The following essay originally appeared in the New York Press, and was written by Crispin Sartwell.

A New Refutation of the Very Possibility Of Al Gore

The question before us is this: Does Al Gore exist? Let us address this question from a phenomenological perspective, taking as a starting point the following sentence from Martin Heidegger's Being and Time : "The nothing nothings" (or "Nothingness nihilates"). That sentence is an extremely apt description of Al Gore giving a political speech. He isn't there, and he's not saying anything or, to put it differently, he is nothing and he's saying nothing. Al Gore is a kind of hole or vacuum. Let us consider Al Gore provisionally as a section of unoccupied space and time (later we will have to refine this account).

A Gore supporter might reply that while "of course" Al Gore is something or perhaps even someone, the problem is his public persona. He tries to stay safe by sticking to pure cant and revealing as little as possible of himself.

Paradoxically, however, the fact that he will not or cannot reveal himself in public is precisely his most authentic revelation of himself. As he speaks from concealment he is nothinging or nihilating: his self is the self that creates or clears the absence that he presents, and the presentation from which he is absent. His self is nothingness, the source of the nullity he embodies in public space. The nothing nothings; but more, only the nothing nothings. Nothing cannot derive from something, as if by a slow decay. Rather, the abyss lurks at the heart of each thing as a possibility. In human beings the abyss lurks as a choice, but to choose nothing (what Sartre called "bad faith") is to choose the unreality at the heart of oneself, to annihilate oneself or tumble into perfect falsehood, or rather perfect negation of truth, as the essence of oneself.

Al Gore tumbled into this infinite pit long ago and now calls upon all of us to do likewise, to annihilate ourselves entirely, to take up and become sheer empty space and time. Nothingness now beckons us from our televisions to vote for it, to endorse it, to choose it to represent us; that is, it urges and cajoles us to become sheer void.

It would not be inaccurate to think of Al Gore as a nihilist in the Nietzschean sense, as someone who by withdrawing in fear from reality seeks an annihilation of all that is into the nothingness he himself has chosen. Augustine famously proposed that evil is the absence of good. In beckoning us toward nothingness, Al Gore calls us to evil. But he calls us not only to the absence of everything but also to the absence of nothing, and thus to the absence even of evil itself. Hence Al Gore is no more evil than he is good, which is perhaps what people sense when it occurs to them that Al Gore means no harm, or even that he is not a deeply evil person. One finds oneself wishing beyond hope that Al Gore were evil. Even that much nothing would be something.

But Al Gore, in being the very principle of emptiness itself, cannot be evil, for he is also what annihilates even nothingness, what annihilates good but also the absence of good. Al Gore is the infinite series of annihilations by which the universe devours itself, devours its own devouring of itself, and then devours even that. Al Gore is the devourer of dimensions, the devourer even of time and of the possibility of time.

One can see this most clearly when one listens to Al Gore, which is a complete waste of time. It's not just that in listening to Al Gore time is disposed of nonproductively, that time is lobbed into the universal garbage pail along with the cosmological coffee grounds and orange peels. As Al Gore speaks, time is wasted as a disease wastes the human body; time slowly collapses in on itself like the body of a consumptive: time withers, time decays, time atrophies as all things cease to be, even the very ceasing-to-be itself of things. So Al Gore makes not only everything impossible, he makes nothing itself impossible too, for nothingness must be the annihilation of itself as well as of everything. Al Gore is the universe feeding on itself and then feeding on its own excrement and then feeding on its own feeding maw, until it collapses into itself like a black w/hole that consists of a single infinitesimal point. And then Al Gore is the annihilation of that infinitesimal point itself, and the annihilation of that annihilation.

To vote for Al Gore, then, is to endorse and to become the negation or abnegation of all truth and all reality; it is to take up a position as the destroyer not only of oneself, and not only of American political discourse, but of the entire fabric of the universe. Thus this election poses itself as a question: Will we trip over Al Gore's abysmal foot into the infinite void, falling eternally into dimensionless nonbeing? For when all space is unoccupied, then space itself collapses, and not only does nothing exist any longer, there is no place where anything could come to exist; the collapse of space is the collapse of all the dimensions and modalities of being; it is the destruction not only of actuality but of possibility. Consequently, a vote for Al Gore is a vote not only against the universe in which we happen to find ourselves; it is a vote against the very possibility of any universe, of even a single merely possible lepton. A vote for Al Gore is a vote for the complete annihilation of all possible worlds.

Thus there is more at stake in this election than tax policy; as you enter the polling booth you face the question of whether you yourself will cease to exist.

Crispin Sartwell (mindstorm@pipeline.com) is the author of Obscenity, Anarchy, Reality, published by the SUNY Press.

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