You are a magnificent detail! Peppery core-chipping olé! — Işık Barış Fidaner

There is an ambiguous idiom intended as a compliment; it brings negative associations but people insist on not ceding it, maybe you have heard it:

You are a magnificent detail!

A compliment is supposed to arouse good allusions while exorcising bad allusions, but even when you gently shake up this idiom, the negativity underneath quickly surfaces. By taking the sentence and translating it a few times, one quickly reaches the heart of negativity, just like the princess in the famous fairy tale who can feel the pea under so many mattresses and get irritated:

You are a wonderful detail!
You are a detail that gives joy!
You are a nuance that gives jouvence!
You are a nuisance in my jouissance!
You are an irritation in my enjoyment!

It’s not astonishing that a smart animal who can happily eat hot food and burn his/her tongue would establish associations through such “spicy” compliments. But this will also pepper their identifications (özdeşim), let’s call this peppery identification, core-chipping (öz-deşim), in the sense of someone chipping at their core, like scratching an open wound. When we mention peppering, you can hear warm-up drills in sports, or you can hear “rough intervention” to a political action. Gezi Resistance combined these two meanings in a single slogan:

Pepper gas olé! (video link)

Despite all its negative echoes, this ambiguous compliment knows no rival, nothing can substitute it. Why, one wonders? Because it’s more real than any other positive compliment:

The real is the impasse of formalization. (Lacan, Seminar 20)

Since formalization is our symbolic digestion system, something can be real only insofar as it makes us suffer unpleasure and indigestion. This is why this idiom is a real compliment that tells you the following:

You are real for me.

This “for me” should not be interpreted as “You serve me” (which would give another twist as in the story “To Serve Men”) but as follows:

You exist in my eyes.
You ex-sist in my regard.
You gaze me.

The real answers a question which is not “to serve which purpose?” but “why?” Notice that we didn’t ask the following above:

It knows no rivals, to serve which purpose?

We didn’t seek a special purpose, function, telos that would explain its success. The real does not inform you, it does not orient you, it does not show you a destination, it is relentless: No Future.

The real pokes you, it drives you and reminds you of being-toward-death, it is death drive. A real compliment can only remain ambiguous because it is directed not to an object of desire but to the object of drive; the semblances that cover the objet petit a have become thinner and and more severe but without thereby getting severed; on the contrary, the grip of drive is stronger than the grip of desire. Desire oscillates with the ebb and flow of activity and passivity. Drive is making-done, or rather making-oneself-done (Lacan: se faire), it is the blind spot that will have you say “I did this to myself.” It is your Achilles heel, your weak spot; but it’s also your Archimedes fulcrum, so that the one and the same method can both unhinge your mind and move heaven and earth, and this is the proverbial devil in the detail.

Now let’s go back to the list above. We will infer the following:

Just as jouvence covers jouissance, so too nuance covers nuisance.
Just as joy covers enjoyment, so too detail covers irritation.

This inference simultaneously judges and vindicates us all:
1) It judges us all, because it reveals that every detail that appears joyful is a deceptive cover of a fundamental irritation. It is futile to probe these nice semblances and seek a truly deep meaning that underlies (under-lies: proton pseudos), it would even be self-defeating, self-sabotaging.
2) It vindicates us all, because just as we cannot be “filled with deep meanings” we know that the rest of the mortals too are similarly barred. We cannot fill ourselves and each other with meanings but we can pad the symbols in circulation with our dreams (like the barred owl who sings: “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all!”).
We thereby become equals by meeting at a minimum denominator as in the “original sin” of Christianity.

The real of a “magnificent detail” is nothing other than the “fearful symmetry” engraved on the tiger’s fur and the tabby cat’s coat and in our poetry:

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
(William Blake, Tyger)

It gives us joy (sev-inç) which is to love every inch, to love every detail. This is verity, Lacan’s vraie vérité, true truth: the enthusiasm and surprise of noticing and pointing out a structural homology: Isn’t X in context A the very Y in context B?

Even when every symmetry is not meaningful, it can still make some sense (it can “cook for you” like the barred owl); given that there is much one cannot know, it won’t do harm to presume that there ought to be a method to God’s madness in creating the tiger and the tabby cat and the humans as they/we are (genesis: yaratılış).

We are surely not driven by blind faith, the matter at hand is thrownness (yar-atılış: cliff-thrown as in Brecht’s Der Jasager): The one who dreams about the sweetheart, the friend, the lover (yâr) falls into the abyss, the void, the crack (yar) and (s)he is thereby wounded (yara): broken, lost, stained “by falling” there (by falling: düşünce: thought, to fall: düş: dream). This is Tolkien’s eucatastrophe.

When the joyful cover is lifted, we confront our enjoyment (enjoyment: keyfiyet: keyfi-yet: enjoyed-enough): “Did one enjoy enough? Was it too little? Was it too much? Was it the exact measure?” says the irritating voice of the Superego. This is the fearful side of the same symmetry and one must surely preserve it, because if you erase the detail’s fearfulness, the devil cannot dwell there, and you can no longer love that detail; it becomes false, i.e., it is reduced to a deceptive signal that is meant to stimulate a chicken to feel at home and ovulate at some place (fol: nest egg).

Eventhough joui-sans and nui-sans sounds joyless and rude, we cannot renounce them, because if we venture to swallow (tune out, repress or disavow) the negative allusions that they are bearing, we will surely lose the very joy and grace; we will lose our tact (usturup) and our astrolabe (usturlap: star holder). So let’s state the new slogan:

Peppery core-chipping olé!

Keep in mind the (unproven) etymological link between olé and Allah and let’s conclude by calling the god of joy/jouvence by his name:

Jove = Zeus = Jupiter


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


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