What follows is practice in formulating an aesthetic method for packaging my thinking process, which is informed by my current peripatetic reading. I tend to read something and consider how it might be the gambit for a potential essay. It is then dumped on a pile of other such ideas, because I don’t have time to do everything I want to do. For a few years now I have been reading a network of books, linked in some way to each other. Thus my continual efforts to wrestle everything into a blogable form, if only to have some structured impetus to write and practice writing with ideas.
In short, these replies to myself are lamellar, like the layers of gills on a fungus; the sedimentation of rock; layers of rubbish on a landfill; the pages of a book that build an idea into tactical focus.
Rather than landfill my ideas I thought, why not landfill them in a formal method, which is visible and maybe even cathartic. So this is really a form of automatic, nomadic, thus peripatetic, writing all for the sheer excuse to write and think about the formulation of words into the structure of an idea-space. In short, no different from finding a way to influence insight. I hope they also provoke discussion, as this is one more opportunity to use ideas.
Explosions of cathexis. Begin.
I thought about confession the other day after I listened to an American Marian priest called Chris talk about the importance of confession for exfoliating sin. He is very serious about confession. For Chris of the Marian, confession is a necessary requirement for shaving off a few years in purgatory. He accepts wholeheartedly the cataloguing of sins so that we know what we need to confess. We can check the index. Lucky us.
Confession he explains is a mechanism in Catholicism for revisiting sins, so as to cleanse the palette of the soul in preparation for God. Interestingly, talking about something we regret makes us feel as if an albatross has been lifted from our shoulders. As a bottler of things I know this is the case, despite my actions being to the contrary.
I don’t share any of Chris’s worldviews, I doubt. But he helped me take a nap. He got me thinking about confession. And what it means to get something off your chest. The hacking cough of confession for jettisoning the phlegm of sin/regret/guilt/anomalous thoughts.
One of my issues with confession is not only knowing what to confess but how to phrase the confession. Sometimes without the right words to confess there is no confession. How do you word a terrible act? Can you really be so candid about these confessions that they come out plain-speak, unfiltered by sewer-treated vocabulary?
What would I confess to a priest? That I am displeased with them for maintaining a bold metaphysics, which has structured into it the requirement of confession from its subscribers? It should be up to us when we are ready to talk. I don’t care if someone has interpreted the mind of Tetragrammaton. Guff! Their self-appointed role as ambassador-conduits for an imperious abstraction is nauseating.
Chris explained that we don’t need to worry about how the priest thinks about us, we are all flattened into sinful. So they do judge us. They use judgement in the heavenly abstract to compel us to spill our guts.
I want them to confess first? Confess that they don’t know what the fuck is going on…that their system of metaphysics is theoretical…that the only thing they should really know for sure is that they know very little. Then I’ll decide if they are being truthful and worthy of trust. Is their example only that their job is to be holy? Beats working on a checkout in Asda or selling sweat-shop junk to unsuspecting denizens. I don’t mind putting a dress on if I can avoid retail or hospitality. Get out of purgatory and out of Market Street.
Chris, should provide me us a tick-the-box questionnaire to extract from us all our sins. I don’t know what they are. I don’t have time to jigsaw my life for every time I masturbated into a sock, took drugs, used invective, or lusted after something. It’s too late for me.
Heaven must be as dull as English food.
How can I confess? I don’t live with some illusory sword dangled above my head threatening to cut my umbilical cord to God. I am not a child despite the priests insistence we are children of God. God should be thanking us for creating him, in my opinion.
And yet I sort of like the idea of getting all the muck of your chest. The catarrh of behaviour expunged. Talking candidly is helpful. I am riddled with guilt. I have set a course and found it hard to deviate from it. This is why I am alone. It is why I am stubbornly uncompromising in the matter of how I am going to exist. I will not tolerate the way-things-are attitude of the they, because I do not share it.
But this is me being delusional. I am a product of a society, a State, a way of being that despite all my hacking at it with my disappointment has scrunched me into a visible shape—even if I attempt to make it appear as though I’m disengaged from it all. I’ll never be outside of a society.
We can’t escape the extrinsic “world” of a society. If you want to make different people, make different societies.
But I am hesitant to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. And I won’t. God will have to read my mind. Why do we have to say it: if Tetragrammaton is so mighty, let him interrogate me for my sins.
I will be a hypocrite and say it’d probably do us all good, but that’s because it leaves you vulnerable. it isn’t something you plunge into like jumping in the sea on a cold afternoon in September. I don’t recall any passage in Roethke didactically telling you to confess. He just did it obfuscated in simple words. Berryman sent us in the other direction despite his actions.
I am ok with obscurantism. Not everything needs spelling out. Sometimes we do and it makes the word no easier to read. Look at the word Worcester for Christ sake.
I often think, in a past life, I must have been a character, word, phrase, or chord from a Bob Dylan song. I think you know what I mean. There is that avant-narrative through his early songs where anything could be anything at any moment. It won’t but it might.
I am a bag of air. And I have arranged to be pummelled in the gut once in a while. I will coagulate into a visible form what D+G called ‘inhumanities’, which compose me…and you, remember.
To confess the territory inside me is to confess an inhumanity. The speed and physics of these inhuman critters breeding successively (and successfully) our skin, blood, metabolism, digestion and such, are calculable to some extent but not something we can feel.
It is for this reason that looking inward in the spiritual sense is peculiar as, looking inward at ourselves, what is really there is inhuman. But there is much to be gained from these inhuman parasites regulating their host. When we talk to ourselves about ourselves we are really talking to inhuman nonhumans. They’ll talk back in a voice not dissimilar from yours. They ain’t you though. Well they are, radically. So much so that if they pack their bags you’re done for. But that voice in your head…that’s them sparking away to help you explain yourself. Are you a neuron, dendrite, axon, bacilli, cell, DNA strand, chromosome, blood cell, mitochondria? No-but-yes!
I feel inevitably mortal at the moment. The death spawning several thousand words of theoretics has affected a real body, with blood and a heart and this weird, fuzzy ability to comprehend itself. I think about where my Uncle’s DNA is now. How can it be that his biome doesn’t regenerate cells anymore? What was an ontological inevitable has transmuted into an existential conundrum. Can this really be solved? Or must it be, here now, at its crossroads, prepped for the future to improve. It’s all theoretical right now. So abstract it belongs to childhood. But abstract or not it really affects us.
Fiction is as affective as non-fiction.
Louis-Ferdinand Celine in Journey to the End of Night says “man…is nothing but arrested putrescence.” The force of this sentence terrifies me. What can we countervail it with?
I want to find the value in the putrescence. I want to imagine my decomposition like that of a scot’s pine, which spends 25 years rotting into a bloom of different lifeforms. I want to invite lifeforms to my putrefaction. I want my biome to be a socium of warfare between factions of micro-organisms. Come, a fact is taking place—devour me. Let the loud chomp of nonhumans emanate from my corpse. Let them munch away at the walls of my biome. Watch me turn. Observe how I crumble into the paunches of insects.
It’s interesting how the almost palindromic structure of wall/law represents in language how the erection of the one is often the embedding of the other. To erect a wall is to say ‘you cannot’, which is precisely what laws do. A law is a command. A forbidding.
The current doxa is difficult to render. We are commanded by invisible, indicating fingers. There are just so many—it makes your head spiral on your shoulders like a top. There are so many wall/law structures embedded in the overly coded, uncompromising structure of society—and therefore of living itself, which goes on within these social structures.
A wall is a barrier between two objects. It establishes a law of proximity between them. We shall forbid the visibility of each other by retreating behind walls. This is how fear starts.
The Gudong Seawall in China separates not only us from the unpredictability of the environment we have created. But in addition, from our capacity to alter the trajectory of an ideology. Building a sea wall against rising tides is not altering the overcoded trajectory of brutal progress. It is a siege wall erected to defend us against our own naivety and obstinacy, which has become our besieger.
Unfortunately, predictions now indicate that no matter what we do we should brace ourselves for turbulence. So a wall suddenly makes sense. We are at war with a “nature” we have manipulated into a monster. If there is war there are walls to be breached.
Consider the protection of nigh-extinct animals. The protector is the destroyer. We defend them from ourselves as a species.
Turn a corner—wall. Another corner—wall. Everything is probably under siege from something.
Inscribed in spray paint are the rebellious phrases that know the law that is planted along with the wall. They break into spirals of rhizomal ivy.
You shouldn’t kill: obvious. You shouldn’t rant & rave—give me a break.
Humanity breeds hardship. Hardship is a continuity. But thinking its end-in-sight has to be continuous too. It is for this reason that teleology is unhelpful. Moreover, it has been utilised in the creation of the conditions we live in. Capitalists in some way think they have created the best situation for us. It will get better (for some) and this will be the proof in the pudding. But the pudding is molten and sticking our hand in to extract the proof will end in burnt fingertips and a messy kitchen surface. It is flexible even as it remains obstinate. It is a broken cake.
Shimon Naveh taught young IDF soldiers that the incompatibility of ideas is not a cue to avoid them, but mine them for a re-contextualisation into your own ideological strategies. I paraphrase. But he spoke in a critical idiom, he was a literary theorist at war, writing a war-monger’s narrative. Writing is a battle. A war-monger! A trained killer! Whose obfuscatory idiom I understand.
Until 2006(?) Naveh taught Deleuze & Guattari to his IDF-students in order to strategise the deterritorialisation of the Palestinians. He read ‘Chapter 12: Treatise on Nomadology—The War Machine’ in A Thousand Plateaus in a literal way that benefited the ideology of his State. [I highly recommend Eyal Weisman’s book Hollow Land, which is the source of this information and more horripilate facts.]
This annoys me on more than one level. The humanities is vitiated and opportunities are scarce. And yet, militaries are using these ideas to suffocate innocent people. To remove their identity. To remove their safety, shelter, livelihoods. To do what States do. They use these ideas and then make them scarce so that they have the hegemony over them. How can they be bastardised in this way?
This is scary. It reminds me of Robert Oppenheimer remembering (vitreous eyed) verses from the Bhagavad-Gita on camera—regretting his impulse for the glory of a split atom, which without his unparalleled understanding, inaugurated a split second of massive death. Something which was supposed to enlighten, exploded.
But any side can opt for these tactical measures. How do we use war against the oppressor? Do we fight? Never. We should all become utterly useless. Things without an ounce of value. And in our valuelessness we will be more valuable to each other because we will forget the energy to hate.
Every inward, vertiginous convolution is etched into the [e]motions of the body: the wringing of hands; the scrunching of the face; the long horizontal stare that meets an invisible, distinct point in the landscape; the gap between the eye brows which saddens the aesthetic of the face when raised into a bridge. There are more. The body displays us internally. How can it not. We are polyvocal in our operative modes of corporal expression. In short, our body expresses a lot. This is understood and explored by affect theorists.
D+G understood this acutely. They speak about affect constantly. This is why I read them. I can learn how to feel more, because I discover more things to feel about. Their analysis of Kleist’s writing reveals that “affects transpierce the body like arrows, they are weapons of war.” What else is grief’s sharp knuckling of the solar plexus…The anxiety that pinpricks us or the goosebumps of sorrow’s intensification….We display the affects of the intrinsic extrinsically; perhaps because their origin is always from experiences, which can only be extrinsic to us.
What affect theory does is take nothing for granted. It observes reality and says ‘what if this object does do this to the body—here is XYZ to provide some reason for assuming this.’ I like this approach to reality and experience. I feel sick. Why? I am grieving. My chest aches, as if a jagged piece of scoria has been dropped into the chamber of my heart. I suddenly feel mortal. Is this the affect of grief? I have grieved before. Never like this. Never with the body stressed so greatly. I don’t need proof to speculate well. This is why Harold Bloom developed strong misprision: we’re going to get speculations wrong—may as well get things wrong well.
I realise, nigh on assuredly, that belief in an inhered human “nature” burrowed, inscaped deep inside us, is erroneous. We can draw a topography of anything abstract and the psychology of human “nature” is no different. It gives it a form of reality but nothing has “reality” apart from those lunatics who are vocal enough to persuade people.
There are some horses that when led to water do drink and become intoxicated by their obedience.
Primo Levi explains in If This is a Man that some Jews followed Nazi orders because this was ‘to be in conformity with the law’ (14) and they would not break the law; even when the “law” they were to follow would lead them to death.
In Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah we discover from witness testimony that many Jews went to the camps because rabbis told them this was what Jewishness was: a teleology of suffering. Only the faithful could walk into such horror.
Everything is objective. Even the heart under a rolled sleeve is still there being a heart. It still produces a rhythm of bpm, which is itself. If it wasn’t the heart wouldn’t beat, the beat would be the heart, which would mean beat wouldn’t need to be represented by the word it is. The word for beat would be heart.
The apothegm of the Oracle advising us to ‘know thyself’ is only achievable if we acknowledge which sectors of the socium are particularly impactful on us. In short, there is no internal, subjective world without an external, tactile “world.” But this isn’t a single—to continue to borrow terms from Deleuze & Guattari—overcoded “world.” This is a real object for obedience—but not the only one. Change is wired into us: never forget that neuroplasticity is an actuality.
How far has arrested entropy (negentropy) affected our subjective attitude? It’s just another object we can point at and be confused by. In short, how can the beautiful New Agers be right about an inherent “nature” nested within us if everything we are is informed by an environment. If we live in the woods are we instantly more “natural” than the city dweller? If I live in a small dark house in the suburbs, without modern convenience do I align myself with the troglodyte? Look around you, that is what you are within, both as a body and as a subjective psycho-logos. The external world reaches into the internal and shifts it. Without sensations we are radical absence. We are our environment.
One of my first poetic infatuations after my naive flirtation with Romanticism was the Confessional poets. I still have this admiration, returning to them annually for revision.
I had endless problems with the first person singular—I. Long term readers of this blog will recall that I used the lower case in some tragic effort to belittle the pronoun of me. I eventually heard a lecture by Simon Armitage who explained that this option of lower-casing was merely a means of attracting attention to the act. I stopped doing it. Having no religion in my life, which I am pleased about, I nonetheless always wanted to authentically confess myself. So for a while I took my cue from Wallace Stevens and used he. Standing in the bathroom I think of Robert Lowell’s poems situated in front of the shaving mirror. The shower is the closest thing I have to a womb-environ.
I think we all need to confess more. We need to be unashamed that we masturbate, hate, love the unlikely, wish abstract damnation on people for being fucking irritating and all the other stuff we compress into a manageable concealment. It doesn’t make us bad, it merely indicates how toxic society is. We can always be better if our environment is improved. If our cultures embrace the other in a more authentic way.
The extrinsic world may be set in stone but the stone it is set in can be repurposed. We shouldn’t shy from the range of reactions to the external, which is continuously shifting the internal.
We live on schizo-tectonics. We are stratified beings making a valiant (but doomed and futile) attempt to smooth out our striations into something uniform, simple. This isn’t possible. The politics of ‘we’ shouldn’t be about reduction to a singularity, but to an acceptance and embracement of our extrinsic plurality. Archive yourself and do some archaeology.
Nothing is as it seems. Confess. Confess. Confess.