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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

March 2008

37) JUKEBOX

—————Constantly, my most constant
Piece of advice was this, headlong in praise–
To sit down in the wreckage; but no, you
Never cleared the space . . . (The Modern Epoch)

——-The pipsqueak piper, in a present fit says, mix it up. Somebody left a cement mixer (if that is what that is) blocking the sidewalk, just one house up. Analogously, scheduled entries are now completely hampered by imaginary readers, who are lining up in my imagination (where else?) and reacting to what is there from the very first sentence. Apparently I live for paradox and confusion. What a horrible condition this is I suffer, to have an ill-defined mandate, to which pride can only say: not now, I am having lunch. At lunch, in one of those old-fashioned luncheonettes, there is still a jukebox. As I walk over there I am thinking, “I must be suffering something like . . . readers block.”
——-There is no way to verify with any accuracy the estimation in which I am held by my readers, who must be outraged even at the suggestion that I see them spying on me; but just saying that I should forget about it is well-nigh impossible–for I have reader disease. It is like I have the constant worry I left the car lights on, and have to go downstairs and look out the front window to see that, no, the car is dark, the whole street is dark– no, there is one man walking towards me with his head bowed. I have reader alert radar, and the moon is outside my window at night (another scenario); this moon in March is equivalent to a watchdog with the sappy face of all hungry readers. I am eaten up by their envy, and their accusations that I have taken all the language into my corner and am counting it like it were my money. But I cannot control my imagination in this matter, and that of course is what I get for having schooled my imagination to open itself to all unfounded, boundless fears, and deep pangs for time passed, and emotional trippings that show I don’t care about time passed, really, in my occupation-less life, in my epic, or rather momentary struggle, where I get the content of the writing to begin with. I mean, Lord, this is where I get the content of my writing to begin with. This very same dilemma, the same quarrel with this insatiable reader!
——-Aha! Having long ago decided upon the basis of incontrovertible evidence to go with ho-hum ordinary life as the truth, and not like most people some zany philosophical project that would result in mere experimental daydreams–and therefore never been rewarded and landed in a job in some advertising agency . . . Aha! And my method of composition, more and more as this reliance upon life being my source, being to listen for the fattest words, the straggling words, the looking-about words, like misplaced from the past words, associated with any theme popping in my head . . . yes, well the net result of this is to be pierced by intense revelatory vocabulary, and grammatical originality that denounces plot, you see. So I can’t even write a book anymore, no lacksadaisical novels in my wily mind, but I am in a constant crisis, my awareness lit up all the time, and therefore, you see, am I stymied on practically an hourly basis–oh, at least an hourly basis, sometimes I twirl within ten minutes in the throes of the exact present circumstances of that parallel life I drag along.
——-Knock me out. It isn’t that you can distinquish the original from the mass of plain ideas, but that everything is original, for you have a Midas touch. The more tendered, it just adds to the quantity of your always qualitative judgements. And I do mean, judgements. This plowing understanding is itself an example, part of the inescapable series of reflections, always busy with the differences. Tortured! Just so, with feeling yet to be disgorged, from its soul’s habitat. However, having now achieved a speaking voice, one hears a kind of low agonized growl, or maybe a high pitched sound that says “eeks”. Put another nickel in the jukebox. Oh my God! Look at how many selections there are on this jukebox! Somebody is in business.

36) Bridle

——-I was in high school with Katie Kinsky, and so I got a real sentimental kick out of knowing she was reading my (virulent) blogging of late, as I issue it here in this unscheduled, rickety fashion. Her comment on an earlier post, entitled Petulant, was nicely pointed: it sent me searching for Judgement and Reasoning in the Child by early 20th century French psychologist Jean Piaget. Katie’s comment, packed with insight, paradox, and an enticing originality, showing she had maintained that flexibility of mind we shared, back then in those halcyon, threatening, high school days, needed explication–I had to get the book she said was her favorite. But hey, we are the children, relative to Piaget at least!, and I figured Katie Kinsky had Piaget figured out, before she wrote: “The child has to develop the notion of one perspective, which is the sine qua non of all ideas of one, shared reality that holds truth and belief. It is not innate. That is why we all revere early childhood gestalts. The state of no fixed perspective continues in our sleeping dreams. Dreams do not hold truth, and for that we are grateful. Truth is a bridle.”

——-So, these days, when I am writing away, days which are insensibly passing, you have to browse in used bookshops for many classic things–because, obviously, classic authors are not necessarily in print, their ideas are in our minds like by osmosis I guess and we do not need to consult them, for we are modern, and the modern is absorbent, the child is a sponge to begin with, and bookstores themselves are soon no longer necessary. Ecstatically, I found the sought after item at Greenwood Books downtown–the lady there is pretty much on the same wave length. Now I am ready to respond to Katie’s comment, having read the one book and dipped into another. Alas, the subject expands in all directions. One first thinks they can be an adult about such things, and then is embarrassed by the entire procedure, the adventure I would call it. I still think I am in high school, and bridle at the suggestion that I have left it behind, and learning anything at all. Because everyone is a child! Gets to be a child, and a teenager too. That is more certain than everyone must die–but now we are really drifting.
——-Jean Piaget begins with a baldly stated premise that the child is egocentric. Good news!, which many take to mean simply that the child is self-centered. Consequently, as the child learns the mundane adult world he becomes socialised, and this society of dullards, I mean other people, he learns to navigate, scheme within, fend for himself, and sometimes even share. But this is backwards, folks! Jean Piaget doesn’t say that at all. He says “the child is egocentric in that he thinks for himself without troubling to make himself understood, nor to place himself at the other persons point of view.” The child is better described as precisely: not egocentric–by default. The question is, why does the child not trouble to make himself understood? I was sitting in classrooms after classrooms . . . The child assumes a world of other people; if he learns anything, it is how to become egocentric from the point of view of adults, in other words, he learns a difficult truth: that he has a self. Things then begin to accrue to that self.
——-The psychologist’s own painstaking research, in which he studies and interviews children themselves (with all sorts of clever techniques!) shows the child starts out in a psychological plurality–in fact, a fairly delirious multitude of people. already in the world. He appears to be way behind, and has to learn so much, it might be everything. He is swamped. But in another sense, the child is ahead of everyone, for he seems to have original insights about everything. This, this tireless questioning by children shows they assume themselves to be in a tight world of intimates, and they quickly get the idea they must learn to separate out an identity for themselves. So that what they learn is that they are one person. A shocking discovery, and bravery is required. And that is the truth. It is a process of adapting to the necessity of being egocentric, not the process of learning to abandon the egocentrism they are born with. What further gives this away is the discovery that the idea of one shared reality is not innate. This is what my high school friend Katie noticed was controlling my piece titled Petulant, in which I say that the idea of origins is learned, not innate. Indeed, fundamental ideas are learned from the world, they are thoughts about the world, closely tied to the revelatory thought that the world has a past, that one might remember life. This is learned from experience. But, go back, what is innate? What is innate is that multitude, that family, and those dialogues, and the language with which we speak in dreams that can almost be pulled from the dream. But you see it can’t be pulled from the dream, because reality is pulling us out, reigning us in. Truth is a bridle. And one keeps learning, after high school, just what a task master reality is. But if I can write something that my old friends from high school can read, I may have made a kind of bridge . . .
——-If a child got features from their parents, where were those characteristic features, those traits, before the child was born? Where were they stored? What route did they follow, if the child was just started up at birth? Where did the child come from, so ready, and so ready-made. I say, the child is in the middle of something when he is born, not at the beginning. All those traits, which blossom successively as the child grows, must have gone through a long invisible tunnel; and if we say they were carried by the chemistry in the blood, that is a gloss, just mystery complete. Science is description . . . The child is not new, he is old. Somehow he carries more of the past than those who are already in the world, so in that sense he is the oldest person, coming into the world through a channel of mystery. The human race is getting older, and the newest people come into the world prepared. I often feel like I am just getting started myself; I forget I didn’t just come in. I am still back in high school; is that pathetic? Or heroic? Who is not confused as to where they are, on the scales?
——-A person is born into a multitude and spends his life narrowing it down. Language represents, and expands this multiplicity, because it is transhistorical, of a material nature, more real than sinews, blood– and language is intimately tied in its structure to thought itself, rattling back even to the edge of dreams. But not over into to dreams, I think now: language rather belongs to consciousness. And I do not wish to conduct experiments like Piaget, or write like these postmodern philosophers, who tear apart language at the seams and study the grammar. For this is insane. What is missing in the insane, serious adults, is admitting the plurality that the child assume he exists within, as he begins, playing on the rug. I remember playing on the rug, and thinking” “I need more verbs!” All I had was one verb. It was “put”. Are you listening Piaget? I thought, I can’t keep using “put” for everything, “I need more verbs!” My consciousness screamed it, and I thought, “you better hold that back, boy,” and I had to consider whether everybody could hear me thinking. So far as he thinks back, such a child merges into a plurality of voices, a room where he is a listener.
——-Everyone was a child. There is a universal. What the child does not understand at first is just how incomparable life is; that is what he has to learn, why he wants constant explanations. The big discovery is that he is a person on his own. He does not start with himself, but finds himself among the others. He does not start out with the idea that he unique, and adapt to a disappointing reality in which he is only one among others, all equally downtrodden and dull. No, he starts out believing others are more real than him, totally interesting, knowledgeable, and he has to find himself among this group. He has to disassociate from the others, who are threatened, it seems, by dullness, for after all, what do they know? It is like they are all children! So they should, and must, cooperate with his exciting adventure of creating a self–it is vital that he, the discovered center of attention, thrive! He grows more and more vivid to himself and excited by the prospects of a unique existence. In fact the building of a self is the consummate unselfish activity. He is astonished if adults accuse him of being self-centered. In fact, he is doing it for them, and they should be pleased with his progress. The child sees the possibility of being self-propelled, but he does not arrive in life with it, he finds it in the world that is a novelty. Babies come into the world prepared from afar, supplied, they are not weak, they are not undeveloped, but they are vessels . . . .

………Of course this involves the idea that the world is teaching one successive truth, and not in fact leading one away from cozy dreams. Faced with the demands, the utterly unselfish demands of a self, many are going to become debilitated, and deliberating fools, and crazy gnostics. They would be free of existence, board a spaceship that has a flight back to the hopscotch of dreams, of other lives. But, there is no other life, if the child is to become so zealous . . . Yes, this is all from my singular point of view. For now, let’s just say in general that children come into the world prepared from afar, supplied; they are not weak, and they are singing, they are vessels. Hardy babies, bridling at the mere suggestion they are wrong. And do they become brittle, when put through the elements and the misunderstandings, of this world? What is this world? Now we ask!

35) CADENCE

It’s amazing the way people will read a book and though it affects them intimately, personally, and they carry away from it images and phrases, bywords and material to think about, affecting their behavior and their plans, even their funhouse dreams, they continue to think of the author of that book as someone who wrote not to them, but to fulfill his own ambition. They assume the author in fact must be self-satisfied, not doubtful about what he has done, and is deriving personal and public rewards in quite hefty doses–probably the admiration and praise of a coterie of his associates, and basking in what must be a growing popularity. It never occurs to the reader, who has taken so much away from the book, that the author wrote it for them, specifically, and certainly not that they, the unknown reader, are in personal debt to that author–and might direct, at least in their thinking, a thank you for his labor and sacrifice. It never occurs to the reader that the author is the one in the lonely, deficit position–that quite contrary to this readers assumption, the author is not fulfiling a personal ambition, but has only awkwardly performed, and stumbled forward with his book, because he felt a moral calling, to supply others, unknown others, with his own creations, simply because of the nature of the content of them–those creations. What am I saying? That the author is harassed by unique truths that will not let him alone, until he writes them down, finds the time, puts them in a palatable form, and nudges them out of doors, even. This thought does not flicker in the mind of the consumer. Ah, the reader is a glutton alright. And a task master, alright. A slave driver, a bully and tyrant, and the reader expects there to be books for him to . . . eat. And the writer, who is he? Well, the reader could care less, the writer is better off unknown, not living on this street, dead–if the truth be told. It is amazing and unbelievable the things the readers of books say about their authors, and what lengths they will go to make sure the profile of their authors does not resemble, well, normal people like themselves; and, further, someone must make sure that these authors do not have palpable, but have strange, legendary, impossible biographies. Even though these readers have taken all instruction, all scenery and landscape, all dialogue! , from these very books they have lapped up and stored for reference in their brains–but no, the author is some different kind of creature who is propelled by personal ambition, who probably is reckless, selfish, ignores his own security and safety in life even, so wrapped up in his own pursuit of his private worth, his proof to himself–yes, the author is a monster of ambition, with appetites for self-fulfilment way beyond the normal person who can only look on and marvel and be entertained, if not enlightened. The products, I mean the books, are packaged and sold and handed around among the normal average everyday people who have fed off these products just as much as they feel they need or have time to, thank you. And I am quite satisfied with my position, in this society, thank you too. It is just an expression of amazement, and that in itself becomes another spinning bauble, multifaceted. I am just reacting to a scene in the bar last night that is still tearing at me; I originally sat down to write something else, of course–something about how the mind of a child is a plurality of voices, some ancestral . . .

But, around eleven o’clock last night up at The Krown (as the regulars call it) I found myself soliciting and bragging about my writing, telling this fetching young woman: “I really have something for you,” which did not sound absurd at the time, because it was a sacrifice I was making, really. This girl was about to burst into tears, and I was providing what you might call a . . . palliative. I was some kind of answer– she seemed to have precisely a kind of literary deficiency. Sound far-fetched? It is what I go through all the time. Thinking that I have something for someone to read, and it is an act of kindness. I was not a pushy fellow, but really I just know I have this talent, a kind of sympathetic suffering ability to get to your unresolved thoughts, like a friend knows your whims. Because I am intimately acquainted with your emotions, I wanted to say. Then just in time my voice came back, I got the cadence, like suddenly I heard the music playing behind the bar, and from the walls, and I was able to drawl something like, “well, you know”. The high pressure moment got tamed, and subsided–but I still wanted to say: it is not for me I want to you read this, it is for you. I wrote it for you. How can I make that clear, when it is me saying it! Her eyes darted up. “Tell me, do you ever break out of this talking about what you are talking about mode? Sir!” she said with those eyes. Hardly ever, it sometimes seems. “In my legendary youth I wrote detective novels,” I informed her. I am not exaggerating, it seems like every young woman I talk to in this place is about to burst into tears–but this one especially, and now she was smiling. It seemed to me like I had hardly said anything, but standing next to people often works, for consolidation of the mood, to put it in a fairly hifalutin manner. It’s important work supplying the human race with instructions, by innuendo, on how to behave. Life is so . . . surreptitious, isn’t it? Practically speaking, it is impossible, this job–I mean the logistics of this job are just impossible. You never know when people are going to require patching up and immediate loving and quick consolation–but then I think, proudly, I have this indirect method like supplying sentences which have just the right cadence, that can lift her up, while the words themselves are almost always vanquished. Only to return, hooked up in the language. Of course the very same people can’t get to it–obviously. You are like at least a generation behind already! The standing still world is in perpetual free-fall. What is beautiful is always in ruins.

34) Rain

Any subject that after you begin discussing it seems to want examples, or illustrations to demonstrate your position, is at that point, when the examples are brought in, eviscerated as a subject. It crumbles, and cannot be reassembled; it, that subject, whatever it was, goes in the direction of the examples–which are bound to be, one and all, digressions. In fact, unless you can talk about a subject and keep it abstract, you lose it, and you face the fact that what you had was not a subject at all. Feel you are wanting of an example of a subject? Okay, I have a good example of a subject that, once chosen, must be dealt with without examples. My subject is: memory. What is a memory? The one thing you can’t do, if you want to discuss this subject, is start bringing in examples of memories. Another one is: dreams! Do not tell me your dreams, for none of them will illuminate the subject of dreams; they are all, you see, bad examples. Terrible examples, no matter how earnestly summoned, or fixed up in the telling. Insufficient to the subject . . . of dreams. As no memories exactly demonstrate the reality of memory. Strange and confounding, but I have found this to be continuously true. Examples always lead you away somewhere, and that is why someone is always saying: “could we get back to the topic?”

Perennial subjects that are in this category–subjects which resist, I say, a treatment by example, are not wanting. They are everywhere! And yet, as soon as we think we have a subject on the table, we try to pin it down by the search for examples that, as it were, typify it. Excellent examples, to find the dead center of the subject, arbitrary examples, to find the outer limits of the subject, and spice it up , and historical examples, to show the fact that this subject has confronted mankind always, and will continue to plague him and tease him; non sequiturs, to show we have a subject and must return to it, if we want to stay on the subject, please. Clashing examples, showing the subject has paradox and will not easily remit it’s structure, and all these examples, note, are invariably interesting in themselves–really, more inviting than the subject itself. What was the subject? I said it was memory . . . can you remember that, the arid theme, amidst the florid garden? The world is too interesting, the person listening has an imagination, starved and thirsty, which will hallucinate at the mention of anything real, even any language that has color will paint the universe that color, rather than suffer this pitiless rain of abstractions, dealing with a subject like . . . dreams, for god’s sake, or memories did I say? Memories are, after all, beyond the miraculous; and dreams, headlong into the impossible.

What I am saying is simply procedural; if you think that is the nature of the topic, then drop the mantle of serious thinker; collect those anecdotes, see if anything seems like an example of memory at all. Does it really? You can’t even disassemble it from the telling. The speaker’s face is glowing with the memory, is that to be included in the discussion of the subject of . . . memory? In the reverse situation, when you hear someone pontificating in an abstract manner, interrupt them with an example that explodes, derides, and refutes their theory as they seem to be propounding it. For example: your own memories, which are probably not examples of anything, but unique both in content and form, and untraceable to any physical reality. (That’s my theory. If the subject was memory.) If the subject is death, I have seventy five pages already, and haven’t gotten to the examples it was supposedly based on.

But none of these are my subject here. My subject is the most abstract of all: that one should not pursue subjects by the use of seeming examples. That when examples are called for, the subject has ended. Play scrabble. All examples are fundamentally irrelevant, they are never exact to the supposed argument being made in the supposed discussion of the proposed subject. Say it slowly. That is simply because the procedure is wrong to begin with; a subject has been chosen which in fact either eludes all examples, in which case (like, famously, all my subjects) it should be kept strictly abstract and tightly supervised so that examples do not invade and corrupt and distract the reader who is dedicated to finding the tenuous but potentially eternal truth. For if it is a subject that ought to be dealt with by examples first off, then it is a subject that is essentially derived from examples. All subjects of science are this, derived from example, not philosophy, and therefore (if you now see where this is leading), all subjects that claim to be scientific in their approach should restrict themselves to examples, and not theorize at all. Ever. Theory is for people who can think abstractly–which very few people can do at all. In fact most people don’t even know the first thing about abstract thinking, which is that its content must be supplied by the imagination, the sources of which are totally emotional. Abstract thinking, in other words, is not cold, but synthetic, not detached, but desperately involved in deep mystery; a thing for most of people to stay away from, for sure. Because most people are . . . well, I don’t know what most people are, but I know that this distinction: that abstract subjects should not be argued by example, is futile, and infuriating, that I am not allowed to make it because it stops the conversation. Only a person with some ulterior motive would have the internal desire and power to proceed in this manner, driving thought to its destiny without examples.

Without examples! What vanity could support such a project? What might such an ulterior motive be? Examples please! This all shallow minds are really wanting to have examples of! What it looks like is: raw ambition, the seeking of a reputation, unbridled fame and rumors of genius, and this must be equivalent to an inborn need for praise–for more, for a hearing of applause. This is what I hear, what I hear is not just the scraping of the freezing rain on the dark windows . . .

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