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-

Thinking about Origins

Along the networks of transductive reading, the following productive co-constitutive readings…

“The beginning is not the same as the origin.  When the beginning emerges, the origin recedes, leaving in its wake a past that becomes our future to form a circle that never closes…It is important not to convuse beginning with origin.  Origins are always obscure even when beginnings are not.”

Mark C. TaylorField Notes from Elsewhere-

“What if, instead of placing self-self interaction at the center of development, we were to posit relation as key to experience?  Relation, understood here in a Jamesian sense, is a making apparent of a third space opened up for experience in the making.  This third space (or interval) is active with the tendencies of interaction but is not limited to them.  Relation folds experience into it such that what emerges is always more than the sum of its parts…”

Erin ManningAlways More than One

bear with me – this is extended, but so merits reflection (I think)…

“What if neither skin nor self were the starting point for the complex interrelational matrix of being and worlding?  Being and worlding depend on the activity of reaching-toward.  Reaching-toward foregrounds the relationality inherent in experience, a kind of feeling-with the world.  This tending-toward is a sensing-with that does not occur strictly at the level of the sensory-motor.  It happens across strata, both actual and virtual.  A looking becomes a touching, a feeling becomes a hearing.  But not on the skin or in the body.  Across strata, both concrete and abstract, that constitute an assemblage.  This assemblage is a sensing body in movement, a body-world that is always tending, attending to the world…”

complex adaptive systems diagram

“…In equal measure, the world also tends toward the becoming-body.  Body-worlding is much more than containment, much more than envelope.  It is a complex feeling-assemblage that is active between different co-constitutive milieus.  It is individuation before it is self, a fielding of associated milius that fold in, on, and through one another.  For the associated milieu is never ‘between’ constituted selves: the associated milieu is the resonant field of individuation, active always in concert with the becomings it engenders.  Becoming-self is one of the ways in which this folding (body-worlding) expresses itself, but never toward a totalization of self – always toward continued individuation.  ‘To think individuation it is necessary to consider being not as substance, matter or form, but as a tensile oversaturated system beyond the level of unity’ (Gilbert Simondon).  Self is a modality – a singularity on the plane of individuation – always on the way toward new foldings.  These foldings bring into appearance not a fully constituted human, already-contained, but co-constitutive strata of matter, content, form, substance, and expression.  The self is not contained.  It is a fold of immanent expressibility.”

one more paragraph worth considering?….

senses of self are less bounded phases than fractal phase-spaces composed of interweaving strata.  ‘Once formed, each sense of self remains fully functioning and active throughout life.  All continue to grow and coexist’ (Daniel Stern).  No stratum is ever completely disarticulated from another in the creation of emergent senses of self.  Rather, strata veer through and across one another in the associated milieu’s intensive fielding.  As the infant ages and becomes verbal, for instance, their sense of being a coherent, willful, physical entity – foregrounding strata phasing toward organization – may intermesh with the frustration of not being able to express the feeling-vector of intensity that remains a key aspect of the tending toward coherence – foregrounding the strata phasing toward the virtual or immanence.  Every becoming is tinted with this double articulation.  There is no stable pre- and postverbal state.  There is no stable identity that emerges once and for all.  Becoming-human is expressed singularly and repeatedly in the multiphasing passage from the feeling of content to the content of feeling, a shift from the force of divergent flows to a systematic integration.  This is not a containment toward a stable self.  It is a momentary cohesiveness, a sense of self that always remains colored by the interweaving of forces that both direct and destabilize the ‘self’s’ proto-unification into an ‘I.’  With all apparent cohesiveness there remains the effect of the ineffable that acts like a shadow on all dreams of containment.  For double articulation reminds us that singular points of identification always remain mired within the complex forces of their prearticulation, prearticulation not strictly as the before of articulation, but the withness of the unutterable, the ineffable – the quasi-inexpressible share of expressibility – within language.  There is no self that is not also emergent, preverbal, affectively oriented toward individuation.”

Erin Manning, Always More than One

“That from which I emerge approaches by withdrawing”

-Mark C. TaylorField Notes from Elsewhere


Homo Fictus

“words are not a translation of something else that was there before they were”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

Homo Fictus

 “Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

            Knowing how / knowing why.  Procedures and structures.  Diversify and unify.  Complexity-to-simplicity turned complex all over again.  Reuse and construction.  Stories.

We are saturate with story.  Each word of that sentence.  If I provide the skeleton – you’re sure to flesh it out.   The productivity of words, the how & why of humans.

Perhaps I’ll call it “making sense,” but the sense is there before, what follows is a meaning – through procedures and structures, reuse and construction, the wired and the firing, implicity spinning explicitly – and for reasons not yet fully known, I’ve gotta have mine.

“The knowledge of good and evil, all in one.  Both. 

Somebody finally said, I know my own mind.”

-Janet Kauffman-

            Experience is a complex collision I diversify and unite.  Following patterns infused by my own.  If you provide a list of observations and complaints, I may spend entire days reorganizing them – they didn’t quite “fit.”  Perhaps I’ll throw them back.  I’d like to be certain.

“the absence of doubt is of the essence of a language-game”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

            A personalized language-game full of cues, thesauri and symbols – my controlled vocabulary meshing your data…

“The alphabet of my DNA shapes certain words, but the story is not told.

I have to tell it myself.

What is it I have to tell myself again and again?

That there is always a new beginning, a different end.

I can change the story.  I am the story.


-Jeanette Winterson-

            …ah, now I’ve figured it out (made it fit  my form) – this is my story now, please listen and confirm (complexity-simplicity) – oh no?  you don’t? (complexity again) and back to the storyboards or diary…

The yearn is toward some balance, stasis, surety.  Re-cognizable re-currency.  Re-presentation.  Re-anything.  Want familiar.  The excitement may very well come with the disruptions, eruptions, defamiliarization, the constant change – it certainly heightens our senses and intension – the thrill is in the thunderous gathering of troops – flickering flashing neurons – dogs set on the intrusion…but soon we stabilize the perimeter again…incorporate the drama…

“the important thing is to consider the significance of things and not to worry about their authenticity…it’s difficult to tell at the end of the day whether it was theory or need that got you through it.”

-Joy Williams-

            …with our stories (and lies)…our illusory perceptions…needing organized to our organism…and tales are conjured, fiction begins, typing on our limited keys…

…even while the body’s at rest…

“in short, nothing so central to the human condition is so incompletely understood”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

this post inspired in part by

Architectures of Possibility

“Writing is a manner of reading.  It is a mode of engaging with other texts in the world, which itself is a kind of text.  And reading is a manner of writing, interpretation, meaning-making.  Which is to say that writing and reading are variants of the same activity.  Existence comes to us in bright, disconnected splinters of experience.  We narrativize those splinters so our lives feel as if they make sense – as if they possess things like beginnings, muddles, ends, and reasons.  The word narrative is ultimately derived, through the Latin narrare, from the Proto-Indo-European root gno-, which comes into our language as the verb to know.  At some profoundly deep stratum, we conceptualize narrative as a means of understanding, of creating cosmos out of chaos.”

“Yet in many cultural loci these days we are asked to read and write easier, more naively, less rigorously.  We are asked to understand by not taking the time and energy to understand.  One difference between art and entertainment has to do with the speed of perception.  Art deliberately slows and complicates reading, hearing, and/or viewing so that we are challenged to re-think and re-feel form and experience.  Entertainment deliberately accelerates and simplifies them so we don’t have to think about or feel very much of anything at all except, maybe, the adrenalin rush before spectacle.”

-Lance Olsen-

“Literature is the question minus the answer.”

-Roland Barthes-