On Beauty: A Portrait of My Wife
If I don’t write it, what reality does it possess? What substance or content are a memory or vision? Sound? Fleeting concatenations – experiences. Which is why I ask. Like Dante or Cervantes, Homer or Herodotus, does not here a duty lie?
If no one inscribes remarkable things – they will not be remarked, thus no further remarkable. But is writing a re-mark? Are we indeed marked by perceptions – jumbled, edited and collated into what we call experience – do they leave some discernible trace like magnets in the guts of a computing machine – that might be recalled, rebooted, reformatted and marked again? Or is that creation? New traces born of the old? What similarity – what identity – obtains?
If the scribe exists to codify – to translate vanishing occurrences into a relatively more stable domain – how should he select? What criteria? Whose testimony? Should he, as artists of old, gather the evidence and forge, in his matter of medium, some combinatory new myth? Take account of as many angles of appearance or observation as he is able, to contain and collage them into space like Cubists?
We call it “re-presentation” but we are crafting something new, something else. The eye is not a camera. Seeing, hearing, what we taste and feel are highly selective pro-activities – never catching a solid snippet or observing still life. We develop according to what we expect. Intuitive anticipation.
The façade of a building – you’ve already supplied it with volume. Unseen. The photo of your child – gains dimension and sound, perhaps even smell and sense. Context invested. Invented. We cannot stop the alchemy from going on. Nor would we really want to. And yet – what might we preserve?
This began as a portrait of my wife. An impossible thing. It will end still farther from its goal. I meant to remark what has marked me profoundly, filled me of scars and traces, redirected my nerves and my blood, and I am left with the unexpressed, and these scribbled words of a man.
“What does it mean, to know it and not be able to say it?”