Ongoing Reflections

The Mighty Rio Grande


I’ve had death on my mind lately. My death in particular. How dearly I dread it! How vehemently I don’t want living to cease, no matter what it brings or doesn’t. How I still smoke like something already burned out and useless, just smoldering here.

Last week I even put together a soundtrack for my passing. A collection of what my wife calls “ambient post-rock” musics – guitar laden swoons and murmurs with occasional peaks of magnitude and power but overall repetitive thrumming drives. Steady, soothing, gradual.

It scares me to think of it, my body wrestling against death’s dark-clawing clutches, like spasming farm-fowl jerking to rip tears in the black-out cloth. I imagine breath-taking pain, searing irrationality and panic, what oxygen in the body must cause when one is drowning. Not wanting to go down. To call it quits. To stop.

Most consider my anxieties irrational self-torments. That I stimulate and tickle them by obsession, where in fact there is no real immediate threat. I know no other way, it seems obvious and razor-sharp to me that death is eternally ubiquitous to those of us who live. Some, I’m sure, see in my grave fears an unsettled “soul,” a human ill-at-ease or dis-eased with the divine or reality or Earth Mother-Nature-All life-cycle nuances and so on, burdened with sin or guilt, impatience, desire or incompletion.

I won’t apologize or repent of it, I simply crave the going-on of “you’ll-never-know-what-will-turn-up” that living seems to me. The “indestructible possibles” in the words of Samuel Beckett (that master of going on in the bleak) in the mouth of Alain Badiou.

Be that as it may, my family’s query as to my persistence in self-destructive habits and spirals (Freud’s “death drive”?) carry their valid weight and aplomb and must be answered: I give these to my reasonable oneness with Nature physiologically, irrespective of rationale – the “balance of truth” as it were, physical/mental acquiescence to the facts.

Afterlife certainly doesn’t assuage – I’m not wanting “other” “better” or overall “change,” just to go on in a minimal state of comfort with highs and lows interspersed. Movement – it’s different enough every day.

Driving the children to school, the drama of my CD playing in the background, me hoping it might subconsciously provoke in them an atmosphere of nostalgia and hope, dream and determination, some synchrony of reflection and will to power, once the charges were dropped off I let the final tune play itself out to the puffs of a cigarette.

Ironically, the band’s moniker is “This Will Destroy You” – on a brisk hazily sunlit river road of trees and cloudless sky morning – it’s a given: these children, this love, the losses, the agonies and beauty will, indeed, be the very “this” that “will destroy” me. Every moment counts that way. The song was “The Mighty Rio Grande,” with which my most recent previous overwhelm had occurred headphone’d in a jetliner staring out the window at a receding Mexican countryside of scrub trees, poverty and violent self-sustenance.

Today as I received what would destroy me, throbbing my cranium and vibrating my belly, I glimpsed an acceptable translation of my death.

As the music grew from its insistent quiet repetition, one step at a time, toward a dropping and swelling tumultuous tremor, I believed if the succumbing fight could be transposed like these sounds, I could bear it.

The Winter trees stark with skeletal blooms thrusting up, up, out and over, I thought – this could be okay – if the excruciating pain writhed out like white enormous wings tearing out of my chest in violent struggle, then spreading into flight like umbrellas of muscling clouds…tormented joints and hobbled thighs pushing through into tenacious trunks and grasping talons of branches like a howling chorus…fierce caws of crafty crows eating their shrieks out of my throat, pecking their freedom of my skull…an explosive fire of sheer determination, perseverance rather than a smothering suffocate oppression…that might feel an adequate conclusion.

Something giving in by giving out. Jacob wrestling angels. Trees and rivers attacked by and become great storms…Okay.

When the time comes, if it floods the Mighty Rio Grande.

N Filbert 2012

(click on title to hear wondrous song)

Word(s) Up : Part Five

Part 5: “Full of you’ll never know what will turn up”

I take it for granted that every one of us is all of the time making. Making dreams and reality, sense and sensation, monologue/dialogue/multilogue, doubts and knowledge, perception and experience. To live is to make a living, blood cells and amino acids, proteins and carbon dioxide, hormones and synapses.

We live and we say so. Whether fundamentally by motion and the occupation of space, or humanly by gestures and communications. Ever refining our capacities, both biologically and technically, we attempt, invent, create and construct our way along. Language, in its many forms is a principal way we make and are made.

Living or anything-ing implies movement implies change implies flexibility. Language is no exception to this implied principle. Malleability and flexibility – RELATIVITY – is at the core of living and living language. This is why I prefer talking of human activities and behaviors in active tenses…languaging, marrying, being, loving, and the like – is is what it is as it is is-ing.

RELATIVITY is a helpful idea-term for another powerful reason. It implies RELATION. Relations between all things as they are (are-ing). We skein language into the midst of this as a stretchable porous border, like air molecules or water, identifying and allowing difference and movement at all moments.

This is a splendour, a method and means, matter and medium by which we relate, flexibly, comprehensibly – to ourselves, to one another, to world.

Is it?

Because all that’s alive is making and moving, all is “full of you’ll never know what will turn up.” Language not only assigns the full, the you, the what and turning up, but is itself “full of you’ll never know what will turn up,” a relational medium and a matter we’re in relation with!

Pushing a bus while you’re driving it.

Stammer, stutter, flow, overflow.

It marks, misses the mark and overshoots the mark all at once.

This is why ontological thinkers like philosophers and poets believe language is wedded to human being as to be inseparable. Like our physiognomy, it’s a being we cannot investigate or relate to without it. We’re unable to separate from being to examine being. Unable to assess language without using language and being used thereby.


So those of us entranced by such apparently impossible conundrums do it anyway. Scientists and priests, philosophers and fantasiers – we anatomize ourselves and feign beyonds; microscopic particles and telescopic generalities,

it becomes a form of very sophisticated childs-play, a gravely serious and frivolous game, not unlike going on living which is the same thing as dying.

Granted – it’s fantastic – and impossible – what drives us? See – you never know what will turn up – and any direction you head (as a human) will be paved with language while you’re laying its bricks.

Astonishing! Astounding!

Helpless! Hopeless!

Like living toward death?

It’s what we do. Let’s call it “keeping up with relativity,” or “languaging” or living,

any one will do