I used to be interested in the construction of languages, in particular how syntax can promote terror or euphoria. 21 years old reading Noam Chomsky’s “Language and Politics,” thinking about HTML as a reification and export of Western grammar. These days I don’t impute to language the capacities of ideology, but I still treat it as material. Writing is a craft before it’s an art.
I assume that syntax reflects the numerics of thinking, and that language and mind seem endless to everyone (not just me). That’s why we don’t worry about running out of new thoughts to think. Reality is a wilderness of feral patterns. Maybe we forget it because the internet surrounds us with domesticated ones. I don’t know if the empirical world can compel us like it did Victorian scientists. Someone once said that technology is great because it reveals the limits of rational knowledge. But it’s bleak unless we have metaphysical faith.
Metaphysical faith. Language and thinking aren’t bigger than we are. Put differently, I hate spectacles. Not despite but because there’s an actual occult/Big Other, one that exceeds our limits. Modern epistemic conditions permit only one intractable mystery: ourselves. So this is writing about the past as future.
Still I’m a sucker for the glint of a brand-new idea, artifice be damned. The other day, driving from New York City to Philadelphia, I searched for music that wouldn’t make me think any thought I’ve ever had before. Which may be impossible amid so much mechanical augury. The black magic circle goes by lots of names: filter bubble, echo chamber, hermetic seal, dark scanner. I believe something lies outside it. Nothing runs deeper than that faith.
And it has to be faith because I don’t know if anything’s really out there. I’ve been writing and writing for years, dithering on… because I despair at the gaps between people. I know that absence makes the heart, but it teems with fantasies I can’t allow myself (but I love them for others).
This is writing about words adding up to nothing. And a human voice that keeps calling me on across the gaps. ‘Call’ in the sense of ‘vocation.’ So much thinking and writing is embarrassing, but I’m not the only one. Since there’s no real solitude anymore, von Kleist’s thesis proves true: speech starts with Thou. Nobody can shut up with so many other voices in our heads. That thing about mental real estate.
I was reading Chomskyan psycholinguistics at the same time as the French literature on writing and death. Nowadays, I know such combinations make no ideological sense; this was before higher education bullied me into a coherent intellectual identity. So much time pushing my brain through the latticework of Blanchot and Derrida, and I still admire their creative method. It’s a flux-movement, a flash in the dark or a rainbow. Nabokov described ‘a shimmering go-between’ that displaces ‘the wolf in the tall grass’ from ‘the wolf in the tall story.’ He said prismatism is the art of literature. It’s also one of philosophy’s sweeter faces, and it’s the only way to write death, since it can’t be denoted. My mom’s uncle promised her he’d tell her about the afterlife if he could; it hasn’t happened yet.
Death is the big signifying nothing. Also known as the fool on the hill. Its idiosyncrasies confound predictive capitalism: it can’t be calculated or predetermined. Just another sign that capital only exists as a flimsy talisman against thoughts of mortality. Death is stupid.
Towards its acceptance: I have this idea that reality defies theory. Lack of knowledge has to be the same for every unsolvable X, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there.
Of course the seams between life and death are as discreet as those that run between words and their effects. Any sham of a distinction vanishes in time. Someone once said ‘let the tracks be lost in the darkest snow.’
Love me for not assigning a specific metaphysics to this. (My aunt in Scotland texts me to ask if I’m okay.)
For the restraint I show in not considering implications. (My husband in New York City texts me a video of my cat, who lives with him, to cheer me up.)
(What to say about a life of fractures and inconsistencies in time and space. Work has me living far away from all of my loved ones. Right now, it’s exceptionally cruel.)
The opposite of confusion isn’t understanding, it’s blessing the unsolved. Certainly not falling in love with it. Asking nothing from (X), saying nothing to it.
Still, unspoken words push the blood through my veins. I’m young and dumb enough to want to want to make people mean what they say. A child again, or a sadist. Early midlife crisis a thousand miles beneath a celestial grave. Meaning I’m very near others in my mind. In love with them, pathetically, not blessing them at all.
I’m always dreaming about beloved friends won and lost in time. Wonder if a death in the family will rid me of these visions — as if I could know in advance.