This paper was originally presented before the C.I.B.P. Board of Emphatic Tactical Dressage and Scuppernong Appreciation Review on 1/19/1997.
“One can walk perfectly well without a head.”
The word axilla, in avian anatomy, refers to the underside of the point at which the wing and body of the bird meet. In human anatomy axilla refers to the corresponding region of the arm and torso, and is called by the common name of “arm-pit.” This anatomical coinciding of man and bird ought now be taken solely as a trope of linguistic semantics, since there exists also pictorial representation of a similar, related joining amongst some of the earliest of paintings. In the lowest depths of the famous caves at Lascaux there exists the image of a man being gored by a just-disemboweled bison—not any sort of man, however, a man with the head of a bird.
Doubtless, prior to claiming the power of equine movement and becoming what would be later known as “centaur,” man wished to become one with the bird. Striking in this particular formulation of the bird-man found at Lascaux is that it is not the wing but the head that our ancestors adopted. The head is, of course, not only the seat of reason, it is also the site of direction: in this sense we find the bird-man of Lascaux to symbolically, which is to say religiously, coincide with the type of joining found in the word axilla. In both instances we understand the profound impulse toward flight, wherein the greatest risk lies not heavenward but upon the terrestrial plant instead.
To further draw out this relationship let us consider for a moment a seemingly comical juxtaposition of images: while the bird without wings remains confined like a man to the earth, the man without arms suddenly takes on the appearance of a great bird with its wings folded closely into its body, ready to take flight—and, yet, in absence of both wings and arms, does not the head become the focus of this weird spectacle? Do we not imagine this head, ever so slightly, ducking forwards and back as our man walks about? And are we not inclined, finally, to think of his deformity as somehow reflecting upon his manner of thought, upon his very intellect?
The term “bird brain,” of course, refers pejoratively to simpletons, to those once called “fools” or “idiots.” It should not be forgotten, however, that such persons at one time held an openly integral place in common society. They were, in fact, considered “touched” by God: it was precisely by their “bird brains” that they were able to ascend to the realm of Heaven. This is, to a limited extent, still acknowledged today, insofar as we, in our own culture, exempt those of certain limited mental capacity from legal prosecution. This exemption from crime is noteworthy, for it is in a sense also an exemption from moral law—after all, the Lord himself has laid his touch upon them.
In terms of moral order, as elsewhere, the head represents the locale of centralization, the very force of ordering itself. Without a head all falls to disorder. What is key is that the head is a singular, unifying image: it is alone and it is sovereign. The greatest of beliefs regarding symbols of such power-coalesced hinge on this mark of oneness: there was a time, for example, when the sun was thought of as the eye of God. It is not enough, however, to note that both the sun and God are singular; we should also note that the most basic visual depictions of these figures are highly similar—one an elliptical outline with lines protruding to represent eyelashes, the other a circular outline with protrusions acting as rays. Let us go a step further: imagine this simple image turned flatly in three-dimensions, with its protrusions pointing upwards. Here, now, we are presented with nothing less than a crown or a halo.
It is hardly surprising to find the link to royal sovereignty here, of course, since both kings and animals are sovereign. Where the former exists superior to the law, the latter exists inferior to it. And kings, of course, are unfailingly granted seat by God.
The question we must at this point ask is, quite naturally, where lies the “other” of the head? The “other,” always coinciding with its perceived “original,” can in this instant most logically be seen no where else than in the arm-pit. Indeed, the arm-pit is never any more singular than a one-winged bird can fly—always the arm-pit is doubled.
Certainly, the arm-pits present great objection to the moral order, and the moral order objects to arm-pits. The arm-pits remain under normal conditions hidden from sight, only revealing themselves should one raise their arms as though in imitation of a bird taking flight: God’s eye cannot reach the arm-pits, unless the arm-pits should turn pathological. Moreover, the arm-pits are inclined, precisely when we find ourselves at some most vigorous point of live, towards putridity, reminding us that soon enough we will on the whole be nothing more than a stinking corpse. Yet these are hardly the most intriguing of the arm-pits’ objections to the moral order. . .
The arm-pits are, in fact, a kind of doppelganger—a term which, while denoting a “double,” ought not to be confused with the position of the “other.” Far from being an “other,” which always appears only as itself, this doppelganger, acting independently of its twin, is related to its twin by a resemblance so perfect it carries a dire potential for confusion of identity—a confusion which is called in the moral order “perversion.” Simply put, the arm-pit appears as a crotch—a double crotch. These crotches are on the surface smooth, and lacking in genital function. But because they are smooth and concave in nature, rather than convex and rudely protruding, we can unmistakably identify the arm-pits as the doppelganger of the vagina.
For men this presents a kind of perilous balancing act: he must balance this pseudo-vagina-doubled with the lone appendage of his penis. (It must here be noted that this speaks solely to the instruments of fornication, and therefore the apparatuses of reproduction—ovaries and testes—are excluded from consideration.) For women, on the other hand, the combining in her body of both arm-pits and vagina is ideal for the disruption of the head that unifies the order of things.
This differentiation between the fundamental conditions of the sexes has only been confirmed by biologists in the signs denoting the male and the female. After all, the coding of joined X and Y chromosomes that represents men shows us an image of disunity—the “arms” of each letter spread ever-outward, but with the X possessing an additional crotch where the Y offers only a single protrusion. The double-X of the female is the self-same unity that is found in the anatomical twins of the arm-pits and vagina. And should we be in the least surprised to learn that in avian genetics this coding takes exactly the opposite form?
Undoubtedly, it was some mutual realization of this perfect storm inherent to woman that in our society stability required the removal of hair from the arm-pits. For what is hair but the feathers of the human body? Not only must woman not ascend in flight, not only must she be plucked like a pheasant stuffed and baked for the stomach of a man, woman must be reverted back to the prepubescent state of the featherless “chick,” immature and incapable of flight from the very start. And is it, then, any wonder that we should eventually require woman to also begin shaving her very genitals? True, woman first began by shaving her legs—but it is also true that it is easiest to pluck clean a crippled fowl. And true, too, that the fowl has traditionally been both the feast and the sport of kings.
Although it is not an accurate lineage, if we allow ourselves to imagine a fanciful etymology we can take avis literally as a-vis, or “without head.” Man has placed himself as the ordering force in the world. The bird is the other of man. It is appropriate that the deep shaft wherein the bird-man of Lascaux was discovered was dubbed the “pit”—but it has also another, equally appropriate, name: the “well.” There is an old story, that if you stand at the bottom of a well and look up you can see all the constellations of the heavens even at the height of day. The story is a fiction, as the sun, our “day star,” remains sovereign over its domain. Let us nevertheless consider another, authentic, etymology: the word desire, literally de-sire, means “of constellations.” Humanity dreams eternally of entering the smooth, concave realm of the sky, splattered as it is with apparently orderless stars like so many seeds burst forth in a perverse waste of potential new life. Here at last we find the site most apt for a great beheading, and can conclude definitively that the unplucked arm-pit of a woman is the most erotic part of the human anatomy.
|"bird=liberation, horse=military, plane=fascistic" (Note written upon back of original draft of text.)|