Unknowing: a thought for 28/10/12


A synthesis, a rambling for the ‘real’, a manifesto, a memo, a message to another, a fanboy-ish tribute to David Foster Wallace and maybe, an elitist sneer.

Always conscious of unknowing, the prescience of the Rumsfeldian matrix, like a black smudge at the peripheral vision.

Yet simultaneously aware of the hubris that accompanies the totalising impulse to consume knowledge. The hungry jaws of individual transcendence and an appetite for the grandiose: ‘Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied’. Is all literature the predatory, pathological obsession to retain two contradictory ideas? The consolation of all novels as journals, freed from cognitive dissonance and onto the page, the desire to create something ex nihlo, from yourself.

Or, to demonstrate, the insight of the solitary and heroic figure of a esoteric writer when the times are ‘strange enough’ for art.

Those that can an squat almost messianic over the twinkling sprawl safe in the knowledge, removed from the great multitude, that those below will never even attempted to have same neural inter-connectivity, (imagined in the iconography of Henry Beck’s Tube Map) between the fields as diverse as 17th century political theory and 20th Century mixed fibres (poor example?). Behind ordinary fears lurked stowaway-ing of the fear of just being ordinary.

And, their own ignorance for wanting to open the gates to the great beyond, the feeling of remorse for not engaging with the cynics, with the mass when some can barely exert enough effort to read the cue-card length headlines of rolling news. When the vaguest nod to the cerebral is presented in the wrapping of the cerebral: ‘True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.’ At least for Popper anyway.

Those wishing to spill their cards from their sleeves at once, to write what it would require a book to fill in a matter of a page and change. To make the reader feel like they’re the smartest individuals in the world, when their isn’t one:

‘Fiction for me is a conversation for me between me and something that May not be named – God, the Cosmos, the Unified field, my psychoanalytic cathexes, Roqoq’oqu, whomever. I do not feel even the hint of obligation to an entity called READER – do not regard it as his favour, rather his choice, that, duly warned, he is extended capital/time/retinal energy on what I’ve done.’ (David Foster Wallace)

The great quest to ‘know thyself’ when the unexamined life isn’t worth living, to wear the smile of falsity while lonely, alienated and stressed-out, to breathlessly scribble the minutiae of experience with Olympian speed so that you invariably begin writing about writing, with varying degrees of lucid but self-indulgent success. While others fill Facebook albums, while Empires shudder and fall.

Knowing that ever-growing reading list will outlive you. Timeless literature seldom means little when 50 hours a book x 500 plus books equals an insufficient, finite to experience life, to share with her, them and ours.

Too busy approaching the ‘real’ in prose that has been attempted ad nauseum – the pen as pole vault attaining the geographic, historical grounding so too with the groundings of the flying stimuli of ‘a day in the life’ – the peculiarities, bisecting irregularities in thoughts, the way an image of a loved one’s favourite meal springs to mind when gazing at a partially torn billboard for cathedral city cheese across the concrete flyovers of the North Circular and the verdant haze of the Epping Forest hills beyond. A great sea of possible mode of thoughts, tones and textures unknown: “What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.” (DFW) 

Do we really think we know more than we did yesterday? Or once the mind expanded to the pressures of a task, to swallow the edifice of knowledge, the hard-to-vary assertions of truth, the testable conjectures, the critiques it [the mind] can never contract?

Memories merge, coagulate. Not so much racing thoughts as thoughts that ‘twine in a boily and clotted and altogether nauseous way’ (DFW).

Damn, I need a nap.



Necessary Fictions

I promised myself I wouldn’t post quotes but this one has bitter-sweet implications for the fragility of memory and our leaky blind spots for which someone, somewhere has written much more eloquently (and by this, not just perfect syntactical sentence structures)

“Everything is ‘fiction’. When you tell yourself the story of your life, the story of your day, you edit and rewrite and weave a narrative out of a collection of random experiences and events. Your conversations are fiction. Your friends and loved ones—they are characters you have created. And your arguments with them are like meetings with an editor—please, they beseech you, you beseech them, rewrite me. You have a perception of the way things are, and you impose it on your memory, and in this way you think, in the same way that I think, that you are living something that is describable. When of course, what we actually live, what we actually experience—with our senses and our nerves—is a vast, absurd, beautiful, ridiculous chaos. (…)

Fiction gives us everything. It gives us our memories, our understanding, our insight, our lives. We use it to invent ourselves and others. We use it to feel change and sadness and hope and love and to tell each other about ourselves.”
—Keith Ridgway