Discover more from Raids on the Unspeakable
On womb envy
> ... this letter does not need any response; simply benevolent and understanding [?] silence.
I sit here silly to write and thus push off from emptiness; yet it is doubtful that any is worthwhile but when purely impelled, for how many words really need be heard? What I wish for is but single piece that satisfies the whole; instead gravel pours forth. I dream of one unto itself, that it may be taken thus and sate you—or better, myself.
Not words but the papier-mâché films I have made, those I love most. These children I can more easily hold, as image and sound tell obviously of their essential unity. Of words, well, how does one ever know a thing really hangs together?1 I look at the words and ask whether this could be so or otherwise, and if otherwise—would it still be, or something else? The truth sought here, of course, is not in the words but within.
Yet to which authority ought I appeal? When writing a sentence, I may make a mistake. There, I just corrected one; a simple authority. This differs from the creative mistake, it seems; if such a thing exist. The whole entails a basic creativity in that it derives from the wellspring of life as creative motion, that is, time. We flow through ourselves and thus bring form into the world. Hands fumble a mechanical connection; it is an accidental mistake. But what of an essential error—does such a thing exist?
There is the essence for me, then that for you. I stand behind the words; or rather—ideally—within them. The voice here is a dance of form, one in which the body speaks as a whole rather than only with the sound of shaped spirit by which words emerge. I wish that spirit and form match perfectly, though this be always impossible. There are those that dance their words freely without regard for typographic errors, others are more controlled. This latter has its levels, as some are careful and others merely correct. Then there are those that dance carefully but beyond bounds.
The image here can be described, perhaps experimentally, by metaphor of the path:
Nor could it be otherwise, for there is a sequence to be followed: doctrine, understanding, perplexity, enlightenment; the seed, the stalk, the bud, the flower. The tightly closed bud of perplexity (hayrah) will open, if given the right conditions, into the flower of wonderment (tahayyur) and the essential of these conditions is ‘light.’
Some live alone within doctrine and understanding, taking the edges here to indicate those of existence. They sit satisfied munching their stalks, consuming seed oils, etc. This is the curse of logocentrism, often manifest as a belief in the ‘literal’ meaning and rational definition. And indeed, there is perplexity everywhere at the edges; hence here some would draw the line.
The point, it seems, is partly that to allow any further might be undemocratic. Here I risk arrogance, but might we say—broadly, at least—that not all men wish to dive? Take not my word, nor suppose I think myself any great whale; take that of Melville:
Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more; and if he don't attain the bottom, why all the lead in Galena can't fashion the plummet that will. I'm not talking of Mr Emerson now—but of the whole corps of thought-divers, that have been diving and coming up again with bloodshot eyes since the world began.
And who, after all, would want to dive but for sensing something below? These men are not pleased alone to share in the shallow treats of their fellows. They are driven idiotic by their particular bizarrities; tend float to the surface only when dead.
Some think this path but tombrobbers and vandals, and perhaps, yet look closely and see how many mausoleums were themselves built of burglary and irreverence. The whole edifice is built upon theft! We could go nowhere if we felt the need to think through each thing for ourselves. Thus we first take of the world—that is, the stage corresponding to seed and stalk, doctrine and understanding. Yet then we may meet some perplexity, but for being blind we know nothing of buds. We feel and find nothing recognisable, then feel no further: “Nothing that way, best not bother.”
So the doctrine is turned back upon itself and becomes closed. The only remaining task, having determined the bounds of this land, is then to map and catalogue the entirety of its interior. Yet we forget that here we build upon the dead also, we bring forth the forms thereby analysed only by an inheritance of earlier legislator-poets. This is the twofold end of those that shape the nomos: that they draw the line whereby a thing is constituted, thus demarcate the position and negation which comprise its nature; and that they simultaneously bring forth the form as symbol in its qualitative aspect.
This is the fundamental nomos, as prior to that appropriation there was this; it is the creation of order—hence at once legislator and poet. The relevant deity, of course, is Janus:
The ancients called me Chaos (since I am of the first world):
Note the long ages past of which I shall tell.
The clear air, and the three other elements,
Fire, water, earth, were heaped together as one.
When, through the discord of its components,
The mass dissolved, and scattered to new regions,
Flame found the heights: air took a lower place,
While earth and sea sank to the furthest depth.
Whatever you see: sky, sea, clouds, earth,
All things are begun and ended by my hand.
Care of the vast world is in my hands alone,
And mine the governance of the turning pole.
Thus is Janus the first principle of all order, of nomos as appropriation, as also by him men time and again draw form from the chaotic waters of perplexity; it is by him that there is any land, let alone flowers to be picked as word and passed between men.
Thus also do children enter this world, into its material and ideal aspects together alike; it is that we encounter the world in our primordial mode and only thereby come to distinguish its aspects. We see first not things but substances inhering in a world inseparable from our own activity; yet then we come to see a distinction myself as embodiment and all that which is like-but-not-me, and among all this other we find others; we find the first true mirror in the eyes of other men.
Yet this dialectic proceeds only so far, for most affairs imitation is sufficient; enough to appropriate the forms present in our surroundings and spiritual culture. One’s standard inheritance provides this basic net whereby the world may be assimilated for an individual; but at times this is inadequate to the world as it presents itself, as where sudden change and some presence renders ill-fitting the prior stock. Many may feel more or less strongly this presence of an unspoken, even unspeakable, incongruity—some few, compelled thus to bloodshot eyes, are Melville’s divers.
Myself, I was first forced to dive by some flaw within. There was something missing for which no word would suffice, and so I went searching. Of course, in hindsight, this seems a surely vain effort to overcome the basic existential isolation that is our inevitable condition. Self-consciousness is the fall, at once a birth and death; it is an impossible separation, whatever else it may bring, and one which haunts all unto death.2 I feel that all men long to slip below, quietly even to themselves, and some higher impulse is all that restrains them to take only their proper time.
Anyway, it was some flaw which drove me to find the words to describe this; and for these words first I went to books, that is, to the inheritance of dead ink. Yet nowhere here could I find the proper form to fit mind, though surely here I found some substance which might be reworked. This was not enough to constitute the whole, and so I went diving myself beyond doctrine and, motivated purely by own desire, thought it fair to tread beyond the sacred line and into baseless speculation. Here I have spent much time since, though now I feel my edges crystallising with accumulated forms.
We came this way, at point of departure, by way of questioning an essential mistake: is such a thing possible? There are two lines we now hold, perhaps in answer. One may express themselves with ill-fitting forms, such constitutes a misrepresentation; and here it is perhaps foremost the risk of self-deception, as these are not plain lies in their sincere effort—except as undergirded by improper motives as, for instance, denial; it is a sincere effort and yet entails a misrepresentation into which one is more or less painfully contorted. See how multiple-choice questionnaires mutilate your face.
Otherwise one may use a fitting form yet which lies beyond the available, as that which constitutes for others a mistaken usage; thus the risk is again that we might be misrepresented, yet here fault lies more plainly with our interpreter; or where such is expected, perhaps we must avert it. One may thus will an essential mistake, from one perspective, so as to avoid, from the other, a lie or similar such misrepresentation. Yet we may nevertheless be constrained according to the effort and interest of our interpreter—as one disinterested will see only what they expect.
Thus one may mistaken oneself or be mistaken by another, and either is equally essential; yet it is surely far better to be mistaken than be a mistake unto oneself. Of course, to some extent all these are empty; it is naught but a pattern of vibrations or ink upon page. Yet they are filled by our will to believe, as even the emptiest referent may be made real by our acting as if; thus we realise the boundaries drawn by Janus. Somehow men find themselves compelled to this order and cannot do otherwise than follow for the whole; it is necessary for smooth society.
What effort must be made, then, to overcome an essential mistake? We must make every effort for ourselves, as words are but a stricture of the whole; it is thus a need to live rightly according to the truth within. Yet that others take us according to this? Here we may only oppose to the extent that we recognise incongruence; even then, must decide our response: to ignore and thereby avoid, to argue and thereby oppose, to agree and thereby submit. These are the same in any case, though differing perhaps more as shades on a continuum—from submit to oppose.
Of course, here there will be nothing to oppose; no sign of any error—you are there and I am here, I cannot read the expression upon your face at such a distance! All this thus of emptiness flung into the void.3
Some may give such an illusion, more or less strongly so, yet all is perishing but His face.
Herein lies the principle of mystical and romantic yearning alike.
Whatever here, if any, was always yours.