When did living become such an inconvenience…
…that wine and food and love were necessary to “ply oneself” from any dismal “reality” that either a wise person or a fool would construct? When Qohelet despairs that “A dead fly makes the perfumer’s oil chalice stink,” am I cloyingly earnest and sincere to summon up Wallace Shawn’s retort to Andre Gregory that there is happiness to be had merely in the observation that a cockroach or fly has not died in one’s leftover coffee overnight (My Dinner with Andre)? Or am I perhaps merely quoting the same thing?
I imagine a soundtrack for this post, and it’s this: here. I thought of it because the lyrics have the word “fetters” in it, as does Qohelet 7:26 (Am I thinking poetically yet? You can see my distress hovering over your shoulder. Palpable; mere breath, not life-breath. Just breath. I had a teacher who loathed the word “just”; “not just,” he would say with exasperated, enormous exhalation. He taught Acting Shakespeare, and his dismay to find himself in an era so intent on qualifying itself, so opposed to expression, to deep breathing, his disgust/disapproval/pain (read: “grimace,” cf. Zurau Aphorism 63) for all things quiet and small and internal made me hurt to be in his large presence. And that was in 2010; what on earth does he think of us now?), at least in our translation anyway. Does anyone else have the impression that getting older might not be learning how much you don’t know, but learning how much you do know but will perpetually fail to communicate? Because of language barriers within your own language–between you and that guy over there, but also between you and the person you love most who lies mere inches from you–let alone between you and someone from a remote village across the world you can’t even begin to imagine. We thought we conquered Babel (or did well enough) with our foreign language classes, but surely it only slipped inside each one of us, fragmented and reconstructed, our own personal tower of abandoning the sand in favor of high isolation, where the air is thinner and consists mostly of our own, personalized, navel-gazing mere breath.
Already I’m having the sneaking suspicion that I’m not saying what I mean to. I’ll let you sink into some other minds while I recollect my self, or my thoughts, or my confidence.
“A new poem is created by everyone who reads poetically.” John Dewey, Art as Experience
“…the activity of reading has on the contrary all the characteristics of a silent production: the drift across the page, the metamorphosis of the text effected by the wandering eyes of the reader, the improvisation and expectation of meanings inferred from a few words, leaps over written spaces n an ephemeral dance.” Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
“Keep a king’s utterance as though it concerned a vow to God… For whatever he desires, he may do, since a king’s word is power, and who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” Qohelet 8:2-3, 4-5
“The space of a tactic is the space of the other… a tactic is an art of the weak.” De Cereau, ibid.
“The true path is along a rope, not a rope suspended way up in the air, but rather only just over the ground. It seems more like a tripwire than a tightrope.” Franz Kafka, Zurau Aphorism 1
“In short, what constitutes the implantation of memory in a place that already forms an ensemble? That implantation is the moment which calls for a tightrope-walker’s talent and a sense of tactics; it is the instant of art.” De Certeau, ibid.
(This man has a response to everything. I should let him take over.)
You find it (“it” meaning life as one great inconvenience; I know I go places, but I’ll help lead you back) in the Kafka text too, or perhaps not in it, but outside it, the post-explanation: only when he can escape his personal demons–i.e. his life–can he even/ever approach making some sort of personal, philosophical/poetical/theological meaning out of it. The distance he needs, the detached-ness. “Your love isn’t real and your heart doesn’t bleed,” is what I think I would say to him if I was one of his many (surely distraught?) lovers (Damien Jurado, “Trials”). He’d hand me his poetic self-help book and I would throw it back in his face. Fortunately I am not in this position, and need not behave irrationally.
I can’t write about which ones of his I love, though, still. Perhaps tomorrow (I dare whisper their numbers: 48, 63, 78, 94. If I add them up and they make a prime number, will that become an indicator that I am truly unique?).
I can tell you that I knew they were published “in the order that he wrote them” (Ibsen’s famous dictum that one read his prose cycle in order) before it was confirmed in the post-explanation. And I knew he liked Pascal, never having read him.
“As Nietzsche wrote of his dear enemy Pascal:
“One should not conceal and corrupt the facts of how our thoughts have come to us. The profoundest and least exhausted books will always have something of the aphoristic and unexpected character of Pascal’s Pensees.
“We should not conceal the order of our thoughts. I will not conceal from you the order of my thoughts; I will not conceal them from myself: until I am exhausted.”
(Rebecca Reilly, Repetition)
“There is no breathing in my dreams. A dream comes in a fool’s voice.” my notes, earlier this evening
“When I wear my wolf jacket I’m invincible. When I take it off I’m sweaty.” ibid.
I’m afraid I don’t have a good way to conclude my thoughts. So I will choose to believe that the Qohelet was indeed interpolated (or I should say, post-polated) with a pious turn in chapter 13. And then I will choose to imitate (are mimesis and poiesis mutually exclusive? I suspect so.) said book by self-polating, inserting a short video that expresses better than I ever could the equal parts futility and necessity of seeking wisdom and yearning for something, anything. I give you: Kiwi!