Catch only what you’ve thrown yourself, all is
mere skill and little gain;
but when you’re suddenly the catcher of a ball
thrown by an eternal partner
with an accurate and measured swing
towards you, to your centre, in an arch
from the great bridge building of God:
why catching then becomes a power —
not yours, a world’s.
Michel Serres: Just as Leibniz wrote a monadology, an elementary or atomic philosophy, here is a theory of valences around atoms, a general theory of relations, like a theology in which the important thing would be angelology — a turbulent array of messengers.
Bruno Latour: Wait a minute. This is very important, but I’m lost again. You are taking up again the metaphor of scientific method, which will not completely convince me, since, on the contrary, the general impression is that the sciences are multiple substantives, a formidable proliferation of objects, whereas for you the synthesizing element…
Michel Serres: …is relations.
Bruno Latour: But, even more than relations, the types of relation.
Michel Serres: Not only the mode of relation but the way this mode of relation establishes or invents itself, virtually or physically.
Bruno Latour: Is it like comparing passes in rugby? I mean the ways of passing and not the configurations of the players?
Michel Serres: Configurations or fixed places are important when the players don’t move — just before the game begins, or when certain established positions are called for at various points in the game — scrimmages or line-outs. They begin to fluctuate as soon as the game begins, and the multiple and fluctuating ways of passing the bail are traced out.
The ball is played, and the teams place themselves in relation to it, not vice versa. As a quasi object, the ball is the true subject of the game. Tt is like a tracker of the relations in the fluctuating collectivity around il. The same analysis is valid for the individual: the clumsy person plays with the ball and makes it gravitate around himself; the mean player imagines himself to be a subject by imag- ining the ball to be an object-the sign of a bad philosopher. On the contrary, the skilled player knows that the ball plays with him or plays off him, in such a way that he gravitates around it and fluidly follows the positions it takes, but especially the relations that it spawns.
Bruno Latour: So, your synthesis would come about in the area of the passes, of movement, and not in the area of the objects?
Michel Serres: Look at how the flames dance, where they go, from whence they come, toward what emptiness they head, how they become fragmented and then join together or die out. Both fluctuating and dancing, this sheet of flame traces relations. This is an illuminating metaphor, if I may say so, for understanding what I have in view — this continuing and fragmented topological variety, which outlines crests. which can shoot high and go out in a mo- ment. The Rames trace and compose these relations.
Bruno Latour: Wait, I need to back up a minute. I thought I understood that there was in general a hermetical conception…
Michel Serres: Hermes passes and disappears; makes sense and destroys it; exposes the noise, the message, and the language; invents writing and, before it. music, translations and their obstacles. He is admittedly not a fixed preposition but, as is said nowadays about mailmen, he plays at pre?pose?, at delivery person.
Zarathustra had a goal; he threw his ball: now you, my friends, are the heirs of my goal; to you I throw my golden ball. More than anything, I like to see you, my friends, throwing the golden ball. And so I still linger a little on the earth: forgive me for that.