Troubling Identity in Writing – What Scribbling Does

As an addendum and prequel to writing anything/everything I wanted to share a couple of terrific essays on the strange elimination (or difficulty of perceiving) a “self” or “personality” or “identity” or any of those socially constructed concepts relating to human individuals.  Prompted by the scribbling exercise of last week (see previous post) – the conundrum has long fascinated me and seems to be so well presented in texts like Jorge Luis Borges‘ The Nothingness of Personality (also perhaps available here) and this tremendous first essay – relating to Maurice Blanchot‘s writings – in Anne McConnell’s Approaching Disappearance – (click image to read)

McConnell - Approaching Disappearance

all help me to understand better why it often seems hard for writerlies to formulate or maintain “strong senses of self” – as the practice of entering language in such a way seems to dissolve the separations that might preserve that artificial construction.


“Yet if language gives no words for what happens…it nevertheless gives itself”

-Christopher Fynsk-

“Not to discover – not to be able to discover – the solution, is the general tragedy of all writing”

“To try to express oneself and to want to express the whole of life are one and the same thing”

-Jorge Luis Borges-

“Reality works in overt mystery”

-Macedonio Fernandez-

Meeting the Requirements

For Friday Fictioneers – May 3, 2013

Copyright -KentBonham

Wobbling within our habitation – wandering and confused, almost wondering why, but still composing, constructing, rearranging and conceiving it again in different light at different angles in differing times from different points of view, almost like a structure or a form foaming out of content like both sides of a two-way mirror – what we’ve made of what we’re made of – making tremendous spackled multi-entried exits and shifting permeable boundaries – you push, I push, we pull – it changes – look again and reconsider, same as considering anew or forever beginning while still it’s taking shape, working it over even when we’re not working – not really – detail upon detail after detail ever only under one single purpose – to be functional.

N Filbert 2013

Or perhaps correspondence…(Asking after the Nature of Nobody, pt. 3)

from pt. 2:

This is a portion of a map that does not represent the territory.  There are, perhaps, moments – instances – in which I fit with my surround – but usually it is organizing a mapping conference of sensation, affect, percept and infinite inputs coupling to pre-formed acquired categories and classes, fuzzy generalizations to stencil lines and rivers, mounds and fissures with very little correspondence to the world.

It writes this as “my world,” or “the world that I in-habit.”

Or perhaps correspondence…

(Asking after the Nature of Nobody, pt. 3)

…is precisely what is occurring.

“Each biological life-form, by reason of its distinctive bodily constitution (its ‘biological heritage,’ as we might say), is suited only to certain parts and aspects of the vast physical universe.  And when this ‘suitedness to’ takes the bodily form of cognitive organs, such as our own senses, or the often quite different sensory modalities discovered in other lifeforms, then those aspects and only those aspects of the physical environment which are proportioned to those modalities become ‘objectified,’ that is to say, made present not merely physically but cognitively as well…the difference between objects of experience and elements of sensation is determined primarily not by anything in the physical environment as such but by the relation or, rather, network and set of relations that obtains between whatever may be ‘in fact’ present physically in the surroundings and the cognitive constitution of the biological organism interacting with those surrounding here and now.”

-John Deely, Umwelt

Given the apparent disjunction of its maps to the potential largesse and intricacy (unknowns) of the territory, it reconsiders.

It thinks it may be inextricably related to the territory.  In no way accurately or exhaustively (in relation to the territory) yet constitutively via what kind of co-respondence pertains (in relation to the species of which it is an example).

In other words, by inter-relation to the territory, and by nature of its dynamic organismal systems of sensation-perception-cognition and communication (+ language – the capacity to model the above relational systems): it is I.

It co-evolves personhood.  The capacity to refer to an I among Is.  An individual personality among a We.

Map and territory, co-respondent.  The map being a model of that correspondence and correlation.  Therefore, of course it is idiosyncratic and fraught with misperceptions, disjunctions and erroneously organized interpretations and representations of the networked environments…yet the map = correspondence with the territory in species-specific experience.


Correspondences of one to many and many to one, and to a very delimited aspect of the territory, but still constructed by real linkages (reciprocal relations and responses) to that “Territory.”

Bees’ links look different.  If a lion were to speak we would not understand.  Every organism its own relations to the territory, selecting and responding, sensing and processing various aspects of the territory into species-specific lifeworlds, but correlated and corresponding particular to their kind.

Or…our maps are our maps.  Ever changing, adapting, responding to our environments and experiences, genuinely related to the territory, representations of our habits of being in the world (in-habit-ing it as humans).

I can’t lay claim to truth about the territory, but my maps derive from it and shape my forays within it, can be shared and examined, evaluated and adjusted with other mapmakers, and trusted as the experience of a peculiar entity of a particular species modeled in reciprocal relation to specific environs of the territory.

“The map is not the territory” but a model, a depiction, a fragment co-evolved in and with that territory, a specific kind of rendering and representation, and valuable for the explorer-species of the sign.

Umwelt by John Deely

Becoming Human: Asking after the Nature of Nobody

“What, in summary, is the nature of the singular entity referred to by the word ‘I’ in judgments like ‘I am in pain’?  Answer: since those uses of ‘I’ do not refer, the question is nonsensical.  One might as well ask after the nature of Nobody.”

-John Canfield-

“The ‘main point’ is rarely extricable from the digressions.  Every section spills into every other… [he] no longer knows what he was talking about.”

-R. M. Berry-

            It grows hair.  It remembers things differently.  It is singing as if in a mumbling voice.  Yesterday I got angry.

It thinks, but after talking with the child I was upset with, it revises its conception, taking into account that she said I exhibited joy.  Yesterday I was happy.

This glassy essence.

“I will need to accomplish a task tomorrow,” it thinks, in a manner different from image, music or text.  It can almost see me doing it – in a situated context – surrounded by people (other ones), objects, time and space.  Not essentially.  Well, maybe.

It calls to mind (read fabricates) what I was like two decades ago.  I was climbing mountains then, most often alone (i.e. not in the company of additional humans), still it is able to consider me there.  There where?  It imagines Long’s Peak in Colorado (in neither image, language nor feeling – it cannot recall particulars well enough to reconstruct)…it senses I was there.  It is reading in a diary.

Does this make it me?  The same as the I who wrote it, camping somewhere along the Eastern slope of Long’s Peak in 1995, apparently gladly absent of friend, foe, spouse or tamed animal counterpart?

I had a pack full of peanut butter and potatoes, a couple jugs of water, a tent, a cloak, a knife, an assortment of pens, books and blank journals.  It roughly remembers some of that.

It reflects (not to itself – that doesn’t even make sense) – must be a sort of nuanced synonym for thinking – (with itself? of itself? nonsense, it simply reflects) – I’m sitting cross-legged on a small clearing near a frothy crystalline stream within a circle of baby pines, trying to read philosophy texts packed in for the purpose of uninterrupted, or it could be me yet-to-come as distinguished by Swiss mountains and an understood language barrier protecting my solitude along with evident (it imagines) distance (and therefore time) between whatever residents might exist and I.  It (hypothetically) notices that (well, enough to pick out an “I” on the Jungfrau or Matterhorn).

But that has happened too.  Does the case that it conceives me thus proscribe an identity?   It isn’t sure, but there are similarities of some variety.  It isn’t saying for certain (the fact is it could say “for certain” but what might that establish as regards me?) – the appearance and accidents, character and behavior are in many ways inexact and altered – but for pragmatic and discriminatory purposes – it would designate me “me” (if it were in conversation or thinking extrinsically).

Could it really say, most definitely, that I was there?  Any more than that I will be?  It is uncertain, entirely possible.

This glassy essence.

It remains, for now.

Thinking of the time I was writing this (nearly now but just before).  It is writing, but not this, I have written this, it is aware, but only just before or just after – that it is I.

It writes.

“…man, proud man,

Drest in a little brief authority,

Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

As make the angels weep.”

-Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Welcoming Others : Inside

“we fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed”

-Frank Bidart-

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.

Continuation of the Gift that Explodes: In Which the Wood is Entered, Entering

Here is page 3 of my blank-book daughter-gift “The Notebook” (click here for parts 1 and 2)

Notebook - Ida


Notebook 3

and the typewritten text:


In Which the Wood is Entered, Entering

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.


Taking it In

Wandering back over writings from the past year that I have yet to “organize”…I’m running across portions of interest (that I can’t even access to fix typos in now!? having been done on a former computer and transferred/transmuted with missing marks / disintentions, alas) – but something I can do when I’m sick… so I’ll post a few of these and you can weigh in (if you will) with what you think – whether interesting, worth filing away, saving forward and what-not.  Thank you!

press here : Taking It In : press there

Among the Leaves

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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,

I’d guess I’d found myself among the leaves,

which went something like these pages.

N Filbert 2012

A Profile

The Inevitable


What do we mean when we say “that ______ looks so German!”

To write.  It.

That unnerving pronoun – the impossibility nothing is.

And probable.

The work of understanding.  While standing under rain.  The gravity of melancholy.

Resulting in a study of colors.  As related to moods.

Desired solitude.  Desiring.  An oxymoron.  (To solitude).

What would you desire in solitude?  (While playing with yourself).

The “with” would be the problem.

Ever positing an other.


“we must each retain (and be granted) our uniqueness, even as we retain our relevance –

which is to say our interrelatedness”

-Lyn Hejinian-

In other words it is possible that we yearn for uniqueness and relevance, both requiring something else.

However might one be uniquely alone?  And still recognize red?

Or relevance?  (in solitude)?

The antimony that meaning is.

Meaning, nothing.  Large terms stripped of their content.  Yet undone.

If, then.  If infinity, then an eternity of incompletion.

Is that what you wanted?

Like desiring wholeness.  Oxymoron.

Living is logically incompatible.



Upon viewing the sketch like a mirror.  Its frenzy.  Its worry.  An uncertain field of marks.

Energy moves.

Impossible object, in other words.  The world never calmer than an excited child with a squirming pup, in front of a camera.  Using your eyes as camera is moving in barely calculable jitters.  Each second.

How we view the world.  Ourselves.  Skittering fragments, objectless, composing subjective states, the subject of which, well, frankly, is subjectless, being, as it is, subjective.

A field, a spray, a flickering shower.  Drowning in waves.  Particles and fragments, all strung together without points of contact.

Inevitable delay.  Perception.  Duller senses.

Process requiring instants = moments = past.

Hardship of irony.  What one pays for attention.  Tolls of false awareness.  Delayed.  A logical impossibility.  I.e. “presence” (presently).

Lucky for suffixes as arbitrary denotations.  Arbitrarying.

Their simultaneity (e.g. –ed, -ing, -“ “).


You might say we “locked eyes” (past tense signifying long enough to catch up to the present experience thereby missing out on the initial wonder).

Processed cheese is not the same.

Fortunately every synapse of the factory also makes up now (as it makes it up) making up experience in order to.  Experience.

Some animals delight in chasing their tales (that was a genuine error there, though the audience following Moses following Discontent following Freud).  Tails, then.  Or heads.  Each swallowing another.

You know what I mean.  Swatting at air.

Meaning, well, nothing = something (and vacuous nevertheless).  Than?


Equals ever updating profile passed, passing, will pass, NOW.


It’s inevitable.