These days I am fighting the dangerous implications of becoming too theoretical, or of living too much inside of my own mind. But on high days, when it isn’t an effort to speak, I can grasp the two worlds, one in each hand, and, holding the two ends tightly, cup them together like the reflecting poles of magnets.
On the days when I can hold the two forms in opposition, and one doesn’t destroy the other, the abstract thoughts that I am holding in the one hand (the theories) illuminate the images in the other hand (the action). The former, I think, could be useful for rewriting, so long as I don’t get the two ideas confused (writing with rewriting).
Four Types of Borgesian Infinity
-The Suggestion (Don Barthelme’s Paraguay)
-The Implication (The Garden of Forking Paths)
-The Labyrinth (The Writing of the God, The Immortals)
-The Aleph (The Aleph)
Without any grounding in practical life, the spectre finds a home in high philosophy, or gets lost in labyrinths of twisting and senseless thought. For these spectres, it is a great effort to contemplate “a hand” (their own) and reconcile that with its true form (flesh and blood) rather than the endless chain of signifiers between themselves and every object they come across.
Oct 7 09
(Struggling with an idea of fiction that is doomed.) What idea has died in me? Have ideas died in me? Why do I lack the motivation of idea? Do I lack the motivation of idea, or am I only stalling for time?
Oct 8 09
What is it in my isolation that causes me to think those characteristics of strangers that would otherwise be regarded as harmless quirks as grounds for making that person, or persons, my enemy?
(This doesn’t apply to anyone I already know, who, at some point after my knowing them, shed the hateful portion of these qualities in lieu of their charm*–unless I was in a carefree mood when I met them, or something about them caused me to feel carefree, in which case its doubtful I ever harboured any hateful thoughts towards them at all.)
The persistent moodiness of my emotions, my flip-flopping, from one polar opposite to the other, reminds me of Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese poet whose great prose work, The Book of Disquiet, was assembled from scattered fragments (made with some intention of eventual publication) discovered after his death. Pessoa is something of a prison-poet, and by that I mean that he spent his days as a bookkeeper, in various degrees of contentment, and (from the evidence in The Book of Disquiet, only partially accurate) dedicated his life to reconciling this simple life with the vast avenues of thought and emotion he inhabited as a poet (and to appeasing the depression which definitely haunted him).
My moodiness takes me to Pessoa and from him to the young clerk at Type, an independent bookstore in Toronto, where in April I had brought The Book of Disquiet, picked almost at random from a display, to the counter to be rung up:
“That’s my favourite book. It’s not for reading all at once. You have to keep it by your bed for flipping through,” she said, which meant something to me then, when I knew almost nothing about Pessoa, but means more to me now. It is the most intimate and magnificent thing a stranger has ever said to me.
*There is at least one radical exception to this: an enemy who I was friends with, but whose personal qualities, as I perceived them, were dual: both hateful and charming. Relatively, this moment in the friendship was brief, and since then I have buried all that I thought hateful in her.
Oct 9 09
Yesterday, in my pocket notebook, I briefly talked about how I have become an enemy to strangers–that same day I realised that my tendency to say “I’m sorry” in place of “Thank you” is a symptom of this phenomenon. In all situations, I am, or I perceive myself to be, a junior partner. Not a junior partner exactly, perhaps that isn’t the right word; it’s more that it seems I think all situations are so potentially delicate that to say anything other than “I’m sorry” would be to escalate the situation to unimaginable violence…
Or maybe I’m only afraid of disturbing the pristine raucousness of my mind, because to pierce into it with unprepared-for words, thoughts, and feelings would be to upset the delicate balance of nothingness and routine I have been cultivating in my loneliness. To upset that balance would be to demonstrate the impossibility of rigorous control over one’s self in human society, and maybe it’s this concept that I find troubling.
I’ve always lived alone, in that sense: in a bubble of plastic thought echoed in my fascination with drawing the costume of astronauts, with the visor down, and of people wearing eyeglasses without anything showing in their perfectly white lenses. My life is, in large part, a fantasy; sometimes a grey and lifeless one, sometimes not.
Oct 13 09
After a while (of inaction) I get tired of all formats. In my little notebook, the format is the yellow pages, the maroon cover; in my word processor it is the green text and the black background; on my blog it’s the endless white and the particular way the text is arranged… But all these formats struck me once, and have served me well in the past, so I shouldn’t let my emotions colour and destroy what are, at their bottoms, useful tools… It isn’t all in flash that I should operate, running from one vehicle to another… The problem is that I look at the formats and see memories of “old-writing”, which depresses me because it is dead and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere, even if it was good.
Oct 14 09
I have always been contained. This means that I do not reveal all that I think or am. Today I realised the full extent of the rupture between my opinion of my self and the appearance of my self. My opinion has always been greater, not because of cockiness, but because it refers to a secret self I for the most part keep hidden, or have difficulty expressing, except in rare and brief moments of transcendence (among good friends, in sports, or on the stage) where my appearance of self reveals the secret self my mind is always referring to.
Oct 15 09
“I had a funny thought–” The answer to a hand raised by one of the students in my literary theory class. The hand belongs to a person who seems, on the whole, perfectly agreeable. He is telling a joke in regards to the interpretation of a poem. Today, sitting in this bleak classroom and wondering who I should befriend, I imagine him a candidate, though eventually I decide against him.
Why? It’s nothing personal; in fact, I have a few friends like him. He reminds me of them, and of something that is the “anti-” of me. My reasons for denying his candidacy (and perhaps even my “denial” of his candidacy itself) reveal more about my own opinion of myself, especially in this class, of all classes, where I am the most socially absent.
Here is my denial, as scrawled in the margins of my theory notebook: “Could lumber over to this cheerful fellow, set two black paws in the ground before his chair, dwarf him with my poisonous shadow, and devour him. Make him my friend. / I better not.”