“Well, what is gambling, I should like to know, but the art of producing in a second the changes that Destiny ordinarily effects only in the course of many hours or even many years, the art of collecting into a single instant the emotions dispersed throughout the slot-moving existence of ordinary men, the secret of living a whole lifetime in a few minutesin a word, the genie’s ball of thread? Gambling is a hand-to-hand encounter with Fate. . . . “(AP 499).
“The fascination of danger is at the bottom of all great passions. There is no fullness of pleasure unless the precipice is near. It is the mingling of terror with delight that intoxicates. And what more terrifying than gambling?” (AP 499).
It is no surprise that a collector of books and literary fragments such as Benjamin (who wrote his thesis on Romanticism [find specific ref.] ) would choose for his prize collection of quotations, random thoughts, and aphorisms such “types” as the flâneur and the gambler when both figures are motivated by the same force: the same force that motivates himself: _______???______
(Threshold? The terror of crossing into a new zone, an unbeknownst until now territorya smooth space) CLOSE READ ABOVE PASSAGE. To gamble is to step out of chronological time, (KAIROS) to disjoint oneself from the economic flow as it is perceived by those who see themselves partaking of a system that rewards hard work, patience, and frugality, a system that promises to pay off at life’s end [CHECK QUOTE“G&P” in AP], if not in life, in the spoils of the afterlife awaiting the believer. Yet it is hard to say whether gambling as a phenomenon is an alternative to or intensification of the economic structure it appears to undermine.
In other words, the question in the case of the gambler, when he is considered in the context of some of Benjamin’s other types such as the flâneur, the collector, or the prostitute, concerns whether or not and if so to what degree and by what or whose hand the gambler been led astray? For the gambler must, according to Benjamin, always be present . . . but where he is present becomes the question:
13. The secret of success does not lie in the mind; it is revealed by language itself in the term ‘presence of mind.’ The question is not whether mind is present, or what form it takes, but only where it is. That it happens to be present here, at this very moment, is possible only if it enters into a person's intonation, his smile, his conversational pauses, his gaze, or his gestures. For only the body can generate presence of mind. And in the case of the highly successful person, the body keeps such a tight rein on the reserves of the mind that the latter seldom has the opportunity to let off fireworks. This explains why the success achieved by financial wizards in their careers is of the same kind as that of an Abbé Galiani in the salon. For nowadays, as Lenin has remarked, what must be overcome are not people, but things. This is the source of that dullness which so often characterizes the presence of mind of great captains of industry.”
Presence of mind is the effect of expanding the mind to include the body and its triggers as well as all of those things to which those triggers are linked. The gambler becomes the gameroomthe table, all the people in it, the chips, the odds, the rules, the cheaters. This is why Benjamin says that the true aim of the gambler or the primary force that motivates him is the:
“essentially narcissistic and aggressive desires for omnipotence. These, insofar as they are not immediately linked to directly erotic desires, are characterized by a greater temporal radius of extension. A direct desire for coitus may, through orgasm, be satisfied more rapidly than the narcissist-aggressive desire for omnipotence. The fact that genital sexuality, in even the most favorable cases, leaves a residue of dissatisfaction goes back, in turn, to three facts: not all pregenital desires, such as later are subsidiary to genitality, can be accommodated in coitus; and from the standpoint of the Oedipus complex, the object is always a surrogate. Together with these two . . . considerations goes . . . the fact that the impossibility of acting out large scale unconscious aggression contributes to the lack of satisfaction. The aggression abreacted in coitus is very much domesticated. . . . Thus it happens that the narcissistic and aggressive fiction of omnipotence becomes above all a cause of suffering (INTOXICATED/POSIONED BY IT): whoever on that account has experienced the mechanism of pleasure as abreacted in games of chance, and possessing, as it were, eternal value, succumbs the more readily to it in proportion as he is committed to the ‘neurotic pleasure in duration’ (Pfeifer); and, as a consequence of pregenital fixations, he is less able to assimilate such pleasure to normal sexuality. . . . It should also be borne in mind that, according to Freud, the sexuality of human beings bears the stamp of a function that dwindles, whereas this cannot in any way be predicated of the aggressive and narcissistic tendencies.’ Edmund Bergler, ‘Zur Psychologie des Hasardspielers,’ Imago, 22, no. 4 (1936), pp. 438-440.” (AP 510)
“The proscription of gambling could have its deepest roots in the fact that a natural gift of humanity, one which directed toward the highest objects, elevates the human being beyond himself, only drags him down when applied to one of the meanest objects: money. The gift in question is presence of mind. Its highest manifestation is the reading that in each case is divinatory.” (AP 513)
His intoxication is in the indiscernability from what the gambler believes to be his mind and the material world it filters: Heidegger’s BESTAND. It is in this way that arcades and gaming rooms are connectedcall upon Canetti’s crowd stuff, Dostoevsky’s description of the crowd from The Gambler. Get into Deleuzian stuff. The figure of the gambler in relation to Deleuze’s rhizome and the concept of constellationsthe “type” as being a constellation
(or superstitions: The capitalist whose fortune is tied up in stocks and bonds, which are subject to variations in market value and yield for which he does not understand the causes, is a professional gambler. The gambler, however, . . . . is a supremely superstitious being. The habitués of gambling casinos always possess magic formulas to conjure the Fates. One will mutter a prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua or some other spirit of the heavens; another will place his bet only if a certain color has won; while a third holds a rabbit’s foot in his left hand; and so on. The inexplicable in society envelops the bourgeois, as the inexplicable in nature the savage.’ Paul Lafargu, “Die Ursachen des Gottesglaubens,” Die neue Zeit, 24, no. 1 (Stuttgart, 1906), p.512.” (AP 497))
making device…types can both serve as a means of reducing complex characters into the bare essentials necessary to navigate between themand as a mask or disguise that enables a person to have control of the type of feedback they are sure to encounter. Types as masks. Lily Bart
Benjamin in his essay “Notes of a Theory of Gambling” equates the gambler’s mindset with unadulterated innervation, unmediated by the sense of sight. It is the body that knows, not the intellect or the eye and the body is without limits when the superficial limits it is trained to perceive are discarded and it extends itself, the "prosthetizing" the world like a spider in its web. The reading that goes on at a gambling table is commensurate with telekinesis as opposed to telepathy:
Certain matters are clear. What is decisive is the level of motor innervation, and the more emancipated it is from optical perception, the more decisive it is. From this stems a principal commandment for gamblers: they must use their hands sparingly, in order to respond to the slightest innervations. The gambler’s basic approach must, so to speak, adumbrate the subtlest network of inhibitions, which lets only the most minute and unassuming innervations pass through its meshes. (From: Walter Benjamin’s “Notes of a Theory of Gambling” (Walter Benjamin Selected Writings Vol 2 1927-1934 297)
Benjamin writes in Konvolute “m”, “Idleness”,
“Whoever enjoys leisure [an opportunity--The state of having time at one's own disposal; time which one can spend as one pleases; free or unoccupied time] escapes Fortuna; whoever embraces idleness [The state or condition of being idle or unoccupied; want of occupation; habitual avoidance of work, inactivity, indolence; an instance of this] falls under her power” (AP 800).
TRANS, MAKE CONNECTION…--Thus, the game [An amusement, diversion, pastime] is always one of seductiona conscious detour through a forbidden secondary structure.
The happiness of the winner: the winner’s highly remarkable feeling of elation, of being regarded by fate, of having seized control of destiny. Comparison with the expression of love by a woman who has been truly satisfied by a man. Money and property, normally the most massive and cumbersome things, here come directly from the hands of fate, as if they were the caressing response to a perfect embrace. Furthermore, one should note the factor of danger, which is the most important factor in gambling, alongside pleasure (the pleasure of betting on the right number). It arises not so much from the threat of losing as from that of not winning. The particular danger that threatens the gambler lies in the fateful category of arriving ‘too late,’ of having ‘missed the opportunity.’ We could learn something from this about the character of the gambler as a type. Last, the best that has thus far been written about gambling focuses on the factor of acceleration, acceleration and danger. What Anatole France has said on pages 14ff. of Le jardin d’Epicure [The Garden of Epicurus] must be combined with what has been noted here: gambling generates by way of experiment the lightning-quick process of stimulation at the moment of danger, the marginal case in which presence of mind becomes divinationthat is to say, one of the highest, rarest moments in life. (AP 298)
Benjamin's comparison of gambling to lightning: find Nietzsche quote about lightening--find was it Longinus' def of the sublime that makes it a lightening bolt? Think frankenstein... Shock, danger, divine inspiration, Zeus, danger, chance encounter with ultimate destructive force of life and death.
“The ideal of the shock engendered experience <Erlebnis> is the catastrophe. This becomes very clear in gambling: by constantly raising the stakes, in hopes of getting back what is lost, the gambler steers toward absolute ruin.” (AP 515)
Steering toward absolute “ruin” à Romanticist trope Benjamin’s diss/the “wreckage” of the past and temporally-signified material à i.e. Deleuzian “Transcendental Materialism”. Tragedy as pre-designed "ruins".
What is interesting about this passage is that it appears beneath the heading “Prostitution, Gambling”, two seemingly unrelated practices that both find their charm in imagined outcomes, libidinal investments, and atemporal states of being or “zones”. While Benjamin’s treatment of prostitution is merely cursory when compared to his treatment of gambling, he does, on several occasions, locate the prostitute literally upon the thresholds of nineteenth-century buildings and in doing so equates her wares with the all too obvious door/vagina. TRANSITION-- The profession of these women is identifiable through their location[See p.500 for prostitute threshold.] not indoors where “good” women waste away their days couched away in the domestic spherebut on the thresholds of buildingsinteriors to be explored in the exterior world of the streets. Through their physical location, the nineteenth-century prostitute becomes part of the architecture, contrasting the coldness of iron, marble, and glass with the warmth promised by their available bodiesbodies identifiable as such because they are placed on the threshold and inside the arcades, a trade zone. As commodities, these women in their promenade, or from beneath a door sill, function in much the same way as numbers upon which the gambler places his bet:
Hasn’t his eternal vagabondage everywhere accustomed him to reinterpreting the image of the city? And doesn’t he transform the arcade into a casino, into a gambling den, where now and again he stakes the red, blue, yellow jetons of feeling on women, on a face that suddenly surfaces (will it return his look?), on a mute mouth (will it speak?)? What, on the baize cloth, looks out at the gambler from every numberluck, that ishere, from the bodies of all the woman, winks at him as the chimera of sexuality: as his type. This is nothing other than the number, the cipher, in which just at that moment luck will be called by name, in order to jump immediately to another number. His typethat’s the number that pays off thirty-six-fold, the one on which, without even trying, the eye of the voluptuary falls, as the ivory ball falls into the red or black compartment. He leaves the Palais-Royal with bulging pockets, calls to a whore, and once more celebrates in her arms the communion with number, in which money and riches, absolved from every earthen weight, have come to him from the fates like a joyous embrace returned to the full. For in gambling hall and bordello, it is the same supremely sinful delight: to challenge fate in pleasure. Let unsuspecting idealists imagine that sensual pleasure, of whatever stripe, could ever determine the theological concept of sin. The origin of true lechery is nothing else by this stealing of pleasure from out of the course of life with God, whose covenant with such life resides in the name. The name itself is the cry of naked lust. This sober thing, fateless in itselfthe nameknows no other adversary than the fate that takes its place in whoring and that forges its arsenal in superstition. Thus in gambler and prostitute that superstition which arranges the figures of fate and (AP 489) fills all wanton behavior with fateful forwardness, fateful concupiscence, bringing even pleasure to kneel before its throne. (AP 490)
CLOSE READ ABOVE PASSAGE