Greetings all. I realize something now. I realize (today), I realize, sitting in the sun of a Winter in Kansas, on my porch, in a rocker, alone, a side-effect, a remnant, remainder, myself… I realize that I have long dreamt of leaving some legacy, of making some mark, of contributing to the world – the natural world – the world as made up of plants, animals, landscapes, elements, humans… the world dizzied with combinations of atoms and molecules… and yet… and yet… I realize it was all about love – all about being realized by being loved, and realizing meaning in loving – NOT leaving a literary legacy, NOT producing interesting and intriguing offspring, NOT making art or language or objects that would outlast me – NO, no, no… Simply recognizing that I exist, existed, am existing in the world of another, and that the world exists, existed, will exist for me – by my affection and attention to its nuances, details, and differences – its specificity of my attention, attraction and resolve: LOVE.
I found this entry in an old journal, a blue oversized Moleskine soft-covered journal, and found (years later) that it still seemed to speak for me… but as I typed and edited it I realized that it has been outdone, realized, accomplished, in the FACT of BEING LOVED and BEING ENABLED TO LOVE… and so all the hopes remain, all the purposes and visions, all the projected communications and connections… but in a context rearranged, reapportioned, reinvented – that of MEANING derived from LOVING and being LOVED. Thanks to my vibrant partner and accomplice, inspiration and reward – for taking the grave gravity of production and transforming it into action… the pinched acuity of competition and accomplishment into offshoot, accumulation and extraneous luxury – that the hopes, dreams and ideas / ideals of a human existence might be translated into freedom, grace, and potential benefit or gift – possibility rather than necessity; offering rather than identity; potentiality rather than desperation – a giving in distinction from a grasping : so I might still possess similar hoping without the fear and trembling, without a sense of pointlessness, without a perception of failure. LOVING – intricate maneuvers of helping and healing, intimate operations of interaction and reciprocation, finely detailed activities of acceptance and reception – the sigh, the breath, the pulse of BEING… change me. Change and change and change me. As a parent, a man, a partner, a person. Thank you dear love – a wonder, a woman, an incredible human – a person: full and becoming, so generous, so tender, so affirmative and kind, so rich and creative, inventive and becoming, so new – I love you. The world is different now. Its meaning, its point, its aim, its occasion.
This old and rediscovered writing has distinct meaning… because you, and life, and love, and… an evolving and differentiated “I.”
I am using the blue notebook with a blue pen to complement. Why? Because you asked. You said “everyone wants to know.”
In other words, if it’s going to count for what matters, it has got to be specific and special – set apart, somehow more final, more complete. I’ll use it for the whole – for photos, drawings and more – all the blue notebook in blue ink – for you. Because apparently, “everyone wants to know.”
Mom and dad ask in their roundabout, passive-regressive surreptitiously accusatory way, as is their fashion – kindly and quiet, ever with a look of care and concern, yet secretly shouting their “what is wrong with you!?” “What is wrong with US, that you…” and on and on and blah blah blah…
My memory isn’t like that the first five years of life…that I pretend to remember. But all is mostly smells and sounds and light from there. Trees and grass and dirt, how brightness gleamed and glanced and filtered through, with times of wind and rain.
Not that you care… I’m fairly certain that’s not what is being asked for, not by you, by my sibling, children, or lifetime of “friends” and “family” – whoever, wherever they’ve become.
You’re the livewire – and perhaps the children – perhaps they will want to know, at some point, perhaps not. Perhaps everyone’s already figured my story – diagnosed and prescribed me. Perhaps.
Be that as it may, I’ve thought long and hard, reviewing what I thought I knew, how I felt I felt, what it seems I’ve seen, and so on, and decided, for you, for you, really, and maybe a little of a bit for myself (curiously) and a percentage for my kids should they ever seek to know or wonder, or have need of psychological freedom, or give a shit about who or why… I decided to use this damned blue notebook with matching pen and try to learn just what I think about it all, mostly because, as you put it, “everyone wants to know” – (and WHO might this “everyone” be?).
Should I start with the hands, the head, or the heart? I suppose the limbs and loins will come into play as well – god knows the guts and the goiter.
I remember an opening. A time I was touched, in the rain, and my suddenly skin, my obvious self-enclosure – as opening, margin, and veil – a fabric of me, and a screen.
I wanted to make a difference, you see. Make something, I don’t know, construct an element everyone could hold on to. Take in hand, heart and head. Keep or repeat as needed. Something like that. I knew I wouldn’t last, none of this, none of anything. “The center cannot hold” sort of deal.
I ought not begin there. They’re all wound up together like knots – the head looking down, arms wrapped around, concealing and revealing the heart, the guts, the loins and moving limbs. I can’t take a one without other, thinking and feeling about it, my actions, ideas, and sensations all.
Perhaps I’ll pretend. (Just what you’ve all loved so well about me – to discover pretense – how I’ve molded myself to imagined desires). I’ll pretend I’m an aged man seated on a stiff wooden chair, children / grandchildren gathered all about me – a specimen or model – something to be taken apart and examined. I lift off my shirt and my body is read – questions asked – we all get somewhere in this way.
Let’s see – here – along the shoulder – a self-portrait by Egon Schiele (self-tormented asylum brother) and a snake that is eating its tail. “Le Ouroborous,” I hack out – “don’t you know it?” Sign of doctors, ingenuity, medicine and art – creation, destruction intertwined round and round. Self-devouring while birthing its form as it alters. The mastication and regurgitation of “I.”
A young one might say “what’s that? – the curlicues and elaborate spiel?” Garcia Lorca I’d sigh. Yes. The grand leaping bugger of light. He’s yellow and lemons, crickets and birds! You know the stuff that sends you! Portal moments of sight or song and ‘wham!’ all the crap pelted into your brain and body get shaken and stirred together like surrealist still life. Incongruity making sense. Opposites attracting, no, better – look at your aging mother and I – a juxtaposed spectrum, paradox and carnival!
They say that you wanted to know.
Yes there’s Kafka, Blanchot, Cixous and Lispector. Jabes and Beckett now seeped in my veins. Dostoevsky, Bakhtin, Rilke. Gods and angels, drink and demons all carved in the skin of their names. Nietzsche and ridiculous happiness. Wittgenstein and the torment of words, of meanings, of none. I’d be a working inscription, at surface.
The corridors – head, heart and hands.
Are you sure anyone wanted to know?
The sounds of piano? Coaxing the keys in steady patterns – mimicking rain; or poems – yes, we forget Giacometti’s “Man Falling” – a perpetual stumble on the back of my hand, hoping neither knew what the other was up to. But they did and they do – I see that now – all parts of same body, stretched with same skin. Poems as stripped-down sculptures, some essential chants or song – just a gaze or a wisp of caress. Droppings of blood. Miracles that something remains after we’re through with our twisting and grasping.
Is this what you wanted? Does it explain – anything? I doubt it. Hardly think so.
Here at the ribs. The cracked and the lumpen. There was a time. Times I thought maybe risking and danger – a reach at euphoria – some panicking life – might make one feel much more alive. How do you think you all got here? Desperate plungings into the unknown, oh dear ones, like mad scientists messing around in the lab! The edges of cliffs, clinging to limbs, insecure at wits’ ends, going for broke.
And break we did.
But just look at you fertile seedlings, good eggs. I never meant to be rough with you all. To risk what is fragile in you. Ribs, here – cave and cage for the heart.
I can still breathe you. Charred and chortled, this was one great pleasure – to know I was breathing, in-spired. I know you all despised it, and it caused me to smell stale and rotting, but the rush of smoke down this pipe here into the bellows of slimy flesh…that let me know I was taking it in, not an automaton or senseless machine – no, I was hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling – BEING – I could feel it in my ashen lungs. Sometimes it hurt. What we ingest. But it really goes in and visibly comes out – everything – for good or ill. I needed to know it tangibly.
Why? you ask, why?
Look at the cranium stooped and weighed down. That sucker was a burden of liquid fire. All curled over like that the entirety of my life – looking in, at, in. What’s there? How does it work? For “whom”? When? Is there even a why? Examining, dreaming, recording and imagining – listen – say it back, say it forth, combine and copulate, shake it and stir – use that heavy weight, whirr whirr chrrr and whirr. Profile the shape of some jagged question mark, dotted where the heart must be.
And look at it now, nearly buried into the chest. It happens. Weather-systems, signsponge, it all will run its course. It once was aimed upwards and outwards, into fantasies, hopes and abstractions, and for years I kept it aimed straight ahead – horizontal, seeking directions – but slowly and surely its drug down toward the heart, pulsing muscle, plug for the cords. Everything up and away, everything out there or behind, it’s all happening here – in the mix, filtering through, circulating the circuitry of head, heart and hands – latching up or breaking down in the system.
What was it you wanted to know? Limbs and loins, head and heart, I’m acknowledging and exposing, affording view – I’m aware description does not explain a thing – the wonderful views of science still unable to explain…
The waste gets processed below, legs running away now knobby and stiff. But there, clinging in its corner like a core – my erratic, agitated, beating beast. Entire web of inexplicable drives and energy, fears and misery, desires and dread – my heart. Does this explain it? Does this explain anything? What anyone wanted to know?
Gasping there like the mouth of a landed fish, pulsing purplish like an aroused member – my heart. If I poke and coax it, tear at it or wring it onto this blue notebook in blued blood – will it explain?
Here, whomever, look. Here it lies, cheats, and steals. Here it gives and it aches and breaks. Here it prolongs and stops itself short. Pulpy mass of living meat – humana – the am therefore am. Take it, read it, test it – heal it if you wish or can. I’m open.
Is this what you wanted?
What everyone wanted to know?
What the break of coursework implies to me – possible “extra-curricular” reading! Hoping to weave my way through a LOT of the following…
As I snatched books and items to head to a weekend class I grabbed an old partially used notebook just in case I’d sneak a moment or two to scribble my thoughts. I did, but I also found the following past set of jottings that I catapulted off of for what I wrote next…
They felt like found thoughts that found me again…so I thought I’d share…
I get a little weary of philosophy. It fascinates and intrigues, has its spectacular, glittering moments – like architecture, hard sciences, and fiction – but with each human activity there can be too much of a good thing. Perhaps it’s the fantasies involved in abstraction, in the “feeling” of figuring things out, or of “making sense” (instead of sensing) – our human super-additives to experience that are also experience themselves – that I, at times, weary of. That eminently falsifiable intuition that everything is made up.
It can be hard work to keep a worldview active. They involve such complexities and details, layer upon layer of biological and logical, illogical and irrational, intuitive – ologies and descriptions, manipulated perceptions and interpretations re-interpreted re-interpreted without ceasing, that a being grows tired. Can grow tired.
Those same realities, capacities, activities are also exponentially inspiring, enervating, exciting – those behaviors of creativity, imagination, and survival – and our weird confounding capacity to think we can observe our perceptions make for a very strange frenzy of energy and productivity…
…our infinitely (perhaps?!) webbed interdependence with our surround provides for mysterious and copious possibilities of activity (material)…all bewildering. Chaos can be so generative. Chaos – so stultifying.
What might we know?
That we are organisms within systems? How would we know that, from within systems?
That we are dynamic organism enmeshed with other dynamic forms of matter and energy, waves and particles, movements? Seems to be our sense of it.
Alongside and within – in order to be – there is NO way to exist detached or without: to imagine distance, objectivity without imagination capacity of fantasy, illusion, for purposes like logic, mathematics, narratives and codes – DElusion in order to play the games with delusional sincerity – effectively. The delusions are effective, often pragmatic, evolving, so they must also be part of being with/in a myriad of dynamics…
One would hypothesize. Or suppose. Infer, as in fantasize.
All enabled by immersion in symbols, languages, stipulated relations…
…which is what I had set out to consider – immersion in symbols –
the wonder of it
Please read previous post with this in mind:
I would love for any/all to share what those “Limit Texts/Artifacts” are for you?
Please share via comment what encounters or engagements with works of art, science, philosophy, writing, music, and any other cultural artifactual form has altered from then on how you select, evaluate, engage other related artifacts from then on?
Recently, I have received several queries into either how I read as much as I read, or how I find or know what to read. As I respond to these inquiries, it has interested me how in fact, I account for my reading history. “E.L. Doctorow explained he rarely knew what he believed until he had written about it. Dostoevsky would start authoring a given scene, assuming he understood precisely what he believed about the issue discussed in it, only to have one of his characters convince him otherwise. Frequently it is only through the actual act of creation that we locate what we really feel and think about a subject.” (Olsen, architectures of possibility). That, coupled with “Authors frequently say things they are unaware of; only after they have gotten the reactions of their readers do they discover what they have said” – Umberto Eco…resulted in these self-observations:
Even from persons I deem much more knowledgeable than myself I often hear “you’ve read more than anyone I know…” and I have spent many hours a day for many decades – reading. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, so the concern for truth, authority and canon were socio-culturally inculcated in me from an early age. When I began exploring music, philosophy and literature I found this concern ruling my approach: what is deemed canonical (attested by authorities), what came first?, and what rings true? I remember beginning with anthologies of classical poets, then ancient scriptures, Homer and so forth. Beginning with Plato/Aristotle then forward through those who claimed their influence. Beginning with Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and then forward and back to origins and influences. That has been my habit in exploring cultural artifacts. Find references. Correspondence. Claims. Follow them out. And follow those out. And follow those. And….so on.
As to achieving the absorption of piles of books at a time – when pushed to claim a process – I was surprised at the simple methodologies. I have referred to “transductive reading” from time to time in these posts – the interaction and co-constitutive commentaries that work provides to work. So I read large amounts of materials over large amounts of time (though my wife insists I read speedily) – I find I read sections / chapters / pages from a multitude of books and let them interact in me forming tissues and connections, rather than singular voices or ideas straight through. I read for differences – turns of phrase, terminologies, rhythms, in persons approaches to subjects, rather than reading for topical content or idea-information as data. Where a voice, approach, or technique is unique is often what particular works have to offer, I have come to think. And, depending on genre or reason for reading – as overlaps increase as the volume of “have-read” grows – one can often browse for summarizing sections to find the nuances each thinker or creator proffers.
Then there’s my personal history and approach to things. Hard-pressed to learning from youth=26 straight years of education + 17 years working in or managing retail bookstores – in an effort to be an “excellent” bookseller – implying to me I had to know something of everything a reader might desire (first hand). Publisher’s catalogs, reviews, recommendations, lists, histories, from the development of language to its variation in forms and contents. And always that uncanny recognition of Grenzsituationen – or “Limit Texts.”
“It might be helpful to conceive of certain texts as Limit Texts – a variety of writing disturbance that carries various elements of narrativity to their brink so the reader can never quite think of them in the same terms again. To the brink, and then (for most readers, at least) over. Karl Jaspers coined the word Grenzsituationen (border/limit situations) to describe existential moments accompanied by anxiety in which the human mind is forced to confront the restrictions of its existing forms – moments, in other words, that make us abandon, fleetingly, the securities of our limitedness and enter new realms of self-consciousness. Death, for example.”
“If we carry this notion of Grenzsituationen into the literary domain, we find ourselves thinking about the sorts of books that, once you’ve taken them down from the shelf, you’ll never be able to put back up again. They won’t leave you alone. They will continue to work on your imagination long after you’ve read them. Merely by being in the world, Limit Texts ask us to embrace possibility spaces, difficulty, freedom, radical skepticism. Which writings make up the category will, naturally, vary from reader to reader, depending on what the reader has already encountered by way of innovative projects, his or her background, assumptions and so on…but the more Limit Texts one reads, the less one tends to feel the impulse to return to more conventional narrativity…”
-Lance Olsen, architectures of possibility
These situations are tattooed on my body (literally)…and include:
Samuel Beckett – Macedonio Fernandez – Paul Celan – Fyodor Dostoevsky – Ludwig Wittgenstein – Maurice Blanchot – Helene Cixous – Clarice Lispector – Franz Kafka – Fernando Pessoa – David Foster Wallace – Mikhail Bakhtin – Rainer Maria Rilke – Edmond Jabes – Federico Garcia Lorca – William Stafford – Egon Schiele – Vincent van Gogh – Johannes Brahms – Alberto Giacometti – Robert Musil – Friedrich Nietzsche – C.F. Peirce…
as you uncover these (your own personal) writers – your pantheon
of those who change your view of the possibilities of language and who you can return to again and again
without really feeling you’ve been there before – they become coordinates – network nodes – whereby you
evaluate and expand, extend and engage new writings you are exposed to – forever altering your patience and expectations of literature or whatever cultural artifact-type you crave and are pleasured by…thus making your reading more efficient and your selections increasingly more challenging and compelling to you – as long as you continue to leap out and expose yourself to things that might be unexpected
Ben Marcus – Ronald Sukenick – Laurie Sheck – Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge – Lyn Hejinian – Denis Johnson – Laurence Sterne – William James – C.F. Peirce – Michel Serres – Bruno Latour – Jorge Luis Borges – Cervantes – Immanuel Kant –
your lists will spawn as you follow their correspondences, admirations, criticisms, references, citations,
and you develop your literary canon
more on that another time
“One of the wonderful things about word processors is they transform all composition into continuous process. You can rearrange, rewrite, tinker, copy, cut, paste, open separate files for separate chapters or story sections or poem fragments, a window for notes, another for your outline, and still another for your list of characters and their attributes, and have them all on your screen simultaneously so you can flip among them as necessary while your web browser provides you with a dictionary, a thesaurus, a Wikipedia page, a website to aid you checking this fact or that…
(The less than wonderful thing about word processors is they make every draft look like a final draft, sloppy writing look as polished as just-published. Careful about being duped by the sheen, and don’t disregard the notion of trying to compose on a lined tablet unless you’ve already tried it and found it lacking; it is a method that both slows perception and increases conscientiousness).”