“The Conflux of Floods” : an Imagined Interview

two-rivers-colliding-geneva-switzerland-rhone-and-arve-rivers_2

            In a recently daydreamt interview (I realize these may be narcissistic, but they have occurred all through my life, and come to function as ways to take account of myself) – in which I had composed writings that earned critical acclaim AND garnered popular and commercial success (crazy, right?!) – I was being astutely questioned (after all, I am both interviewer and interviewee – it’s a daydream), and pressured to account for both the critical acclaim and the mass consumption of the tangled materials of my celebrated novelistic-poetic-essaying (some multi-genred hodge-podge and hurly-burly’d collaging of human inscription).   [Which is also, obviously, occurring in this everyday attempt at its retelling].  For better or worse.

By any account, each time I endeavored to formulate an answer to reckon for the apparent realities under fantasized questioning, I was foiled – ultimately unable to appropriately language ANYthing I strove to express – for the fundamental reason that the shared social convention of language – the available (or known) English nouns, verbs, structures, phrases, vocabulary, ontologies, etymologies, forms, content and context seemed false to my meaning as soon as I spoke them.

I would begin to assay a response, and each available term (even though utilizing an extensive and deft, adept English vocabulary) – each word I was choosing – would seemingly cancel itself.  I was caught in pregnant pauses – an author seeking a term – and the accessible signs and sounds of an encyclopedic dictionary all clanged untrue – inaccurate, incomplete and implausible – incorrect!

The interview proceeded (notably un-entertainingly and un-interestingly) with solid and well-considered queries posed from the history of human making, reflection and inquiry…followed by prolonged silences as I contemplated what might be honest, authentic replies…resulting in the beginnings of obsessive-compulsive, over-thought, manically scrutinized hesitations – cancelled out and undone, revised and corrected, taken back or erased as soon as they were spoken.  Simultaneously to becoming aware of their possible interpretations – conventionalized meanings gassing the atmosphere – the breath and air of their saying and hearing.

For example:  “Well, I think that authors…how could I speak for others…it seems to me…no that’s not right,” or, “It is my intuition, sense of things…my felt experience… no, that’s not quite it.”  “As the mind processes the body’s…wait…what is not body about the mind?  Our language presents a splitting of the two that was never there…I mean…no, no, this is inadequate…” and so on.  Nothing being said.

“Ever try.  Ever fail.  No matter.

Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”

-Samuel Beckett-

            The failure of the interview eventually came around to the following… a couple responses that might represent something almost accurate, maybe.  May communicate a touch of something authentic, honest.  It has stuck with me for a few days, and yet I can’t quite be sure…

A question arose concerning what I might have done, or be doing if I had fathered less children, were not bound to sustaining a family, and so on… I reflected awhile… and soon realized that I am unable to imagine my life without offspring.  Nearly half of my existence has been lived as a father, and I cannot think of experiences or expressions that they do not co-create in some way.  If any of it were taken back – the struggles and fears, broken marriages, anxiety, joys and determination to survive, regular interactions with their development, activities, quizzings and personalities… I only feel impoverished.

The illusional interview concluded with a large catch-all question, something along the lines of: “Your writings have profoundly moved some readers, yet you consistently express discontent – revising, beginning again, evading – even disappointment in your faltering, hesitant works.  Can you talk about this experience?  How do you account for your dissatisfaction in light of your readers reported satisfaction?”

My reply:  “The only way I can think to address this right now is in terms of a conflux of flood waters.  I, the writing one, have a flood of experience that I wish to understand, interact with, relate to somehow, attempt to comprehend.  I utilize the methods, marks and systems that we, as a species over time, have collaborated and devised with which to communicate – with ourselves, with others – and I attempt, attempt, attempt to forge some accord between the vast swarming flood that my life-experience ever is – as an organism embedded in world – and the means and methods we have for making sense of, imagining, and transcribing such total experiential flow.”

“The resulting expression is always more-than, distinct and different-from the felt experience I have of the flood (as the medium borrows from far beyond my own individual abilities or thoughts, capacities – an enormous fund of expressions, vocabulary and species-deep conventionalized experiences I could not possibly evince on my own) AS WELL AS less-than, deficient, incapable and variant from (not equal to) the ubiquity of my experienced flood.  I am left simultaneously hoping the conventions of language will prove adequate, and despairing they never will be.  What results from this tangle is a writing – a text, document, artifact – of my individual attempts to process the flood of my human experience in conventionalized signs.”

“From the other side of the markings comes the flood of each individual reader’s human experience.  As they (or we, I’m describing my reading experiences) engage the verbal expressions the writer selects to represent or elicit their own flood, the reader’s flood rushes through, around, with, into these written expressions.  When what is deciphered via these conventional funds of language feels apropos, accurate or apt to the reader’s experiential living flood – we are moved, feel met, acknowledged and represented, almost comprehended and understood, and we may feel that this collection, order, expression of language we have discovered in reading actually writes us, so to speak.  Which is why you may hear readers say such things as “I couldn’t have said this better…” or “I can’t imagine this expressed any other way…let me read it to you” (the thrust of quotation).  The section of text, general outlook, sound, rhythm or content of the artifact feels almost miraculously adequate and accurate to our own flood of experience.  Of course, often it does not – in which cases we revise or repurpose our readings toward knowledge or entertainment, something partial or other than full-flood experiencing, holistic (as nearly as possible) communication.”

“We know, as readers, no Other’s experience can be identical to our own, but in lucky moments it feels so.  Feels possible that our experience of the living flood is shared, understood, that our individuality, solipsism is not a locked room, or impassable barrier.  This is the “magic,” if you will, of human social conventions as mediums for individual experiences: they enable or facilitate our joinings, our cooperation, solidarity, convergence.”

“So neither the writer nor the reader are responsible for authoring profound writings, or rather BOTH are: multiple floods of experience crash through the arranged signs and symbols, separated by time and space and differences, but still possible violent confluences – depending on both, or all.  Living experiencings rushing the sign-sets enabling some felt sympathy, intimacy, accord between the floodings and the expressions: conflux.”

“Otherwise it simply doesn’t ring true – might be appreciated for its artistry or ingenuity, ideas, craft, imagination – but NOT an occasion for profound felt accord, convergence, a totalizing feel of representation/expression.”

“Floods in conflux: right now this seems to me the opportunity that care and attention, effort and awareness of our socially species-al co-creating mediums of communication (art, music, technologies, labors, habitudes, languages, modes of inquiry, etc…) allow for, offer us, in moments of fortunate concord.”

“Does that answer your question in any way?”

Tape ends.

 


Re-searching: Hope Questions

skeleton at desk

I archive.

- Edouard Leve –

At some point in the future this will be very important to someone: that I wrote.  Will be significant.  To someone.  That I disciplined my “self” determinedly, conspicuously to experience; to experience experience.  That I asked questions of as much as I could, and as many, and then held on to each question in a kind of world’s-largest-ball-of-twine or world’s-largest-bundle-of-wire or inter-cranial-neuronal-tangle, or… that each little curiosity that cropped up as I “came up against”, each discomfort, each discomfiting sensation, I translated – and when I rendered it, became something different, something new in the world (even though agelessly repetitious) and that new thing was another questioning animal – and those questions disappeared into the world’s-largest-body-of-water – doubt – oceans and underground marshes, or, in actual everyday life, simply a “questioning spirit,” an “inquiring mind,” a “researcher” (to search again) – a human that keeps turning round and around observing things, seeking, searching, asking, in other words, I feel like it will be important – to some other existent thing/individual/organism/ being – that I quizzed and catechized (and that, mostly genuinely, compunctionally) whatever discomposing-affective-awareness-alert occurred for me (thereafter losing them all, after their fashion, in the generalized posture or aspect of querying) followed it in accord with its continuance of interest and then released, lost, offered it to a larger sign:

question mark

Someday it will matter that every little thing, moment, perception (i.e. “experience”) that I noticed, felt, underwent – was aware of becoming-encountering – I interrogated, I archived, I disoriented, mislaid, lost track of in some larger point-of-view, mien or cast: I had reservations, I chronicled, I forgot.  And inscribed.  Addressed and assigned in whatever way I was capable of.  Marked and then faded, cancelled by the mere activity of demarcating.

Translating manifestations and intimations into gestures and cues delimited and distinguished (de-scribed) the perturbation and disconcertment into ambiguous and indeterminate denotations…opaque obfuscations or auguries that bore little substance or portent.

My questioning, rather than resulting in poignant prognostications or revealing adumbrations simply fed the murky mass of life’s analysis – a scrupulous and turbid scrutiny.

I beggared the question and then repented.  Metanoia.  I aimed and turned, aimed and swerved, and turned again.

When the engagement perturbed, I transliterated, diverted, and sacrificed it to a chaotic deity … discovering … language.

 

 

 


The Lovers Encyclopedia: or, Notes Toward Unlimited Signs

Gilbert Quote

Notes on an Encyclopedia of Signs: or, Limited Vocabularies, Limitless Meanings

“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.”

“All entities move and nothing remains still”

“Everything changes and nothing remains still … and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”

-Heraclitus of Ephesus-

“No man ever steps in the same river twice.”  No man ever steps the same into a river.  I believe that everyone, from time to time, aches to express what they mean.  We have experiences and we want to communicate them, and we experience a kind of veritable torment when nothing sounds, feels, expresses what we “mean” “quite right” (or adequately, authentically, completely, correctly).

How often this happens with joy, pleasure, desire, love.  There are 26 letters in the English alphabet.  We shuffle and arrange them, add and delete, realign and recompose, punctuate and intone, mark-up, highlight, capitalize, emphasize, crescendo/decrescendo, lilt, shout, whisper the sounds and shapes we have mediated them through in this wild, often urgent attempt to forge understanding BETWEEN, comprehension, connection… MEANINGS (whole-person exchanges) betwixt ourselves and others, and world.

Our bodies have limited surfaces.  Certain numbers of organs, neurons, veins, muscles – motions, sensations, pulses, breaths, hums and groans.  We TOUCH to forge BETWEEN.  Caresses, grasps, pushes, pulls and entanglings.  WE ACHE TO GET ACROSS – adequately, authentically, comprehensively, fully.

“I love this pizza.”  “I have never seen anything like this!”  “OMG – watch that sky as it changes, explodes, implodes, whirls, colors!”  “I have never experienced love like this.”  “You are the most beautiful person I’ve ever known.”  “This is my favorite song.”  “You are incomparable.”  “You are incomparable.”  Our experiences – each – are in some very real sense… INCOMPARABLE.

And space.  And time.  Matter and energy, or material / apparently immaterial.  Emotion and sensation.  Cognition and affect.  We are ALWAYS (all of us) stepping in the river, and the river is always (all of it) flowing.  EVERY instant is our constant moving IN and WITH the constant moving of the world.

It hurts.  I look at, listen to, interact with, FEEL toward, receive from, snuggle, caress, kiss, desire, weep, converse with my current romantic partner – aching every time to express how additive, emergent, unique, INCOMPARABLE these NOW-experiences WITH her vary from, extend, surprise, fulfill, astound, affect, estrange from any other – and bewilder my ability to communicate them… because I have said “I love this pizza” a million times.  I have lost my breath at the views from a hundred mountain-tops.  I have gasped at four crashing oceans.  I have whimpered from the all-over expenditure of orgasm many times.  My fingers have disbelieved themselves and been overwhelmed by a life of plants, animals, surfaces and human fleshes.  “My favorite pie” has happened again and again and again – never the same me, never the same pie.  Down to my cells, my molecules, my quarks.

My love and I have imagined a new symbology.  Each time we ache to speak our love we will scramble new squiggles, letters, symbols, scratchings in order to designate:  THIS IS NOT LIKE BEFORE – I know I said it moments ago – BUT THIS IS SOMETHING MORE/OTHER/ PARTICULATED and specific from that.  This is NOW-LOVE, new and familiar, distinct and embodying all the particles prior.  There are not enough symbols.  Not enough sense.

Mikhail Bakhtin and any number of other thinkers, artists, poets, anthropologists (von Uexkull, Heidegger, William James, Charles Peirce, Paul Bains, Erin Manning, John Poinsot, John Deely, Paul Kockelman, Humberto Maturana, etc. etc. etc.) have attempted to unpack this strange tangle.  Poets and writers throughout history (as witnessed via Heraclitus at the start of this little assay), musicians, painters, explorers, historians – HUMANS have suffered, hurt, ached at this paradox of limitation and adequacy for expressing WHAT I MEAN / WHAT’S HAPPENING FOR ME NOW / throughout the life of our species.

The gist of it:  our bodies and vocabularies are VERY limited in relation to the never-ending changing and flood and flow of our relation to the world and others.  26 letters and 20 digits, a circumscribable surface of skin, a rate of cognition, a dictionary of emotions… never the same human stepping in never the same river.  This is where Bakhtin, et. al. assist us.  What language we’ve agreed on, what musical forms and sounds, what movements we are capable of, what gestures, groans, inflections, pressures of touch, coos and growls, whispers and howls – YES they are woefully limited to represent the vast variations of each NOW experience – with THIS person, THIS landscape, THIS particular food, THIS hearing of a song, THIS sunset, THIS ocean, THIS child, THIS reading – we repeat and repeat and repeat (in a kind of repulsive ad nauseum).  We proclaim our love as powerfully as we know how… and find we wrote the same thing to another person in a letter 15 years ago.  We massage and wriggle and lick and devour in lovemaking in a way we mean to be so particular to THIS passion, THIS relation, THIS other – and it mimics our gripping and caressing and kissing and intercourse of many other times, other passions, other relations, other others.  It hurts.

Bakhtin et. al. indicate that the MEANING is limitless.  That in order to communicate, each BETWEEN must be understood in the Heraclitean sense – WE ARE NOT IDENTICAL to ourselves – ever – and THIS EXPERIENCE being had is NOT IDENTICAL to any other – ever – our means of expression, our vocabularies for communication, our bodily capacities and emotive apparatus ARE LIMITED… but the meanings we create interacting with the world are not.  The MEANINGS ONLY OCCUR BETWEEN and AS we (ever-unique and different) participate, interact, engage one another and world (ever-unique and changing) … To comprehend the sometimes repulsive, apparently restrictive and woefully repetitive MEANS OF EXPRESSION we have and its FELT INADEQUACY to the new, unique, differentiated EXPERIENCE WE ACHE TO EXPRESS – would rely on the mutual understanding that EACH EXPRESSION WITH  COMPOSES NEW MEANING.

Our efforts, compulsions, desires, tastes, affections, pleasures, joys, hurts – EXPERIENCE – IS AUTHENTIC and GENUINELY NEW and DIFFERENT every moment – the means we have of COMMUNICATING, EXPRESSING, CONNECTING these experiences IS LIMITED and REPETITIVE – but we need not doubt the LIMITLESS CAPACITY FOR MEANING SOMETHING FRESH, AUTHENTIC, GENUINE, TRUE that each of those repeated words, phrases, emotions, gestures, interactions have… because…

“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.”

“All entities move and nothing remains still”

“Everything changes and nothing remains still … and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”

-Heraclitus of Ephesus-

We are a species of limited vocabularies, a constrained encyclopedia…

in a world of limitless meanings

let us trust one another.

-for Hallie

 


Narrating Fragments

“And in life, meaning is not instantaneous.  Meaning is discovered in what connects, and cannot exist without development.  Without a story, without an unfolding, there is no meaning.  Facts, information, do not in themselves constitute meaning.  Facts can be fed into a computer and become factors in a calculation.  No meaning, however, comes out of computers, for when we give meaning to an event, that meaning is a response, not only to the known, but also to the unknown: meaning and mystery are inseparable, and neither can exist without the passing of time.  Certainty may be instantaneous; doubt requires duration: meaning is born of the two.  An instant photographed can only acquire meaning insofar as the viewer can read into it a duration extending beyond itself.  When we find a photograph meaningful, we are lending it a past and a future.”

-John Berger, Another Way of Telling -

Paul Kenny -


it might be Autumn

It might be Autumn.  It takes awhile to know (here).  In any case, the confusion is enormous, is bewildering, is sometimes stultifying.

Multiple persons – some who know me and some who seem like they do – all seem confident about it.  About the book.  About that “there is a book in me” just waiting to be born or written, composed or transcribed – however a “book” comes to be.  I am certain of none of it, excepting that I love books, in fact I crave well-connected letters as much as (although differently from) my desire for love, for intimacy (or “satisfaction” – itself a kind of surprise and delighted exhaustion), for meaningful connections (being understood, acknowledged, beloved, and so on).  Strange beasts, we.  I.  I-we.

The “I” is “we” if you take into account all the variance – the inconsistencies and variety and contextual divergences.  “Bewildering” is the word I most usually apply to this business or blessing of living… of being alive.

Maybe that’s what this is about, like birthdays.  The strange pivoting celebration of another year undergone or accomplished, simultaneous with its absence and cessation.  Living, dying – same thing?  The introduction that serves as farewell.  A tightly romance.

Does “paradox” indicate two apparently incompatible things being the case at once?  These are not flip-sides of a coin, but two things on the same surface, depending.  Living/dying, suffering/joy, love.  Now as before and after in the same instant, so to speak.  I will always be battling the incapacity of words as the only things capable.  Communicative paradox – language as, at once, in the same sphere/realm/scale/reality – that which reveals and conceals, says and does not say, speaks and remains silent, clarifies and obfuscates, signals and misleads…fails and succeeds.

So that every effort of greeting also grieves, and each introduction is yet another form of farewell.

 

I loved her.


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