I'm interested in what people make of Gibson's invocation of the mythologized Fall from Eden (common to the Western monotheistic traditions) to thematize Case's feelings about his initial neurological damage--and his ontological status more generally: "For Case, who'd lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it [the damage] was the Fall. In the bars he'd frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh." (7) It's interesting that Gibson chooses to use the metaphorical (as opposed to, e.g., simile) structure to recall this particular theological referent. For Case, the damage was not "like" a fall; it is a fall. Furthermore, the damage is not a fall, but in fact, the Fall--the singular fall from (Eden into the world of sin) that supposedly defines human subjectivity. If this is true, however, what happend to Case's originary Fall? If the damage inflicted by his old bosses = the Fall, what about the foundational imperfection that's Biblically posited as universal?
Case's situation seems to present the following existential schematic (in linear order [though Eden can never really be said to "exist" as such; it's more of a mythical "past that was never present"]):
Eden -- Fall -- Re-realization of Eden (via cyberspace) -- Fall (from damage) -- ?
If Case's second Fall (from the neurological damage) was, in fact, "the Fall," it seems to imply one of two things: either a) the first "Fall" was illegitimate (i.e., not really a "fall") and thus the second, post-damage "Fall" is the sole constitutive fall of Case's person, or b) the re-realization of Eden through cyberspace was illegitimate (i.e., it may have felt Utopian, but it actually wasn't) and thus the second, post-damage "Fall"merely re-instantiates the originary Fall from Eden.
Both routes have interesting consequences. On the one hand, the illegitimacy of the originary Fall (from Eden) denotes an unorthodox--though currently dominant--sensibility w/r/t imperfection. Anti-Utopianism ("humans will be always be flawed" / "things will never be perfect" / etc.) is widespread in the postmodern world; contemporarily, it is hardly radical to suggest that imperfection is an irreducible aspect of social life. Indeed, once it becomes incoherent--or plain and simple naive--to envision perfection, it no longer makes sense to talk about an originary Fall predicated on the notional idea of an Eden, since Eden is an inherently un-realizable "perfect" space. In other words, if we buy the premise that life is irrevocable in its imperfection (and let's be clear: this premise can be highly redemptive), then the "Fall" simply describes how things are. In which case, it's not a fall; it's reality.
The second proposition--the illegitimacy of techno-Eden, implying that Case's damage re-instantiates, as opposed to invents, the Fall--is best understood in terms of the psychoanalytic concept of "lack." Case's claim that his damage "was the Fall" clearly presumes that his pre-damage condition (i.e., neuronal firings immersed in cyberspace) was worthy of being deemed "Eden"--a tall order indeed. While it's easy to maintain a haughty distance from this claim (after all, we [cynics] know that digital life will never offer the same fruits as material life), is this not an example of Case taking advantage of the exact same defense mechanisms (or at least homologous defense mechanisms) that most of us employ on a daily basis? Here, he has simply generated an "if only" narrative--"If only I could jack in, I'd be fine!" / "If only those criminals hadn't afflicted me, I'd be happy!"--that should be familiar to anyone who's ever had to contend with disapointment (e.g., "If only I got that shiny new red wheelbarrow [on which everything might depend], I'd be happy!"). In this sense, Case's damage (and the feeling of "Fall" that accompanies it) gestures toward the *historicity of lack* in human experience--that is, the way in which lack manifests itself over and over again: precisely by way of the pathological formations that we use to (falsely) fill the space of lack, the content of which might change from historical period to historical period (as it does for Case, when his expectations change from human to trans-human), but the form of which continually reproduces and re-articulates itself.
Might Case's name be of some significance in this respect? What if we "Case" as the limit-example of particularism (which is, in some sense, exactly what's at stake--both concretely and abstractly--in the mind v. body question, especially in light of its racialized and gendered overtones)? Western metaphysics has tended to conceive of particularity and universality in dialectical terms, which is to say, as if the two were caught in perpetual, fundamentally insoluble tension. This dialectical tendency presents universality and particularity as mutually exclusive: I can make universal claims or particular claims, but not both at the same time; I can uphold my universal duty (e.g., to not steal) or my particularistic duty (e.g., extenuating circumstances that force me to steal in order to feed my family), but not both. Might Case occupies the hybrid, connective space between universality and particularity? (For instance, a "case study" designates the particularized example that we use to elucidate the universal point; "In case of emergency" prefaces a universal space for making particularized claims; etc.) A "case" is precisely what allows us to grasp the playing-out of a universal or trans-historical problematic (such as "lack") in a particularistic or historical context. Perhaps Case embodies historicity itself?