in the rock,
and a sun,
after Helene Cixous’ First Days of the Year (all quotations from)
“…writing doesn’t know the story…”
– Helene Cixous –
Writing had dissipated, eroded and erasured, “the stream, the slender silent stream with its singing arms,” dried, swallowed, scabbed to dusty ground, hardened wounds, simple soundless scarring – unmarked, unmapped, uninterpreted or deciphered.
“Writing, that link, that growth, that orientation” and mysterious connection in the veins – beneath earth, across times, that leaky, throbbing, flowing, trickling tickle in the fingers of the throat – evaporated to ether.
Space is full of voids again, the entire body is corpse. It was air that was missing – oxygen and hydrogen – a liquid, invisible, fluid force and blazing trail – its quiet tireless effort coursing, a desert without shore.
“’It has been many years now,’… thought the author”…many years of dwindling, echoing thoughts…many years without solution or solvent, no bed, no pull, no sea or slope – an eviscerated wandering lacking movement, without promise or retreat, direction or return, rather something absent, lost, unknown.
Bedrest – a way to heal by falling fallow, running out, caesura and inaction. Some old trace viewed from scale, an only remnant held by wind – a sentenced shrub, a stop of phrase. Riverbedrest and desertduned unwinding – depiction’s dearth, branches clotstopping gravity’s swill or swirl, deadwooded filaments tumbling anywhere the green had been, the iron bled from vein.
“I am going to write,” he had thought at first… but I weigh 47 years and “writing is eternal [knowing] neither weight nor time,” it will not lift and carry me, breezing past as it always has every present unto present – ageless phantom, foreign phrase I am unable to pronounce.
Vanishing link between the bodies, submerged and buried and unspoken – “writing doesn’t know the story” – dumb and blind as memory’s ‘I.’ The lost and forgotten, what will not come to be. “To me, this is a blow, a threat.”
“…the book we do not write. There is a book. That we do not write…” … wordless and disobeyed, unwritten extinction, disordered and undone. Passage and passing of this now here. This book that’s not here. Irrelevant utopia. A desiccated thread, a wilderness with imperceptible end, some perhaps forlorn and far-off song, long since warbled into stillness. I “do not have what it takes to make a book,” long-lost imagining and fabricated dreams, suffered weeping for what-is-not, what-never-was, the known and haunting will-not-be, pains of life assigned to us.
Sightless, flightless bird without brain enough or claw for scribbles, vision canceled by the crossings-out and scratchings, greedy skimming scamper seeking recognizable seeds, some words less foreign or forgotten, that might crack in the craw and cackle a sigh, a chortle, some wheezy whisper… anything other than absence, the starving shame, the empty marrow, acrid arteries, and granulating groin. Wretched rictus claw, blindly scraping at a pen, a page, a flesh-as-grass, a drop of dew, some ancient call –
HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL
…and thank you
I’m afraid to write. It’s so dangerous. Anyone who’s tried, knows. The danger of stirring up hidden things – and the world is not on the surface, it’s hidden in its roots submerged in the depths of the sea. In order to write I must place myself in the void. In this void is where I exist intuitively. But it’s a terribly dangerous void: it’s where I wring out blood. I’m a writer who fears the snares of words: the words I say hide others – which? maybe I’ll say them. Writing is a stone cast down a deep well.
Do I write or not?…A light and gentle meditation on the nothing…
Does “writing” exist in and of itself? No. It is merely the reflection of a thing that questions. I work with the unexpected. I write the way I do without knowing how and why – it’s the fate of my voice. The timbre of my voice is me. Writing is a query. It’s this: ?
I write for nothing and for no one…I don’t make literature: I simply live in the passing of time. The act of writing is the inevitable result of my being alive…
I feel as though I’m still not writing…My problem is the fear of going mad. I have to control myself…And so I’ll leave a page blank or the rest of the book – I’ll come back when I can.
Clarice Lispector, Breath of Life
I found the following paper when cleaning up our dining room table to prepare for dinner:
What I learn from the inscriptions of my freshly teenaged/screenaged daughter is this: POWERFUL WRITING CAN BE ABOUT ANYTHING. Which inspires me, and supports a potent hunch I’ve been harboring over recent years and studies: that writing that works on or in us, that gnaws at us, strikes or challenges us, perhaps even changes or ‘enlightens’ us, nourishes or crushes us (as the human species we happen to be – capable of participating, communicating, coordinating variously fabricated scales of signification from the organismal, cell-based to communal (‘personal,’ ‘social,’ ‘political’-based) tends to be concocted up out from textures and materials of authentic self-report and confusion or lack [wonder? – our ability to ‘put-into-question’?].
That we make effort, perhaps progress, are sustained or contained, constrained or extended by core curiosity (query, investigation, inquiry, desire) around perceived conundrums, or LACK.
“This in-between feeling”: self-report (authentic within constrained conventions, perception, culture) + confusion, curiosity, a questioning, experimentation, conundrum = an access to the uncertain, the open, the unknown.
“If it is true that there is (in the Chinese language) a written character that means both ‘man’ and ‘two,’ it is easy to recognize in man he who is always himself and the other, the happy duality of dialogue and the possibility of communication. But it is less easy, more important perhaps, to think ‘man,’ that is to say, also ‘two,’ as separation that lacks unity, the leap from 0 to duality, the 1 thus giving itself as the forbidden, the between-the-two [l’entre-deux]”
– Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond
Human scientists, when they’re ‘successful,’ or ‘good’ combine observation / passion / desire / perception (experiment + experience) as authentic self-reports in a conventionalized constraint PLUS putting the conundrum or confusion (joining-with beyond-certainty) into question… open… ‘What Is…?’ ‘What If…?’ WHAT MIGHT MY HUNCHES, TROUBLES, EXPERIENCE, SENSES, DESIRES indicate? Anything? No-thing?
The litterateur, artist, therapist, musician – what COM-PELS us (pushes us forward-with-world, with-being) seems to be a kind and variation, repetition and difference of this experience + experiment – attempt at authentic self-report wedded to curiosity/wonder/or the putting-into-question of it.
Some empty set.
So Cantor’s infinity. Einstein’s relativity. Godel and undecidability. Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger’s existentialism or phenomenology, Wittgenstein’s language and forms of life, Beckett, Joyce, Blanchot, Wallace proliferating or desiccating sentences – all seem to be appropriately tied, threaded and submerged in Experience + Lack, Perception + Desire, what we do not, perhaps can not, know.
When William James delivers a cumulative, culminative authentic and conventionalized self-report, a curious address called “Is Life Worth Living?”, or Socrates-Augustine-Leibniz-Nietzsche-Shakespeare-Kierkegaard [substitute names at will – Dante, Darwin, Dostoevsky, Proust, Sartre, Peirce, Melville, Dickens…] inquire “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Why is there anything at all?”… Why this!? We’re hovering about a lack – of understanding, apparent meaning, dissatisfaction, perhaps frustration, an emptiness, a hole in things we’re troubling, questioning.
‘Scientists,’ ‘psychologists,’ ‘poets,’ ‘lovers,’ ‘activists,’ ‘parents,’ and ‘priests’ are all pushed forward in these questions… core-conundrums, felt-vacuums, hitches, indications of LACK.
Resulting in remarkable attempts at authentic self-report coupled to curiosity / questioning / doubt.
Inquiry is effort.
In-between: knowing/experiencing and unknowing/confusion – experience and experiment.
“The center…[does] not hold”
We are not-yet-one (self-sufficient) and less-than-two (self and other). Not an observer or experiencer without something observed/experienced. Not a language or emotion without a group or felt-with or in-relation-to. Not a happening without a happening-in, a happening-here, a happening-to. Not a sound without a hearing. A cell without surround, a border and environment. No self without an other and all incomplete, undecidable, in flux and underdetermined.
ALWAYS IN-BETWEEN AND UNCERTAIN
An adolescent is able to capture and confess this…that alone tells me nothing together might do.
No “what if?” without something to work with. No awareness without awareness-of.
And so “I,” her progenitor-father, study NOTHING. The “what if nots?” Incomprehensible, inexistent, perhaps inconceivable questions… indeterminable, indecipherable, perhaps unexperiencable and irrational.
At breakfast we speak of it. Curiously, we authentically self-report our wonder, confusion and conundrums – our LACK – of understanding, of method, of language, of expression, experience… our limitations we might call ‘impossibility…’
That nothing is only possible when nothing is NOT. That if we are able in relation to nothing… ‘we’ can not be there, or ‘be’ at all. Nothing not even itself, not even an absence… to speak or think of it is to rush it away…
These are things I learn from my children – that our questions go unanswered, are (perhaps) unanswerable, that attempting authentic reportage (communicating) experience coupled to wonder, and putting-it-to-question, with humility, then, in doubt… perhaps drives our systems, our logics, our literatures, arts, sciences, and love… LACK that we do not know, can not (perhaps) know, are participants-at-scale – finite and fragile – and have our limits, open and undecided…
Thank you dear children.
I am comforted almost to imagine you might be driven on…
…by your lack, your honest confusion, unsettledness, and authenticity.
Funny enough, the following short piece arrived in my email the same day…
“I have only to go on, as if there were something to be done, something begun, somewhere to go. It all boils down to a question of words, I must not forget this… May one speak of a voice, in these conditions?… If only I knew what I have been saying… Bah, no need to worry, it can only have been one thing, the same as ever…”
“At no moment do I know what I’m talking about, nor of whom, nor of where, nor how nor why”
“Yes, in my life, since we must call it so, there were three things, the inability to speak, the inability to be silent, and solitude, that’s what I’ve had to make the best of…”
“I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m doing as I always did, I’m going on as best I can”
– Samuel Beckett –
Interesting: it will come, whispering in your imagination that the English interest comes from the Latin inter esse, literally “in-between-being.” – Gunnar Olsson, Abysmal
“something must have changed” – Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies
I guess I just decided to let something else happen…
I suppose I decided
insofar as we do
to let something else
“This is what I’ve decided. I see no other solution. It is the best I can do…
…that little space of time, filled with drama, between the message received and the piteous response…
…Of myself I could never tell, any more than live or tell of others…”
Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies
distrusting human plans
..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…
“Pangs of faint light and stirrings still. Unformable graspings of the mind. Unstillable”
– Samuel Beckett –
Let’s loiter about here a little, as if language were lakelike, locatable, alive enough to lollygag loose within. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is nearly always just-becoming. Perhaps nearly all, nearly always, is thus: just-becoming – liminal lineaments languishing-then-livened, languishing-then-livened, “again” we might say, designating (de-term-ining) a balance to enlivened. How so? Why so? By what author(ity)?
“In the madhouse of skull and nowhere else” (– Samuel Beckett). Is that so?
“Skin has no choice but to converse with the world…thin, ignorant borderland of skin…myself all trespass, misunderstanding, translating, translating…” (-Laurie Sheck). Is that so?
If words were invented with sense. To “make sense” between one and an ‘other.’
What if words ARE THAT? Connective contours between.
I am inebriated, my willingness loosened to expression, though it might ruin me (like language) and I stare (Dostoevsky – ‘Myshkin’) “intently” into Mikhail Bakhtin’s face, his specific eye-gaze, and say:
“Is it the case that words are ‘meant,’ are ‘formed,’ are breathed, are…constructed, are…utilized, to be tissue woven between ‘me’…and ‘you’?”
Do we… speak, say, expire back and forth… to become? To string and weave lines, flows, strands, threads, that might forge or invent co-respondence, texture, significations combining you and myself into WE?
But Bakhtin is dead, and cannot answer. Mikhail Bakhtin does not have the capacity to co-respond.
…like Beckett, Blanchot, Plato, Montaigne, Pessoa, Pascal, Wallace or Euclid, Bulgakov, Heraclitus, or Celan (as with any and all dead!) he emits traces (tracings) with which I can consider, decipher, and interrogate in and within my ‘selves’ but not between…
What might this ‘mean’ – between anyone? Nothing.
It can not, has no opportunity to, delineate or circumscribe, draft, figure or shape any relation.
Sign emitted, call evoked, death, and then text as silent partner. Prognostic retrograde delineation.
Bankrupt, impassible, impossible, communique.
The decoding of words as communication, connection? An imaginary. A handling of terms. Inventing, devising, originary. With whom? Where? How? Hint and vestige, remnant and sketch, scheme and fabrication, inkling and outline.
Unstillable. Unformable graspings of the mind. Is that so?
If we’re limning the liminal now, let’s loosen the letters and slacken the sieves. Lasso and lounge, scatter and scrape, together (to gather) – a scintillate sense – sporadic sparks, succulent scenarios – exist for enlivening language, whatever limited lust lies therein – if language is locatable and not merely modal mechanics? A modicum of music then, some scrap of sonority, some lingual litmus ‘making sense.’ Whatever. Possibility, potential, particible particulars…
“THE TEST IS COMPANY”
“If there may not be no more questions let there at least be no more answers”
– Samuel Beckett, Company –
“We must not die: kindred spirits will be found”
– Viktor Shklovsky –
[from a crumpled writing found under a car seat among additional trash, transposed to typing as a record of a mind’s mayhem and mistakes]
“Deliver me, prays the haunted man. Therefore…”
Gunnar Olsson, Abysmal
I am Dostoevsky and I am Beckett. I am Hegel and Heidegger and Holderlin. I am Kafka.
I am not good enough for any of you. I do not merit your time nor your attention, affection, sensibilities, your human talents, or your care… no conceivable reason to mention “love.”
But I love you. I am the one who loves you. The one who writes. Who writes these words. The haunted one, the Reader, the Librarian; the Lover, Scholar, I am me. I love you. I am haunted. Words runnel through me, and with them thoughts, and with them feelings, and with them meanings, which means…nothing. No matter, no space, no time.
The “haunted man” is a passage, a passing, a ‘type.’ Of no import, little reality, barely occurrence.
I am Blanchot, am Homer, am divine Scriptures, and Shakespeare. Simply, small-ly, in my own way, this very general way, I am what humans do with language. For one another, with one another, to one another, as.
Yards and houses, flesh and voices, signs and symbols, marks and sounds, music and rhythyms and gestures, as attempts to conjoin – join and connect – survive, discover, endure, be, become, in-volve… With no idea. Or ideas that continually prove false and faulty. Elaborate records of revision, perhaps better inscribed as simple songs of effort. Urges only TO BE, and that, TO BE CONNECTED.
But what do I know? I’m Pythagoras, call me Ishmael or Ahab, Everyman or Whatever. I’m out-dated. Assign me a number. I don’t really care. I really care. I am here, and I, (at least) re-present, or present again, or presence, a sort of being. Such as it is… with no “REAL” way to evaluate, estimate, “tell,” or “express.”
Satan, then, Jesus, Joyce, Proust, Alexander. No matter, no space, no time, only IS.
A “tradition” (as it were, in our own words). We. Its + That + This. US. Humans strangely (apparently) in environments. These ways of thinking, of being, of behaving and operating, of supposedly surviving (but with what evidence? WHO or WHAT might know?).
How might elements arranged thus & so, survive? I am Nebuchadnezzar, Mohammed, Hammurabi and Ishtar. I am ab-original.
I am Nothing. Everything. No one. Me.
Each press of the pen: “Hello – ‘here’”
As simply as I can construct it (all of it, any of “it”) it goes something like this: accidents occur, accidents are weird, and accidents give way.
I, like all other(s), an accidental novel. Occasional and Whatever.
WHAT HAPPENS TO BE… at any given point-of-measurement (i.e. as far as we have a capacity to render, sunder, and effect – “Reality” (for us)). Some quirky, unlikely, ridiculous, painstaking, odds-massively-against, and over-dramatic assessment of a certain sort of being-in, being-with, co-occurrence, happen-stance, we fabricate “human.”
TO BE SOMETHING
(organism, constituent, element, participant, activity)
In many other words (for the sake or ability of ‘them,’ ‘it,’ ‘all’) I may as well be. Be Hallie or Ollie or Aidan or Rhesus. Chief Joseph or Samson or Ghandi or Jordan. Be you or Sara or Maya or Jimmy John.
“no matter. Try again. Fail again…” no matter.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
“the venom of the serpents were within him”
Gunnar Olsson, Abysmal
HOW SHOULD I KNOW?
And so what if I were Bernhard or Bach, Napoleon, Attila, Montaigne or Dorothy Parker? If I had the ammunition or energy (and weaponry?) – the rhetoric, the nerve, or the madness. L. Sterne, Nagarjuna, Hafiz, JL Borges?
“No matter. Try again. Fail again…”
Titian, Beethoven, Plato/Socrates, Palestrina. Michelangelo, V. van Gogh, and Chuang Tzu. You.
“No matter. Try again. Fail again.”