“language cannot cope with its relation with the world”
– Giorgio Agamben –
“language is a part of our organism and no less complicated than it”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein –
Sometimes it seems that words might do anything! Connecting things and people; defining, describing, explaining and exclaiming; naming, inventing, questioning… arguing, fomenting, discovering; seducing, displacing, and singing. Very little experiencing of the human kind comes unaccompanied by terms. – Is that so?
There are dreams – like signs and billboards of liqueous or exaggerated perceivings… “the sign – is the quietest razor of darkness” (A. Dragomoshchenko)… and slit it does. We bleed.
And breathing, heart’s-pulse, sleeping along with the intake of food, its output as waste, our birthing and walking, working and running… and dying. All our play. Intercourse, of course. Do moans and groans, grunts and cries and sighs, lisps and complaints (our myriad utterances) – mean words? mean language? What of our relative silence? The thrumming body of the speechless and deaf? Eye-gaze dumb, its blindness?
The skin has been rubbed off my fingers.
Wordlessly, soundlessly, lust and desire screech on…shrill in body and bone – both where the starving exudes and toward its petulant prey.
What of the growth of grasses? Is language there? In rhythmic patterning of rain? A sense of sunlight?
Sometimes wind whispers.
A cat moves. Silently.
And a “sign – is the quietest razor of darkness” – darkness visible, darkness speaks – (it has been claimed – via words, the verbal).
Sweet and troubling confluence: activity and languaging (the same): the “verbal.” Of sound and motion. Our noise. Moving sound around in and with our bodies – in speech or dance, in strain and the clamor of being.
What falls (or grows, blooms, disappears) outside the devouring knife – that which segments and shrivels the fluid songs of experience and reverie? Of presence. The Slicer-Dicer we’ve composed, posing together to cut from faultless fabric?
As utterance, inscription fondles its way, brushingly and blade-like, sensually surreptitious. Caressing and crafty, rapaciously blessing its praying and braying of names – who can counter its reduction, repression, its blame or silvery shame?
Ye without words, cast the first stone.
As if genesis were language and time: space to create with.
Who – would I listen to, be remade among today?
And where from a resistance?
We always know (somewhere in our bodies or bones) that ‘to begin’ was begun
long before what ‘begins.’
It is raining.
We say, “the rain has begun.” How long ago?
We say, “I am here, now.” For -?
Where are we? How much?
We are there. Continuously outstripping a here.
And how? How? How indeed.
So what is it – that we are seeing?
What is it we think we see?
How? Why? Why that and not other(s)?
Propensity. Proprioception. Perspective.
Always already before or begun?
I’ve written before (again and again
when I take up the pen):
“I set out.”
From where? Why? When? and whom?
Still how? How? How, indeed.
He looks in.
Into what? And from where?
We set out.
per language, per feeling, per sensational thought,
per activity, movement, receipt.
We set out.
“‘Word work,’ Toni Morrison said in Stockholm, ‘is sublime because it is generative,’ its felicity in its reach toward the ineffable. ‘We die,’ she said. ‘That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.'”
…and so we think. I do not say we must think, for I do not think that is so – it is simply a kind of capacity we have, apparently related to external pressures and a possible pleasure, or unknown effects involving desire – a torsion, disturbance, a stirring unsettling perhaps necessary to our living continuance, like pain, like lust.
An activity we call by many names and nuances – reflection, perception, analysis, intuition, sensation, theorizing, dream… but all uncanny practices of turbulence as if trying out invisible options on our world, imagining alternatives, inventing holding frames for experiencing that must constantly and continuously alter and adapt and reorient as living never stills. Like language, like longing, like living. Such things show no signs of resolving, their solutions are their ongoing instrumentalization, their habitude.
- Writing, kissing, and walking are synonyms.
The “world,” as it were, as it ‘is’ (also, reduced, in addition) “for us.”
How it comes to be as we are – briefly. Almost incalculably miniscule. Almost ‘happenstance.’
“Our” world, as it were: all we cannot know, that we are part in, of, with.
One wonders what “world” can possibly mean.
Every meaning apparently nothing outside of this microscopic sliver of kind… EVERYthing and more, “for us.” Some ‘infinity’ or ‘void;’ ‘abyss’ or ‘chaotic complexity’ – a reference to every-thing (or not) that so far surpasses us, outstrips us, beyonds us. Some so-called…”world.”
One could turn toward all that, could ‘be-itself,’ bi-pedally, shrimpishly, speck-o-dust uprightedly, with/in ‘it’…and have a dwarfed, almost indiscernible ‘experience.’ Or “one” (were such a thing possible) could de-cide, di-vide, con-sider (?) – place oneself ‘over against’ or ‘in contrast’ (contra-di-stinction) to all that: otherness, ‘world,’ ‘uknown/unknowable,’ ‘beyond,’ ‘out-side,’ infinite… and de-term-in.
Squash it down to ‘one’s own scale, name it / call it / sign it, and ‘fit’ it in. i.e. cut it small enough to be comprehensible, digestible, sensible (according-to-one’s-own) and pre-tend, fore-tell, image-in, sign-i-fy it ACCORDING TO… ‘one,’ ‘us,’ ‘me’ (such as math, logic, language, communicable signs, etc – in-(ter)ventions on/of our own terms).
Human knowledge, inquiry, disciplines, creations, theories, etc. are EXACTLY (and perhaps ONLY, one surmises) THAT: at the scale of the human. ‘One’ is prone to automatically grant every ‘other’ (plant, material, organism, structure, system, etc) the ‘same’ ‘world’ – as Wittgenstein indicated: indecipherable, untranslatable or communicable between kinds, but most probable, no? – Umwelts – worlds upon worlds within worlds outside worlds… we (‘ones’) can have no share, understanding, con(with)cept, com(with)munication of…
To each its scale of experiencing, and all scales together…
Given the human (so-self-called) scale, this seems pertinently and poignantly most evident…
…why would we chafe against our limits… or (perhaps) every scale always is – no ‘one’ could know this… ones (and many ones) are only ones – more and less than their own possible perspectives… in- and out-looks OF. Scale. (Perhaps).
Obviously, com(with)posing in your/our language… whatever I dream is representative of my scale… i.e. is only a capacity of ‘one’(kind) … of many.
Pleasurably so… or why not?
Dreaming beyond scale (or, inventing scale and its beyond – in the de-term-in-ing) demonstrates itself as a capacity… (e.g. mythology, science, religion, fiction/fantasy, psycho-anything, spirituality, philosophy, history, and so forth) … all imagined efforts beyond-scale, that, in occurring demonstrate the possibilities/limitations of human scale…
What ‘beyond’ could ‘one’ see, think, feel, etc., that is not a demonstration of limited and actual capacity of ‘one-scale’-to-experience?
So ‘one’ has a-, con-, etc. scales… all part of one’s scale (abilities, capacities, possibilities, options, kind). Against, with, creative, reductive, but ALL and ANY activities of one kind (so-self-called ‘human’) show its locked and limited capacity. One never goes beyond.
To ‘work limits,’ and boundaries are clearly elements of our ‘limits’ and ‘boundaries’ of the scope and scale of the ‘human.’
“Gods,” cosmologies, dreams, histories, theorizing, etc., all contained within the ‘bounds’ or capacities of the ‘kind-of-thing-‘One’-is. Perhaps.
It is the ‘perhaps’ that haunts us. [but what could ‘haunt’ indicate but another human capacity – perhaps a ‘felt capacity’ of bursting or extending our capacities?]
Witchcraft. Art. Technology. Religion. Theoretical and experimental anything. Logos. Arche. Tohu. Bohu. Beginning. Universe (must needs always shrink to one’s own scale… in order to uni-anything… ‘multiverse’ simple exponents of capacities for in our microscopic self-experienced sphere… we named ‘infinity’ – is there no exponent we can’t add – within our tiny range of potential?).
One’s own anthropology.
Logically [though I excessively distrust that program of human-ing] – what con-cept, i-dea, imagine-ing, or object-ivity is not necessarily always paramatered by the human ex-periential capacities?
The bounds may be elastic or no – there would be no way for a kind to know – being all-ways the ‘one’ experiencing.
The world is a weighted haunting –
– some complex surround –
to be dreamt and/or measured, and felt
I amended the ‘haunting’ to be –
not the thick and illegible “world,”
but the compulsion of ‘figuring-out’ –
the ‘figuring out,’
an ‘haunting’ is ghost –
and only just happens:
Within which is conceived a convergence –
– event –
(some humanish word for ‘what’s happened’).
This ‘we’ –
what is it?
what part does it play
in the muddle?
And ‘what happens’ –
multiply in the mess –
as you feel it
and think it
and be –
how it wholly
..does the pleasure of writing exist? I don’t know. One thing I feel certain of is that there’s a tremendous obligation to write. This obligation to write, I don’t really know where it comes from. As long as we haven’t started writing, it seems to be the most gratuitous, the most improbable thing, almost the most impossible, and one to which, in any case, we’ll never feel bound. Then, at some point – is it the first page, the thousandth, the middle of the first book, or later? I have no idea – we realize that we’re absolutely obligated to write. This obligation is revealed to you, indicated in various ways. For example, by the fact that we experience so much anxiety, so much tension if we haven’t finished that little page of writing, as we do each day. By writing that page, you give yourself, you give to your existence, a form of absolution. That absolution is essential for the day’s happiness. It’s not the writing that’s happy, it’s the joy of existing that’s attached to writing, which is slightly different. This is very paradoxical, very enigmatic, because how is it that the gesture – so vain, so fictive, so narcissistic, so self-involved – of sitting down at a table in the morning and covering a certain number of blank pages can have this effect of benediction for the remainder of the day? How is the reality of things – our concerns, hunger, desire, love, sexuality, work – transfigured because we did that in the morning, or because we were able to do it during the day? That’s very enigmatic. For me, in any case, it’s one of the ways the obligation to write is manifested.
This obligation is also indicated by something else. Ultimately, we always write not only to write the last book we will write, but, in some truly frenzied way – and this frenzy is present even in the most minimal gesture of writing – to write the last book in the world. In truth, what we write at the moment of writing, the final sentence of the work we’re completing, is also the final sentence of the world, in that, afterward, there’s nothing more to say. There’s a paroxysmal intent to exhaust language in the most insignificant sentence. No doubt this is associated with the disequilibrium that exists between speech and language. Language is what we use to construct an absolutely infinite number of sentences and utterances. Speech, on the contrary, no matter how long or how diffuse, how supple, how atmospheric, how protoplasmic, how tethered to its future, is always finite, always limited. We can never reach the end of language through speech, no matter how long we imagine it to be. This inexhaustibility of language, which always holds speech in suspense in terms of a future that will never be completed, is another way of experiencing the obligation to write. We write to reach the end of language, to reach the end of any possible language, to finally encompass the empty infinity of language through the plenitude of speech.
Another reason why writing is different from speaking is that we write to hide our face, to bury ourselves in our own writing. We write so that the life around us, alongside us, outside, far from the sheet of paper, this life that’s not very funny but tiresome and filled with worry, exposed to others, is absorbed in that small rectangle of paper before our eyes and which we control. Writing is a way of trying to evacuate, through the mysterious channels of pen and ink, the substance, not just of existence, but of the body, in those minuscule marks we make on paper. To be nothing more, in terms of life, than this dead and jabbering scribbling that we’ve put on the white sheet of paper is what we dream about when we write. But we never succeed in absorbing all that teeming life in the motionless swarm of letters. Life always goes on outside the sheet of paper, continues to proliferate, keeps going, and is never pinned down to that small rectangle; the heavy volume of the body never succeeds in spreading itself across the surface of paper, we can never pass into that two-dimensional universe, that pure line of speech; we never succeed in becoming thin enough or adroit enough to be nothing more than the linearity of a text, and yet that’s what we hope to achieve. So we keep trying, we continue to restrain ourselves, to take control of ourselves, to slip into the funnel of pen and ink, an infinite task, but the task to which we’ve dedicated ourselves. We would feel justified if we no longer existed except in that minuscule shudder, that infinitesimal scratching that grows still and becomes, between the tip of the pen and the white surface of the paper, the point, the fragile site, the immediately vanished moment when a stationary mark appears once and for all, definitively established, legible only for others and which has lost any possibility of being aware of itself. This type of suppression, of self-mortification in the transition to signs is, I believe, what also gives writing its character of obligation. It’s an obligation without pleasure, you see, but, after all, when escaping an obligation leads to anxiety, when breaking the law leaves you so apprehensive and in such great disarray, isn’t obeying the law the greatest form of pleasure? To obey an obligation whose origin is unknown, and the source of whose authority over us is equally unknown, to obey that – certainly narcissistic – law that weighs down on you, that hangs over you wherever you are, that, I think, is the pleasure of writing…
…I’m not an author. First of all, I have no imagination. I’m completely uninventive. I’ve never even been able to conceive of something like the subject of a novel…I place myself resolutely on the side of the writers [in distinction – Roland Barthes – from authors] those for whom writing is transitive. By that I mean those for whom writing is intended to designate, to show, to manifest outside itself something that, without it, would have remained if not hidden at least invisible. For me, that’s where, in spite of everything, the enchantment of writing lies…I’m simply trying to make apparent what is very immediately present and at the same time invisible…I’d like to reveal something that’s too close for us to see, something right here, alongside us, but which we look through to something else…to define the proximity around us that orients the general field of our gaze and our knowledge…
So, for me, the role of writing is essentially one of distancing and of measuring distance. To write is to position oneself in that distance that separates us from death and from what is dead…I’m in the distance between the speech of others and my own…In exercising my language, I’m measuring the difference with what we are not, and that’s why I said to you earlier that writing means losing one’s own face, one’s own existence. I don’t write to give my existence the solidity of a monument. I’m trying to absorb my own existence into the distance that separates it from death and, probably, by that same gesture, guides it toward death…
I’dd add that, in one sense, my head is empty when I begin to write, even though my mind is always directed toward a specific object. Obviously, that means that, for me, writing is an exhausting activity, very difficult, filled with anxiety. I’m always afraid of messing up; naturally, I mess up, I fail all the time. This means that what encourages me to write isn’t so much the discovery or certainty of a certain relationship, of a certain truth, but rather the feeling I have of a certain kind of writing, a certain mode of operation of my writing, a certain style that will bring that distance into focus…
“THAT’S IT, WEAVE, WEAVE”
What she set out to do, she did not achieve. Intention and realization went un-joined.
Which in no wise implies that beauty was lacking. Or interest. There were still trees, efforts, water running here and there, struggles, many other animals, emotions, scenes. Nothing, really, was lost in failure. But what could be? Nothing that might potentially eventuate (from action, intention, emotion, or hope) is ever known, therefore where could failure lie?
Ice is its own phenomenon and occurrence, regardless. Such strange wet-dry thing, fluid and solid becoming-unbecoming. The sound of a voice – perhaps of an “inside” impossible without “outside.” Many “things” are in-between. Ever on the way to something, ever proceeding from.
He found it all incalculable, without appropriate measure. Which was not what she intended, not what she set out to do. Yet could not be called a failure. For who or what might measure that? What thermometer, rod, or calculating machine might tally such “results”? In relation to what when where? And how might “results” be defined?
The term for an idea or concept named “beauty” being interesting in itself. Apparently something pertaining only to them (these so-called “human subjects”).
She intended to express, or so it seemed to him. Set out to communicate an experience with her surround, a something she was hoping to say, to give voice to. This experience was such that she perceived it as something transpiring for her in such fashion as to not be readily apparent to others, nor easily translatable (even observable) to those arrayed around about her – both those with whom she valued attachment and reciprocal relations, and any “others” – in this case whom (a human kind of self-referencing versus what or how) – might be capable of demonstrating care, comprehension, or attention to what (or how) she was “experiencing” (i.e. having a felt-living-sense with and within her environment).
He (perhaps the proposed recipient of her attempt of expression) found all of it incalculable, and without appropriate measure. He, in his own idio-specific way (or relation) to whatever (whomever, however he considered his ‘surround’) was entrenched in his own meticulous (incalculable and immeasurable – at present time of writing – by ‘science’ or current ‘arts of knowing’) particularities of being-with / affecting / effecting / participating in his perceived environment [what, as a sort of short-hand, might be termed his Umwelt (look it up!)]: what happens to matter for him.
Some have called it ‘sense-making’; others’ ‘making-sense.’ Many (in some strange-impossibly proposed ‘objectivity’ – a falsified, imaginary distancing involving a blind delusion of “as if” they were NOT in fact WHAT they are – a kind of ‘sense-making-sense’ (in two senses of the word “sense”)): in other (no…in MORE) words: an ‘human’ account-possibility of its proceptive, perceptive, immersive and recursive experience WITHIN its surround AS IF it were not. I.e., fiction, or fantasy. So far as he or she have been able to uncover – NO ACCOUNTS of human experiencings have been proposed, recorded, or proffered by other-than-human ‘beings’ that any human has been able to perceive, understand, or translate…therefore there are no ‘objective’ (distanced other) reliable sources for measuring, calculating, analyzing, reporting on, under-standing or evaluating the experiences of the human ‘he’ and ‘she.’ At present THERE IS NO OTHER with which this kind (‘human’) might informatively and effectively communicate, learn, argue, or confer…only itself.
[Which may be the situation of all cells, plants, animals, stars, etc…but humans can’t know…being all too human, after all].
None of this was her intent. No content recorded concerns what she set out to do. But this in no wise indicates MIS-take, for there is no future in advance which one might con-fuse, err, or malfunction toward. The next simply is, just like any number of things before. All options extremely limited according to case, kind, and percipient.
In the case of this writing – ‘human’ (so-self-called) KIND, as PERCEIVED and PROCESSED by itself only – with (thusfar) no other constituent or contributor except as designated and defined by its own self-kind-case.
The ‘human’ has NOWHERE to turn for what it considers ‘knowledge’ (he thinks) excepting NOW HERE and AS ITSELF (he thinks) while perceiving in ways it already has experienced to be variegated, faulty, and vague.
(Perhaps all living things) he thinks (but certainly all human-kind) affords no outside source or viewing, perception, communication, expression, or understanding/interpretation of itself. It only confers with itself and its surrounding (as experienced according to itself and slight variations of itself over time). No human could be considered “reliable” – if re-liable were intended to re-fer to “reality” – taken to signify THE CASE OR STATE OF THINGS beneath, before, pertaining to, and beyond THE HUMAN BEING AS IT EXPERIENCES ITSELF ‘to be,’ he thinks.
“A pointless matter,” he vocalizes in response to her ‘expression’ and ‘intention.’ “Even among our own kind, sort, and communicable compatriots – we ‘humans’ as we call ourselves,” he states, “’I’ cannot know whether or what you’re referring to, and whether or what of it corresponds to my own ‘human’ experiencing (as we say and apparently agree, confer).”
She cries a little. Wishes something. Or so it seems to him, in his NOW HERE. She intended other-wise. Goes quiet (from a ‘human’ – so-self-called, ‘perspective’).
It is quiet. Perhaps from many perspectives. ‘Human’ science (arts of knowing) claim that snakes (so-humanly-called) can’t ‘hear,’ nor the clocks humans have made, nor cats, nor dogs, days nor plants, nor wood, nor dirt – whatever else ‘humans’ are able to notice and create or differentiate in any given perceptive scenario.
Between like kinds, this is NOT what she set out to do, nor intended…and only the ‘humans’ (“so far as we know,” he says) might even be capable of de-signifying, de-coding, com-prehending (perceiving-together) these sounds, marks, signals, gestures, movements, motions between them.
And here you (perhaps) are … reading (de-coding, de-signifying, transposing, translating) … “IT” (according to your NOW HERE).
What she set out to do she did not achieve, nor he. But of course the proposed possible, capable, or potential of ‘setting out to’ is not known… so WHO knows?
The intention and realization have not joined… or have they? Who or what might measure (and when and how) calculate, evaluate, or demonstrate that? “They” seem left / bereft purely to themselves. If a lion could speak, apparently we would not be able to understand it.
And so ‘he’ and ‘she’ make sounds, motions, and varieties of contact (according to ‘human’ perceivings) on a ‘porch,’ in a ‘house,’ through various ‘rooms,’ ‘spaces,’ ‘surfaces,’ and so on. Birds chirp (according to the ‘hearing’ of ‘humans’), clouds drift, squirrels chitter, grass wavers, and so on all the same (according to ‘human’ sense-making-sense)… ‘he’ sets out, intends, struggles, interacts, and feels with ‘his’ surround (NOW HERE), as does ‘she’… neither achieving their ‘goals,’ neither controlling nor creating any realizations they intend – albeit with NO knowledge of what they might actually be able to evince or conjure – all having not yet occurred.
It would appear (to the ‘humans’) that many many ‘things’ (stars, genes, planets, soil, weather, corporations, arachnids, societies, viruses, equations, materials, activities, and so on and so on…) just carry on their various “natural” (according to their kind) ways regardless, in spite of, in ANY case, in accord with… with no ‘concern’ for ‘hers’ or ‘his’ intentions or settings-forth or out to do.
And so it goes. And so it goes… on… apparently.
Still, what she set out to do she did not achieve…whatever that may have been.
“an ‘absoluteness of absence’ if writing is to be possible” – Jacques Derrida
Certain works by Samuel Beckett eventuate an environment of silence for me. For instance, the brief poem “What is the Word?”
What Is the Word
folly for to –
for to –
what is the word –
folly from this –
all this –
folly from all this –
folly given all this –
folly seeing all this –
what is the word –
this there –
this this here –
all this this here –
folly given all this –
folly seeing all this this here –
for to –
what is the word –
seem to glimpse –
need to seem to glimpse –
folly for to need to seem to glimpse –
what is the word –
and where –
folly for to need to seem to glimpse what where –
what is the word –
over there –
away over there –
afar away over there –
afaint afar away over there what –
what is the word –
seeing all this –
all this this –
all this this here –
folly for to see what –
seem to glimpse –
need to seem to glimpse –
afaint afar away over there what –
folly for to need to seem to glimpse afaint afar away over there what –
what is the word –
what is the word
– Samuel Beckett
Perhaps the what where is always what we’re attempting to tell. Perhaps that’s eternal recurrence / return. The when is always known. Always NOW. The folly, truly folly, of our attempt to tell the what where that is our being, our being NOW, always being NOW, no when needed, no whom known, just what where presently…occurring. Is this always what we are attempting to say? To find words for? To tell? What where, now? Always NOW – whether reading or writing, assailing past, present or future – it is NOW that it’s occurring, but what? where? And what is the word? What are the words for this what where we’re attempting to tell? This is my writing, reading – in a way, it seems, the all of it – my folly. Perhaps what where is unnameable.
And so I also offer a reading – for even as soon as I re-read my own writing – I cannot remember the whom or what-where of the writing. Because the reading is always right NOW. This reading – a chapter from Mark C. Taylor’s book Tears (as both eye-leak or suffering and rift-split-rip-“tear”) entitled “How to do Nothing with Words” (my own copy a rainbow of highlights and symbolized marginalia – like all that I read significance to). If this sort of thing – this philosophizing or wondering writing – is not of your interest – don’t bother. But if it is kind of intriguing, or causes curiosity, I find this chapter a compelling and admirable attempt to descry the “what is the word?” tussle I constantly struggle and strive for enacting the telling what where.
And, after all that…here is neither, a short writing by Beckett to go on with…
To and fro in shadow from inner to outershadow
from impenetrable self to impenetrable unself by way of neither
as between two lit refuges whose doors once neared gently close, once turned away from gently part again
beckoned back and forth and turned away
heedless of the way, intent on the one gleam or the other
unheard footfalls only sound
till at last halt for good, absent for good from self and other
then no sound
then gently light unfading on that unheeded neither
– Samuel Beckett
Thank you for your time. It goes on…