Part the Ninth: At the Thresholds: Afraid
“the torture of meaning is the vain and interminable agreement between what there is, on the one hand,
and ordinary language, on the other”
“Fear is the original and basic feeling of man; from fear everything is explicable”
“Fear is the basic condition, and there are all kinds of reasons why we’re so afraid.
But the fact of the matter is, is that, is that the job we’re here to do is to learn how to live in a way that we’re not terrified all the time”
-David Foster Wallace-
“Only reality has frightening us as its goal”
“We produce imaginary causes because an explanation of a thing helps to alleviate the fear of it”
“Our culture likes to think of everything as true or false – this is a way it has of fending off enormous realms of experience that make us feel uneasy, and rightly so.
The unknown must be explained and explained until it is explained away and we don’t have to be afraid anymore.
We want to ‘understand’ everything…such is the hysterical strength of our commitment to statistics…
the unknown being the fertile medium in which we live…”
“Writing is an assault on the frontiers…”
“to be wrenched from anonymity…”
Of course it is entirely possible that it is not long-reflected and pondered hopelessness that halts us, not our sense of finitude nor our ennui in the face of things impossible. It is possible that it is not, after all, our angst and frustration at being unable to adequately match our experiences to our languaging, or to cover our borders and fill our betweens with equally accessible, mutually comprehensible signs and gestures, so to share,
but rather a deep and enormous fear of what/who/when/how might emerge there – in that nowhere-that-exists interstice between ourselves and ourselves, ourselves and our world, ourselves and the others that we line with signs and symbols.
That, of one thing, if one thing only (if) we are certain without a doubt…that is: that we are absolutely uncertain…that “within” and with-out we are totally, utterly immersed in unknowns.
Fear of prodding, at guessing, at moving, at assaying our limits (where we expand) – our embodiment, our entity, of realizing that all living is engagement fundamentally, with mystery, with uncertainty, with chaos, that hesitates us, that confines.
To sign these deepest limbic passions is to open them up to all that threatens and grows/strengthens us. To gesture, to sound, to question or proclaim, to posit – these each call the piranhas of difference, expose the inadequacies of our surmisings, offer matter to be broken, perceptions contradicted and undone.
Acting, as a human, is the risk of being. The medium our lives are fueled by and exist in is unknown to us. Those among us who risk, who in courage or desperation try the world and its objects, others and the self, immediately and fragile-ly expose themselves, in “weakness” to being wrong. And it is just so that any advance in our feeling of comfort or safety, predictability or workable hypotheses or theories of reality in living have come about: “every advance in science, such as quantum theory, involves a crisis of communication” (Stuart Chase).
Somewhere reality (a workable correlation between experience and theories about it) doesn’t jibe, and those willing to risk try something else, something new, something different.
For an individual human entity – the entirety of perceptual capacities is FRONTIER. Every moment tests something learned or thought, overheard or felt, everything is every instant in question, except for that very circumstance: limitation/ uncertainty.
“the operation of imagination in life is more significant than its operation in or in relation to works of art…the chief problems of any artist, as of anyone, are the problems of the normal and that he needs, in order to solve them, everything that the imagination has to give” (Ronald Sukenick).
So we sign, sign, gesture, move. Listen, speak, touch, look, taste and feel in order to find out…to be wrenched from the chaotic void and our anonymity…to learn our bodies and the world around us…and out pathways and passagings of the thresholds are (indeed can only and must needs be) “languagings” –
From breathing to behaviors, conceptual frameworks to cognizing feelings of hunger, we are porously engaged with everything within and surrounding us. “To learn how to live in a way that we’re not terrified all the time” by the reality of uncertainty, is to recognize the essential relatedness that is a fact (as far as we can surmise) of our existing and to break out and welcome in the “fertile medium” everything is.
Imagining causes, attempting descriptions, ill-seeing and ill-saying all help to “alleviate the fear of it” and are all of them miscommunications, opportunities, that is, to engage reality more fully. Explanation, it appears, will always be unprovable theory, but it is an assault on the frontiers and somehow it helps and can help us.
To experiment experiences of our medium(s) moves us, and moves us along, as a species, a personality, a participant, amidst grave setbacks (certainly),