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On Blinking

For Eloi

Nietzsche says:
The last men blink.
Those who blink blink because they squint at what suddenly overwhelms the eyes in a flash of an instant. It may be said that what they see (or don't see) outflanks one's vision, forcing it to surrender for a moment in front of what it cannot see--grasp, understand, or own. The lids close. They close because they have to protect the eyes. From what? From being exposed to what it suddenly cannot master through vision and apprehension. The eyes suddenly become outplayed in its own game: that through which one can see is now the medium through which one is seen. Seeing itself seen, the eyes shy away; they close. Or blink.

Thus we usually blink when we become aware of ourselves, conscious to the point of insecurity. The beautiful lady blinks and looks at her shoes when she realizes that the man across her had been glancing at her in admiration. Two passengers in a jeepney blink at each other once their eyes meet accidentally, shyly trying to recover from that awkward confrontation. Children, when embarrassed or surprised, cover their faces with their hands, which is much like blinking as well. We blink when we try to hide ourselves from being exposed in our eyes. We blink when we do not want to be "caught looking."

There is another sense of the word. "Blink," in Middle English, means blenchen. This word means "to deceive." A suspect who blinks excessively when being interrogated for a crime would easily be interpreted as guilty and hiding something. That we close our eyes for that split second, which would otherwise be a normal and necessary habit of our physiology, can tell a lot about us and what we hide. We also blink when we are playing a joke on somebody. I say something, then I blink to someone (who usually is able to see the contradiction or prank in my words), and usually flash a smile to go with it. To blink in this sense is to say one thing but mean the other--usually its opposite: the falsity of what I said. To someone who is not "in" on the joke, he will maintain himself on the level of my words and hold me for it; but he will not see the irony or the deception employed in it. The devil blinks as much as he smiles; his sarcasm is as light as his deception is deep. And the innocence of the bluffer is testified in the admission of his blinking: ironically, blinking gives himself away. He plays a trick on you but admits it just as quick. Was his admission a deception as well? Or is it another trick? Now you can no longer tell what is true or what is false anymore. And this is the worst trick.

In line with this, the Filipino malikmata and the Middle English blenken, blinken show the other side of deception: not of the deceiver but the one who is deceived. "Namalikmata ako," means that I blinked and became confused with what I thought I saw or did not see. It usually denotes being fooled much in the way that our eyes can easily be deceived by illusions or lapses in concentration. "I was mistaken, " or "I mistook one for what it was not." That tenth of a second's vision which I lose when I blink oddly enough misleads me. I am deceived. Blenken or blinken also means "to gleam or glitter." This word for blinking evokes the deceptive quality of that which fools us. We become fooled by the sparkling, attractive and captivating quality of something which thus makes us draw near it. A spectacle which captivates the eyes, body and desire follow suit in a spell that intoxicates both and renders them susceptible and exposed. Misled but held by it, one may forever stay fixed in that illusion unless it passes or reveals its truth--that it is not what it seemed. Fool's gold: what for the fool is real gold until he realizes he has been fooled. Blinking: if only I could have not closed my eyes I would have known. Yet the eyes--whether we want it or not--always have to close from time to time. Thus I am always in danger of being blind from time to time.

Nietzsche thinks the last men to be blinking. The last man for Nietzsche is the last of those men who have yet to become supermen. This man sees in the world a world of images and appearances--and nothing more. There are no longer things behind images nor are there any more things-in-themselves as Kant said. The last man lives in a world of glittering but hollow facades. According to Heidegger, the last men blink because they "play up or set up a glittering deception which is then agreed upon as true and valid." The last man does not ask anymore whether or not any thing is real or not; if these are mere semblances of real beings residing in a heaven of ideas; or if there lie meanings under things. In overturning Platonism, Nietzsche is the last metaphysician at the end of philosophy.

The last men blink. We blink because we like to see ever-new things which may captivate us and feed our curiosities. We blink because we can no longer speak without lying. And we blink perhaps because we no longer want to be deceived but closing our eyes would be too difficult.


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