I really “mean” it when I say that I don’t know what I am writing, and that the REAL WHY is because I want to write, and am able, and that I honestly have no character, event, or idea in mind or body as I apply this mediatory marking instrument (ball-point-pen) between whatever-myself-is and this-blank-lined-paper.
I truly might be WASTING LIVING TIME.
OR…might be recording something useful…providing traces…leaving marks of process…like masturbation, cooking, politics, or work – HOW LIVING TIME IS “WASTED.”
Who knows? The scientists? Or neurobiologists? The philosophers or anthropologists? Historians? Pastors? Sociologists? CEOs? Artists? Who determines (evaluates and judges) what is “waste” from what is “significant”/”important”? Do humans? Does Time?
For what it’s worth, I have an ellipsis of minutes I am not (apparently) needed by children, pets, work, or world…and so I have taken up a writing tool and am drawing letters in collectives called words onto an empty section of a blank lined notebook.
Is this valuable? Don’t we wonder or ask this regarding every action and breath? From holding a child, to exercise; fixing plumbing to sleeping? Laundry. School. DOES THIS MATTER?!? And, if it might, to WHOM or WHAT…why?
I cannot imagine to whom it might matter that I am stumbling out sentences with nothing in mind other than WRITING, TO-BE-WRITING – excepting my insignificant eperiencing of “self” that WANTS TO BE WRITING – in any case. Therefore, I AM writing.
All those who seem to depend on me for their well-being, survival (or SENSE of same) also SEEM to be surviving and existing at relative comfort. Those who purchase (shamefully) my “LIFE.TIME” via employment – have proffered the day off as a normative weekend practice. For the time being, apparently NOTHING has immediate NEED of me, so I am left to determine what to do with “TIME.”
And because I overhear myself continuously complaining, desiring, wishing and bemoaning that I ‘never have time’ to write – I AM WRITING. Because.
As far as I can tell, I am writing nothing (of worth) because, as much as I desire to write, I actually don’t know WHAT to write, or for WHOM, or WHAT – and so i am just WRITING because. Serving no one, not even myself, yet perhaps. Perhaps, because the WANT or URGE “to write” as a writer…is NOT to WRITE SOMETHING (as far as I can surmise – albeit I also regularly wish I were writing something ‘great’ or ‘evental,’ etc…) but truly is simply to be IN THE ACT OF…WRITING, which I AM, and therefore I cannot know what good any of it does beyond being what I wish I were doing…becoming ACTUAL.
Wishes come true: I AM WRITING.
To no point of purpose but the fulfillment of desire: I AM DOING WHAT I WANT TO BE DOING: I AM WRITING. And it does feel good, and part of it (I think) feels good because I am unable to discover a path, direction, or ‘way’ for it to feel good FOR.
As I make my way back over the Atlantic from the nominally United Kingdom to the (equally nominally) United States, I am considering what things most prominently infected me. Partly “I think I wanted to get lost to see what happens next” (Deborah Levy, Things I Don’t Want to Know) and partly I wanted to know what to do – my coursework and library visitations – to anchor my lostness while providing anonymity and foreignness in which to search for peace and move through grief.
More and more the invisible was named,
the blind man grew mightier.
How he wandered and called out to his echo!
which called back with the screech of gulls.
He is still searching among flags and vistas
for that same statue.
Sounds blow to the far side of the river.
Nobody is standing there.
Nothing takes shape. Newspapers melt,
photos fade. The stone is made of wax,
the notebook of ash, time takes itself
and repeats the appearance
until his life becomes a mirror
in which he disappears and appears,
but nobody looks at himself,
because nobody can see himself.
my “self” photographed in front of Gerhard Richter’s “painting” Grey Mirror
-Tate Modern, London-
I noted how clear the signage. Clear and direct with no soft-pedaling of consequences stated. Mind the gap, way out (and way in), “moving through these doors may result in death or injury” (on the Underground), smoking kills. The ubiquity of concern for mental health – that Bibliotherapy is not just a bookseller’s or librarians metaphor of expertise – but is in fact a prescriptive cure – scripts are written by doctors for BOOKS! (hundreds a week, one library reported). Along the same culture-historic lines, perhaps influenced by the longevity and prevalence of hundreds to thousands year-old architecture and artefacts, traditions, and tangible evidence of time and identities – the apparent insistence on QUALITY – of life, of drink, of service – of literature and art and purposes. So while everything costs about twice as much as the USA, the options often doubled the quality. A local pub on every corner, small grocers, fresh markets – in the miles I walked I only spotted a handful of McDonald’s, Krispy Kremes or other international chains (and only in heavily touristed areas) – aside from Starbucks. I saw 3 gas stations.
And the bookstores!!! Sometimes 3 or 4 in a block, flush to the gills – but hardly a bestseller, a romance, or fluff! Amazing – perhaps the most profound difference between the USA and UK that I noticed: their stores FEATURED literary quality, and only sometimes provided mass appeal items that could be had anywhere online – in many stores 80% of the stock I encountered did not have an eBook format – the books were books meant to be books in the purpose of books – to be engaged with the body and mind and retained and gone back to – like the architecture, museums and galleries – not disposable pleasures – but necessary cultural artifacts made from the human condition and accessed repeatedly for its benefit.
Of course there are the “places”: Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, the British Library and British Museum, the Tate, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tower of London and on and on…walking over 15 miles a day, finding “oldest churches” in every nook and alley, colleges and universities every other block, London is a place swamped with culture and continuity, the high and the low, and great gaps to mind in between.
So with those great anchors securing me, I tried to see myself. In the reflections of great art and architecture, thousands of years of history and culture, thousands of languages in cosmopolitan streets, thousands of unknown faces and voices, habits and practices and sayings…my “life became a mirror in which he disappears and appears,” but, of course, “nobody looks at himself, because nobody can see himself.”
What did I see? Well by looking through others that I could see, I found “I wasn’t sure my skeletal system had found a way of walking freely in the Societal System” and the need “to find a language that is in part to do with learning how to become a subject rather than a delusion, and in part to do with unknotting the ways in which I have been put together by the Societal System in the first place” including the “many delusions of my own”…”it’s exhausting to learn how to become a subject – it’s hard enough learning how to become a writer” (Deborah Levy).
And I thought of how, like the forest and the trees – it often seems we are unable to see reality for our experiences. So many of us semi-automatically equate our experience with reality – rather than note how small our perceptual bubble really is. Just try using the “Powers of 10” idea – start anywhere – with your pain, your fingernail, your happiness. Now imagine IN a power of 10 – you’re into the cells, into one strand of what’s causing you pain, into a moment eliciting joy. 10x more and you’ve gone beyond atoms and quarks – matter and energy ill-defined and inexplicable and ALWAYS dynamic. Imagine OUT a power of 10 – you’re viewing a street full of private perceptual experiences very different from your own – and trees and birds and squirrels and buildings. X 10 and you see miles and miles of earth – filled up with all kinds of creatures and systems, connectors and wonders and weathers and mountains and rivers – x 10! and you’re out in the galaxy of planets much larger than our own, stars much bigger than our sun, and still more galaxies to go…
Either way you go there is gargantuan forest – and our experience, our body – barely a branch…yet we evaluate so often from that individual outlook – incredibly distorting bubble of lens – with a minimal scope – not engaging the forest, absorbing the forest, wandering and listening and looking and opening – so that “the unanswerable question drifts by” and “unsure of its existence” can “become a new idea…” the beginnings of subject-ivity – a particle in relation from within and without – from mattering energy to butterflied effects…an individual instancing of human.
Be mindful. Be curious. Be patient. Don’t know, and enjoy your hands. Be generous, take refuge, find strength. Be grateful, keep going, be glad. Respond, don’t react. Slow down and forgive. Let go, accept limits, and do what you can. Take in the good, relax, have compassion. Feel safer, fill holes, and love.
-all chapter titles from Rick Hanson’s just one thing
It’s okay. Be human – the extremely hard, most natural thing.
an added and unexpected catharsis – on the night I tried British telly due to trouble falling asleep – Synechdoche, NY – a remarkable example of how complex and generative our perceptive bubble can be…and yet how barrier’d from the world outside of that bubble…forests and trees / reality and personal experiences – beautiful drops in the sea… (and perhaps my favorite movie to date)..
With age I come to see more clearly, through glaucoma and the cataracts. Each layer beamed away, burning holes in cloudy veils. Colors hardly remembered, bright edges that the world lends. All that glitters can’t be told. Even my hearing improves, as if long years of practice had taught me how to listen. The paper of my skin whispers pages’ sound. Dying’s process of deletion, dropping memories like scales. Surgery after surgical procedure – removing the lens, installing; expanding tubes, constricting; bypassing and shunting – internal edits increasing my awareness that I’ve no idea how deep my set screens go. I am yet to see this world, through the versions that I’ve filmed.
Where we began, and when, was next-to-nothing. How must have been something, and the what bears repeating. Complex and variegated channels, ganglia alike to beans taking root, nutty and filigreed.
The event is conception and all its pertinent involve (where-when-events) – resultant growth of hairy little what-hows.
What is a theme-and-variations composition, melodies often scarce to trace, but certainly music! Thrumming drumming subtle, with irregulating tremors, shushing swinging bellowed strings, replete with punctuations. A human is a riffing thing, something of artist’s collage coupling biological systems and common laws relatively, referred to as patterns.
Person is an unstaid element, living requiring stimulation and acknowledgements, enough continuity to be. Elaborate contexts of nurturing structures and their vice-versas. Cells swimming fluids, objects in umwelts, mini-beasts scuttling a globe, as seen from various distances (perspectives not visibly limited).
Existences like screens full of mimeographed transparencies layered and colored by hands. Bewildering tangles of syrup and string. Odd combos when mirrored by mirrors, as mirroring means. Two-sided at least. Reflected subjectivities / subjective reflections, sort of spinning things set on a gyro turning tilting.
Nurturing structures of what-hows commons: language, culture, environment and arts. Structuring nurture of sustaining nourishment, awareness (attention) and semblance of security.
And there you have a person (a what-how) and a world (where-when-event); synonymously person-making-world, er, world-making-person toggling looping recursive spirals adjusting discontinuous connectivities…
Perhaps each and overall what-how’s where-when-events all beggar why (i.e. remain puzzling) at which point (or somesuch of the like) there probably arises a who. Who and why as yet unknown, being conjectured derivatives only from how-what in where-when-events.
All demanding further potentially endless inquiry and study and inventive erasures of conventional grammars and parts of speech.
“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 –
Suddenly I found myself among the leaves, diffuse as light, but darker. Almost a shadow, if I’d found myself at all.
For it came of a simple moment in-between. Between responding to this or fetching that. Perhaps waiting for coffee to brew, or just breathing. In cold sunlight. In kitchen. It had something to do with my daughter. Or she was the first one I told.
“I’ve found myself,” I burst upstairs and explained, holding out my phone which had captured the image like communication. “I’ve found myself, see?”
But no one quite did. I was thereby forced to point it out. Which is a lot more like making something up rather than discovering. More like envisioning than recognition or taking notice.
Yet I can tell you I saw right through it in that gap. Made out my identity in that fluster of sunrays and blockage.
An insubstantial sort of silhouette designated by a drove of other things – that “it” – that ephemeral, vacuous “me.”
In fact, the way I remember it, I was harried by flickering thoughts, responsibilities, and a mantled dose of tired, and it was only morning. I’d backed up against the steely sink and weighted my palms, hoping my neck might loosen by letting it drop. The floor there.
Something alerted me – a “honey?” or a child’s announcement from some other room – and so I swung and hoisted toward action. My roving eyes sniffed at calendar and began steadying toward a list comprising my future, but instead.
Instead, a patterning of leaves translating immediately to a scatter-shot messaging of light, exposing some presence in its midst that was absorbing or otherwise deflecting. Signifying, nonetheless. A kind of tracing of a head, a photo-graph I guess, a contour drawing by our prominent star. And if light could trace it, could scribble a quick sketch out of me, well then,
The way things that seem to need doing impose mayhem on those things we were wanting to do (vice-versa).
A sort of ratcheting of oddly shaped pieces tumbling down towards one another on an inclined plane. Necessary bits and fragments of desire rattling against, around and into one another, oppositely directed, apparently, and all with force or momentum (time, change, survival). They clatter. They clatter and clutter, like there’s a microcosm of chaos in us, the spillage of some enormous container of Legos.
Is this unfamiliar?
Something, always, functioning as noise in the wavering systems of our message(s)?
I want. I need to…. A hunch, an intuition. A concrete demand. An idea spawns. And tasks arise.
That kind of oscillation is what I’m talking about. And it goes both ways. All ways.
I set about a chore and am derailed by an idea. I dream and the over timer intrudes. I breath and it hitches to a cough.
Not that it’s always that way. Sometimes the texts come right on time, just when I was getting up anyway. Sometimes the activities that need the doing, also fuel the dreams. Think of such a time.
No wonder it’s called “flow.”
Yet it hardly seems “reality,” or “daily life.” Perhaps that’s only me, that the pieces that construct me are preiteratively cross-purposed? Maybe my fragments’ forces are centripetal (or centrifugal), either way multi-directional and simultaneous? ADD? ADHD? “Life?” Speaking animal?
August 14, 2012, the first day (DAY) of rain in Kansas that I am able to recall for a very long time. Not a passing windy thunderstorm, but a wet dripping sky holding temperatures in the 60s. A genuine “rainy day.”
We are home. Inhabiting a structure we have designed and filled up with ourselves, each one, and altogether. It’s been awhile.
For days we’ve struggled to catch up: reports, bills, groceries, supplies, dust, papers, books, photographs, laundry, enrollments, business, correspondence, maintenance, rest.
Organization as definition.
Definition as form, parameter, boundary.
Defining a space (reorganization) to find or enable content.
Rearranging contents to formulate new space.
Needing the space…drawing the blanks___________…to manipulate a safety, a breathing, an empty, to allow.
In chaos I write, as if pinning down terms could needle a swarm of locusts to a board for inquiry and examination.
In emptiness I build by finding blocks to set: my lover’s eyes, my children’s sounds and bodies and play, a coffee cup, clear desk, blank paper…then Jabes, Shklovsky, Wittgenstein, Blanchot. Wallace Stevens, Dragomoshchenko, Montale, Bakhtin.
Fencing a fallow field.
I check my pockets for seed.
I’ve been an astronaut.
I can’t remember rain.
I am what I am reported to have said. As are those around me, if only in our heads or dreams or passion or anger or fear.
Opening an old notebook I am stunned by a page lacquered in heavy charcoals and dark pastels. I make out in fierce giant letters “WE WILL DIE!”, then scribbled around it, hard to decipher in the noise of the marks, the names of each one in my family.
I think “so begin.”
Stop. Locate a space. Breathe. Then move.
Movement is beginning.
Connectives of meaning or purpose may follow the following of orders or order the following connections of meaning.
I begin with my body, following my fingers as they formulate form, defining the spaces with words…
“if the meaning-connexion can be set up before the order, then it can also be set up afterwords”
“each is no more or less than the words he is reported to have said”