A quick response to this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt, a quirky, multi-faceted, and wonderfully open collective of writers from all over the globe riffing their words to an image – a weekly task I am thankful for, and company I admire.  So, from the midst of this holiday week in N. America, something:

And Yet

Mom is right.  It is hard to deny that something points a clear direction, unambiguously, and difficult to argue.  But for reasons I’m at pains to reveal or explain, I am uneasy.  Seriously, I couldn’t ask for a more definite sign – but is clarity everything?  I mean, what about signals from below?  Like how I feel?  Or that strange uninterpretable “intuitive” stuff?   Something isn’t right.  As if I were standing at an intersection without a crossroad, a highway with no exits, opened out before me, shining bright.  And yet.  I have misgivings, doubts.  Troubling the obvious. Are all exceptions exhausted?  Every option foreclosed?  Pressure is on, expectations real – I’ll be a laughing idiot to choose otherwise.  And yet.  And yet.  I have the feeling it will end in a horrible guffaw.

N Filbert 2012

Spilling the Marbles

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…

Happy Thanksgiving!!

“Bless Babel.”

Below I am going to share with you an essay that I promise is worth every hour or two you lend your attention to each paragraph.

It is written by this person:

(Donald Barthelme)

and it is called: Not Knowing

from his collection of the same name.

it contains statements like the following:

“Any work of art depends upon a complex series of interdependences”

“tear a mystery to tatters and you have tatters, not mystery”

“What is magical about the object is that it at once invites and resists interpretation.  Its artistic worth is measurable by the degree to which it remains, after interpretation, vital – no interpretation or cardiopulminary push-pull can exhaust or empty it”

“The combinatory agility of words, the exponential generation of meaning once they’re allowed to go to bed together, allows the writer to surprise himself, makes art possible, reveals how much of Being we haven’t yet encountered.”

“Art is a true account of the activity of mind”

“The aim of meditating about the world is finally to change the world”

and so forth.

Please understand me, if you maintain a blog, take photos, love your children, think about your self or the world you live in, dialogue with books or pictures or animals or people or movements…

take a little time to read this

Thank you.

  Not Knowing


Enough about Writing…


Came across this article…seems to jibe with many blog discussions/posts floating about out there just now…thought I’d like to share it.  It’s a bit dated in places, but the overall concept seems worth your ruminations….

Why Books?
Libraries 2000, a seminar to re-examine the function and future
development of libraries in Alberta, was held in 1983. A committee
consisting of representatives of Alberta Culture, the Alberta Library
Board, the Alberta Library Trustees Association, the Library Association
of Alberta and the Learning Resources Council of the Alberta
Teachers Association was set up to look into ways of following
up on the suggestions arising out of the seminar. This is the second
booklet commissioned as a result of these discussions.
Public libraries have long attempted to fulfil many functions and
roles in our society. As financial and human resources have become
harder to obtain, librarians and library trustees have had to give
more attention to examining these roles and assessing their relative
worth. In recent years, there has been increasing discussion of the
public library as an information provider, but less discussion of the
more traditional view of library service.
Sam Neill is a professor at the School of Library and Information
Science at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.
This booklet is based on a speech delivered at the Ontario Library
Association Conference, Ottawa, 1984, entitled “The Role of a
Traditional Library in an Age Bludgeoned by Information.” The
opinions and ideas expressed are those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the view of Albe11a Culture, or the Alberta
Library Board. The assistance of the Alberta Library Board in editing
and printing this booklet is gratefully acknowledged .

Why Books? by Sam Neill

(click for full article, please)

dove-tailing ever-so-nicely with another book I stumbled across in the library (which also contains a fine consideration of David Foster Wallace in one of the chapters), and considers, I think, the same sorts of issues of humaneness and being alive meaninfully:

Some Reasons…for Some of Us

“I am someone who tries to write, who right now more and more seems to need to write, daily; and who hopes less that the products of that need are lucrative or even liked than simply received, read, seen…why I’m starting to think most people who somehow must write must write.  The need to indite, inscribe – be its fulfillment exhilerating or palliative or, as is more usual, neither – springs from the doubly-bound panic felt by most persons who spend a lot of time up in their own personal heads.  On one side – the side a philosopher’d call ‘radically skeptical’ or ‘solipsistic’ – there’s the feeling that one’s head is, in some sense, the whole world, when the imagination becomes not just a more congenial but a realer environment than the big Exterior of life on earth…The need to get words & voices not only out – outside the sixteen-inch diameter of bone that both births & imprisons them – but also down, trusting them neither to the insusbstantial country of the mind nor to the transient venue of cords & air & ear – a necessary affirmation of an outside, some Exterior one’s written record can not only communicate with but inhabit…the textual urge, the emotional urgency of text as both sign and thing.  The other side of the prenominate 2-bind – … – is why people who write need to do so as a mode of communication.  It’s what an abstractor like Laing calls ‘ontological insecurity’ – why we sign our stuff, impose it on friends, mail it out in brown manila trying to get it printed.  “I EXIST” is the signal that throbs under most voluntary writing – & all good writing…

what must the world be like if language is even to be possible?”

got it, David.  Thank you.

Intimacy as Art

Intimacy as Art

“A way of connecting, on relatively safe middle ground, with another human being”

“that ‘neutral middle ground on which to make a deep connection with another human being’… was what fiction was for.  ‘A way out of loneliness’…”

Jonathan Franzen, on David Foster Wallace

“If the novel were able ‘to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves,’ it opens the potential that she might, as a result, feel ‘less alone inside’”

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, on David Foster Wallace

My son and I arguing about the nature of things – is there anything we can agree on?  mutually believe?  are we similar? – in what began as an attempt (on my part) to soothe obvious hurt and confusion (on his part).  He kept pointing to (referencing) his mirror, his bedside table, in an effort at agreement, at a meeting-point that might be solid, be reliable, be “correct,” or “true.”  Some relatively stable collection of roving and vibrating molecules we might sharingly recognize, might hold, attend, or unite around – together.

Throughout my life I’ve attempted to comprehend – to make a symbol for myself –  what works of art, particular pieces of music, specific phrases or pages of literature, momentary glimpses of nature, dollops of emotional experience DO.  How they work.  Why they “feel” – move us, take an occasional effect we might call “profound.”  Why, even if they shatter us, cause us to weep, provoke in us the enormous courage required to change, we also somehow still feel safe, often empowered, somewhere beyond “okay” (ecstatic? – out of ourselves?)?

Although often evoking experiences I’d describe as most completely, totalizingly personal, I always felt their effectiveness, their possibilities of success and individuated power, came precisely because they were not (personal).  That what intimacy they provided – what outlet or spillage, what expression they represented or evinced – was contextually impersonal, through matter and energy uniquely organized, mediated.

In other words, we could throw all of ourselves into, at, toward or away from them (works of art, formal arrangements of world) without the danger or threat, anxiety or fear, of influence.  We wouldn’t hurt, harm, embarrass, shame, offend or be misunderstood by a cornflower, a collective of strokes of paint, a recording of sound waves, moving molecules.  No direct hits of miscommunication, misinterpretation.  Perfect, variable, flexible presentations of world, of other, that we might release ourselves in relation to, without fear.

Existent things, moments, that genuinely represent otherness from ourselves but without direct exposure, without a being’s inquiry, possible scrutiny, judgment or evaluation.  Interpretation.  Many-sided, borrowed perhaps, but mediated via only one person – me.  I could not fail, fall short, be inadequate to, or otherwise  mess up a novel, poem, composition or film, and if I experienced myself as any of those things – it was my own judgment, assessment.  Mediated.

After years of such exposure, why do I still choose sides, entrench myself in arguments of logic, when I mean to comfort, soften and heal?  Alone, later, I sat and asked myself over and over – IF I have changed, grown, matured in any fashion in my 42 years of life, IF I have learned anything to the point of conscious belief, what might it be? – what  might I say that I know?

I don’t know.

What I scribbled into the margin of my journal was simply that my fundamental belief about the world and life in it was that – at the core of things – “Everything is essentially messy.”  By which I (at least partially) meant (intended) was incomplete, mobile and complex.

Nothing “fixed.”  Staid, finished, whole.

Throughout years of journaling, as I’ve grown to understand how deeply I desire “intimacy” (which I suppose I would describe as “shared personhood” or “met experience”?  Co-events?) I have repeatedly diagramed what seems to me an only possible means between humans:

             Using Wittgenstein’s duck-rabbits to represent whatever we happen to perceive ourselves as, and “Art” on an easel representing anything as a mediated format outside of our “selves” (themselves, I surmise, also likely a constructed medium for experiencing world), to or in which multiple human persons might invest all they experience themselves to be, without necessary personal organism-survival fears, and, possibly, perhaps, occasionally MEET via that medium in toto (or as nearly as possible): experience intimacy, mutuality.  No longer isolated as a being, alone, but finding a common, a sharing-realm, co-perceiving, co-experiencing.

If it be so, that, in fact, as human organisms, all of our entity-type experience is, truly, mediated – through various organizations of mobile and voluble matter and energy – never identifiable as a stasis or final form, if we might begin to see it (us) as such – might we become able to experience direct, person-to-person (experientially) intimacy?  Co-being?  This is where I have turned effort (driven by desire) with my wife, my children.  What if we became safe mediums for one another to experience through?

That would be another entry altogether.


What I might name or designate, “the Here.”  The present.  Synonym to “only.”  That there are not points in time.

Perhaps always movement.  Have we uncovered something that is still?  Not that I know of.  But perhaps.  What do we call it?

Rather IS-ness is what I’m referring to.  Things that ARE.  NOT eternally the same.  NOT really able (reliable) to be depended on or assumed.  NOT all-anything, omni-nihilism.  But  movement, active, undergoing change (literally – in way less than fractions of milliseconds – remember, we’re talking about things that ARE – no fractions).  Like a rock, or an ocean, a sense-of-self or single cell.

Truly momentary, present-ly – precisely why the adverb was made – to come closer to experience, reality, in its motion and manner, without fantasizing it into a definable, locatable, or measurable.

While all is wobbly and wobbling – shifting, bouncing, deteriorating, expanding, dancing, vibrating, whatever – once in a while things wobble together (actually, constantly), and when certain things do (oscillation, pulse, a kind of unison rhythm),  moments also occur (to us).

Never resumed, never recalled, never predicted.  Ever occurring.  It is shaky, reality.

N Filbert 2012

Elaborate Organisms (for my wife)

My response to this week’s Friday Fictioneer prompt (thanks Rochelle for the weekly work)

Her Body a Beehive

She lives.  She parents.  She paints.

She has pain.

She walks.  She sees.  She loves.

She speaks and she reaches.  She sleeps.  She weeps.

Occasionally, she laughs.

She thinks.  She feels.  She moves.  She listens.

She eats and drinks.  She works and worries.

She falls.  She goes on.  She fears.  She insists.


You ask me, “how? – all this!”

“Her body is a beehive of batteries – an intricate electrical network flipping switches and adapting to surge, wearing down, sparking up – each neuron, each pulse, each collective oscillation crafting her unique motricity powered with chemicals of emotion, an elaborate and interactive field of energy, an organism.”

She is.

N Filbert 2012

In Memoriam – to a Master

The Great Fires

Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

Jack Gilbert