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 . . .