We Are What We Write?

So, I followed Flickr Comments “amusing” journey into being “typealyzed” by algorithms,

and here were my results (thank you, Flickr for the prompt)

INTP Manoftheword

pretty much guilty as processed!

and yet….

Homo Fictus

“words are not a translation of something else that was there before they were”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

Homo Fictus

 “Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

            Knowing how / knowing why.  Procedures and structures.  Diversify and unify.  Complexity-to-simplicity turned complex all over again.  Reuse and construction.  Stories.

We are saturate with story.  Each word of that sentence.  If I provide the skeleton – you’re sure to flesh it out.   The productivity of words, the how & why of humans.

Perhaps I’ll call it “making sense,” but the sense is there before, what follows is a meaning – through procedures and structures, reuse and construction, the wired and the firing, implicity spinning explicitly – and for reasons not yet fully known, I’ve gotta have mine.

“The knowledge of good and evil, all in one.  Both. 

Somebody finally said, I know my own mind.”

-Janet Kauffman-

            Experience is a complex collision I diversify and unite.  Following patterns infused by my own.  If you provide a list of observations and complaints, I may spend entire days reorganizing them – they didn’t quite “fit.”  Perhaps I’ll throw them back.  I’d like to be certain.

“the absence of doubt is of the essence of a language-game”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

            A personalized language-game full of cues, thesauri and symbols – my controlled vocabulary meshing your data…

“The alphabet of my DNA shapes certain words, but the story is not told.

I have to tell it myself.

What is it I have to tell myself again and again?

That there is always a new beginning, a different end.

I can change the story.  I am the story.


-Jeanette Winterson-

            …ah, now I’ve figured it out (made it fit  my form) – this is my story now, please listen and confirm (complexity-simplicity) – oh no?  you don’t? (complexity again) and back to the storyboards or diary…

The yearn is toward some balance, stasis, surety.  Re-cognizable re-currency.  Re-presentation.  Re-anything.  Want familiar.  The excitement may very well come with the disruptions, eruptions, defamiliarization, the constant change – it certainly heightens our senses and intension – the thrill is in the thunderous gathering of troops – flickering flashing neurons – dogs set on the intrusion…but soon we stabilize the perimeter again…incorporate the drama…

“the important thing is to consider the significance of things and not to worry about their authenticity…it’s difficult to tell at the end of the day whether it was theory or need that got you through it.”

-Joy Williams-

            …with our stories (and lies)…our illusory perceptions…needing organized to our organism…and tales are conjured, fiction begins, typing on our limited keys…

…even while the body’s at rest…

“in short, nothing so central to the human condition is so incompletely understood”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

this post inspired in part by

We Make Art

We Make Art: A Query toward Perceptive Extension

paper snowflakes by Holly & children
paper snowflakes by Holly & children

Waking reminded –

I’ve been working over things in my sleep.  Parenting issues, marriage.  Vocation deadlines, assignments.  Logistics and payments and scheduling.  Improbable care of the self.

– that overwhelm is inevitable, inherent.

Everything we know (or surmise) about anything indicates vast beyonds unknown and ignored.  In order to see, to breathe, to speak, to hear, to feel, to think, to live.  We filter and avoid.  Press the vast majority of the world’s availability into a void.  So of course we can’t manage our world, or comprehend, even minimally control.  We can barely deal with even a relatively microscopic set of variables, and those only enough to survive.

Reminded, awake then, that overwhelm is constant and inevitable.  Inherent to the systems of which we are and are a part.  Living is processing vastness.  Essentially unscalable.  And we thought bacteria were small!

            So it comes as no surprise that at times we feel oppressed, drowned, immersed – helpless, confused and at loss.  Pretend for a moment that we have to-dos that seem important + unforeseen and substantial grief + illness + snow days (which = a house full of ecstatic children, active and noisy and eager to be entertained) + inclement weather shuffling schedules and doctors, activities and possibilities around + limitations of time, energy and internal resources + anxiety or mood ‘disorders’ + love and high hopes + responsibilities and intentions + fears and deep hurts + a body (bodies) mind (minds) to feed and nourish +…

Too Much Information, a saturated context for the human organism.  The black box crashes.  The connections run slow.  The screen jerky and fuzzy.  Head aches, breath thickens or shallows, noise is incommensurate – the signals scramble…

At first breach, first sign of imperturb…we check in, acknowledge – perhaps argue or fight or make love (i.e. signify our overwhelm and our intensity), sit still, register what we can…

and wake up, reminded:


            Once ground is touched, we go in (or out) – “seventh direction perception” – we begin to consciously process/perceive.



The query that sprouted is as follows: might the activity of art-a creative dialogic relation of index-sign-symbol, signifier-signifiant-and interpreter, i.e. “becoming-forth” – expand our perceptive capacities/processing?

In other words, in enacting the relationship of making, creatively, holistically, might we draw on more of the world’s availability – perceived and “dismissed” – a fuller context of experience less limited by intentional activities of categorical aims and constraints, thereby opening more of us to more of it in an open reciprocal dynamic interrelation, thereby sort of processing in “lump sums” – a gulping digestion of overwhelm?

We set aside prescribed roles, beliefs and opinions and work out, work into, an arbitrary generalized conventional (safe) medium…we fog our normalized paradigms and strictures of interpretive alertness – mores, values, expectations and censorship – we reach out gathering in.  Interact.  It seems something larger is carried, is moved – more than the medium, more than ourselves, more of a context, a world.

Does art extend our perceptive capacities?  Our scope of perception – to process, to be?  A kind of open-boundaried passage of experiencing between organism and world?

works in progress by Holly Suzanne
works in progress by Holly Suzanne

Friday Fictioneers 2/22 : The House that Jack Built

In keeping with the minimum-creative-work-capacity provided by the stimulus of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields at Friday Fictioneers, this week’s brief composition:

Copyright-Janet Webb

The House that Jack Built

Whatever he put his hand to.  Didn’t seem to matter.  Oh he had the will and the brawn – the heart – he was a determined man.  Yeah, the fence does look nice, dad built that.  But the house, that was Jack’s doing.  Parents said he was always that way.  Everything he touched.  Marriages, parenting, education, work.  Big dreams and fine intentions, with a flair for entropy – DIY and disorder.  Always came to pieces, his doing the undoing of whatever he done.  Easy and difficult to love on so many levels.  This house only one of ‘em.  It’s amazing anything still stands.

N Filbert 2013

Welcoming Others : Inside

“we fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed”

-Frank Bidart-

Refractions on Fiction

Reflecting on fiction as representation, as presentation, as inquiry, investigation.

About how little I care – re: ideas – the freedom of impersonal investment – when a piece is duly fictional.

After the days spent composing Signs of Love I’ve only thought of how I haven’t thought of it since it was posted.  Johnson’s theory of perception, the professor’s thoughts and ideas, Monte or Margaret, Frank or Lars – how they none of them reflect on me.  How I didn’t have to worry how they came across or sounded, what positions or actions they became – what they represented – it wasn’t me!  Who does battle with a shadow?

So often, the stringy stream of conception-reflection-creation-manifestation seems to pull heavy parts of the self along with it.  Dark or slimy residue.  As if a reader who took issue, questioned or challenged a something that I wrote or language I expressed as fiction were in fact addressing some aspect of ME – rather than an open work of invented text.  Suppose, for instance, my wife reads a piece and follows it up with “so you’re saying that life is more difficult because of me?!” or a random visitor commented “how could you think or say this?!”  When in fact, of course, I didn’t – Lorraine did, or the professor or husband, writer or sand crab or whomever the character that acted or expressed it did.  Ask them then?  Another way of saying – “ask yourself.”   That’s what I as a writer continually have to do.  Language comes out, forms an idea, or a behavior is described and I have to wonder at it – is that indeed what the voicing thinks or wants or does?

Like a painter with their lines and colors, textures and strokes: what belongs once something has been marked there?

The freedoms of fiction spread as I recognized the therapy-like patience and reflection I provide to characters and voices – to language – in texts (fiction or non-fiction).  I do not feel threatened by them, do not take them personally, neither when I read nor write them.  They are other – other matter, other contexts, other contents, other kind from me.  I am busy handling matter…piecing it together, painting over, scraping away, diluting, splattering, letting it run…open to what “feels” or “sounds” right given the matter at hand – content, tools and resources.  Strenuously engaged, passionately even (at times), and also separate, observant, addressed as much by the work as it forms as addressing it onto the page.

Which got me to thinking – how much kinder might I be, even towards my “self” were I to engage what creates me as “other”?  We’re an oddly organized confabulation of matter and energy, after all, multiple diverse systems coordinate and constitutive, creative and adaptive toward a sort of dynamic organismic “whole.”  My brain no more a “me” than my penis or big toe.  How often with sharp pain in my knee or some zany daydream, a nail needing trimmed or hair left in a brush, do I question, challenge or take issue with a personal self for such systemic occurrence?  I participate with, or have (am characterized by) knees and eyes and organs, but they do not equal me.

What if some kind of “I” (collective of natural dynamic and organic systems) listened to, read, inquired and engaged the contents, emotions, concepts, actions and instincts that occurred within as fictions engaged – as benign or indeterminate others – akin to characters or words in a story or play – organized matter with energy – rather than some sort of judgmental scrutiny so often readily applied to “Me”?

The “I,” the “me,” the “self,” the “brain,” the “calf,” the organs, veins, chemicals, liquids, cords and tendons, bones and tissues, the individual cells of me – all inter-relational organisms in themselves involved in a system I experience as “me.”  With recognition, suspended disbelief, detachment, passion and care granted as I offer my own and others manifest creations in language or image, movement or sound?

Attend to your cells and systems as characters and languages today – manifestations of being – not entirely your”self” – welcome all the others inside as well.

Signs of Love

“sheer curiosity is even more universal and compelling than lust…”

-Nelson Goodman-

Our Similarities are Different, our Differences so very Alike

            I tell him he’s gotta grant she’s pretty much the same as the last one – skin all over, shoulder-length hair, fingernails and eyeballs.  Her insides must resemble too – veins and nerves, capillaries and molecules, organs and structural bones.  Her life can’t be that much different – born of a woman spent with a man, fluctuating assemblage of persons and animals, a fair share of good times and bad, events and arrangements all occurring in particular times at particular places.  Spoken to and speaking, looked at and looking, heard and hearing, nurtured and natured.  Surely a sign for something.  A sign for herself.

“But she’s so god-damned different man!” he says.  “One in 7+billion!  ‘Like’ no other creature I’ve known!  Her thoughts are anomalous.  She sentences words her-uniquely, her habits, nuances, quirks.  I tell you there’s no one else ‘like’ her!” he insists.

I point out that there are great similarities to her differences – we all of us with particularized habits, specified modes of talk, no two bones alike and what have you – but they’re bones, flesh and language all the same.  She falls within the mean – income and weight, literacy, height, okay.

“But there’re so many differences in those similarities, you dig?” he whines.  “It’s like everybody’s riffing and she’s got my groove!”

            And Johnson has a theory of perspective.  “TOP” he calls it.  He’ll listen to you gloat or bemoan and respond with his “that’s the TOPs!” as if he’s settled the foundations.  I try to get at what he means.

            The undergrads recently requested that I speak to them of love, and I told them all this story (it conveniently being Valentine’s Day).  I read through the roll call, through Margaret, Mary, Toby and Frank.  Through Matilde and Jason and Luzanne and Lars.  Some fat, some skinny, but most in-between, each exhibiting some marker – for instance, their names.  We need those tags to tell us apart, do we not?  We’re all so darn much the same.  Autopsies, biopsies, EKGs, X-rays and cardiograms – most of our differences are ever so slight.  Some flesh here, hair here or not, coloring, dialect, language, inches either way.  However, what we notice – are attracted to or struck by, occasionally enthralled or repelled by – in other words, whatever catches your attention – will lie in those mini-borders of difference.

We’re programmed that way, it’s a survival skill bred in the chemicals – be aware of the unexpected, the variant, the things that are unique – sights, shapes, sounds or energy – locate, isolate, focus – survive it.  Use your limited energy and resources for that – ignore the enormous other.

So every time you’re swept by lust or fall in love – there really IS a difference to that bloke or blonde – IN that gendered entity – you’ve perceived it.  Now comes the process of fitting it to YOUR life.  Your self, habits, knowledge and activities, groups and quirks and ways.  “Normalizing” – becoming “intimate” with those astounding specificities – familiar.

Accommodate, adapt, survive.

By now you’re holding hands or marrying.  Waking up next to.  Joining your bodies and your mealtimes, work and pleasure, daily rounds – and it turns out your partner’s much the same as all the rest (without losing any of their uniquenesses you first attuned to – in fact at this point you’ve uncovered many many more – including a surprising set of facets regarding yourself) – fitting and squeezing and torqueing them into their “signs,” incorporating it all into your own.

They fight, they cry, they talk and fear.  They’re selfish and sweet, funny and sour.  Relatively weak and strong, smart and dumb, kind and cruel.  What did you expect?

Yet having become part of your world, seaming into your point of view, you’re never so alert to them as first you were when they were strange to you and un-experienced, unless you’re threatened or faced with change.  Your energy and perception (remember, by instinct) are set to trigger differences, out-of-the-ordinary readings and measures – the defamiliar.

So although your partner’s arse is golden – or curved similarly to any other – your eyes lock elsewhere.  On unknowns.  Untoucheds.  It’s not adventure or risk that you seek – not exactly – although your senses could be called “restless” in their fearful jitterings and scans – you’re tuned to locate difference – unconsciously filing all that registers “recognize” as same.

As if the world were a line-up and your senses are always on call at the station.

And so on.

We all know (by now) that we’re all fundamentally, formally, the same.  We’re of genus and species and kind.  A school of fish, a hoard of bees.  Excited by difference (spelled “possible danger”) and presumptive of same (spelled “familiar”).

“What’s love got to do with it?” a spritely student asks.

What “love” has to do with it is to shape perception intentionally.  To recognize and remember the vastness of similarity (choosing to ignore many limbic cries over slight variations – the unreasonable feelings of attraction, shazaam, lust and novelty) and cultivating attention to the differences of the familiar.  The creative work of defamiliarization.

A cloud is a cloud is fine droplets of liquids and gas, pressures and waves, particles in patterns and puzzles and billions of babbling atoms…OR…sketchy shapes of oceans, mountains, camel-backs or breasts.  A cloud.  If you dissect your partner’s thumb or knee, spine or brain, or even examine an eyelash or bead of sweat close enough – you’ll enter world upon world of mystery and minute difference…similar to everyone else.  They’re individual entity’s shaped roughly like gorillas or aliens with less hair.  Or angels.  But they don’t think, walk, breathe, sleep, talk, dream, feel, sweat, laugh, stumble, fear, mimic, grieve, complain, remember, hope or anything else “like” ANY OTHER human in the world, not now, not past, not future.  Tune to that – you’ll never ever exhaust it – as you’ll never come to the end of yourself.

“Love” or “attachment,” “personal relations” or whatever we refer to it by – orients and trains our perception through attention (intentional perception).  Keeping in mind and check the reality of mass similarities (with all their exhilarating differences) and fixing determinedly on the magnitudes of distinctive, unrepeatable, specifics and uniquities of this one chosen familiar.

            Anyway, that’s a version of Johnson’s TOP:  “it all depends on how you’re looking at it.”

Fiction. Fractals. Filosophy.

The WHYs of them:

“semiotics is not about the ‘real’ world at all, but about complementary or alternative actual models of it… an infinite number of anthropologically conceivable possible worlds.  Thus semiotics never reveals what the world is, but circumscribes what we can know about it; in other words, what a semiotic model depicts is not ‘reality’ as such, but nature as unveiled by our method of questioning.  It is the interplay between ‘the book of nature’ and its human decipherer that is at issue.”

-Thomas Sebeok-

“the forms and laws in our worlds do not lie ready-made to be discovered but are imposed by world-versions we contrive – in the sciences, the arts, perception, and everyday practice.  How the earth moves, whether a world is composed of particles or waves of phenomena, are matters determined not by passive observation but by painstaking fabrication…Constable urged that painting is a science, and I suggest that science is a humanity.”

-Nelson Goodman-

“a mobile unsteady structure…with all the bits always moving about, fitting together in different ways, adding new bits to themselves with flourishes of adornment as though consulting a mirror, giving the whole arrangement something like the unpredictability and unreliability of living flesh…The endeavor is not, as is sometimes thought, a way of building a solid, indestructible body of immutable truth, fact laid precisely upon fact…Science is not like this at all.”

-Lewis Thomas-

“Perhaps the best way to think about post-modern self-referentiality is not as a denial of language and literature’s connection to the world but as their self-consciously pointing to themselves trying to point to the world.”

-Robert McLaughlin-

Nathan Portrait

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