Sunday, October 28, 2007

(If you look closer you can see) The Tracks of My Train

I have been enjoying a series of novels immensely. I have to quote from one, right now, or I'll burst:
Hamlet snorted disdainfully, then thought for a moment before adding, "If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction -- and ultimately, without a major resolution." -- Jasper Fforde, Something Rotten
That is Hamlet's impression, anyway, and I frequently explain to others that "poetic justice" doesn't mean convenient plots, but, rather, that the poem shows us, according to Aristotle, "what must or should occur" as opposed to merely what does occur ("Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular"), in Poetics IX.


What merely does happen is. It is what? Well, you can argue that it all has meaning, if you rise far enough above the particular. You can argue that it all makes sense, if you look at the whole society or whole world. You can argue that it makes sense in the past but never in the present. You can argue that it never means anything at all in any sense but the sense-making capabilities of the human mind.

I tend toward that last view, but with the caveat that the human mind's sense-making may be something more than delusion and illusion. Per my digression on digressions and the Big Chitlin, below (or above), I rather think that pattern matching, matrixing, and all those other dismissive words may reflect something semiotic, and not just something that represents the extension of desire. I can't be sure of this, obviously, and I cannot trust any certainty that I got of it, for the same reasons. However, it seems right to me to believe, and not to believe merely the way that the Baltimore Police Department wished me to.

I have been struggling, ever since early college, to try to understand these things. I have thought about time, in particular. Why should it disgorge meaning? I have had episodes in my life that seemed to be meaningful only in the context of having them nullified by time, but why should time's sequence also control meaning? Why should distance be necessary? I know that the difference between an ironist and an actor is the distance of commitment to meaning, the intention, in other words, and therefore the difference between a fool and a sage can be that the former is willing, while the latter is detached from things, and I recognize further that many people, having honored these elementary lessons, have shaped plans of action, personal philosophies, and social agitations on their basis. It is even the precursor lesson for some forms of self-abnegation and mysticism, for those who decide that they will dwell only among the universals and purely among the verities have to consciously reshape their consciousness to desire only that which can only ever be eternal and not existing. (N.b. I entirely agree with them that it is active and actual, but it also cannot be embodied in time. The mystic's revelation must be a general telephoning orders from the back lines of the battle.)

Some people got sick of poetic justice, of plots that make tidy parcels, of good's unrealistic rewards and vice's wishful losses, and they opted for the dynamic and utterly committed real. Their decision to adopt stream of consciousness was a rude flatus shot at the social engineers and priests of mannered behavior, as well as at the very idea of an eternal truth that perched on its peak like a vending machine, waiting for the supplicant to make a pilgrimage and plop in the proper set of questions. Never mind the desire for justice: that was bourgeois, and hating them is the beginning of wisdom. The train of thought would be carefully written (and invented), with each noun or verb attached by connotation and memory, and the taxonomies of true and false would be replaced with what is big and little.

The stream of consciousness and the train of thought are both utterly worthless.

They're not worthless literature, mind you, but they silently agree to time. They are not merely linear but sequential. Of course there is no way to avoid such. For myself, I have no train of thought. I have a dune buggy of thought. I also have no stream of consciousness. I have an ocean of time, where each bit of water is like the others, where the hierarchy is squished beneath immediate needs and revulsions. Desire, aversion, memory, consequence, and all of the rest bubbles, and each does, indeed, rest in a drawer of index cards with call numbers, but each also infects neighbors in irrational, sometimes madcap ways.

Before your fingers right now, reader, is the most significant alteration of the perception of consciousness in many years. You have before you the capability to move not only in lines and segments of lines of your own devising, but to do so incompletely.

Let me demonstrate. You can read any bit you like of this, or stop, or go ahead, or wander off to return later, but the sneaky truth is that you always could, you always have.

The reading experience is a replication of experience itself, but with senses suppressed. There is no reason for you to value the sequence above the jag, the movement over the jerk, except that you choose to. Knowing this, knowing that you have always chosen full sentences over fragments, lessons over experiences, meanings over data, I hope that you realize that, like me, you have every reason to believe that your time is your own, that sense making is more than random. You don't have to, of course.

1 comment:

Kenna said...

Well written article.