In the garden of my vanity . . . what did this say when I said it before, elsewhere before now, saying it again as I haves many of the things I say, over and over, again and once more and once more, on and on til the last syllable spoken within recorded time? There will be so much said––how much said––after it all goes to waste, this thing we still call civilization, even of Totalitarian International Bourgeois Capitalism has depleted the resources of the world, leaving us on the brink of inhabitability . . . you thought the Jacobin and the Girondist who were the driving force of such, went too far with the guillotine . . .
Mercy, mercy, Merci beaucoup
What does anything said say? How to say what can only be said by me about me to you when you doubt that anyone can say anything . . . everything in the dialogue, but it’s not dialogue, it’s exchanged monologues, never-ending monologues exchanged, collated, shuffled, what else have we in the way of expressing how full of shit we are–it always seems to come to this, how full of shit we are, and I guess people are sounder and happier when there is room to understand this full-of-shit we are, except we are living in a new fifties, you could say, and everything is–is what? What is it? When is it? Is it at all? What else have we in genres to list? I see Moloch chewing babies that mothers have brought the great beast god devouring America. Where have we come, have you gotten, have I, what? I am, but mostly I am what I say I am when I write what I do, how I do. Enough. (I do have the tendency to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on . . . .)
Where then does this writing of history begin, and it is history that anyone writes when they write about themselves or another and another and another, each line creeping along, petty word after word until the last syllable; where does it end? How do we understand history apart from historiography? How do I understand my history–my story–all history is a story . . . We might want to understand where my story begins or ends–I don’t think of it as such. Is there an E Pluribus Unum of history. Wouldn’t that amount to an uber-history, a super historum, une surhistoire?
What then do I say? I say so much, do I mean less by saying more? I keep writing and writing and writing and commenting on what has been written and comment on the comments in the commentary. I keep a journal. I have many, many notebooks, composition notebooks, hundreds of them, all of them filled with comments remarks observations experiences happenings reactions passions emotions arguments bile. What if I were to scan all those pages and collect them and publish them–what then would that say? More than ten thousand pages of journals, notebooks, sketches, poems, stories, essays, commentary and bile. Spleen. I vent my spleen in these books . . . listen my hypocrite readers, I could say, in the garden of my vanity, flowers of evil thrive . . . it’s not enough to say this, to say anything, words fail, don’t they, yet they are all we have to say what we intend to say but do not get to say because words transform in their forming.
There has been a tradition where story is story as in fictional story and history was history as in true story, but then that was or is how all people connected to mythology in a way other than how we understand the word ‘myth” understood their story. A myth was a true story and was separate from legend or folk-tale. Genesis is the true cosmogonic story of the Hebrews. If you want to make story out of it, something we understand to be fiction, then you go right ahead. The story of the Tlingit’s Great Raven as the bearer of culture and ethnicity is cosmogonic and in keeping with myth as a true story telling of their origins . . . but what about the history historians have written? What is this writing of history?
All history would then be historiography. I don’t want to say only historiography as if this writing of history were less than the history, nor do I want to be so restrictive that this historiography becomes in the mind the only thing that history could be . . . it couldn’t be. The stories we tell, the stories told, how they have been told, I remember reading the Odyssey when I was boy, how old was I, I think I was in the seventh grade . . . the times I did not spend in my room reading; the times I did spend with friends doing nothing, mostly, just being as some of us said, playing, horsing around, as it was said by some who were older than us. I was not the reader when I was young that I became later; I am not the reader I would like to be, understand to be an act that I am transformed by, no one who reads deeply and well remains the same person he was before having read . . . but the history of it, the history of me, of me as a reader, of me as a boy, of me as a boy in the Berkshires for summers in the woods, of me trying to be me, of me being me, of me being some other me, what other me, all the many me[s] there are inside me, inside the Self as I have said elsewhere and will say again as I have said before how I will say again, there is so much I say over and over snd over.
I believe in Truth, therefore, I believe in telling the Truth, the capital “T” variety of Truth makes it difficult–does Truth have variety? Can it be various?
Truth is compass heading. We have thrown away the compass.
There is at least variegation if not true categorical variation. How can it be done, this telling the truth (miniscule, intended)? I swear to the truth and the whole truth. We do swear this in our court’s of law. This is not a naivety; it points to the subjectivity of truth, the small-case ‘truth.’ I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, nothing but the facts as I recall them, recollect them, having seen them or heard them, let’s say the limit of the questions being asked me. Testimony is just that, the whole truth, nothing selective, nothing edited, excluded, revised from what I remember. But how is that possible? What then is the Truth? What do you want to know? What will you testify to? Jehovah’s Witnesses testify . . . I have testified in open court . . .
Testimony in history about history–history is what gets recorded, what gets written. What are the methodologies of historians, what have they been at different times and in different places. What has history been, what have historians at different times and in different places considered the discipline of history, the proper subject of historical investigation, the appropriate style of writing . . . what is and has been historical writing. The study of historical writing is historiography; the analysis of texts, the history of historical writing which may not exactly coincide with what we could call the history of history. History is testimony of a kind. Historians are supposed to tell the truth and the whole truth, as much as they can, but then what is this can?
Can is able to, can is allowed to, can is know how to, and this has everything to do with what gets recorded. The history of DNA, for instance is not what was initially recorded or acknowledged by the Nobel committee, or passed down in other historiography, finding its way into textbooks and then taught as the truth and nothing but the truth. But we know witnesses lie. We know there are conspirators who lie or manipulate facts or with hold facts in trials. We know prosecutors have ignored information on purpose to get a conviction. We know innocent men and women have been found guilty in court’s of law, and we know how much this has helped undermine our faith in Truth and our faith in reaching any truth. It has gone a long way in perpetuating a culture of doubt, a culture where doubt has become the highest form of wisdom, where instead of beginning with Socrates I know nothing, we conclude with it, leaving us with the belief that knowledge is impossible.
Do I have to be somebody, as when we say somebody as if everybody else might be nobody, in order to have the right to say what I do here? More questions? I could ask one after another continuing on and on in perpetuity, and depending how long I lived, this would determine how many questions I get to ask. We miss the point about time, about history; history is not exactly time, it is not what we think it is when we assume what we do about how it exists, the thing it is in our pre-thoughts.
I am X, Y and Z, as well as A, B and C. I am everyone everywhere all the time. I am no one; I am anyone you could imagine. When I tell my story, I am testifying. Testifying. I was testifying to my life, to my Self . . . I am in every way I communicate with others, communicate with myself, in my head, in the mirror, on the page. Why choose to tell non-fiction or fiction? The blankness of the page before me with pen in hand is exciting for me. I am filled with hope and anxious expectation.
Who am I to tell my tale, this tale, one told as I choose to tell it, herein without verse, without elaborate or conventionally accepted modes of conveying fiction? I like the word mode, from the French for style, for manner. Who do I have to be to tell a tale other than a teller; all speaking a way of telling something, no? But the tale, the story, what of this? Who does anyone need to be to believe that what he has to say he should say and not only say, but tell.
To say is intransitive; to tell is only transitive. What have I told you? What have I said about me that could let you know something you think you want to know, sometimes think you need to know–who needs to know anything about anyone anywhere at any time? We all want to know more than what is good for us to know, all of us wanting to find out what we should have better sense to inquire about; but the things we should know about, know more about, we are content to remain oblivious about.
Progress is not an inference drawn from chronology alone. We can move through chronology, pass through the years from one to another without inferring anything like progress has happened. Do you think history is progressive, whatever history is? Do you believe in progress happening correlative to chronology passing? What is this thing time? Do we move in it, through it, as it passes us by? How is time, history? Is history like time at all?
History is then a tunnel, or is history like an arrow shot? History is like an ocean, I remember saying to her at the ocean. History has tides and surges and waves and storms. History has its tsunamis. History has natural force; history is a natural force. What is history? is a question we ask, although I don’t know why we do? When is history, is another question? This question might be more appropriate than the former. The appropriateness of questions sometimes concerns me–there are always considerations of this kind for anything we are going to say in company.
History is history is history whether it is written r not, told or not, right? No? What do you think? What do you say? What are you going too say, to tell. All of it the tale told by an idiot? I have more optimism than MacBeth. I would have to, wouldn’t I?
I could extend questions, string them one after the other, on and on and on until the last interrogative of recorded time. All the questions I ask followed by yet another string of other questions followed by yet still other questions–nearly perpetually, going on and keeping on . . . what is it that I am saying about the nature of questioning; taking the time to perform and act of social inquiry, of personal inquiry, of any kind of inquiry into any subject . . . what?
Each could be extended, linked one to another and another every essay essaying what to essay–oral or literary–other forms of speaking or writing perpetuating itself into itself multiplied, replicated, de-formed, re-formed, all to continue informing, to put in form by information.
To essay or not to essay, what do I essay when I do in an essay this thing about putting ideas on trial . . . I don’t now if I hate writing that is a parade of images for the sake of images, but I do know I know what Williams meant when he said it to Kazan . . .
If only to put what I think in a form suited, I would be happy. To accomplish this task of putting pen to page and saying something intelligent about something that begs to be discussed, again, to be essayed–I am fixed here on this trying out what I think, thinking not randomly passing images in the mind or playing hop-scotch with the names of ideas, the way most people do with the data of history rather than the matter of history. Yes, put on trial by the ordeal of ideas, I am as well as what I think–what then must the judgement be on the writing. Beauty, I have already concluded, as the Romans understood, cannot exist without form, except in a modified Greek understanding of absolute forms. The Romans and the Greeks did differ on the representation of beauty; go to the Met and walk among the Roman and Greek statuary and see. But Beauty manifests as this beauty or that beautiful something we do not need to name at present. I could extend any of the questions that might be asked about what I intend in the pages I write, I am always writing beyond the limits of one of essay or another or story or poem–God the variations of form that happen there, in my poetry. I write and I write and I write, ah! the walking shadows. How do shadows talk? What do they say? Saying so much over the years in notebook after notebook . . .
I have written many essays, stories, poems, critiques in a variety of styles for a variety of purposes for a variety of audiences–know your audience. I could continue any questioning far beyond where I take my inquiries in the essays I publish in the pages section of my website, fit only for those who understand what we once called literary tradition. Style shifts for need, of course. What more should I ask? I am the Review; I am everything and everyone there; every essay, every word, every title, every post, every video/film, each photograph you might see . . . could I apply this fore mentioned literary approach to subjects as diverse as from language and linguistics to epistemology and ethics? Yes. From history to law to then again historiography? For certain. Or to reading and writing in the most general application? I imagine so. From painting and sculpting to the state of theater in America? Why hesitate with a reply?
From blogging, to Orthodox Jewish landlords in my building diminishing maintenance services correlative with the rise in Muslim tenants in the compound where these Orthodox Jewish landlords are allowed, by the City that governs the housing they own, to act as they wish, or do not wish, and with impunity? Is it true that tis is what the city does? It feels like it is what the city does and does not do . . . Yes.
And I address all of these and then so much more, but how is always ever present. What is the rhetorical edge I am going to use and will it cut appropriately? Rhetoric must cut. I need to wield a scalpel’s blade. Surgery in satire is better than butchery. My pen is my scalpel, of course; memory at times is a knife that cuts . . . could I address in tones more sober that Mayor Frumpberg was a large Orwellian pig–in direct contrast to his diminutive staure and mousy nature before the media? Of course I could–but I would still need to tread gently. Did Frumpberg let landlords off thier leashes? I could say that he did, but to what effect when most of what we have in the media has conditioned us to be hyper polite to the extent that we are psychopathically polite?
Yes, of course we–that means I–could address all of these things, and I do understand that some might say that these conclusions are not matters of course; but I insist that there are self-evident necessities that must be phrased as we do, as I do–this review is not mine–it is me; I am the review. Thus, whatever it is that we will do, I will do; whatever we do, I do; whatever is done has been done by me. So, when I ask what I can do in my writing, I am of course posing the question as we like to say rhetorically. But as I have said before in other essays and herein, rhetoric is an edge that cuts. Is it though, the meat cleaver, or the surgeon’s scalpel, I will use. Surgery, I will perform; or, is it autopsy. Writers are sometimes coroners. But who am here: I am me, the man I am, but I cannot forget that the man I am is a plurality, not a singularity. I am we, of course, not just in the way I know that all the world is a stage, and like Jacques, I know that each of us plays many parts, not only the roles that advancing through age demand, but the roles created because I am not the same man when I speak to my neighbor as I am when I speak to my mother, nor have ever been the same man speaking to my mother as I have been speaking to my father, not the same man I am speaking to my father as I am speaking to any of my close male friends, not the same speaking to any of them as I am speaking to any woman who has been my lover, not the same speaking to one of them as to another or another or another of them, or speaking to any woman classmate in any college class I have had, not the same to any one of them as I am to any other one of them, nor as I am speaking to a woman friend who is not a lover or a lover who is not a friend, or to an elderly woman on the train, or a woman police officer, or a woman professor of my Victorian Lit class.
How could we not be many, plural; each of us is we, a multiplication of selves by the plurality of them in each Self, each person building a Self of many selves out of the experience and the givens of his or her life, no? I am not the same man I was last week, nor will I be the same man tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, sometimes being an idiot, even?
. . . and Tarkovsky was a man. Tarkovsky was a Russian man. Tarkovsky was a film director. Tarkovsky was a Russian film director, an auteur. Tarkovsky was an event in the history of film. His films were the reverberations, the after shocks of this seismic event. Tarkovsky made some of the most beautiful films. I know these things about him, know why he is great, know why he is significant, know why his films are beautiful, so it pains me to say I do not like him, and it might be him more than his films–it is personal. I do hate when rebuttals are offered in a particularly reductionist manner: Oh, you just don’t understand Russian life; or, You cannot understand the Russian soul. Those comments are absurd–as if you needed to be American to understand Whitman, and if you were not American, Whitman would be incomprehensible and pretentious and cliche . . . no, not true. Kurosawa probably got Shakespeare better than many Brits, and even Brits who teach him at Oxford, which is not to say that you do need or should need a university degree to get Shakespeare, or that if you have one, you must certainly be separate from an organic understanding because that would equally untrue . . . please do not mistake what I am saying for one or another or another of our received ideas from whatever angle of approach you migh be coming at whatever topic is the axis of discussion . . .
Tarkovsky is pretentious in spite of being as great as he is and this is because he is pretentious, not because he is Russian . . . and yes, I do say that there is a particular way he is pretentious that is familiar to me from my contact with so many Russians–or Russian speakers, when they are not ethnically Russian–here in New York City, so maybe some of what I find offensive about how pretentious he is is in the way he is Russian, unavoidably Russian, and that means in a way that is unavoidably Soviet, which may or may not signal one thing or another and another, all of them again in petty paces creeping up and down the cortex. Maybe great Russian artists are not among the teeming masses pretending they yearn to be free–because this role is laid out for them to play, and also because freedom is not what it used to be, not in how we package it, sell it, buy it, manipulate the idea in the media to meet the ends of power and money . . . I do hope when I finish the film I am working on now, critics of that film will be kinder than I have been here, and I am not saying that I have been unkind . . . but I cannot help but think that Tarkovsky’s use of tracking is pretentious, redundant, and because of these, yes, even trite. How can someone who makes such beautiful films . . . I love watching Tarkovsky, but hate having watched him . . . he, he . . . what is it? He is . . . self indulgent, yes, he is self-indulgent in the way–his personal conventions he turns into cliches. If he were not Russian, and were instead Italian or French, he might not have the reputation he has, which means we do indulge Russians as a Pro-Russian anti-reflex for the anti-Russian reflexes we exhibited during the Cold War, but neither side’s paranoia was really paranoia . . . how could you not have them, indulge them, become inundated by them, nearly drowned by them, what a good swimmer I was.
Tarkovsky’s reputation is what it is because we endure pretensions from Russians, and we endure pretensions from Russians because we misunderstand what Russians are–and in this, even great Russian artists misunderstand themselves and live up to the stereotypes western elite criticism maintains–and elite criticism has its stereotypes. I do not want to reduce great Russian art and artists, but only assess an infection in our thinking contracted by some of the diseases of thought grown epidemically in the twentieth century, a century we continue to endure, a century of resentment when it was not busy being a century of murder. What history has to do with art I leave to the historian or worse, the critic. I do not care what Stalin did as much as what Eisenstein was able to do in spite of Stalin . . . we endure pretentions from so many people from so many places.
I cannot say that Dostoevsky and Tarkovsky are mutual in this pretentiousness–no. Do Russian artists have to live up to my expectations or anyone else’s expectations–of course not. Must they meet one or another assessment of their art based on what has been perceived to be Dostoevsky’s greatness? No, certainly not. I am one that understands Dostoevsky’s greatness is independent of how he is or has been or will be assessed. If no one ever read Dostoevsky again; if we ever come to a time where general literacy is so shallow that all but a handful of people can and not just do read him, he would still be the great writer he is, and yes, is. I also understand what gives Tarkovsky his reputation among film historians and critics. I am only talking here about the effects his films have on me. What do I know actually about anyone from anywhere not even able to know myself completely? Is this true, this Self of many selves, each of them wearing masks inside, the various masks I wear in public, depending on whom I with and where and when and how and a whole set of other variables to enter the equations of the Self and selves , , ,
Why do I even allow his films–now who is being pretentious?
Like I said–what did I say, what was it . . . something about how some of his compositions on film are extraordinary–and yes, they are extra/ordinary . . . very beautiful . . . and so this man who does not like Tarkovsky in a particular way, although he loves Tarkovsky in others, has said . . . what have I said that could be of use to anyone who may or may not want to watch his films, who do watch his films, who do not any longer watch his films because they dislike his art . . . I watched Bunuel the other day . . .
There are things Tarkovsky does in his films like other things that have been done elsewhere or before that I love, that excite me, that inspire me to imagine that I could be a film maker. In isolation, parts of his films are astoundingly beautiful, but in the whole of his composition, the way he collates the parts, I find the result horribly pretentious–and I know that I continue to say the same thing over and over which in itself is poor rhetorical style . . . but it’s not just in that annoying way I find most of what intelligent Russians say and think sounds terribly pretentious. I know how terribly narrow minded I am being when I say this, but I cannot care about that because how I feel about Tarkovsky’s films, what I think about Tarkovsky as a film-maker, compels me to say what I am saying the way I say it . . . I love his films . . . and what then am I to say, how to say what needs to be said . . . choice is essential to freedom–and this has what exactly to do with what I am saying now about Tarkovsky and why I like–and sometimes I love his films . . . what more should be said, how to say what had been said by this bigoted man, myself, mea culpa, or so we must conclude if we are to be taken seriously by those who feel . . . and if there is such a thing as a body of thought, a body of work, then there must be viscera too. We mustn’t blame Tarkovsky for hiding his viscera. He does not perform seppuku for us, and we should thank him . . .
The Milky Way
I stand at the shore in Montauk looking up at the swath of white in the night sky, looking dead center into the galactic plane, a squirt from Hera’s tit, my father had told me when I was a boy. In all of the North eastern United States, Montauk Point is one of the darkest at night, great star-gazing; surrounded by water and state parks. My to be or to become arises like a particle in the vacuum of space-time . . . all is created there as most of the heavier elements are created in super novae explosions, hydrogen fusing into helium, helium into carbon, carbon into argon and so on and so on . . . the fusion/fission dynamism of stars is like the being and becoming dynamism of humans . . . a question crosses my mind from time to time, has crossed my mind, has crossed everyone’s mind . . . when I look to the stars as I had when I was a boy . . . as every time I look in the mirror with this question, a question of my being and my becoming, which, when how . . . I get many different answers. The I I am depends on coordinates of time and space drawn by another hand. Eternity lurks in me, I have assumed, like a trace of the background radiation on spectral analysis of the cosmos. To be or to become is present in my choice now, and we always choose to be or to become, we cannot avoid choosing. Choice is always for the taking; each choice a chance we encounter; every chance results in our fortune or misfortune . . . this present trip is another fortune sought.
Who I am trips me up. I’m not especially clumsy, but all this wondering about who I am what I have been when I will be what and where, or how or why . . . I never watch my feet as I walk down a flight of stairs. You know why the lisper lisps. I determine who I am, or what I become, I assume; I am as much Everyman as I am unique in the entire history of the cosmos. I am not unique in this way. Everyone is Everyman. Yet, no one who has ever lived, who lives now, or will ever live is me. No one in any of these times or places–no one–occupies the coordinates of space and time as I do in this spot at this moment. All is ephemeral, though. Who I am, when I am, where I am, with whom I am, how I am before I become what I am–yes, I am and I am not simultaneously. I will be, but I will not be as well.This question of identity; you know Identity spells ID Entity. The it within; monsters again arising from inside of me. I have said this before . . . I will say it again. I repeat myself often.
Round and round I go, the Italians say, gira, gira . . . each pose I take posits somewhere outside of me something imposed inside of me. Imposing, posing, positing, depositing, a repository of a kind, this Self of selves within. Some of us imagine other selves as we do suppositories. What do I gain by the poses I take? Each intake, each out-take, put as it might be. Again, who am I? is the question who are we? I am once again . . . wondering who I am within who we are, this who we are by who I am all about when I am or where I am, and when and where I am going; to come and go. I become when I be-go. I am a cosmogony that does not get repeated; yet I am also all of humanity at any moment. The fact that I am cosmogonic allows me to stand in for all human beings, a posture I take, and I do take postures as well as pose them, put them on as I put on everyone else–all the world’s a stage . . . I do become anyone I need to be. I am many; thus I am we. But what I need to be is often a mystery to me. To philosophize is to learn how to die we know from Montaigne, but imagination is necessary to philosophize I learned from Doc Green as I called him, Doc. Imagination most people do not associate with philosophy, nor do they with eternity, as Blake reminds us time and again that imagination is the doorway to the eternal. Imagination was a faculty of mind most highly prized by the Romantics, suspicious of rationality as they were, or how the rational was used as a tool against humanity, the great human humane when human is only human when humane, as the French distinguish duality between the two in one word, humaine, and we Anglo saxon speakers create dichotomy with our tongue. But then I suspect this is why in a country so seemingly committed to democracy and freedom we can speak out of the mouths of our leaders with forked tongues. The Nazis and the Bolsheviks were both hyper-rational, not imaginative, unless it was in the expenditures on torture, oppression, and murder. I am who I am that I am when I am how I am where I am even why I am, I say, I think, therefore I believe; belief displaces dialectic in me.What then do I say about all the interrogatives that can be extended from each relative pronominal relationship to my I. We live by suppositions.
Everyone thinks that who what when where and why are important, very important, but then I am who I am, as I am what am I, where I am, and so on. I have not answered these questions in any way that proves overarching to my becoming; to my being is another thing, another essay, perhaps. You probably haven’t asked yet these questions ontologically. What are our theories of being? Do we have them, or do we only have theories of becoming, perpetual, endless becoming. You have decided you do not need to ask yourself the once pressing questions of being, whether existence precedes essence or vice-versa, and all the essences, the prefab essentials of our being precede the existence I have, and determine who I am, certainly what I am. You probably haven’t realized that you decided this, or why you might have, if that is in fact what has been done. The only determinism of your being, though, is the fact that you believe your life has been horribly determined, which coincides with a culture that gorges itself on victimhood and philosophies of victimization. These determinisms you believe you uncover, are in fact created by a system of belief you have firmly placed yourself inside of, and this self enclosure masquerades in your diction as inescapable determinism.Do you need an answer to each of these questions now that I am herein mentioning them as not having the relevance you insist they have. Now that it has come to the fore that I have not before answered or even attempted to answer any of these questions you think are useful–unless what I have thus far said could be said to have some say in the matter of my who and my what, at least in the ways you prefer to frame discussions of being, because you do discuss being even when you argue that being is impossible, or improbable, and the only thing we have is perpetual becoming into becoming into becoming yet again, all of it without gain. The where and the when are here and now as all writing has immediacy, an unavoidable presentness about it, and what I say here is in words on a page, printed for easy reading because my handwriting is shit. I am who I am even when I am not being the me I have been before, a me, an I, others I know might not recognize. I am me with every stranger I meet even if with that stranger I lie through my teeth and tell no truth in the factual sense of truth we sometimes hold too pedantically dear, close without feeling.Who am I? I do not ask this question because as I have said above, I am that I am when I am who and what I am wherever I am however it is that I am me. I am subject and object and subject complement and every other way of stating my being in words, which means language, which means in grammar, which exists independent of politics, if you will, before it, although rhetoric is not. I am. This is simple enough because all lists of attributes are modes of subtraction, really. I am unable to be sum-totaled; I am macrocosm to all microcosms, the microcosm of history, the one of state, of government, of gender, of sexual orientation, of religion, of politics, of political affiliation, of job, of class, et cetera.
What can I say about any time of mine in Montauk, the times we’d spend at Land’s End, on the beach, on and in the sands, viewing the sky, entering the waves, watching the waves, closing my eyes and listening to the waves, hearing the muted rhythmic pounding of them against the shore as if enveloped in cotton when at night I awaken in the middle of the dark, quiet, still . . . the door partly opened; or when I feel the salt spray, against my face, a taste working its way between my lips, with the wind, off the ocean . . . what more, this of course, what there is, all more––I could say more,I could tell you so much more than I have––what else can I say?
I have before said something about the horizon here at Land’s End, the one-hundred and eighty degrees of horizon–more I could say–yes, there are angles greater than 180 degrees; a line is in effect an angle. I love standing on the sands on the beach, sometimes with my feet in the surf, sucked down into the soft and quick wet sands of the surf, my feet moving as I stand looking out to the horizon south or east, sometimes west . . . the horizon of the ocean meeting the sky, a tilting line, one that wobbles with the rotation of the earth, as perhaps we do. I have tried to imagine being on the world or in the world the way a pendulum exists in the world, its in perpetuity a condition of being without the effects of gravity. But what is grave is not only a matter of gravity, not only a matter of the grave itself when the latter term is used in reference to our final fall, the tomb, as I have said, is our last tumble–no, grave matters are matters with the weight of gravity, a particular seriousness that cannot help but have great weight, density for sure if not with a corresponding great size. The grave is a fall; of course it is a fall; I recall the lowering coffin of my Great Aunt Anna into her grave in Pittsfield. Is this fall of ours, of hers, of mine to come–is any fall heroic and therefore tragic, or is it merely as it is–or as I have assumed it is–for all of us, absurd. A new meaning for reductio ad absurdum?
But the east end beaches, the beaches of the South Fork, the extreme eastern end of Long Island–beautiful beaches, gorgeous–there is, as I had begun to say at this entry’s inception, no word, no single word that could possibly capture what I feel, what I experience when out at Land’s End. Word, no; words, perhaps, yes, this explication of an explanation of why I like it in Montauk. I have mostly avoided such expression before. There is more in revealing than in telling; show them, I remember, was a mantra taken from–where was it taken from? Nothing but the word in itself–no thing, no place, no feeling, expression, idea is ever the word in itself. I have begun to question the Imagists, but then I recognize what it was they were trying to do, and therefore, what they meant by saying what they repeated one and all, Nothing but the word in itself.
What I need to say, want to say, will say often–the three of them never meet one with the other and the other, round robin speaking, as we say when we write, ah! to write or not to write, this would have to be every writers question. What does the writer say? I have asked this before, answered this before, responded one way or another with words on the page, herein this review and elsewhere, in story or poem or essay. What does the writer tell you? There–to say or to tell; transitive and intransitive expression, actions that need an object and actions that do not. Be is not an action; be never takes an object. Be, though, is not intransitive. I read; I read poetry–some verbs are either intransitive or transitive, depending on their context, that is, syntax . . .
I do not like Montauk or love it or adore it–I am it when I am there; yes, I am Montauk; Montuak is me–I. There is a misconception about this idea that we should say, It is I instead of It is me. The French do say C’est moi, which is not, C’est je. No one ever says, c’est je; they say, c’est moi. C’est moi is “It is me,” It’s me, what we say when someone asks, Who is it? Moi is the substantive pronoun,as is me, the latter also an object pronoun, both the indirect and the direct. Montauk is me; it is I, if you prefer, but I do not. This is all that I can say–should say, if we do have should for things like this . . . I to be Montuak or Montauk to be me; each one is valid, mutual and reciprocal. There is more in the spheres of human being than can be contained by the narrowness of our received ideas. The fires and the motions of my being; I am as I have been for many years, subsumed by an overriding, overarching Romantism . . . the holiness of the heart, the eternal that is the imagination, the imaginative . . . I do recall Flaubert’s outburst at the trial of Madame Bovary–yes, the great French author, novelist, said, Madame Bovary . . . c’est moi.
Waiting for the Sun
Sun rise from the beach in Montauk. Getting up before dawn to wait for the sun. Waiting for the Sun was an album by the Doors–my favorite group when I was . . . how old was I then the first time I listened to the Doors, still played by the crew at WNEW when I was . . . how old was I listening to Alison Steele, the Night Bird–I’d stay up to listen to her . . . They are now, the Doors, from then, what remains–the most enduring group from my youth? What does that mean? What could it mean? What does it mean–not just the truth of it, if it is in fact true–but to say it, to think that I need to say it, or that it might say something of me to say it?
Morrison died before I was fourteen or ever a fan of their music. Fan from fanatic–was I a Doors fan the way I am and was a New York Rangers’s fan? Probably not–maybe, though, I was. What means this–could mean anything remotely akin to having a favorite band, or how a band could express something about my being, my personality–yes, to say I liked the Doors did say something about me. We wore our fandom as badges of personality. We allowed their cult of personality to transfer onto us at a time in our lives when we could’t have been less sure who we were, what we were, when we were what, whom, the where was everywhere; the when was actually twofold. It was all the time and it was whenever . . .
The list of conditions we underwent to undergo personality selection is too long. I had no idea and yet I was sure I was the only one who could ever know what I was or what I was going to come to be . . . the sun up over the line of horizon, the squid ink sea growing lighter and lighter with each inching of the sun over the horizon. How many poems has this figured in? I could go back and count, having all my MSS at hand, along with many of the earlier drafts of the poetry manuscripts with their previous titles when different?
A page in caption. Every page I write is a caption for an image of me I have hold keep . . . words and pictures, every picture worth a thousand words, we used to say. I do not understand that. I think it is more accurate to say every right word is a thousand pictures, no. To write or not to write for me has ben my to be or not. There is no getting around that, escaping the import of this fact–facts are not knowledge, though. What knowledge is in this will determine what or how much wisdom can be extracted? Wisdom does not come by extraction, though. Wisdom is revealed; it is an epiphany moment. It is sudden as in Satori, no? What could I know of this, you might ask–I know some of you do, so maybe ye, maybe no, how much of my life has been lived in perhaps . . . what is it about a life we were supposed to be looking for as signs of what? What were the signs might be a question if we really knew for what they were to be the signs of, no?
I recall a satori in Montauk–how could you not have one after another in Montauk I used to think . . . there is a deafness at the beach enveloped in the sound of the surf as I am, yes, enveloped as I am by sight and sound and spray from the wind off the waves. What was the satori? I’m not sure I recall which–how could I differentiate fro among them, yes, the many . . . I love to write out there . , , I re-read Kerouac’s Big Sur on the beach in Montauk–it was between this an Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, for obvious reasons . . . and for not so obvious reasons I picked to Kerouac, I won’t go into the whys, but not because I like Jack better than Virginia, no . . . I know he would have liked that I brought the book with me, and carried on in my journal as I had about the reading and the waves and the surf and the gulls and the clouds and salt spray and the wind and the Hoo Doos and the cliffs of Shadmoor State Park and the echo off the Hoo Doos as the surf raged below them . . . and I’m sure that he would have loved that I was reading it on the beach, and I have no problem saying as much to others, some others–no, most others not nearly as close to me as I am to those kin I have in spirit as we used to say about our favorite authors, the authors we carried with us as badges, ID badges, like I did with Kerouac and Faulkner . . . I stand on the beach in the surf and I look to the horizon, I look to the waves, at them, looking in a way that watches closely what is happening, how the water breaks off from the surf, what shaols are there under the water that I cannot see, what formations of the shore I cannot see that cause the water coming in to break in white water waves . . . I look back to the horizon and imagine that I see it wobble.
The Soul of Genius
. . . and so you want to know something about me . . .
Love is the Soul of Genius
Love is the soul of genius, Mozart said. How could it not be, I have added. Yes, love–love, an immortal essence? Of genius? But what is genius? Who is a genius? Genius has been co-opted by advertising, hasn’t it? It has been used in any one of Hollywood’s or publishing’s many marketing strategies. Genius, apart from our understanding of the word today, used to be a person of exceptional intellectual abilities, exceptional creative talent. I guess it means the same thing today–I do not really have to guess. It is, though, this evaluation of what constitutes exceptional abilities that I question, our ability to judge this when so many of us in a position to judge have been corrupted by a pedagogy more concerned for marketing strategies than educating. Yes, everyone was special in my son’s middle school, even the imbeciles. Am I supposed to apologize for calling a cloudy day cloudy and not sunny–are all days sunny? Some children are fundamentally stupid. You do not have to make them feel badly because of this; you do not have to torture them by making them persist in tests of achievement they will not be able to complete. We do not have to lie to ourselves and not be honest with ourselves about them, academically, intellectually. We must always have compassion. We do not have to lower standards to make him fell better; there are many ways for him to adjust to the fact that he is not academically special.
We like to say for all endeavors we imagine are creative that genius is the guiding spirit of the person creating. In the case of Mozart’s claim, a guiding spirit itself coalescing with love becomes the principal force in the creative process. It is the essence of this spiritual force that ‘makes,’ as we say when we use the Greek poeta, or poet, for a man or a woman of creative power. Dare I say the word power? Love then is also at the heart of many things we want to do well, need to do well, whether we choose to or not; it is the guiding creative force behind our accomplishments. The kind of genius Mozart was talking about I insist was the kind of genius that compels the creator to create. If poetry does not come as leaves to the tree than it better not come at all, said Keats. Of course, we reserve this understanding for endeavors outside the mundane, and we do not consider this notion of doing with love when we consider sweeping the floor, cleaning the windows, making coffee, although some do–nor do we reserve this analysis for doing the laundry, although we could, and perhaps we should. Without love, it is not possible to do anything well enough, and everyone needs to do better what it is they do, brushing the teeth, cleaning the house, making dinner, putting up the Christmas tree, buying a birthday gift, et cetera; there must be love at the heart of action, if action is to be completed appropriately.
What we desire to do, to accomplish, we should do with love, of course. Repetition is a rhetorical device and rhetorical devices should also be employed with love in our writing. Persuasion must come from love and thus from Truth otherwise it is all about buying and selling, pimping and prostitution. Without love there is no genius of any kind–we do get this in Mozart’s assertion, no? Thus, whatever we do, we do without the necessary genius if we do it without love–and love is not the passion that is greed. We have no genius for sweeping–do we? Or for washing the dishes, or for frying an egg. Yet, the woman or the man who bakes with love understands that love is the soul of genius in baking.
But what is love, we have to ask? Of course we do. We have, though, fallen out of the habit of defining our terms when we speak or write. Defining our terms was and remains always necessary for anyone who reads what we write to see where we stand in relation to what we are saying. Defining our terms is necessary to show where our ideas come from and where they are going. In any examination of the process of accretion in our thinking–and yes, I liken thinking to the processes in stellar evolution–in any articulation of the process of our thinking, we expose not only where we stand, that is, what our thesis is, but how we have arrived at our conclusions. Defining terms is always a good place to begin. So, what is love? The question is the query; inquiry is the pursuit.
I love my mother. I love good dark chocolate. I love van Gogh. I love reading Woolf. I love the shore at Montauk. I love being in Montauk, love how being there makes me feel. I love seeing the full moon in the sky, love recalling happy moments in my life. I love listening to Vivaldi, love how Vivaldi makes me cry–and I do cry when I listen to Vivaldi as I do cry sometimes when I listen to Louis Armstrong. I love visiting the Met, the Opera and the Museum. I love the Balanchine and Stravinsky pieces at the New York City Ballet, especially the black and whites, as I like to call them. What I love is wide and variegated. I also love the idea of being in love, as does Romeo. The kinds of love are varied. I love to fuck, of course–for me this is self-evident. Yes, I love sex, I love wine, I love women, I do, I really love women, the fact of women, the presence of women, the motion of women, the skin of women, the tits of women, the legs of women, the hands of women, hands still, hands moving, holding, caressing, manipulating, hands holding my hand, hands holding a fork, hands turning a spoon in a cup of coffee . . . I love coffee, dark roasts, the smell, the taste, the feel in the mouth . . . I love women’s mouths, their lips, their tongues, I love their eyes, their ears, collar bones, necks, throats, all of this becoming too pornographic. I do not love pornography. Pornography is extreme focus, is it not. I do love close-ups; Extreme focus is a detail as we say in art criticism. Yes, the woman’s body in details, sharp focus of the parts, pornography. Woman metonymically–there is a great deal of difference between loving a woman sexual and engaging in what amounts to one or another forms of pornographic behavior. A woman’s cunt standing for her, part for whole, metonymy, or in this sense, the hole for the whole. I do not love this.
I imagine that the power elite love power. I imagine torturers love torturing. I imagine that there is a genius for torturing, no? There are god and bad torturers. I am speaking about aesthetics. The grotesque, as you should know is a category of beauty. I love beauty–as I have said before. If I had pursued my degree in philosophy, I would have pursued a concentration in aesthetics. It is safe to say that anyone who succeeds in the games of power played in the world must be a lover of power. I imagine that the monied elites love money, that they love to make money, accumulating money then would be an act of love? Is this love or is this a fetish? If a man seeks, finds and reaches sexual gratification from a woman’s shoe, this is fetish, not love, right? I do not make distinctions between love and lust, however. The desire to fuck in itself, as I have made clear elsewhere in the course of my essays, is love. This desire for consummation at the site of or the proximity to one’s sexual interest is the beginning of love, a kind of love after which choices have to be made, are then made, that determine the fate of the love that has been initiated? Are we confusing love and lust? I do not want to be a prude and say that what we understand to be lust and lustfulness has nothing to do with love. That would be false. I am of the mind that the desire to fuck is love.
There is a line from Citizen Kane that resonates in relation to the aforementioned love of money; the lust for money? Greed cant be love? Greed can only be lust–lust without love is a degradation of the love within which the desire arose? Anyway, one of the characters responds to the reporter investigating Mr. Kane’s last word, “Rosebud” by saying that “it’s not hard to make a lot of money if the only thing you want to do is to make a lot of money.” So, where are we then? Kane had a genius for making money? He had another for spending it? Does the Devil have a genius for disruption, for distraction, for confusion? Of course he does. The love of acquisition leads to acquisition. But is this love of acquisition actually love in itself love, the way we mean when we say love for one’s paramour; or love for one’s brother, whether that be one’s native brother or one’s brother in the sense Jesus means in the Gospels. Some say yes, others say no. I have my doubts, but raise the questions again. What I say I must first find out., and I only find out by writing. I ask what is love? Hence, I write about love. There are too many answers to provide, let alone all the aimless responses I could indulge on what I might imagine passes for thinking on the spot in a moment most likely abruptly in response to something said.
Love is obsession, I’m sure many must think; love cannot be obsession others say. Love is grace; there is no grace without love. God offers grace; then as I had been taught, God is the God of Love before he is the God of Justice, Retribution, Vengeance and Submission. Grace is an affectation of the debilitated religio-centric mind, or so we could believe. To be obsessed with somebody some say is love; others insist obsession cannot be love. Jesus loves and by His love saves, Christians say. Love is kindness; love is compassion; love is sacrifice; love is altruism; love is giving and not taking; love is . . . what? Love is, in the Aquinian sense that Deus est and only Deus est. God is. This is the only valid thing to say about God. It is the only rhetoric to be used. To give attribute to God, to say that God is this or God is that would be to subtract from God, rhetorically, that is. So perhaps this is what we should say about love, Love is. The Buddha speaks of love as the only antidote for hate. I recall the Dhammapada and Lord Buddha’s pronouncement that only love can dispel hate. Do the lovers of money dispel the haters of money, the haters of materialism? Perhaps they do.
Many think of love as a spiritual principle pervading the world. But how can it pervade the world when the globe turns on an axis of contempt, violence, corruption, greed and death? Yet, as I have said above, what if you loved power, what if you loved money? Certainly greed is an obsession, lust is an obsession . . . all the deadly sins are obsessions, we have said in our traditional conception of these losses of light. And they are losses of light–except we can then say that those who do not love the accumulation of wealth are those who have not seen the light. but then doesn’t Satan shine his own peculiar light on things in the world, of the world. Jesus does say be in the world , not of it. But then a Christian is supposed to believe in a God of light, a God of Truth. A Christian is supposed to believe in a body of spirit and flesh. The human being is not solely a being of material/of body without spirit. Sin is darkness; love is light. This is old. Love and obsession cannot be the same? Love is forgiveness; obsession becomes jealousy; jealousy is not love? Love is redemption and transcendence; obsession is descent and the kitchen knife in your lover’s chest? But then that’s it. Love can become jealousy; it just doesn’t have to become a bullet in the heart.
Is love of money, though, the same as greed? Is there a way to love money without being greedy; isn’t being greedy loving accumulation too much. There is then a way to exceed? From the above sense of what love could be, I would have to say, no. Love of what you do can make you a lot of money, but the driving force of greed corrupts the love of what you do. Even when a lot of money is not the result; you can love what you do and you can corrupt that love of what you do.
The soul of genius, that is love . . . loving too much what you love in order to love it enough? Can the very, very rich be rich through the agency of love and not greed, or is the love of money in itself what we mean by avarice. Do Satan’s followers love him? Is what we call love applicable to Satan and anything satanic. Isn’t Satan and all things satanic a corruption of good, sin again being the absence of good, all things sinful devoid of any goodness, or some goodness, entering the darkness, sinful? How have we arrived at sin, at darkness . . . this gives me an idea, love is light. Light is good. Light is the opposite of darkness, herein we are speaking of spiritual principles, things of spirit, love is a thing of spirit. Like soul, it is a non-locatable essence.
Love is essential; love also exists, at least we see manifestations from the existence of love. We do not see it or feel it as we do a stone, we do not taste it as we do wine, although we can become drunk on love–and I insist that this is not a corruption of love. To be intoxicated by love as Mozart was by the muses, his legendary enthusiasm for playing and composing was itself the ancient enthousiasmos, or divine infection by or from the Muses, the patronesses and protectors of music, of poetry. Love, the soul of genius; the soul of Mozart’s genius for composing and playing music was his love of music, his love for humanity, we could say. Was love the 10th muse we could ask? This inquiry had been engaged by the British Romantics now nearly two hundred years ago. To what end I cannot say herein. We can understand, though, the attending spirit over Mozart, invigorated by love, what we hear we are supposed to know, to feel, is something exceptional in a way other than, greater than we usually mean when we use the word ‘genius.’
To Two or not to Two
Humanity is an entrance. Humanity is a portal that opens on two sides. On each side of the portal there is a human being. Now ‘to enter’ in French is ‘entrer.’ ‘Entre,’ in French, is a preposition related to the verb. This French preposition translates in English, ‘between.’ Yes, every way we enter is an entrance, every entrance thus a “between”; herein a noun, a thing, a state of being: the between. The act of entering is one of betweening; to be between is to be in an entrance of a kind visible or invisible, again, something that lies between one here and another there. Here and there perpetually pivot on one between or another. There is always a between, a very thin between that borders both here and there when they are right next to one another, the concentric circles of here and there, not the diametrically opposed positions where here is here close and ready and near and the other, the there is there, far and away there.
The between that exists for you and for me is this thing humanity; humanity only exists between you and me, only between two people is there any hope of humanity, of acting humanely. This is where our humanity resides, lives, inhabits–the habitat of humanity. Humanity is the between of being humane; you and me are the limits of this being between. To be tween, twain, two, one side the other side, sided by each, alongside one and the other, next to two times.
I once said in another essay that to enter is to between; yes, simple enough said. Whenever I go through an entrance I have betweened the space. Herein, to between is a verb: I between, you between, everyone betweens. Rimbaud said in a letter to a friend, Je me deux, or, I two myself, another kind of tearing asunder, of splitting the self and thus creating an internal between-ness inside. Rimbaud’s poetics were in this two-ness. Everybody does do this to himself; everyone’s in the between; I am between here and there, now and then; my humanity journeys from me to you. What then do we say about the journey that is life, this living. To two oneself or not to two oneself; oneself in two? I am many; I am we; the Self is many, we know.
The self has one as well, a between. We double ourselves in every meeting; every face we face another mirror. All journeys are between; your life as it is lived is between. To between or not to between, that could become the question. But to two oneself; what then is this and how to get into the between, to get between on self and the other, between the Self split at least in two, between any two selves of the Self, how then to accomplish this? Between me and you, between me and another; therein lies our humanity? How could it not be there between you and me? Where else would it be, could it stay, could it be found?
Demands and Other Questions
To ask or not to ask–we have learned to ask questions as a means of not receiving an answer; we have learned to respond at times as a means to avoid answering. What us it we do when we ask? Is it the question to question? Asking and questioning are not one and the same. To inquire might have separate connotations; what remains connotatively different must not occlude the likeness and similarities between or among the synonyms. The lack of absoluteness in any synonymy must also never preclude us from understanding where and when they are interchangeable, these words that share a limited synonymy.
I can say that I like asking questions, have always liked asking questions, had never had much fear about asking questions, different kinds of questions of course could be asked depending on the situation or circumstance. I also had what I would call a sensitive understanding of the inappropriateness of some questions; there are always questions that come to mind that are inappropriate. There are questions the media should be asking power that are uncomfortable, but not inappropriate. Although today, these are too few and very far between. Now, what I should avoid asking, I understand clearly. What to avoid when and where and with whom, to whom–these are clearly drawn in my mind. Again, there are always questions you do not ask people; you have to remember the questions you never asked your grandmother, questions you never asked your father, never asked your best friends beautiful girlfriend, questions you would never have asked any teacher, even your favorite teacher, but might have thought about how you should not ask these questions, or how you could imagine asking these questions although you knew you were never going to ask them.
There are a thousand what ifs that are appropriate for pondering that must never cross our lips to another’s ears. All of this sensitivity is at least what I had assumed was a sensitive understanding, what I imagined was carefully employed nearly always. I had impeccable timing for my questions as I did for my humor–at least I thought so, and I do say that I have been a fair judge of my talents and skills. I am not given to delusion about them, not in the way American cultural norms almost demand. I could go on here about how I loved to question ideas, question assumptions, question the meaning or the significance of events, or just the simple questions asked when questioning authority, something I did not do in the reflexive ways my generation had assumed either necessary for purposeful social corrective or simply as a birthright that needed exercise otherwise it would wither and die and thus so would democracy.
Going on about this might be interesting, would fit the opening, but no, I will not go on about the questions I could ask, would ask, might have asked but did not and why. Questions always beget more questions; questions leading to questions after answers especially. I have always suspected that the reason most of us do not answer the questions we are asked and only respond to them is that if we answered, a new question would be asked and the force with which it would be asked would put greater stress on the next answer being delivered. Only responding actually stlalls the process by getting stuck on a question that needs to be asked again because responses in themselves are not answers.
Demander in French is to ask; it is the origin of the English verb to demand. To ask and to demand in English are not the same. In French they share a word, again, the fore mentioned demander. What do we do when we demand something of someone, from someone? We know there is a way of asking someone for something or to do something or to give something that this someone feels is a demand. Our response, we know at times, is incredulous. I’m only asking, any one of us might say. You demanded, is the reply. Yet . . .
There is always a demand in every French question. To demand is an imposition in English; a demand is not simply a question to be answered, but a toll to be exacted, to be taken. We are very sensitive in America. In French, I assume that to ask is to demand, but to demand is also simply to ask. Who has the thicker skin? France is not the United States as so many American bigots, braggarts, jingoists and jinglists never fail to remind us; I have found American anti-French bigotry to be more pronounced and less articulate than across the Franco-Anglo-American lake. My tongue is in my cheek, which is far better than having it up your ass as so many of my compatriots do when it comes to food, not speaking.
To answer in French is repondre, literally, ‘to lay again,’ a kind of re-putting or re-placing, that is, laying out the answer, or in this case, the demand or the question. Repondre is the origin of the English to respond. In English, the word answer and the word respond share a degree of synonymity, but no two words are ever completely synonymous, interchangeable in all contexts of usage. This is the case for the verbs to answer and to respond in English, where a response is not in itself an answer, but to answer is to respond, in a way. At least in French, one takes the responsibility to respond, which is, once again, to lay out the demands of the question asked. Yes, responsibility is answerability, to be answerable for the demands one faces is what responsibility is; we are answerable for what we say and what we do, all of them of necessity in the logic of our lives. Even doing nothing or saying nothing in face of our lives is a choice, is a decision, with consequences, thus the answerableness . . . no words, no deeds, are themselves rhetorical positions, thus political ones.
Of course, interroger is also a way to say ‘to ask.’ It is also the origin of the English to interrogate. Every one, we know, poses questions, but not all asking is interrogating; yet, virtually all interrogating is demanding, although there are ways to demand that are not interrogating. Again, the French sense of demander. Every interrogator must demand otherwise it is not interrogation.
How to ask or not to ask is now the question. Whether it is nobler to respond responsibly when we answer the questions demanded of us, or instead, to avoid responding because we are unable to take responsibility for whatever demands are in question.
Fire and Embrace
(a seeing seen again)
Having written “Joan of Lorraine,” I found it easy to have borrowed this entry here from there . . . it goes a long way too have authority over texts so one can use them as one wishes, in ways originally intended or not, everything I see in the world I see again until I see something for the first time, yet in as much as a revision is a visioning again, I am seeing what I have seen before anew, therefore, for another first time . . .]
Abrazar in Spanish means to embrace, as I have said befiore and will likely remind others again; abrasar means to set on fire, of course it does, it must, how could it be otherwise: I set the house on fire, I set my lover on fire with my embraces . . . every embrace must set the one in your arms on fire, as Dido was set on fire by the embraces of Aeneas, as she had to set herself on fire, literally, in order to put an end to her desire for consummation at the absence of Aeneas. Love is always a form of consumption by the flames, always another kind of immolation. There are fires and motions in the soul that cannot be constrained by our being, but these are under constant assault by our culture . . . we must understand this, or is it that we have come to a place where we are unable . . . inability has everything to do with a lack of love.
Joan of Lorraine no longer feared the flames of her persecutors, having already been set ablaze by God and his Holy messengers, as Teresa D’Avila knew the burning devotion of God, as all lovers, true, understand and bear this as every woman bears her child, internally, interconnectedly, with a complete sublimation of all thought. Donne understood this devotion, or how all devotion of one kind or another is always holy. Keats is correct in asserting that there is a holiness to the hearts affections; could any of us live as intensely in his senses and his sensibilities, his mind/soul and body as did Keats; do any of us feel or do we only just emote. Again, recall that it is called The Passion of the Christ, not The Emotion of the Christ. There is a mutually exclusive categorical distinction between the two, emotion and passion; it is compassion, not com-emotion. Commotion is another thing altogether, yet related. Donne understood this when he asks his Three-personed God to ravage him . . . is he asking God to rape him spiritually, an invitation removes the stigma of rape, no pun intended, but perhaps could be used . . . take me, however roughly . . . play acting with God is dangerous, is it not? But we have to see where Donne is going with this and from where he is coming . . . Dido had left Tyre with her following of Phoenicians and settled and built what was to become Carthage on the Tunisian shores of North Africa on the Mediterranean. Carthage would rival Rome in the Western Mediterranean and in points east for nearly two hundred years, and it was not until the death of Carthage, the annihilation of everything Carthaginian at the end of the Third Punic War could you say that Rome had its advent. The descendants of Aeneas had to wage war repeatedly against Carthage, had to seek the annihilation of everything Carthaginian because the memory of Dido was too much to bear. Her choice to perish in the flames is not in effect different from Joan’s choice. Everything she left in her wake had to be possessed or destroyed. We want to say that Joan could not have chosen to live, that she could not have chosen to free herself of burgundian persecution, even if they were not laying traps for her in a trial that had been fixed prior to its commencement. Joan, though, still chose her fate; her actions, her honesty in testimony established this course inevitably, we could say. Yet, she still chooses what Dido had chosen, to choose or not to choose, this is not a question, it is impossible to avoid choosing, every refusal to choose is in itself a choice . . . choice is essential as I like to say . . . you do know what this has to do with, this idea of choosing, having the right or the responsibility or the burden of choosing? This notion that everything left must be possessed or destroyed is as invariably true for us today, as it has been humanly true for always, at least potentially for us today because we do fear this truer feeling more than we even give lip service to respecting it, admiring it, believing in it. The Serpent in the Garden speaks to Eve with forked tongue, no? How to assemble the pieces that fall from the framed jig-saw puzzle hanging in the hall . . . the missing pieces in the puzzle are easily replaced, but what if all the jig-saw puzzle pieces were to fall at once like rain falls in a torrential storm?
Desire becomes act, an act that is being in itself, another actuality pure. Dido chooses her death appropriately; would you or I do the same? Could we love as intensely?
The Ontological Self
Transcendental me . . . where and when are here and now. All writing has immediacy, an unavoidable presentness about it, and what I say here in words on a page, printed for easy reading because my handwriting is shit, is in the moment. I am who I am even when I am not being the me I have been before, a me correlative only to a contingent I, an I that others I know might not recognize. I am me with every stranger I meet even if with that stranger I lie through my teeth and tell no truth in the factual sense of truth we sometimes hold too pedantically dear, close without feeling.
I am. This is simple enough because all lists of attributes are modes of subtraction, really. I am unable to be sum-totaled; I am macrocosmic to all microcosms, the microcosm of history, the one of state, of government, of gender, of sexual orientation, of religion, of politics, of political affiliation, of job, of class, et cetera.Who am I? I do not ask this question because as I have said above, I am that I am when I am who and what I am wherever I am however it is that I am me. I am subject and object and subject complement and every other way of stating my being in words, which means language, which means in grammar, which exists independent of politics, if you will, before it, although rhetoric is not.
Do you need an answer to each of these questions now that I am herein mentioning them as not having the relevance you insist they have. Now that it has come to the fore that I have not before answered or even attempted to answer any of these questions you think are useful–unless what I have thus far said could be said to have some say in the matter of my who and my what, at least in the ways you prefer to frame discussions of being, because you do discuss being even when you argue that being is impossible, or improbable, and the only thing we have is perpetual becoming into becoming into becoming yet again, all of it without gain.
You have decided you do not need to ask yourself the once pressing questions of being, whether existence precedes essence or vice-versa, and all the essences, the prefab essentials of our being precede the existence I have, and determine who I am, certainly what I am. You probably haven’t realized that you decided this, or why you might have, if that is in fact what has been done. The only determinism of your being, though, is the fact that you believe your life has been horribly determined, which coincides with a culture that gorges itself on victimhood and philosophies of victimization. These determinisms you believe you uncover, are in fact created by a system of belief you have firmly placed yourself inside of, and this self enclosure masquerades in your diction as inescapable determinism.
I am who I am that I am when I am how I am where I am even why I am, I say, I think, therefore I believe; belief displaces dialectic in me. What then do I say about all the interrogatives that can be extended from eacc relative pronominal relationship to my I. Everyone thinks that who what when where and why are important, very important, but then I am who I am, as I am what am I, where I am, and so on. I have not answered these questions in any way that proves overarching to my becoming; to my being is another thing, another essay, perhaps. You probably haven’t asked yet these questions ontologically. What are our theories of being? Do we have them, or do we only have theories of becoming, perpetual, endless becoming.
To philosophize is to learn how to die we know from Montaigne, but imagination is necessary to philosophize I learned from Doc Green as I called him, Doc. Imagination most people do not associate with philosophy, nor do they with eternity, as Blake reminds us time and again that imagination is the doorway to the eternal. Imagination was a faculty of mind most highly prized by the Romantics, suspicious of rationality as they were, or how the rational was used s a tool against humanity, the great human humane when human is only human when humane, as the French distinguish duality between the two in one word, humaine, and we Anglo saxon speakers create dichotomy with our tongue. But then I suspect this is why in a country so seemingly committed to democracy and freedom we can speak out of the mouths of our leaders with forked tongues. The Nazis and the Bolsheviks were both hyper-rational, not imaginative, unless it was in the expenditures on torture, oppression, and murder.
Yet, who I am, when I am, where I am, with whom I am, how I am before I become what I am–yes, I am and I am not simultaneously. All is lost to other loses. I will be, but I will not be as well. This question of identity; you know Identity spells id entity. The it within; monsters again arising inside of me. Round and round I go, the Italians say, gira, gira . . . each pose I take posits somewhere outside of me something imposed inside of me. Imposing, posing, positing, depositing, a repository of a kind, this Self of selves within. What do I gain by the poses I take? Each intake, each out-take, put as it might be. Again, who am I? is the question who are we? I am once again . . . wondering who I am within who we are, this who we are by who I am all about when I am or where I am, and when and where I am going; to come and go. I become when I be-go. I am a cosmogony that does not get repeated; yet I am also all of humanity. The fact that I am cosmogonic allows me to stand in for all human beings, a posture I take, and I do take postures as well as pose them, put them on as I put on everyone else–all the world’s a stage . . . I do become anyone I need to be. I am many; thus I am we. But what I need to be is often a mystery to me.
Every time I look in the mirror with the question, who am I, I get a different answer. The I I am depends on coordinates of time and space drawn by another hand. Eternity lurks in me, I have assumed, like a trace of the background radiation on spectral analysis of the cosmos. To be or to become is present in my choice now, and we always choose to be or to become, we cannot avoid choosing. Choice is always for the taking; each choice a chance we encounter; every chance results in our fortune or misfortune. Who I am trips me up. I’m not especially clumsy, but all this wondering about who I am what I have been when I will be what and where, how or why . . . I never watch my feet as I walk down a flight of stairs. You know why the lisper lisps.
I determine who I am, or what I become, I assume; I am as much Everyman as I am unique in the entire history of the cosmos. I am unique in this way. No one who has ever lived, who lives now, or will ever live is me. No one in any of these times or places–no one–occupies the coordinates of space and time as I do in this spot at this moment. All is ephemeral, though.
I stand at the shore in Montauk looking up at the swath of white in the night sky, looking dead center into the galactic plane, a squirt from Hera’s tit, my father had told me when I was a boy. In all of the North eastern United States, Montauk Point is one of the darkest spots at night–great star-gazing. My to be or to become arises like a particle in the vacuum of space-time. The question crosses my mind from time to time, has crossed my mind, has crossed everyone’s mind. I look to the stars as I had when I was a boy and I feel a strange peace and yet a familiar one, first one then the other then the other again and then a mixture of both, awash in the vastness of the night sky, its depth, something that tears away the consciousness of flesh, at first thought, a liberation, at next, transcendence.
Soul is what we say someone has when that person touches us in a previously unimagined way, in a manner that moves us, whatever that means; when another person touches us in a way that transforms us, we think we understand; that sends us to regions of experience otherwise unattainable with persons who are soulless or whose depth of soul is far shallower than the person for whom we have bestowed the title, soulful. Ah! To have soul then is something other than being a person for whom the precondition is having a soul. To have soul in this sense is to have done something with one’s preexisting soul that enlarges it, enhances it, increases its capacity for what soul’s can do? Or is it to use what the soul provides the mind, herein soul and mind must be separate even if we have not decided whether they are a dichotomy or a duality.
A soulful person is a singular one, exceptional, of course, in the art of being soulful. To be mindful would be something else entirely. A man or a woman is apart from any grouping other than that of human, more specifically, that of humane, whenever we speak of him or her as a soulful person. I’m not sure exactly what we mean when we say somone is mindful–we would have to say mindful of what, unless we were talking about his ir her ability to have presence of mind, do we mean focus? We like to use this idea of being soulful as an example of what it means to be humane, no? The soulful person is a model of what it means to be a human-being, a real human-being, we like to say. We do say things like He is a real person. But words cannot express these ideas adequately; words are though all we have to say anything about anything, although saying just anything often does not make it in our minds. We must try to say what has always been said just better than ever before. Even what we know we cannot ever say can only be said in words, by words, so it is our obligation to make these words a form never before formed.
Words are in themselves only words, only the symbols of things other than words. We would certainly have fewer misunderstandings, as Locke had advised us more than three centuries ago, if we did not take them for things in themselves but as only the symbols of the ideas that they are. Each person to his or her own integral mind, and is mind, soul? Each person to his or her own idiolect, his own variety of saying what has always been said or never been said. Language is the glowing example of our humanity, what really separates us from all other creatures. Language is the shining star of all cultures; the greatest product of any culture is its language. In this way, all cultures are advanced. How then does this expose soulfulness as humanness?
All cultures have had the notion of soul. Soul is another of those polygenetic ideas humans have clung to in order to explain much of the inexplicable in human experience. How it has been drawn and articulated by mythology, by theology, metaphysics, ontology, and other branches of knowledge are found in myriads of expression. Soul is non-locatable in a term that succumbs to physiology and biology. Again, in defense, psychologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons and biologists have not located the mind, and they are no closer than theologians are at locating the soul, although, if we are looking for a physical place for the soul, why would we ask a theologian?
Faith seems the only reasonable course for understanding soul, in fact for understanding mind. Belief goes a long way in helping to understand what we have a sense is present although absent from all attempts to pin-point its location. Where is the soul is a question similar to where is the mind? The lack of evidence for their location is not proof of their non-existence. That is what I rest all discussions of soul on; I have faith that soul exists.
The Pressures of Simultaneity
How to say what I have tried to say while getting sidetracked into saying so much else other than what I had initially intended to say, so much so that the title of this piece had to be revised to include or point to what had become the bulk of what I eventually did say had to say–what did I have to say, having said what I have said herein, and so, the only thing now to say is what I am saying around and around on this merry-go-round with writing my writing where it ends up I end up not always where I had intended to end up when I first headed out on the page both flat and multidimensional . . . I go, I come, I end up.
Foreword, Afterword, Word
There was a time when every preface I would write, for whatever I thought should have a preface, was written after the fact of having written what I thought should be prefaced. You cannot introduce people you do not know, people you have never met, people who are not present tom introduce. Likewise, you can only introduce something you have already written. You can only write an introduction to something that has been written. In this way, when a preface functions as an introduction, it can only be written after the fact, but then this makes what has been written as a preface an afterword, that is, the words written after, or placed after the text they are functioning as the afterword for, the placement prior or after having as much to do with the nomination as anything else.
I Am, therefore I Think
How many times do I ask myself who I am? I live a life and only occasionally wonder about what should be the surest thing in that life, my being. What do I know better than my to be or not? What could I know as well? Why being at all seems never a question I raise, yet should be the first question I ask. I am, therefore I think. A new first philosophy? Being is what is, is all there is if anything is at all. My being is in itself, apart from necessity, without cause.
Hamlet’s dilemma is a decisive moment in the history of consciousness. His to be or not to be is the question, and not just in its relationship to suicide, which, if it happens or not, if it is fulfilled either way, is less important than the question is in its most overarching and far-reaching implications. Shakespeare was far too intelligent to restrict such a question as Hamlet’s to suicide and suicide alone. Everything I do has being wrapped up in it; the move toward being or non-being is essential in everyone’s life.
The question of whether to be or not to be is also asked by the contrastive pair of whether to be or to become for becoming is also not being. This does not mean that being and becoming are mutually exclusive–they are not, mutually exclusive. But they are nevertheless separate, self-contained. To become is to be, for certain, but coming is never arriving. To arrive is to have reached a destination. Being is either a destination or a persistent immutable state, I can ask. Now if life is a journey, no one could be said to be in anything other than that journey; as you travel to your destination, you are not at the destination, on your plane to Paris you are only on your plane to Paris, you are going as you are coming, but you have yet to arrive. Being can not be a destination.
One is as one becomes; they are mutual as they are coexistent, co-spatial, co-temporal. They are contained in the I am and the I am not, both of which coexist simultaneously for everyone. God, the Absolute, the One and Transcendent, is in no part becoming. He, She or It is pure being, pure actuality, in no part potential. The further we swing from the God-like in the formation of our humanity, the more we are bound by animal potential.
The crux in the to be or not to be, though, is that no one can assess his being fully until he is dead, just at the time when he ceases both to become and to be. It is only at Death that one brings a halt to the stage of becoming that always interrupts one’s being.What then do we? How then? A contemporary American Hamlet would ask himself, to do or not to do? For Americans, utility is the thing.
How has doing supplanted being and becoming in our world, and America is a world as dense as the earth herself, and Earth is she, not it; but then I also insist that God is He, She and It, all three, mutually and simultaneously. If He can be Father, Son and Holy Ghost all of them all at once entirely each together as one, then God can also be He, She and It the same way. But then we would have to understand pronominal references differently; we would have to think of our being differently than we do, than we have for more than a hundred years.
American dilemmas aside and not displacing of the weightier human dilemmas facing everyone; the paradox of being and becoming reveals itself perpetually, day-to-day . . . the petty pace, you know, how it comes by tomorrow after tomorrow . . . and everyone’s petty paces are as significant as Macbeth’s. Macbeth and Hamlet, my brothers, as are you, my hypocrite readers, all my sisters as well.