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“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 –
“To read a distant text, distant in space, time, or conceptual world – is a utopian task…The task is one whose initial intention cannot be fulfilled in the development of its activity and which has to be satisfied with approximations essentially contradictory to the purpose which had started it…”
– Ortega y Gasset –
“In that sense the activity of language is in many particular ways utopian: One can never convey what one wants to convey.”
– A. L. Becker –
“it is deficient in the sense that it says less than it wishes to say,
and it is exuberant in the sense that ‘it says more than it plans’
This utopian characteristic of language is a source of flexibility that results from signs that are simultaneously deficient and exuberant.”
– Yair Neuman –
“perhaps our arrival at interpretive conclusions participates in that process and affirms the inescapability of attempting to read the world in an empowered way, even if we are always missing the point”
-Anne McConnell, Approaching Disappearance–
But then there is a reality to writing – the unexpected, the making-up, emergence and invention. I believe in it, in spite of my theories, in spite of acquired knowledge. Something like the terms of paradox. Little matter, much substance (not really).
For fun, let’s say (in the manner of a credo):
- “I believe…
that language is a socially constructed resource recursively constituting and innovating meaning potential
- “I believe…
‘the notion of meaning potential can be characterized as a heterogeneous totality of knowledge of conventionalized patterns of normatively correct situated verbal behavior which manifests itself and emerges from social practices of a given social community’ (-Mika Lahteenmaki)
- “We believe…
that actual meanings are emergent from meaning potentials – are jointly created – recursively and interactively dependent – in their situatedness and perspectivity, unique and irreducible
- “We believe…
‘reality works in overt mystery’ (-Macedonio Fernandez, via JL Borges)
- “We believe…
that to live ‘is to make all these repetitions coexist in a space in which difference is distributed’ (-Gilles Deleuze)
- “We believe…
that living occurs via the ‘conservation of autopoiesis and the conservation of adaptation – a constant and mutual structural coupling of continuous transformations betwixt organisms and environments (envorganisms)’ (-Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Paul Kockelman)
- “We believe…
in complexity and meaning, difference and repetition, redundancy and novelty, structures and contingencies, openness and change
Measures of reality (situated and perspectival…partial and relative to) – our As-if-oscope and Toxic spoon-deep. A hurly-burly and chaotic entanglement – intertwingled – adjoined in movements (writing of writing) to use an outdated metaphor: textuality and trace.
- “We could believe…
that ‘texts record the meanings we make: in words, pictures and deeds…shaping and shaped by our social relationships, politically, as individuals as members of social groups’ (-Jay Lemke)
That no effect is not mutual, recursive, intermingled and intertwined. Life is ambient, writing of writing.
In other words.
- “We believe…
Empiricism regarding ourselves is impossible (the situation and perspective necessary are not available) so we rely. i.e. we need one another and beyond. Envorganisms, we. We believe (we could say. I might).
“When we leave each other, we leave.”
A text composed is intertexuality – an Irish monk illuminating a copy; a modern blogger mashing-up – bricolage, meaning – I write, WITH.
To say I instantiate a social practice. It becomes.
Thank you. And welcome.
-a glyph is a hunt for optimism-
Slideshow of works cited:
In any breaks in necessity – between semesters, breaks at work, children otherwise occupied, no “required” readings or commissioned work, etc… – with each passing season, I gradually discover what matters most to me (literarily speaking, which, for me, involves much of my lived life) – perhaps I might refer to it as my meaning-making-factory-resources (Blanchot says of Borges that he is “an essentially literary man – which means that he is always ready to understand according to the manner of comprehension that literature authorizes).” At this point in my living, over four decades along, and a large percentage of the pie devoted to reading, those voices I turn to, their messages and efforts, have become quite consistent. Each year there are new ones, new threads and concepts, theories and expressions that very significantly impact my living – but they tend to find their place as commentaries, extensions, additives and queries to what (I suppose) now forms my central “canon” of sorts.
This struck me, following my return to Bakhtin and Blanchot, and as we prepare for vacation how I immediately reached for Soulstorms by Clarice Lispector and The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) by Macedonio Fernandez. In searching for this image of Fernandez:
a host of Google’s “related images” arose – including Borges, Lispector, David Foster Wallace – and I got that vision of how pantheons develop and connect and gradually form a kind of woven semiotic pattern – a “worldview” or “Innenwelt” I guess – it begins to make sense what’s connected to what and whom to whom throughout time and space of world-being. Beckett, Blanchot, Dostoevsky, Pessoa, Rilke, Cixous, Kafka, Bakhtin, Jabes, these visions and verbals I return to again and again and again and again – inexhaustibly – and although my copies are nearly glutted with markings and underlinings – and they feel intimate and familiar (on the one hand) – that I also feel I am always learning them anew, freshly, with EVERY read.
These things astound me.
Of this particular book (which I often say is the very best novel I have ever read, repeatedly), Adam Thirlwell writes “It is a novel which does not want to begin. Or, perhaps, it is really a novel which does not want to end…The aim of Macedonio Fernandez’s novels is to convert all reality into fiction (or the other way around).” “The real subjects of this lightly playful novel are the grave ones of death and love.”
“In his novel, Fernandez tests the possibility that all philosophical questions are only meaningful in relation to human relations: that all questions of infinity are really questions about love.”
and so on.
Macedonio is, for me, a hero the likes of Bakhtin, Blanchot, Beckett – those writings and writers I will never “get over,” never “get around.” Writings I can only ever “go through.”
Perhaps these writings are characterized by the question – “What is it to be real?” I recently discovered in one of those “shock of recognition” moments that although I’ve studied theology, philosophy, classical music, art and literature and now information sciences and systems theories – that none of the CONTENTS of these fields sustain my passions – it is the relationships between them – the ligaments and synchronous reverberations they emit – the MEANING-making effects of their pursuit and inquiry that is REALLY what drives me toward, into and through them. I’m not looking for truth or necessarily facts or any answers – but for PROCESSES and PRACTICES that enrich, enhance and extend my biological life in relation to the world I’m “thrown into.”
Borges wrote of Fernandez: “Macedonio is metaphysics, he is literature” and that “writing was no trouble for Macedonio Fernandez. He lived (more than any other person I have ever known) to think. Every day he abandoned himself to the vicissitudes and surprises of thoughts as a swimmer is borne along by the current of a great river.” The novel’s translator writes: “The method is madcap; the intent is desperately human.”
Perhaps that is what I’m after – to be “desperately human.”
and now we’re heading off to the wilds – to be desperately human with-world with-family – replete with above-mentioned authors and without wi-fi or internet services!
P.S. (also from current reading – The Waste Books by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg):
“Be attentive, feel nothing in vain, measure and compare: this is the whole law of philosophy.”
“To grow wiser means to learn to know better and better the faults to which this instrument with which we feel and judge can be subject.”
All the best!
I have wanted to share (for years) the significance and import of Mikhail Bakhtin‘s manner of thinking, writing in the formation of my own worldview and understanding of the confounding irritations of working in language and the interactional miracles of the medium. C.S. Peirce and Bakhtin strike me as two composers with whom I do not encounter a brilliantly organized thought or true-ringing arrangement of letters that they are not echoed in. I discover re-presentations and simulacra of their models, but rarely extensions, corrections, or improvements.
With that in mind, I have been poring through a multi-authored volume entitled Bakhtinian perspectives on language and culture: meaning in language, art, and new media edited by Bostad, Brandist, Evensen and Faber. Note-taking, underlining, cross-referencing, formulating, and it has occurred to me that these texts are SO mesh-marked with mnemonic traces for me, that I should simply provide interested readers access to all I can link. Setting out to locate a Pdf of the introduction and chapter 2: “Rhetoric, the Dialogical Principle and the Fantastic in Bakhtin’s Thought” I came across the entire collection available online – and so I offer it here. If you begin, and the perspective captivates you – read on – to the chapters that carry concepts you are passionate about. If not, never ye mind! I am happy that texts like this can be available – not easily “stumbled upon” in contemporary bookstores and libraries (unfortunately).
par example: “Language is to be experienced as an interaction of signs neither neutral nor innocent: the word bears the burden of the contexts through which it has passed. And every speaker or listener bears the consequences of signs put into circulation, of signs he perceives and answers, of signs he picks up and makes use of for his own ends. One cannot stifle the traces stored in them. One has to face the cultural experience a whole language underwent in its history. Speaking this language and listening to it one unwittingly responds to this experience – the ‘word that lies on the border between one’s own and the other,’ the ‘word that is actually half someone else’s.’ The one meaning cannot maintain itself in the face of the many meanings. B’s concept irritatingly links the atomizing intrusion of the many meanings into the one (an act that atomises this meaning) with the idea that meaning ‘explodes’ in the contact of two different meanings. In other words: splitting up and differentiation, accumulation and trace must be thought of as occuring in the word simultaneously…Because meaning is always a recourse to another meaning and a project for creating new meaning, it doesn not achieve a decisive, definite presence.”
And so forth….!!!!
We, in our world, have a theory, a process really, that we call “communication.” In various states of profundity it might also be referred to by “love.”
“Communication” is the process of signaling/decoding; saying/listening; writing/translating; touching/feeling by which we become aware of one another, about one another, of one another.
All things considered, “communication” is pretty important for us, though not necessarily to us. While appearing more complex and refined than single cells or parts of cells vibrating under a microscope; more elaborate and extensive than a swarm of birds or school of fish, it hardly works as well. As if certain sharp things and certain dull things cancel one another out.
Pitch, tone, palate and respiration. Vocabulary, grammar, syntax. Associations occurring in the brain, the glands, the organs, the body. I’ve always thought of our existence as “fraught” and it never ceases to amaze me!
Amaze and astound, in no particular order. As if “stound” were past-tense for “stand.” Stopped-in-tracks-reeling-backwards.
There’s nothing to it really, we all do it, all of the time, innately, it would seem, given we could not survive without it. And yet. “Innate” wouldn’t be the right word. Maybe “potential” as if capacities and possibilities surround every cell toward response. And then. What becomes. Responsibility. Of that interstellar stuff moving and extra-anatomical stuff too. Kind of equals.
So we’re not necessarily “good” at it, and hardly possess a measure, everyone on equal footing at some point, depending on the context, depending on construction (of the possibles) and so forth. It’s often accurately called “fuzzy” or “messy” – an entanglement of sorts in no sense negative.
I always liked William James – the jumble-up of him. “Rich thicket of reality” he called it, a passage to get caught up in, sometimes snared, sometimes struggling, but ever in its midst, I suppose.
Lyn Hejinian once pronounced it “inexhaustible.”
I just wanted to mention…
“The argument would go something like this: reality exists; it is independent of what we think though it is the only thing we can think; we are a part of reality but at the same time consciousness of this fact makes us separate from it; we have a point of reentry (a ‘centrique happinesse’), which is language, but our reentry is hesitant, provisional, and awkward”
He with the mind meandering like the great rivers – those that function metaphorically for whole cultures and histories – the Taiga and Thames, Amazon, Euphrates, Danube, the Mighty Mississipp, and so on – along with all of the tributaries and streams, springs far removed, deltas and falls…
In that his mind has assimilated, absorbed particles of eons of blood, trash and shit, death and being born, creatures and passengers, landscapes and strata, wars and rumors of wars, nations and races and species…
he was the written word as a river, knowledge as a catch-all, depository, wealth and waste and millions of miles to tangle
the body being like this as well – billions of cells, some relatively foreign to others, some of entirely different types, all connected and held together somehow; “body” of water, of work, of being: arteries, capillaries, aminos, neurons, stems, DNAs, whole worlds of rivers, lakes and creeks.
Heidegger pictured it a hell of a journey through thickest forest – rivers do this – sometimes underground, the earth is filled with reservoir – to traverse the “open,” coming to a clearing, a stream wending its way in dry desert, mountain meadow, steppes and prairies…the surround is still denser than dense,
his mind become so, with awareness of the body, or mind as body, also mind matter stuff, indecipherable, inexplicable, barely described.
Yet all, so far, inscribed? What little of all could be held. Infinitessimal. Finite. In the face of infinity…relation.
Derrida’s abysme – a feeling, an unknowing, almost a certainty that “things will never be sorted out…” that the tiny wiggles over the mapped surfaces can never all be traced, all the planes, there is not time nor capacity, to follow thoroughly even an arbitrarily chosen segment of a smallest stream, constant movement from and toward, through, up and down, over, under, behind, before…abysme.
Untraceable traces. Mind, emotion, sense, soul, causality discombobulated and befuddled beyond cognizance or comprehension, indeed – of what comprehension consists.
“Know thyself,” cruel riddle, as if spoken by a genuine god – something entirely Other, outside, impossible and impassible…the knowing cannot be known, or who knows it? Is knowing it now, and then now?
The rivers do not know, they flow, happen. God cannot know or not be a self/person in any way that corresponds with us – without not-knowing or abysming in endless spirals centrifugal and –tripetal.
Bakhtin sees the picture of us seeing pictures of what we do not see…all together…but we’re never all together and imagining is only one way to correspond.
It would require a miracle, yet it already is, he thinks – inexplicable, unprecedented, unaccounted for…kenotic theory, Forms and Chaos, quarks and atoms – nothing explained, ever re-described, only resolved in irresoluble faith – in theory, in truth.
And so on…mapping these rivers.
Oceans and the pooling of eyes, vast landscapes of fleshes, fragile impossible organs, tenuous and tenaciously flowing on, through drought, through death, flood and
“all things come about through opposition, and the universe flows like a river”
He with the mind meandering like great rivers and their effluvia…
The next few posts will be those “short stories” that did not finally go off to Fluster Magazine for their recent short story competition. Leftovers in other words, or the puppies left in the barn…
Because Everyone Wants to Know
I want you to know that I’m using the blue notebook and pen that you left. Why? Because you asked. Because everyone wants to know.
In other words, if it’s going to count for something, something that really matters, it’s going to have to be special, set apart, somehow final and complete. I’ll use it for the whole shebang – my photos, drawings and more – all in this blue notebook with its matching ball-point pen, for you. Because, apparently, everyone wants to know.
Yes, mom and dad have asked (in their roundabout, passive-aggressive, surreptitiously accusatory way, as is their fashion), kindly, quiet, with ever the look of care and concern (secretly shouting their “what is wrong with you?” and “what is wrong with us that you…”) and so on…
It really wasn’t like this my first five years of life or so, that I remember. But then what I mostly remember from that time are smells and sounds and light. Trees, grass, dirt, how the light glanced and filtered through, times of wind and rain.
Not that you care. I’m fairly certain that that is not what you are asking for, nor them, nor my siblings or “lifetime of ‘friends’ and family,” whoever, wherever they’ve become.
So you’re the livewire, and perhaps our children. Perhaps they will want to know too, at some point. Perhaps not. Perhaps everyone’s already figured my story – diagnosed and prescribed. Perhaps.
Be that as it may, I’ve thought long and hard about this. Reviewing all I think I know, how I feel I felt, what it seems I’ve seen and so on, and decided, for you, for you, really, and maybe a little bit for me (curiosity) and I suppose a percentage for the kids should they ever wonder, or need it for their psychological freedom, or ever give a shit about who or why…I decided to use your god-damned blue notebook with its little matching pen and find out just what I think about it all, mostly because, at least as you put it, “everyone wants to know.”
Should I start with my hands or my head or my heart? I suppose the limbs and loins will come into play here too, god knows the guts and goiter.
I remember, there was an opening. A time you touched me, in the rain. Suddenly, my skin. My self-enclosure became an opening, a veil, a fabric. A screen.
I wanted to make a difference, you know. Make something. I don’t know what – construct something everyone could hold on to. Take in hand, heart and head. Keep or repeat as needed. Something like that. I knew I wasn’t going to last, that none of this was, nothing. A “center cannot hold” type of thing.
I can’t begin there. It’s all wound up together like a knot: head looking down, arms wrapped around, concealing and revealing my heart, the guts, loins and moving limbs. I’m unable to take one without the other, now that I think and feel about it, my actions…
Perhaps I’ll pretend. (Just what you always loved so well about me – to find out I was pretending – molding myself to perceived desires). I’ll pretend that I’m an old man seated on a stiff wooden chair, children and grandchildren gathered all around – like a specimen, a model – something you take apart, observe, examine. I’ll shakily lift off my shirt and “everyone” can read my body, ask their questions. That might get us somewhere.
Let’s see, here along the shoulder – a self-portrait by the artist Egon Schiele (self-tormenting asylum brother), and a snake eating its tail. “The Ouroborous” I’d hack out – “don’t you know it kids?” Sign of doctors and alchemy, medicine and art; creation and destruction entwined, going round and round. Self-devouring while giving birth to your own, form as it changes. Chewing up and regurgitating the “I.”
One of the little critters may point and ask “what’s that? All those curlicues and fancy lines?” Federico Garcia Lorca’s signature, I’d sigh. Ah yes. Little leaping bugger of light. He’s yellow and lemons and crickets and birds. You know the stuff that sends you – portal moments of sight or song – a-ha!’s. When all the crap that’s pelted and melted in your brains gets shaken together like a surrealist still life. Incongruity making sense. Opposites attract, no, even better, look at your old mama and I – a juxtaposed spectrum and fantastic balancing paradox – a carnival!
Well, you wanted to know.
And there’s Kafka, Blanchot, Cixous and Lispector. Jabes and Beckett now seeped in my veins. Dostoevsky, Bakhtin and Rilke. Writers all, I’d say, them that fed the innards my life gave rise to. Gods and angels, drink and demons all beneath the skin of their names. Nietzsche – ridiculous happiness. Wittgenstein and the torment of words, of meanings, of none. I’m a walking inscription, on the surface.
To touch on that. Head, heart, hands.
Are you sure anyone wants to know?
The sounds of a piano, that too. Coaxing keys to a steady patter – mimicking rain. Or poems, yes, we forgot Giacometti’s Man Falling – perpetual stumble on the back of my hand, the hoping that neither knows what the other is up to. But they do. I see that now. All part of the same body, stretched in the same cells. Poems as stripped-down sculpture, some essential chant or spell – just a gaze, a whisp of caress, a drop of blood. The miracle that something remains after we’re all done twisting and grasping at it.
Is this what you wanted? Does it explain…anything? I hardly think so.
Here in the ribs. The cracked and lumpen one. There was a time. A time I thought maybe risk or danger – some gasping euphoria – some panicked life – might vitalize. How’d you think you all got here? Desperate plunges into the unknown, dear ones, mad scientists messing around in the lab! At the edge of cliffs, out on proverbial limbs, insecure at wit’s end, to go for broke.
And break we did.
But then look at you fertile seeds, you good eggs. I never meant to be rough with you all. To risk what is fragile in you. Ribs, here, a cave and cage for the heart.
I still breathe you (examining the lungs). Charred and chortled, this was one great pleasure – to know I was breathing, in-spired. I know you all hated it and it caused me to smell real bad, but the rush of smoke down this pipe here into the bellows of slimy flesh…that told me I was taking it in. Not some automaton or senseless machine, no, I was hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling – I could feel it in my ashen lungs. With every breath. And sometimes it hurt. What we ingest. But it was really going in, and visibly coming out – all of it – for good or ill. I needed to know it.
Why, you ask, why?
Look at that cranium stooped and weighed down. That sucker was a burden of liquid fire. All curled over like that all of my life, looking in, at, in. What’s there? How does it work? For whom? When? (Is there even why?) Examining and dreaming, recording to imagine – listen, say it back, say it forth, combine and copulate, shake it and stir – use that heavy weight – whirr whirr, charge and whirr. Profile the shape of a jagged question mark, dotted where the heart must be.
There it is now, nearly buried in the chest. It happens. Weather-systems, signsponge, it all runs its course. Oh it used to be pointed upwards and outwards, into fantasies and abstractions; then for years I kept it aiming straight ahead – horizontal and seeking direction – but slowly and surely it drags down toward the heart, the muscle pulsing, the plug for all the cords. Everything up and away, out there or behind, it all happens here – filtering through – latched up or broken down, in the system.
What was it you wanted to know? Head, hands, heart, limbs and loins, I’m acknowledging, affording view. Yes I’m aware that description doesn’t explain a thing – wonderful world of science – how to explain?
Waste processed below, and there has always been plenty of it. Legs down there often running away or at cross-purposes, now knobby and stiff. And then there, clinging to its corner like a core, that erratic, agitated, beaten and beating beast. Entire web of inexplicable drive and energy, fear and misery, desire and dread – my heart. Does this explain it? What everyone wanted to know?
Gasping there like the mouth of a fish on land, pulsing purplish like my aroused member – my heart. If I poke at it and coax it, tear it out and wring it onto this blue notebook with white pages, this blue blood, will it explain?
Here, whomever, look. Here it lies, cheats and steals. Here it gives and aches and breaks. Here it prolongs and stops short. Pulpy mass of living beast, 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 wants to know?
N Filbert 2012