[To read means to read closely, to pay close attention to the text, to follow the text, to be inside the text and outside the text in simultaneity, if that is at all possible to conceive let alone do . . . the text here is a multiple text, and each text is multidimensional, or so we say for the author, as we do like what he has written, do approve of his way of writing, which is what editors do do when they agree to publish a piece of writing, this reference to piece not in itself a flippant reference to the writing as someone suggested to me might be thought of by some readers—I did not quite agree that it warranted a revision, only these extra words I might not have written had it not been for the minor critique, but then so is the nature of how we express ourselves, never entirely in a vacuum, are we, not even the greatest solipsist? We the editors have accepted this piece by an author who wishes to remain Anonymous, mostly because as this writer has put it, Virginia Woolf once asserted that the History of Women’s Literature has been the History of Anonymous–or was it that the history of Anonymous Literature has been the History of Women’s Literature. This of course does not prove that the author is a woman or even a man.]
Through the Glass Darkly
What if you were an essayist, an essayer, someone who essays topics, subjects, theses, social, political, personal, literary, philosophical—how is any of them distinct from the others, in what ways or way or not? How then to write what you should write? Is it true that you do not know what you think unless you write? Who then knows himself? Monsieur Montaigne must have had a lot of self-knowledge, I remember a student once saying in a discussion we were having about the essay as a form, in its origin, what it can do for the writer as well as the reader, what the shoulds were concerning essaying . . . herein then follow the lines, take the course opened to you, but in following the lines do not be duped, do not be fooled by the masquerade of linearity the text performs by its lines, another mask the text wears, as the flatness of the screen or page just other costumes worn by the text.
All is through the glass darkly
. . . and so he says “the New York Yankees a soccer team by my say so aside, the political state metaphysically opposes the religious at every turn. It has so since the Renaissance. It must, even. But then you must know this if you live anywhere, have lived in some places, have kept your eyes opened while being a citizen, even a bad citizen most people have some idea about therefore some idea of what I am talking about here is known. Why are some people bad citizens has everything to do with States and their opposition to your freedom?” He asks.
He says, “the birth of the modern world was the death of the medieval ecclesiastical. I know you want something you have come to accept as fictional presentation here (this has after all been called a short story; but then a short story is a story that is short and tells something of someone or some ones and of something somehow somewhere, what else would you need but me a teller of something to you a presumptive reader–are you a presumptive reader, or is it that the reader I imagine is the one I imagine and the one you are responds as you do depending on how close you come to this imagined reader, for whom I have written what I have written the way I have written it, that is, with the words I have chosen to use, figuring, as the term says, by some calculation, some logic internal in the operations of my mind prior to putting pen to page because I still put pen to page in long hand, that you, this reader I have imagined, want to hear what I have to say, or need to hear it and will be receptive because if you were not going to be receptive, then this would have to be a different kind of essay or story and there is a place on the horizon where these distinct yet parallel forms of prose writing come together)—a re-presentation—and what is it about words on a page, on a screen, why do we say on the page but in the mirror? I understand that when anything is set as fiction, given the name fiction, the association with the category of fiction there are certain expectations, certain limits, categorical boundaries lines drawn? No? Yes?
“What then do I say when what is herein set as fiction has little of what many expect from fiction—except you have to know that even non-fiction is in itself a fiction, the non-fictionalness of the telling or the exposing or the explicating a topic, a subject, a thesis, in an established way of seeing the text as something other than what it is; and that then is namely a work of fiction, a thing made. Yes, a fiction, any fiction is something made, what is made is a fiction; so, then that necklace you just bought your wife for your anniversary (and you should buy your wife a necklace for you anniversary) is another kind of fiction, but then, what is jewelry, what are the clothes we wear, the make-up we put on, women put on (but then men use some kinds of make-up, don’t they–even if it is pimple cream to hide zits) but theater and theater is fiction, another kind of it, no? How are Montaigne’s essays not fictions. I love what Borges does with his Ficciones.
“. . . so here is what is and what it is is a thing made,” he says. “No less fictional for the making because it purports to be about politics or something true, as we like to say sometimes having nothing left to say about fiction and non-fiction, the distinctions between them,” he says.
“I prefer to note the similarities,” he insists, “and so herein find the following, a separate piece making a separate peace with what has been written, text, context, inter-text, texts within texts, how to read carefully closely is up to you. I cannot help you exactly.
America’s hostility to organized religion is not as much of an anomaly for our society as it might appear on face; the profession of the free exercise of any religion notwithstanding, America does stand as a new order of the ages, thus in direct conflict with any theocratic reactions. It does have an innate hostility to any church that has real political power; it would have to. I don’t disagree yet, but there is a way where even this democratically inclined impulse to oppose church dogmas can work as a corrosive force on liberty. Nonetheless, American democracy is set in opposition to theocratic impulses by necessity (which is what definitely puts us, or sometimes even only seemingly puts us, at odds with most Muslims because there are still many more Muslims closer to their orthodoxy than there are Christians or Jews? I really do not know, but I do suspect as much).
To avoid establishing a state religion the United States must hold all religions at least suspect, much along the logical lines of the President de facto holding all citizens as suspects and potential enemies of the Constitution when he swears to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. You want to interject and say that this depends on the person; and I say not nearlyas much as you think because the Presidency is a nature unto itself and leopards cannot change spots, and this is a leopard trying to change its spots if a President tried to manifest any behavior or desire or wish or will contrary to the nature of the Presidency, which every man who gets elected is somehow suited for either very well or very poorly and one or another of the gradations between these anti-poles.
But then, as mentioned above, religion has been cleaved to by the most reactionary of our politicians because we cannot talk metaphysically anymore; we have difficulty talking to most Muslims because their world view has not come as far away from traditional metaphysical discussion as we have, and there is a common metaphysical heritage that we can talk with Muslims, but not so very well anymore, almost not at all. There is no room to wage a healthy respect for nor a deep understanding of religion in America, not with the way we read, the way we think, the way we occlude our vision of the past–contempo-centrism has been our most abiding dogma, even the most liberally inclined politically are its victims; moreover, especially the politically correct, those whose narrow constraints of correctness have begun to constrict liberty. They are as historically ignorant as their iconoclasm in the matters of historicity or historiography have left them disposed to increasing their ignorance to increase their ability to multiply their own pseudo-history or more fanciful fictions. Christianity has been co-opted by fanatics or disguised politicians in bishop’s robes or deacons or ministers, whatever have we in the way that religion has been relegated to the fringe, the perimeter or beyond. I know that there are some of you who disagree and believe me I am busting my head trying to figure out what to say to win you over, and it is about winning and losing this thing called essaying; there is discernible gain and loss.
For an honest assessment of religion we would have to learn more, read more, and more deeply than we do or can; we would have to examine more evidence than we could be willing to do with how we have taught intellectual integrity—and I would like to say you, butI too have my rhetoric rooted in a kind of politicking, diplomatic I have been taught to be. No diatribes or polemics if I wan to reach a broad audience. But are we going to with the way we manage it today—and pedagogy is about management; there are strategies for success and strategies against loss.
Here in the United States, and in direct contrast to how checkered this Catholic knows the history of the Catholic Church to have been, the Church still does not receive even treatment from the American Media, nor does it receive rational treatment from the American mainstream. Flip the coin of bourgeois secular civilization and you will come up with one side or the other of an anti-ecclesiastic minting. This would not be a problem except for how it has also left us mute in face of other political fanaticisms. I am not talking about how the Church in America has shot itself in the foot, and that has come from a certain laxity from Rome, believe it or not; or a kind of privileging of the American Church because of how rich the American Catholic Church has been. Not a Church of devotion, not a Church of Christ but a Church of Caesar more than the office of Pontiff re-imagines the office of Imperial Rome; and all because of how rich American Catholics have been and have become even more so: seats of power and money manipulating influence in America—of course it would become corrupt and prurient and decadent and diseased; just as diseased as the aristocracy of France had become before the Bastille, les Jacobins and the guillotine. (Don’t imagine that I have left Protestants or Jews or anyone else off the hook.)
We have no way of speaking to religions at all; this is why Muslims scare the hell out of us. Many Muslims are fast becoming the only ones who can talk monotheism with any certainty, and, yes, without fanaticism, regardless of how many fanatics there are pretending to be Muslims. But most liberal American women I meet who find veils on Muslim women so unsettling do so mostly because of the masks they wear themselves at work but just as often at home in the mirror. The masks inside on the selves of the Self are the veils we all wear, Muslim women are just more overt than we would ever be willing to be.
In our culture’s guiding metaphysics at present, there is no truth, and mostly because without truth, anyone can say anything, really a marketplace way of managing the idea of free speech, which is what we have instead of Free Speech being a democratic way of managing the ecclesiastic. The internet also provides instant expertise, but where anyone can be an expert, no one is, but then this only reinforces “anyone can say,” which has always been the flip-side of “who’s to say?” The latter being the rhetorical question most popular in America because most Americans have chosen bread and circuses (mostly broadcast) over learning, education, literacy.
We have a long way to go or return to if we are ever going to have trenchant and intelligent discussion with Muslims because that return would be to a place where Muslims have not abandoned–and I am restricting my reference to Muslims to sane, rational, intelligent, educated Muslims. Seeing as there are a billion Muslims in the world there would have to be tens of millions of what/of whom I have described. But then there are tens of millions of the stupid, the insane, the narrow-minded, the hateful, et cetera. The world is a confusing place because either in veracity or in metaphor (which holds a special kind of validity and veracity) God has allowed Satan dominion over the world. And as a metaphor, we must be able to see what this means for the world. I guess in the traditions of the BOOK, Satan should have dominion over the world, otherwise free-will would be incidental and perhaps moot.
How is it we ever believe we can avoid hubris? Perhaps that is in itself hubris.
The End of “The Essayist”
“Who then am I? Are you? The context of this text—that is clear enough, no?” He asks. “Text/con-text. How we read our lives or LIfe no better than how we read texts of literature—the great importance of reading has been lost on too many of us, and I am speaking of the educated. Who is the expositor here is I; but who this I is has nothing too do with the author of me and the text, the writerly person in the world that is outside the text—the context of the text is that in the reading there is nothing outside the text—and now I am not so sure that is as overriding as it has been purported as being, or not so in potential as we would like to think or just sometimes say because we have been taught to say it. But as for me talking to you, person or not person, mask or unmasked—I am not outside the text. I am limited by the text; I am the limits of the text; my author, the authority over the text does not decide this except in the particular way or ways it might be handled in the diction, the syntax, the rhetoric. But this voice you are listening to is mine, and that has its definition, its boundaries and borders and limits and whatever else we have to indicate containment, categorical or not categorical; what is generic and what is not generic,” he says. Follow the quotation marks, he suggests.
He adds, “It is impossible for any secular society to be completely iconoclastic with religion or religions—it is even more foolish to foster a context where one religion opposes another as some have tried to do with Islam and Judaism or Islam and Christianity or Catholicism and Protestantism. ” He pauses.He says nothing more, which means he decides to add nothing to page; he has put the pen down, so to speak, being at his computer, he has no pen in hand. His fingers are off the keys.
What more you need I have no time to consider. I can pretend that that concerns me, but it does not really matter much to me at the moment, as I speak (read “write”). All is through the glass, a glass, darkly; what we see we say because we have been conditioned to say something when we see something? What does that mean? And I am sure you are wondering who I am, or what I am, or where I am from, or how old I am; and none of these things you will know. There is enough information here for you to conclude what you need to conclude, and anything else is unnecessary. However, you must know that whatever is the context is the defining limits, and that whatever is said or is not said becomes a party in your premising, no? If you do not reason out your asshole, then all should go pretty well for you. And I do not know why you have assumed that the narrator/expositor of the above piece, “All is through a Glass Darkly” was me; nor should you from this assume that the expositor/narrator of the piece “The Essayist” is the same expositor/narrator of “All is through a Glass Darkly.” That would be erroneous reading.
[This is the end of the piece written by an anonymous author who then has pieces written within the larger piece by another anonymous author, which does not mean that another author, singular, cannot have created different expositors or narrators–who is it that we hear when we read? Who does have authority over the text, the writer writing or the narrative voice or the expositive voice. I will not settle this here and now.
The universe is anonymous, indifferent, absurd. In an absurd and indifferent universe, everyone is anonymous, anonymous even to himself or herself or any other self.]
[A Short-short Story]