” ‘So. Second world without cold or purple dots or of bright for you is 23.8 meters, 8 I think .2 meters. Yes? In that world is joy because there is shelter of something else, of purpose past sluggardly self and complaints about uncomfort. I am speaking to no just LaMont Chu of the temperance world. You have a chance to occur, playing. No? To make for you this second world that is always the same: there is in this world you, and in the hand a tool, there is a ball, there is opponent with his tool, and always only two of you, you and this other, with always a purpose to keep this world alive, yes.?’ The pointer motions through all this become too orchestral and intricate to describe… ‘Not “adjust to conditions.” Make this second world inside the world: here there are no conditions.’ ” (459)
Most will notice that this monologue from Schtitt is neither the first nor the last mention of explicit boundaries or limits: the body, or physical, limits the head/intellect (which has its own limits of language and subjectivity/solipsism), that a tennis match is not a confrontation with an opponent (importantly here Schtitt calls the opponent an Other) but instead a confrontation with personal limits, the obsession with waste (athletic defecatory poses, trebuchets, etc), even the tactile reconstruction of national boundaries with reconfiguration. The title’s “Infinite” is very clearly referencing mathematical limits, and the boundaries that can be drawn along any line, whether in time or space, and the infinite points that can be found between – or occur between.
How does consciousness function within these limits, or set boundaries itself? How do limits and boundaries define and problematize the Self, and consciousness? What is Wallace after with this obsessive recursion? Schtitt’s speech (and it can be noted this speech is not a unique occasion, he goes through something similar after every A.M. according to the older player’s demeanors) is clearly teleological – why does Wallace present us with these claims of purpose behind relationships, boundaries, and “occurring?” Hopefully this post can explore or illuminate some of these deep questions.
Recall for a moment Marathe’s brother, who was killed by voluntarily jumping in front of a train in La Culte du Prochain Train to test his will, a game among Quebecois youth whose “historic best… ignore their five competitors completely, concentrating their entire attention on determining the last viable instant in which to leap, regarding the last, final, and only true opponent in the game to be their own will, mettle, and intuition about the last viable instant in which to leap,” establishing the Other not as the train nor the opponent, but instead the very boundaries of will.
Earlier in the novel it is noted that the boundaries of the tennis court, or any competitive environment, are the necessary frameworks for confronting the self and pushing its limits – precisely the Self in relation to some Other, even if it is posited as within the player, that she is only confronting her own limits – the confrontation requires a relationship with something or some boundaries to ground it – in a similar way the head needs the body – the psychological the physical, and vice versa (do objects require the psyche? or are bodies reflecting this – differentiating a body tethered to head from, say, a tennis ball – perhaps this is after some of the questions facing correlationism, that is incredibly hard to disorient discourse from the human perspective).
It is important to note, however, that in the passage above it is not some Self adjusting to the boundaries, but in fact is an entirely separate, second thing occurring when within the limits, that depends on the (arguably objective) boundaries agreed upon.
The questions of purpose still dumbfound me – in some ways I think Wallace is making fun of Schtitt here… but I am unsure. Wallace is keenly interested in relationships and how they function – between people, between a book or piece of art and its reader, between thought and physical modality… the list seems endless, infinite.
I am always drawn and brought back to Adam Kelly’s conceptions of “anticipatory logic” evidenced in Wallace’s work – that in the same way television or advertising functions along a precipice, calling attention to itself while also attempting to appear genuinely interested in the audience’s needs, to the point that the program/advertisement is dictated not by anything genuine anymore but entirely by how it may be perceived, that Wallace is concerned with how people conceive of themselves and how meaning occurs, for him what he saw as “artistically real” – that we can still have genuine connections with one another, love, friendship, etc., in the face of a vapid reality (and everyone, if they have not had a chance to read any of Wallace’s interviews or conceptions of his own work, should read this interview, as it is often cited – although some would argue too often).
Perhaps it is precisely that through relationships, and the boundaries and limits that define them, we can “be here in total,” occur within some boundaries not as an adjusted self but simply as a part of some relationship, that we might make meaning for someone else in the way C.T. describes to Echt that she might become “a high-velocity object people can project themselves onto, forgetting their own limitations in the face of the nearly limitless potential someone as young as yourself represents” (460, 524). That she might simply occur out there, find a second world to inhabit where she could just be an object. That perhaps it is more important to a point along an infinite line of points dictated by two boundaries than to attempt to comprehend all the point between them.
One final note, and I am unsure how to connect the images so maybe someone else will have an idea if they track my line of thinking or perhaps another, that I would like to draw attention (point) to – I kept remembering during Schtitt’s weather-pointer infused monologue C.T.’s repeated upward stabbing from the very first scene, where Hal can only see from his stretcher the antenna of Tavis’s cell phone jabbing the sky… I am thinking of it as an image of an individual longing to be more than a receiver or something along those lines? What do people think of these semi-analogous images?