Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Praise of Silence, The Hermit's Lament (Part 3)

There are some faces I'll never see.  On the subway for instance, there's that person who gets on, whose face is blocked by a pole, who then settles into a position where their face is turned in such a way that the back ridge of the ear is the only element that isn't hair or cloth then they leave at the next stop and walk away.  It's a little like that scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey keeps spinning Elijah Wood and all we ever see is that barber's view of the back of his head.

It's snowed here and from out of every window the white contorts the familiar shapes of sidewalks and buildings.  Last night I dreamed all the snow was lifted in a single upward swoop. It retained its fallen shape so these oblong white contours hung in the air and all that was covered was exposed.

In part this is about thought, what is evident and what lies beneath, about what makes it into the world versus what is kept back and private. So of the idea I initially attributed to Arendt: whatever happens, happens in public, which began butchered, but the pulp of other's work is what winds up residing after the context is stripped and how cannot it not be changed, to paraphrase Auden: the words of the dead are modified in the guts of the living. So far I have stumbled through two sky-high overviews of literary style in attempt to touch upon how writers deal with their ideas, mostly in response to Proust's Captive and the Fugitive, but the question of publicity should in some way interact with the question of surface.

Jack Gibbs in JR wonders in a moment in an automat, why people choose to sit where they do.  What internal law of comfort distributes one body to the open chair three feet away and another body towards another chair. Barring some perverse mathematical law that governs the spacing of people in North America, we can ask what deductions we make about one another based on appearances. What deductions do we make without even consulting our forebrains? This is loaded: sexually, culturally, socially, racially. The terrifying thing about surfaces is that they are misleading and we can go years before we rid ourselves of initial miss-impressions.

In Brett Easton Ellis's minimalism, the surface is all we have. There is the question of what is underneath it, if there is anything at all under the surface or if all interiority is an illusion, if empathy is a mistake and looks are all that count. I'm thinking especially of American Psycho, which sets its absolutes around surfaces, appearances, which is an apt means of criticizing the US in the 1980's, but past that, the world Patrick Bateman inhabits is that of an object. An object has no inherent value, meaning or position. It simply is. It is all surface.  The tension in his character, within the double realities and the mistaken identities, the only thing that gives Patrick a sense of humanity are his violent outbursts whenever his sense of order is threatened.  In that it is an attempt to bring to the surface what is wrong by extending to ludicrous ends an internal rage, which is otherwise stifled by persona, this too is publicity.    

Part 3 Amplification and Mystification

I have been trying to recall what form my thoughts took when I used to pray.  A portion of my thoughts, I considered correspondence with God. I was younger then. I breathed audibly considering what flavor FrozFruit I wanted between singles matches (coconut). There was a dividing line between my sacred and profane thoughts for a long while.  The the guilt built up, since God was always around. Then I decided all my thoughts were sacred. Then I left that tree alone. For a while though I had a separate practice for a number of years. I believed the voice of my thoughts, those Eumenides that kept me from following too much trouble, that brought my eye around to notice the grief I cause my mother, that allowed me to relent, was the voice of my father.  My father had died when I was three, but I can still recall the quality of his voice now, if not the genuine sound. Eventually, too I had to have some space from this idea.  I recall mentally asking my father to go, to let me grow up on my own.  This is striking me as some odd sentimental furniture to bring up now, but I wonder how much of my thought was narration, that odd mental voice over that captured Fred Savage's internal monologue in The Wonder Years and how much of it was simply wired, silent capacitors snapping sublingually? I wonder if a microphone attached to my hippocampus have would picked up the sound of that internal voice, the little commander, what Saul Bellow called his primitive prompter, pinching his nose and rising a register to tell me different things, impersonating the people in my life who mattered. There's a touch of instinct to it.  Conscious thought can seem interminably slow. Now, at times, I get audio hallucinations when I'm falling asleep. Whole songs will sound as if they are playing outside of my head, or just being wrung out of the cilia in my ear canal to stop at the pillowcase. I wonder if that's what remains of the little commander.

[next time: Gravity's Rainbow, The Confidence Man, the unspeakable, the unknowable, the symbol and the unsaid.]

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