The “Tense of Incoherence” ( Paul Valery)

“I am suspicious of all words, for even the slightest reflection shows the absurdity of trusting them.”

– Paul Valery, Monsieur Teste

“You know, dear you, that my mind is of the obscurest sort…I am composed of an unfortunate mind which is never quite sure that it has understood what it has understood without realizing it.”

– Valery –


Delight.  Hope.  Survival.  

Homer .  Beckett.  Kafka.  Hegel.  


Wittgenstein.  Heidegger.  Merleau-Ponty.  

Fosse.  Derrida.  Foucault.  Sterne.  

Imagination.  Philosophy.  Fiction.

WHAT CAN BE THOUGHT? (Philosophy) “on the verge”

WHAT CAN BE WRITTEN? (Literature) “on the verge”

Maybe I’ll just read.  Perhaps suicide (stop).  Perhaps create.  Perhaps avoid.  Perhaps participate with others (friends, family, children, pets, nature).  Perhaps think and drink.


Selected “foods for thought”:

The Event – Martin Heidegger.  Monsieur Teste – Paul Valery.  Replacement – Tor Ulven.  Inexhaustibility and Human Being – Stephen D. Ross.  The Meridian – Paul Celan.  Verge of Philosophy – John Sallis.  and so on.  Potentials.

Directions for staying alive (as human being).  Follow something: desire.  hope.  beauty.  sex.  belief.  pleasure.  pain.  Try something.

Read history and imagine imagining a world that sensible.

Read science and imagine imagining a world that ordered.  

Read literature and imagine imagining a world.  

Read philosophy and imagine imagining that many questions.  

Read religion and imagine imagining that many answers.

Stop.  Say your own.  (thoughts, imaginations, feelings, perceptions) to someone or to nothing (write them).

And so on.

For no reason.

But perhaps staying alive / living a little longer.


And so on.

WHO CARES?             DO YOU?

And so on…

…for no reason.

Thus the life of “the writer,” “artist,” “human,” “scientist”… WHATEVER – WHOMEVER HUMAN (so-self-called) BEING.

In other words… when we encounter “literature” we (perhaps, perhaps probably) are engaging a fellow human being in the NOW – amidst an odd tactic of applying (through a strange and meddlesome nigh-universal ambiguous medium) the operation of EVERYTHING he/she knows or has experienced to the point-of-NOW.  And we (weird, individualized organisms) either find correlation and correspondence with (some or much or little) of their ‘whole’ knowledge & experience (and thus, perhaps, probably, are moved by or like them) or… find very little correspondence or similarity with our ‘own’ knowledge and experience and therefore consider them banal, useless, uninteresting, untrue, or off-putting.


I do.  It keeps me alive, surviving.  I drink, I read, I think.  Attempt to forget obligations, relations, and responsibilities (I can’t).  That I’m a FATHER, that i exist in a socio-economic scenario that requires the bulk of my life be passed in “bullshit jobs” that somehow appease ‘Powers-That-Be’ and allow me a place on earth and a terrible fight to try and defend or spend ANY portion of existence doing-what-i-want, or what ‘fulfills’ or causes me happiness / gladness / joy in being alive…

When I’m able to “snare,” “steal,” “TIME” – I read and write, make love, or drink alcohol – because these things make me feel GOOD or WELL as the sort of being I am.

Why is it I feel compelled to sneak, steal, or justify what gives me joy in being? (whether plant, ant, mammal, or any other cellular construction)?

I wouldn’t ‘rather’ be famous, or a president, powerful, or a businessman, artist, or ‘professional,’ or anything.  I REALLY just want to be a human-in-society valuable-to-the-rest because I happen to be one who loves language, literature, pretending, fiction, inventing, thinking, imagining what might be – this-wise, that-wise, which-wise, whom-wise, where-wise, when-wise…

WHY IS THIS NOT VALUABLE?  ACCEPTABLE?  SUPPORTABLE?  along with each alternate things-one-might-want-to-be as valuable-to-the-cumulative…

Humans seem to be multiplicitous, variable, and plentiful.  Many wish/desire/like to be strong, rich, beautiful, productive, etc.  Why can not there also be room for those who desire neither usefulness, beauty, riches, or power… but CANS at the verges… of language, thought, imaginings?  And are these really so different from those pushing edges of other characteristics?

Suddenly this entry feels like a wallowing or a requesting of pity.

That is not the feeling.

“I am composed of an unfortunate mind which is never quite sure that it has understood what it has understood without realizing it.”

  • Paul Valery

11 thoughts on “The “Tense of Incoherence” ( Paul Valery)

  1. Those addicted to their habits know it and have guilt, assuaged by preventing those apparently more carefree than themselves from being carefree. We must all be enslaved in harmony, and so become polite society.

  2. And thus shall we become extinct. It is always the outliers on the bell curve of mediocrity who introduce the random variables that allow adaptation, innovation and locomotion towards new views….

  3. This elicited some interesting comments, Nathan. And yes, it’s painful to puddle in the mind, climax for exercise and drink to fill the void until things start moving again. The tank is empty but paradoxically more words might just flood the engine. Might want to just go fill it up with something else?
    Your friends,
    Eb and Flo

  4. You and I know I grapple with this just as much as you. You have spoken just as well, no more, about the internal struggle, because outside of Us, or I, the Writer, who cares? I just showed my fiction to my husband a little while ago, and he had no clue what to say. He even asked as much: “How did you think I was going to react to this?” The ACT of writing is vital to me, he knows it, and therefore supports it, but the CONTENT, the RESULT, makes little difference to him. The only result he is keen to see and feel is me, appeased and content I have had a chance to write.
    So in a way, the ACT matters to those around us because it makes us better for their sakes. But because it is a solitary act, an act requiring some degree of separation and/or seclusion, those around us see this act of the lowest priority. What four-year-old boy is going to understand that Mommy needs time to write?

  5. “I think with my feelings and feel with my thoughts.” Fernando Pessoa. Do you see what I mean?, I imagine Nathan in this instance that you do, breathe and keep cutting Nathan and do not apologise for having the courage to dare, to write. As for this idea about artists and Artists, I don’t agree, I trained as a Fine Artist this is no guarantee of success which is ultimately dependent on more factors than you are in control of that work against you in spite of how hard you might try, art history is littered with them, the forgotten, the overlooked. And today these external factors portray a very different vision of what the artist actually is – they are distorted, monstrous, commodified, mortified, such is the state of the contemporary. The days when Joseph Cornell took one of his assemblages into a gallery and got an exhibition are gone, there are no more ‘unsolicited proposals’, instead there are hundreds of gatekeepers and the artist is the last person anyone is thinking or even cares about. Some people like Kaprow for instance trod the difficult territory between art and life, some like Bas Jan Ader work occupy the minor mode becoming latter day heroes, champions of a different cause like the British critic Ruskin, as do I, it’s difficult territory but there is much profundity to be found in that space of seeking the ‘authentic’ the space you occupy Nathan. As for the ‘commodification’ of the self, the capitalist mode see Zygmunt Bauman – The Art of Life. Denise x

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s