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…