Spilling the Marbles
Which got me thinking (a process I’d describe as internal), about how we find things out when we act.
My wife was talking (a process I’d call external), about what occurs for her when she journals (with a physical pen or pencil on physical paper). Which she described as “internal processing,” (an activity I’d designate externalizing), whereby she mysteriously splits herself into observer and subject at once, providing case-notes or records of the interaction. (Did I listen well?). The arm a kind of thread-of-self arcing out to the needle of a writing instrument, jittering and inscribing its EKG-like “reading” onto the blank pages and looping back in for more. The self as inkwell?
My body hitched at this. Read: torso clinched and weather vane set spinning in grey matter. Like I might if someone told me “god told me to…”, or that they were “inspired by the Muse,” or “carried away by the spirit” and whatnot. A reaction remote from wife’s account – so what was happening for me? In other words, am I re-enacting her activity presently?
There’s the thinking part, surely. And then there’s the intention to find something out – observation, attention, inquiry – “why did I cinch up at that depiction?”, “what felt ‘off’ to me in that account (as related to my own experience)?”, “what was I ‘feeling’”?
I felt uncomfortable, that’s what. Squirmy, antsy, bothered. Was that chemically induced, like overall mood-disorder stuff, or related to her message? I thought about this, and now I’m writing about thinking about it – what’s the difference?
It leaves traces? It does. And so?
I’m making something of it? I suppose. Why? How? And – ?
Why? Hmmmm. It comforts me to write. Like organizing marbles on a tabletop. It diverts my attention.
To the marbles.
Ah, yes. That’s it, exactly.
That is to say (in this case silently with tangible markings), the reason I am unable to identify with my wife’s remarks about writing about thinking about her “self,” is that I get distracted. In my head, it’s a swirl of sounds and concepts, images and sensation-symbols or impulses infiltrating and becoming one another like smoke strands in an overturned glass. But transforming to paper it becomes language, marbles, metaphors.
Some whispering gap of translation. I wouldn’t have thought marbles on a tabletop or envisioned smoke swirling in an upside-down glass – what would be the point? Do I need to describe myself to myself? Could I even? Deceive myself so? But through a medium – a thick, loamy, granular medium like language – that’s cause for intention, apparatus of selection and choice, opportunities outside the body, drawn from the big wide world. That’s external, that’s INTERACTION with a history, a culture, and a society of humans that gave rise to its agreements and standards, components and flavors and rules.
Jolting out through the arm via muscle controllers and a mechanical tool, I’m participant far outside my finite organism – in contents and structures, systems and meanings way beyond my doing or the thinks I might think. The threads that I sew, the fabric I stitch in, the stylus, ink and letters I write are not mine – the pen, paper, leaves, spark, or smoke emitted into the clear crystal container all already exist, given or available, as it were, to me.
It’s hard to find the part I play in the process, or how the words relate to me – more like the words relate me – render me relatable – if I’m able to finagle myself to their categories and nuances.
So it is (for me) as if the movement to write is spilling the marbles – turning me out of myself into a world where language matters – discursive, discussive, dialogically or to some expressive purpose – catching at these rolling targets and corralling them toward some organizational assemblage (that, I suppose, being my part in the meaningful game). I pick the red one and set it there, not there. Or prefer the one with the chip in it next to the tiger’s eye, and so forth. (There’s no accounting for taste – is that “style”? (Really!?)).
So “what have I written?” I think, and I’m sure I don’t know, but thanks for the language and time, it’s a process – and now you have the bagful of marbles…