) Evan Ingersoll takes a personal stance on the map/territory issue by firing a ball directly at the back of Ann Kittenplan’s ‘roid-ridden head, at which point Pemulis loses his tenuated Irishman’s cool on a map v. territory screed about how because players are part of the map and not the territory, launching five megatons of dead tennis ball ordnance at a player flies pell mell in the face of the very essence of Eschaton and that Otis P. Lord, in legitimizing Ingersoll’s flagrant flouncing of map/territory boundary, threatens “to very possibly compromise Eschaton’s map for all time.”

And it’s in this sentence with this possessive relationship between Eschaton and its map that I have a crucial Aha! moment w/r/t the notion of “eliminating one’s map,” (or elemonading one’s map, if you’re Emil Minty), a phrase whose continued use in Infinite Jest has captivated me to the point that it (the phrase) will throughout the day just float through the depths of my mind, rising occasionally like a bubble to the surface, but whose etymological underpinnings have remained just out of my grasp, causing me to wonder as to its origins, besides the very literal connotation of removing one’s face from the world.

Pemulis asks LaMont Chu and Ann Kittenplan if theyre just going to stand there with their thumbs in their bottoms and let Lord let Ingersoll eliminate Eschaton’s map for keeps… [339]

And so this very explicit notion of map v. territory, this Aha! moment with regard to an individual’s map versus his or her own territory, is that the elimination of one’s map is (merely) the death of the human form (the map), as opposed to the territory, that which underlies the individual’s map for which the map was purely representational, the territory of the individual being the true essence – their inner selves or even their soul or spirit.

So while that may have already been evident for some of you, it was a breakthrough for me.

All I have to worry about is who that is lurking off court-side in a green Ford sedan (hint: We already know it’s Steeply) .

And now we can watch this:

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22 thoughts on “A noise like the historical sum of all cafeteria accidents everywhere”

  1. The central limit theorem gives only an asymptotic distribution. As an approximation for a finite number of observations, it provides a reasonable approximation only when close to the peak of the normal distribution; it requires a very large number of observations to stretch into the tails.

  2. Mark, I think you’ve been hanging out with those higher-powered Big Book ppl Matt and Rob over at simpleranger.net far too much.

    Sykeee! Really great insight, Mark.

    And thx for bringing up Baudrillard’s “Precession of Simulacra,” Dave! Was thinking of that this weekend but didn’t want to revisit because I found something post-giggle fit w/r/t footnote 120: “…abstraction capable post-Hegelian adults call ‘Historical Consciousness.'”

    Was just chilling at the lib., (stepped on it) researching perception of time and Hegel, and came across this book of essays called Tempo of Modernity by Gabriel Ricci. In it there is an essay called “Ernst Troeltsch’s Critique of Hegel’s Historical Narrative.” Ok, I did know about the theologian and philosopher named Troeltsch, so I had a transcendent moment… For those who want to join Hegel’s bagels and Troeltsch, in this essay the discussion of the dialectic and historical consciousness is v. much like Eschaton and supports Mark’s insight.

    Everybody, meet Troeltsch: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Troeltsch

    1. You and Dave keep slinging philosophy over my head, Shazia, and I’m gonna start feeling like Don Gately over here. The real question is how did you know who I’ve been hangin around? And does Ernst Troeltsch call his critique of Hegel into a broken headset per his namesake?

      1. Ahh, the slinging is often waste displacement into the Great Concavity! Revenge of the nuckwads, shall we say. Troeltsch might as well be speaking into a disconnected headset because he talks about (dis)embodiment and Christianity.

        Your posts are always such a pleasure to read, Mark! Keep it up. No more waste slinging for a while cause I’ll be chilling with Lyle.

  3. Thanks Mark. Great insight. What I got from what you were saying suddenly meshed into something bigger. It’s like saying that we’re not our skin color, or our car, or our bodies, or our age, or gender. Those things may demonstrate something about who we are, but they’re not what, or who we are. Like the map may demonstrate something about the territory, it may describe something about it, but it’s not it.
    Fundamentally, there is something else going on. I believe that it’s better to not know what that it, but rather to know that it is.

  4. Shazaam! Map. Territory. Now I get it! I love you guys. No, really. I’m reading IJ for the second time, alone. As I did the first time 20 yrs ago. Your notes make it less lonely. BTW, I’m a month ahead of schedule, so the guides’ posts and contributors’ comments kinda/sorta provide a third reading experience. See footnote 281 re loneliness as reference point.

  5. The map vs. territory stuff is a really fun nod to Borges and Baudrillard’s “The Precession of Simulacra” essay, which you’ll get a great kick out of now when comparing it to Eschaton, I think. :)

  6. Great comment, Mark! I must admit that not being a mathy or gamey or geographical type I’ve kind of skipped over the Eschaton segment, even though I like the (I think it was him) anthropoligist Greg Bateson’s “map vs. territory.”
    And your adaptation of it to what some would call
    is a wonderful connection. Thank you!

    1. Thanks David. I know I skimmed these pages in my first reading, but trying not to do that this time. There are hidden nuggets everywhere – lots of it in the endnotes! W/r/t map v. territory and Bateson – yes! Though I’ve never read Bateson (should I?) Also Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Massage).

      Also, on the shelf to the right of the desk at which I wrote this post is an unwatched (but signed) copy of a documentary about William Gibson called “No Maps for these Territories.”

      1. You are welcome, Mark. I actually looked it up, Bateson discusses it in “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” (1972) but Korzybski had the first shot at it (1931). I think Bateson is interesting but dated. If you really want deep philosophy and guidance on overcoming the Map Vs. Territory as it applies to us humans, my favorite book on the subject (and perhaps my favorite book on any subject) is Nisargadatta & Frydman’s “I Am That.” (1973)…
        Again, thanks so much for an insight that I totally missed by skimming the Escaton parts…I love the Ennet parts, and actually began reading IJ yet again with the intention of only reading those segments, hearing about IW spurred me to read (almost, still skimmed Escaton and the Incandeza Filmography until I read your comment and re-read Escaton [but may never read the Filmo, unless YOU can come up with a compelling reason to do so!!!)… Best, david

        1. I completely IDENTIFY, David. I skimmed the hell out of the JOI filmography. May have to go back and read that. Otherwise, I’ve been faithful to the text AND endnotes, some of which have been crucial, n’est-ce pas?

          And thanks for the book recommendation! I’ll check out I AM THAT.

  7. Thanks for writing this – it struck me as well, given DFW’s deliberate use of language, that the use of map v. territory in the Eschaton section had to be related to his use of “map” to describe a person’s existence (almost always in terms of annihilation, by self or other). Like Gately, I have such a hard time with things like “soul” and “spirit” (can’t even use them out of quotation marks!) that I couldn’t reach for what “map” v. “territory” really *meant.* Then your piece reminded me that DFW really did believe in…something.

  8. Thanks Mark! The notion of and meaning for map and territory was floating at the periphery of my mind. I was beginning to get ‘map’ but not the meaning of ‘territory.’
    I was tempted to move quickly through the Eschaton chapter and in the end was glad I hung in. The video is awesome- what seemed abstract in the reading got much clearer with the visual!

  9. Really illuminating, Mark. Thanks so much.

    A while back I was trying to formulate a comment on Corrie’s post about Orin’s verbal self-correction w/r/t JOI:

    “His– who found him at the oven?”

    Looking at it now makes me see it as a question about territory, asked in lieu of one that was initially going to be about map. Fascinating stuff.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. Yeah, that line from O. on the phone caught me as well – twice even, with Corrie’s mention of it. Interesting that you’re relating it to the map v. territory discussion, which it may well be. I wonder though if it’s just not O.’s inability to verbalize what that scene must have looked like after the microwave and all.

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