I was struck by eschaton, and decided to look it up. According to Wikipedia, “Eschaton means the end of the everything, the final destiny of the world, as studied in the subject of eschatology.”
In the eschaton scene, the line between reality and the game becomes blurred, quite literally by the snowdrops. Even though “it’s snowing on the goddamn map, not the territory” (333), the question remains: “is the territory the real world, quote unquote, though” (334). Does the snow in real life effect the weather in the game? And how much does the game effect their “real life”?
It’s interesting that Eschaton requires used tennis balls- they’ve outlived their function (as tennis balls) and their final destiny is a symbol of nuclear warheads, which in turn, are capable of quite literally eliminating maps by destroying territory and messing with countries’ borders in a real war. Also, lobbing a tennis ball creates an arc much like that of a nuclear warhead. It’s also interesting that Orin, a master of eschaton, can so quickly change sports, or maps, but still perform the same function- lobbing the ball to just near the end of the map. This near-end seems significant.
This map reminds me of the Borges story “On Exactitude in Science,” where the cartographers guild decides to make a one-to-one, exact map of their Empire, which ends up on top of every inch of the territory, a palimpsest in ruins. In a way, the Eschaton is a virtual-reality type mapping onto the physical territory; its rules govern the field of allowable play, but only apply when the game’s map is over the territory. Take away the map (the arbitrarily drawn lines) and the territory has no rules. This seems like a statement about life in general- that perhaps we create games and rules for some sort of map/order, which is artificially imposed on top of the organic territory. But that brings us back to that solipsistic question: is that organic territory even the “real world, quote unquote,” i.e. isn’t it pretty likely that the territory we see is merely our perception, and that if might be just as artificial/contrived as the map we’ve placed over it?
Furthermore, on a personal level, “map” seems to signify telos. For example, in footnote 75, “Hal’s private dread is that Tavis will want him to offer up his personal competitive map and dignity to John (‘N.R.’) Wayne…” (998). Here, the competitive map is the carrot on the stick- what drives Hal to even try in the first place. The map is his raison d’etre, which is essentially arbitrary and comes from without. Here, an “utter demapping” (998) would be total humiliation and would eat at Hal’s resolve for the WhataBurger.
“De-mapping” comes up later, when “Emil still had him [Poor Tony] marked for de-mapping” (300) or death. Furthermore, earlier in the novel, Joelle tries to “eliminate her own map for keeps” (220) or commit suicide, which would be the end of everything for her, fitting in with the map in eschaton. When she freebases, Joelle feels “sheltered by limits” (235), in a self-contained and safe world. But the world has no such sheltering limits, the map is not concrete. To eliminate the map would be to remove the lines that create the bounds of life… essentially the only way for Joelle to escape the “game” of her life (and this game plays out [pun intended] in various ways for various people…) is to end her life. She sees no viable way to destroy the map without also destroying the territory. Would eliminating her map have eliminated her territory? Would that have ended the real world for her?
I see this map/territory question as very related to the questions of abstract/conrete and idea/fact we talked about in class today. I feel like de-mapping removes the abstraction of Joelle’s thoughts, making her just a concrete thing, or territory. At the same time, I can’t get over the fact that a map is a concrete collection of geographical facts, but is also an abstract representation of a concrete place… hence, I think, the Eschaton’s players’ confusion over the snow. This is further complicated by the fact that Infinite Jest essentially creates a new, fictional map (not that all maps aren’t to some extent fiction) over North America, creating his own geography and new national borders (ONAN).
Now I’m completely confused, but one final thought: if one accepted life as an organic territory, and accepted and decided to deal with everything that comes with the territory (so to speak), i.e. all of life’s ups and downs, convex and concave parts, highs and depressions, etc., without trying to impose our own map of artificial parameters, limits and goals (the main goal DFW seems to see people driving/punting at is a constant state of anesthetized happiness or a general, perpetual high), then perhaps one would never feel the unbearable urge to de-map like Joelle.