I want to know how everything we do (as the human kind of organisms) functions for us, including wanting to know how wanting to know how everything we do (as the human kind of organisms) functions for us, including wanting to know how wanting to know how wanting to know how everything we do (as the human kind of organisms) functions for us, including…
“we fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed”
Refractions on Fiction
Reflecting on fiction as representation, as presentation, as inquiry, investigation.
About how little I care – re: ideas – the freedom of impersonal investment – when a piece is duly fictional.
After the days spent composing Signs of Love I’ve only thought of how I haven’t thought of it since it was posted. Johnson’s theory of perception, the professor’s thoughts and ideas, Monte or Margaret, Frank or Lars – how they none of them reflect on me. How I didn’t have to worry how they came across or sounded, what positions or actions they became – what they represented – it wasn’t me! Who does battle with a shadow?
So often, the stringy stream of conception-reflection-creation-manifestation seems to pull heavy parts of the self along with it. Dark or slimy residue. As if a reader who took issue, questioned or challenged a something that I wrote or language I expressed as fiction were in fact addressing some aspect of ME – rather than an open work of invented text. Suppose, for instance, my wife reads a piece and follows it up with “so you’re saying that life is more difficult because of me?!” or a random visitor commented “how could you think or say this?!” When in fact, of course, I didn’t – Lorraine did, or the professor or husband, writer or sand crab or whomever the character that acted or expressed it did. Ask them then? Another way of saying – “ask yourself.” That’s what I as a writer continually have to do. Language comes out, forms an idea, or a behavior is described and I have to wonder at it – is that indeed what the voicing thinks or wants or does?
Like a painter with their lines and colors, textures and strokes: what belongs once something has been marked there?
The freedoms of fiction spread as I recognized the therapy-like patience and reflection I provide to characters and voices – to language – in texts (fiction or non-fiction). I do not feel threatened by them, do not take them personally, neither when I read nor write them. They are other – other matter, other contexts, other contents, other kind from me. I am busy handling matter…piecing it together, painting over, scraping away, diluting, splattering, letting it run…open to what “feels” or “sounds” right given the matter at hand – content, tools and resources. Strenuously engaged, passionately even (at times), and also separate, observant, addressed as much by the work as it forms as addressing it onto the page.
Which got me to thinking – how much kinder might I be, even towards my “self” were I to engage what creates me as “other”? We’re an oddly organized confabulation of matter and energy, after all, multiple diverse systems coordinate and constitutive, creative and adaptive toward a sort of dynamic organismic “whole.” My brain no more a “me” than my penis or big toe. How often with sharp pain in my knee or some zany daydream, a nail needing trimmed or hair left in a brush, do I question, challenge or take issue with a personal self for such systemic occurrence? I participate with, or have (am characterized by) knees and eyes and organs, but they do not equal me.
What if some kind of “I” (collective of natural dynamic and organic systems) listened to, read, inquired and engaged the contents, emotions, concepts, actions and instincts that occurred within as fictions engaged – as benign or indeterminate others – akin to characters or words in a story or play – organized matter with energy – rather than some sort of judgmental scrutiny so often readily applied to “Me”?
The “I,” the “me,” the “self,” the “brain,” the “calf,” the organs, veins, chemicals, liquids, cords and tendons, bones and tissues, the individual cells of me – all inter-relational organisms in themselves involved in a system I experience as “me.” With recognition, suspended disbelief, detachment, passion and care granted as I offer my own and others manifest creations in language or image, movement or sound?
Attend to your cells and systems as characters and languages today – manifestations of being – not entirely your”self” – welcome all the others inside as well.
As we grew we noticed things. The more we interacted in the woods, the more we found in common. Or perhaps the woods created them – our commons. In any case, as we examined the woods we came to see ourselves, or began to think we did. It appeared to us that very little passed us by without record. Hewing through a heavy trunk we remembered an ancient drastic storm, here marked as darkened whorls, ripples in an inner ring, where many limbs were lost. Currents of nourishment functioned over years and years, flowing from the core in hairline strands, outlasting generations of leaving. At times there were traces of trauma strong enough to redirect the growth entire. Yet nothing was not useful, productive of something in its life.
Environmental fluctuation sometimes twisted us, never to grow “straight.” Sometimes the changes came from inside – the patterns of our roots, or pockets of dis-ease, a particular yearning for warmth or rain. We accumulated, and let go. There were portions of the wood which had been razed or burned, only to spawn shade for mushrooms and ferns in some other direction. Often the old laid down to serve as hosts – life drawing life as it waned. We almost recognized a cycle. We seemed to grow in all directions at once, to haphazard effect. We found dead spaces and hollows, troubles to be grown around. In fact some things were incorporated entire, as if a self-devouring, like a snake would swallow its tail if it could, all the while producing another layer.
We came to view the wood with mystery, ourselves. Through injury, joy and terror we believed our bodies re-stored it. Swallowing pockets, harboring knots, runneling roots across ages. We seeped or scabbed where we were cut, at times remaining open and leaking a kind of syrup or salve, at times hardening over in projects of defense. We began to be known as “the woodsmen,” and, later, The People of the Wood.
We were tuned to the life of the tree, which we revered as The Tree of Life.
“I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today, of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it…[I want to write] stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it feels like to live.”
-David Foster Wallace-
That sense that the moon is obscure – cracked or marred in some indefinable way. That it might never rain. That parenting equals living with people you helplessly love.
Or marriage as painting, but you can’t control the medium, or even learn to think in it. You’ll never be wood, cloth, pigment or oils. I was never good at math, chemistry or geometry. For making a masterpiece, my chances are slim. Manic-depressive’s “in love” – like playing chess with marbles and confusing the rules of the games.
It seems possible that people who age wish they were young – tighter, unwrinkled, new-made. I don’t know – people don’t seem satisfied, somehow. You get the feeling, sometimes, I don’t know…I get the feeling sometimes that people wished they weren’t people. You know, that, like, they wished they were simple or something. Simple scientifically. Not complex, elaborate organisms, you know? But more like a single cell or an amoeba – something with apparent purpose or sort of unified mission. That they knew what to do. Or would – if they could just pull everything together, into line.
I think that’s what people mean by “making sense”? Something like that. Something like inventing God, some unified theory, some golden thread, some identity, some narrative. People are weird like that, but it makes for a fascinating species – the Storytelling Species – ingenious and fantastic, often unbelievable – the lengths to which these collectives will go to spin a yarn. Fit experience.
They’ll use numbers and actions and colors. Matter or energy and form. Inventing for anything a space and a duration. It looks like fighting with nature, but it’s kinda not – ‘cause it’s also how they perceive it. People.
With these enormously intricate mechanisms for constructing order, fabricating texture and variation and difference. To mash it all back together uniquely – imprinted, as it were – some new amalgam and full of traces – shadows and whispers of origins. Con-fused. Remade. Undone.
I used to think that was a purpose – to give meaning. Now I see it as a condition. A convention of rare and specific animals. At least we convene. We wouldn’t do well isolate – craving a single-cell or elemental type existence. We’re collectives – conventional conceptions. People! (said with a huff-sigh of air and exhausted incredulity).
You gotta love ‘em! ‘Cause if you’re reading this – “making sense” of these frenetic marks and spaces, light and shadow – then you’re one of them, and it does you no good to resist or despise yourself. Your own kind. Though people can, and many do.
Funny (peculiar) how you’ll find people that want to be much greater, grander than the mysterious incalculable beings they are, and then a bundle that wish they were less, tinier, singular things, and then the incredible bulk of people who somehow conflate the two: believing simplicity to be grandeur, the one – the all, everything/nothing, unity/diversity same difference and so on – go figure! (Really, try it).
Let’s choose a pinnacle example: say unpack “God” or the workings of atoms and molecules, hell, even protoplasm – seems we could learn an awe-full LOT from each of these straightforward messages we uncover: “I am that I am.”
“Express only that which cannot be expressed. Leave it unexpressed.”
“The world eternally turns round; all things therein are incessantly moving, the earth, the rocks of Caucasus, and the pyramids of Egypt, both by the public motion and their own. Even constancy itself is no other but a slower and more languishing motion. I cannot fix my object; ‘tis always tottering and reeling by a natural giddiness; I take it as it is at the instant I consider it; I do not paint its being, I paint its passage.”
-Michel de Montaigne, 1580-
“Sincerity – it’s the insatiable process
of transition, of fluctuation…”
I began one place, and become another.
Wallace remarked that the most difficult thing to teach young writers was the difference between expressive writing and communicative writing.
“Two utterances cling tightly to each other, like two bodies but having indistinct boundaries.” (Maurice Blanchot)
A notification informs me that today is the first anniversary of my experience of the blogosphere.
Humbled over 365 days.
And thank you.
I imagine many writers/artists start out, in the youth of their writing (or creative work) from a singular sense. There’s this “me” experiencing this “world,” it seems like – an I and a chaos, an identity and a multitude. When the I (or eye) feels full, it is like to burst. Things touch us, hurt us, impinge on our locus, our “self,” and it seems something must be done about it – we must exert – strike back, reach out, kiss, craft – exhibit our presence. Interact. The dualities are clear.
Are confused. Experience turns out to be very mixed, an impossibly confusing weave. As we begin to plunder these “moments,” we’re countered. Things that happened to us, we were there for, in all fairness, our activities encroach.
We begin perhaps to recognize our existence as agents – not only done to, but doing; not only recipients but respondants, reactive. The wrestle of expressing ourselves through materials (language, movement, matter or sound) teaches us this. The Other’s inextricably woven – what occurs and results is the same. Is unlike. We lose balance.
Conceiving the work as a subject toward object (our creating) deriving from object to subject (our experiences) – our investigations quickly expose this unclear. Attacked by requirements of how. Stubborn like marble or tricky as oils, even recalcitrant conventions, we begin to comprehend a falsity to working on, as a single direction, and realize it’s all a working with. And we struggle.
Even working with. The earth, or people, or bodies, or clay, things rarely abide our intentions. We set out to disburden ourselves, get incited to construct or create (to “use”) and find ourselves consistently foiled. Reality doesn’t care. We find precious little room for expression. Compromise and nuance, novelty or style – ineffective to the longings we exude.
Perhaps at this stage we lose faith in our voices or visions – what we seek we does not seem to obtain. This is fine. This is something no product can resolve. For there isn’t. There is no solution to life. We are IN it. And there is no replacement for death. Then we’re OUT.
Whether language or matter, movement or sound, our “I” never works on an Other. We are INsulated. INextricably. Communicative activity means cohabiting the spaces, simultaneous-ing the times. Realities – experiences – accord. Everything possessing the prefix co-. It’s admitting the reciprocal, the recursive – we’re not separate beings being, we are beings expressing ourselves commensurately. Perhaps control is adjusting to convention. Accepting agreements with place. Expression living IN and WITH, communication the word for the weave. That we’re behaving, creating, co-mposing in inseparable connectivity (inexpressible process) – transition, fluctuation, IN –