Mourning and remembrance end long before one’s body does.
March 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
In my previous post, I originally intended to write a fairly straightforward account of my recent frustrations. Not a tell-all sort of thing, mind you, but simply some musings that occurred as a result. Consequently, it surprised even me when my “once upon a time” kind of beginning ended up rabbit trailing its way through Bartleby, autobiography, and philosophy. Thankfully, it proved to be reasonably clear, as the post prompted a few people to email me with some challenges, reiterations, and just plain questions. I thought I might highlight some of the comments, and add some further comments.
One reader wondered if I’d considered the notion that a hero is more commonly identified as such by the masses. I will confess, I had not. This is very much something I’d like to incorporate into such thinking. As it is here, though, I isolated that heroic element or figure as coming from those those who are not considered or allowed a part of the masses. Arguably, she might even be the product of a fever dream, a face in the crowd who lived and breathed, heroic to a daughter or son, this face suddenly with a familial body, but a hero to you, the stranger with an active imagination, for reasons perhaps only you could possibly divine.
- “come hell”
I was raised with a keen sense that my most natural destination the moment following my final breath was hell. Nothing personal, of course, it’s just the way these things go when you’re wicked. There was baptism and confessed faith, sure, but when you’re dealing with a monster as bloodthirsty as the biblical god, even the fundamentalist (especially the fundamentalist!) cannot be sure that the terms might not suddenly change. By and by, hell has cooled as the earth as warmed, and for us now without faith, we who at one point took the leap as well as those who preferred the solidity of the land, we now realize existence itself is its own incarceration.
It’s a nice idea, isn’t it, if a little simple? Certainly more simple than justice, which for me is nothing if not complex and creative. Mind you, I won’t discount the ability of peace to create, but creation implies movement, and movement requires friction, and friction, well, that always rubs somebody wrong. A real peace, it seems to me, would require a fairly constant state of negotiation, and I have a hard time imagining it ever being proclaimed as fully achieved but by those with a boot on the back of somebody’s neck. As a friend emphasized quite passionately, acceptance is not being the same as culmination. I very much agree. There is a certain sense in which I don’t even believe in culmination. There is always more to tell after our many self-described endings, those capricious and convenient. Even death isn’t a culmination in the strictest sense. Perhaps of one’s consciousness, but that’s such a small thing in the scheme of things. Mourning & remembrance end long before one’s body does. Indeed, for it is rarely so immediately eliminated, even when it’s turned to ash. The fundamentalists may or may not be right about fleshly wickedness, but even if so this wicked flesh itself is a fertile thing, as the wages of sin often are, for the earth and its beasties. Even when our bodies, and the consciousnesses they carried, are forgotten, the very molecules of the breath once breathed by me, were breathed long before by another, and will be sucked in again, repeatedly, elsewhere. This isn’t to say we don’t and shouldn’t pick our moments when to say “enough,” to name some thing by calling it peace, and agree on its tentative use. This is language, after all, and is meant to be used. But these agreements we make, the acceptances we make even in the course of a sentence let alone a life, they’re anything but a culmination of all that could & surely one day will be.
Don’t read too much into this. I started down a vaguely self-loathing path when I wrote this word, and even reconsidered its use, but decided instead to blaze ahead and find a break in the bordering brush. I do sometimes feel lazy, this is true. As my friends in academia have noted, I rarely seemed to want it as much as they. “It,” being the social role of professor. That, rather, I was more intent on doing what I liked, how I liked. And, yes, sometimes this meant doing very little at all. I didn’t apply for all the jobs I perhaps should have. I didn’t pursue the second Masters of Arts at a more reputable school, which surely would’ve done wonders down the line. I would claim those were more poor decisions than non-decisions, though. But I don’t bristle at the accusation of laziness, should I ever be subject to it.
- ambition – preaching, peace
As I see it, ambition is always bent on a value that exceeds all valuation, and thus is of no value at all. The example of Bartleby, to which I think I obviously allude, is a difficult one. The story describes the “no value at all” aspect quite well, as well where it leads (incarceration in the Tombs). But by my reckoning, we’re already in the Tombs, whether we prefer or prefer not. I don’t mean this in the sense that we’re all suffering equally—that is obviously not the case. I mean this only in the most basic existential sense. I’ve said this already without a lot of elaboration, and for now I’ll merely repeat it: existence itself is a kind of incarceration, in existence itself. Some are just more knowing of it than others, in their physical persons and/or states of mind. Indeed, I believe I could make a strong case that Melville’s narrator comes to the same conclusion.
- why family matters
I’m not very close with my family, so I can’t point to their presence as an influence. But they do form who I am, in the sense that I must react to my past. Are these reactions themselves a form of creating it? I think so. I could, I suppose, ignore the past. Move on, learn to write with with my left hand and speak a different tongue: create a new self. But I’m convinced nothing is created ex nihilo, and even these creative refusals are themselves affective reactions. I’d rather, at least, my refusals be knowing refusals. To be active setting asides, in trunks for future discovery, by me and by others. Forgotten, maybe, but never eradicated, for, once again, nothing ends.