V. 1

Praise  Lord Silence  in this  Vastness;
See Isolation  and press your face into its murky furs!

Condemned to Death,
A man refuses water in the desert —
He has long since realized the folly of prolongation.

Coal, To burn or crystalize?
The question I ask of my black Soul —
A question akin to                   “stay warm or shine?”    Yay, Live on or Die?

Exalt your  Lack  in longing for  The Other ;
Feel the breath of  The Edge
A
n
d
Dip your eyes in that most  Velvet Void !

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Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest: thoughts

“This is why a deep complicity has continued to exist between the form of the ‘nation state’ as [an] international political agent and an economic order based upon the commodification of labour. Since it is of systematic necessity that the economic conditions of an undistorted labour market are accompanied by political crisis, the world order functions as an integrated process based upon the flow of market-priced labour into the metropolis from the Third World (on the basis of the economic form of capital production), and the export of political instability to the Third World from the metropolis (on the basis of the political form of autonomous national sovereignty). The global labour market is easily interpreted, therefore, as a sustained demographic disaster that is systematically displaced away from the political institutions of the metropolis.”
    — Fanged Noumena, Nick Land
 

In other words, unregulated (“undistorted”) market relations are exploitative beyond what is politically tolerable, and this fact necessitates that we (The Capitalist Nation state; “the metropolis”) only sustain these kind of relations with other countries, third world countries specifically because they can’t enforce the same symmetrical trade relations as those between first world countries nor is their wellbeing a significant factor in the political situation of the exploitative superpower. Obviously, capitalism exploits workers even within a single national iteration of the practice, but the extent of that exploitation is what is critical to this passage. One can observe the uneasy back and forth between power and its subjects, the recognition of the instability of the situation by both parties; admittedly, the organizations of power are necessary for the continued existence of those they exploit — one reason for these organization’s own continuance — but it is a precarious game, one which is liable to meltdown at any juncture.

There is something left out here: the often paternalistic attitude of the ruling class, the notion that, even if one where to share profits of shared enterprises equally, the “masses” would not make good use of those profits anyway; from hence comes your charity, your public works, your educational initiatives — if they were just like us, maybe I would be alright with treating them fairly. Judaism prohibits speculation on debts between in-group members but allows the practice in relation to gentiles, and what is Christianity — and its offspring Humanism — but an open Judaism? The humanist/christian justification for exploitation is by no means adhered to by all those in positions of uneven economic relations, but such ideologies do provide good groundwork and ethical justification for such relations, (One reason for its popularity in imperialist regimes?

From the same text:

“Kant’s moral theory is an ethics of appropriative modernity, and breaks with parochial or scriptural morality of the ancient regime. Where Judaic, Christian, and Islamic moral codes served as legitimations of imperial projects in their periods of ascendency, Kantian morality is, inversely, legitimated by the position of imperial or universal jurisdiction.”
–Fanged Noumena, P. 73

Keeping in mind what the differing ideological requirements for legitimating an “Imperial Project” — a conquering state — versus those for legitimating an “Imperial Jurisdiction” — a state that has already conquered — is key to understanding this passage and, what’s more, for understanding the difference between Christianity and Humanism (See Stirner):

While religions sought to form a Kingdom,  at term which implies a might not a universal right, Kant’s ethics imply that the Kingdom is not founded on might but on the constitution of all men — there is no rebellion possible, ony confusion. Now, it isn’t possible to be outside the kingdom truly — to be of another nature — but only possible to not know yourself.  Or, because the “the imperial project” has already succeeded to some degree, it can now — through the proxy of its philosophers — take its organization and its axioms as universal, it having effectively eradicated all other substantial lived positions. I would say this is the key distinction between humanism and christianity: the impossibility of sin under humanism. If one does wrong, it is because one is broken — the spirit of rebellion is brokenness — not because one is in actual rebellion, not because one dares another position which, though immoral, though evil, is still valid as a position for oneself. Wrong is not in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of your “true” self; now, when you sin, you sin against yourself, and when you offend, you offend a part of yourself — your humanity. One dares not do violence for one’s own good, nor even for the good of the majority, but only when that violence is predicated as also the good — the true good — of the one it is perpetrated against. No one can be hurt by justice, for anything inline with justice is inline with human nature — the nature of the criminal and the law abiding citizen alike. Do I think such lines of reasoning are bullshit? Yes. But, do I admire their ingenuity and guil? Also, yes.

In sum, I find this passage a terminologically more accessible version of some of the Marxist type theory found in books like Anti-Oedipus, and though it(this passage) lacks some of the latter’s stylistic flair, this lack is also probably the reason for its clarity. Lack of style can manifest itself as possession of clarity — can emphasized to highlight the contingency of the link here.

Aph. 2

My physical form and how I recognize and relate to the world, while they may be related and may influence each other in various ways, do not hold necessary implications for each other  eg. just because I physically have a masculine jawline or bone structure, does not necessitate I embody the roles and traits traditionally correspondent with those physical traits — a masculine, a male, physical characteristic does not correspond to anything by necessity. I do not deny that there are certain aesthetic, social, and behavioral tendencies observable among those who have similar physical characteristics, but that these tendencies are not the absolute rule, that the are transgressed and defied — some would say defiled, my closest enemies — reveals the lack of causation and necessity between the physical traits and their accompaniments. In all things, radical contingency; put another way, at a certain level of complexity, though causation could very well be a truth, it is a meaningless truth. We are free to be similar in different ways, converge in our differences and diverge in our similarities.

Aph. 1

Deletion is a symbolic act by which one declares something finished, over and done. Our memory is intertwined with materiality — to forget is to uproot every anchor or to have every anchor decay. One looses the chance to transmute failure into the wisdom required for future success when one jetsons such misfortunes to oblivion as one also destroys love — that love which once intermingled with a dead passion — when one casts aside, in total, the former object, every reminder of that object. Discontinuity is an escape, and what is forgetting but a discontinuity; but the limit of our ability to construct a continuous narrative, a narrative which bears up our present and our future? Bears up some trace of these temporal dimensions — at least — their impressions if not their totality. (Is not impression truly our totality: the limit of our experience?)1



1 Impression is a very empiricist metaphor, one perhaps ill-suited to the experience of ‘mind’, which, though bounded to an energetic and material medium, far exceeds in its ability to  produce experiences mere recording, mere rendering of an “impress” . (“Ability” utilizes a metaphor of agency; the accurate term would be function) Though I do not doubt, in theory, one could enumerate every possible state of experience based on the material conditions of the mind — not reduce, but correlate one to one — but, of course, I also do not doubt it will be a long time yet before we are able to measure so completely the neurological state of a being along with every physiological factor which contributes to that state. (If, ever we do succeed in such a feat at all, that is. Though, I do not hold the position that such an achievement would be desirable even if possible.)

A Little Room

It is common practice here, in this social milieu I find myself in, to show one’s close acquaintances pictures in one’s phone — various memories and situations, parties and forrays of folly, past lovers and ill fated hookups — and I often wonder, in this display, so full of significance for the displayer, what the confidant sees. It would be absurd to assert that they see much the same as the one who’s mementos they are, the one who’s life and remembrance of said life are inextricably linked to these photos, yet, in that naivete of intimacy, we — who foolishly hope to share what is forever and only delegated to us — think nothing of this dissonance; in that rapture of communication, of towards-othersness, we feel as if, it is our fantasy that, we truly share the snapshot of our life with the photo which, to us, represents it. There’s is much — I would venture to say everything known to man — which can only be shared by those who have shared, not words or mementos, but moments, natural air, and social spaces; yes, there are things which one must only be a human being to have shared with every other of that same kind, but how few are such things, truly?

We stand in a small room, one which we have each wandered into by chance, and though this room is rich with various art, books, and images — feelings, persecutions, situations — it is still so empty, so vacant, for all that. In this room we both feel a restlessness, a desire to roam the houses we know to be outside our respective doors, and perhaps, to take our companion in this tiny world, this tiny room, with us, to show them the secret rooms which we frequent during dreams, waking and asleep. Not only is this journey an impossibility — so many of these rooms lie beyond the reach of the present, beyond any new access — but communication about anything beyond our room, our shared world, is impossible; still, we attempt such comminiques, hoping beyond hope that our words may reach that other across the abyss, that we might take the other with us into those soaring heavens and aching hells that are ours only to enjoy and endure.

A couple sentences strike across in a flash of blue, filling my head with sounds, memories, and concepts — a mere couple sentences — and as such, they should be a fairly simple topic to discuss and to share. But, they are outside our room, this room we share, and thus, outside of my ability to bring them before you, excepting in that way in which our navie friends show us the mementos of their private worlds, so enraptured by them that they forget us even while facing us. Even these thoughts, these simple musings, are they not one such photograph? For me a hell and for you — perhaps — only a pedantic ‘qualia hunt’. I preface all my “photos”, my ideas, my stories, my poems, with such hunts, such hells — either outloud or as echos in this cavern prison — yet, no matter how I might try, I cannot resist, like all other fools, the sharing of them.

Sharing?
Nay, I cast them on doorsteps in desperation,
Fling them, tied to stones of impropriety, through windows;
All the while, already apologetic for whatever shattered glass
— already apologetic for the wake of my existence. .

This little room we sit in, with its landscapes, its memories, its heavens and hells, it is only another one of my photographs, a photograph taken of you and me — I with a hidden camera, a hidden self. Could you understand it, this photograph, without understanding this peculiar art of capture, unlike any mere rod-cone structure, unlike any scheme of exposure and film? What do I take this photograph with but the very composition of my being, but with the very dispersion of my mind upon the surface of this world? How could you understand it — even see it — without having your own self likewise unhinged, likewise dispersed? (I imply my composition is an unhinging: this implication is a truth.) This little room we sit in, unreal except in my head, they who sit within a true world, open without limits, without limits only because these limits are yet undiscovered, are more blessed than all the wise, who are, any wise man will tell you, also the most foolish — anyone who tells you otherwise is not, in fact, wise. (definition=a wise man is he who loathes wisdom as he yet loves it.)

My mother talks of paper, used to pack our dishes, saying it as a pile of leaves, just like the piles of leaves she buried us in as children; this photo, this image, this is sediment in her bones, the material of her structure. Such a thing, what is it to me? What can I know of her joy in that pile of leaves, in that small being she birthed being buried beneath them? I was there, was I not? How, then, can a memory whose content is my very self be unknown to me? How much more unknown are all the others, in light of this? I shudder at the paper leaves which burry me, those words which cloud my eyes. Will anyone clear away such covering, reveal to me the joy of sunlight

I revel in the passivity of such phrases — in the waiting for a miracle — for, some small and ‘primitive’ part of me believes in the effectiveness of such things, of  miracles and faith, of holy symbols and sacred prayers, but I am afraid that such words, such paper leaves must be cleared away only by oneself (pray to one’s self, the multiplicity, then?). Faith is what impells a man (a being — excuse my gendered rhetoric) to keep on his path of little influence, to keep adding his grains of sand upon the scales of fate. Who am I to scorn? What has faith not accomplished when embodied by the millions, a whole ocean of grains? “Faith is the substance of things hoped for” — yeah, the very substance, not an insubstantial substance but substance. What is faith? The group of people that hold it. What is faith? Faith is a temple. A nation. A country. Faith is what it itself creates, nothing as such; or, faith is the disposition towards the creation of the object of one’s faith. Where there is faith, there is substance — and also hope.

 

The Trial: Kafka Inspired Meditations

I recently acquired a Kindle, and while I admit I still prefer physical books to their electronic counterparts, ebooks have a distinct advantage as far as price goes — anything in the public domain can be purchased for under a dollar.1 So, setting out on the the ol’ web store, eight dollars to my disposable-income Name, I went to seek my fortune amongst the sellers of classics in Ebook form. Among other things, I found the complete — incomplete — novels of Franz Kafka for a mere .99 cents USD, which, needless to say, I promptly purchased. I am relatively fresh on my quest to ‘acquire culture’, the milieu I was raised in being not the most conducive to such pursuits, and Kafka seemed like someone I should read — I have heard his name floating around the in literature and philosophy I have read thus far.2

So, without further ado, I jumped into the first novel in the collection, which was — as you might of guessed from the title of this post — The Trial. While after reading said novel I browsed some accounts of its meaning and some biographical material about Mr. Kafka himself, I went in completely blind: no pretensions, no preformed paradigm about its meaning. I am glad I chose this approach, as I’m not sure I would have had such a moving experience with it otherwise. There is something breathtaking about having an Idea arise from a text itself, and a special quality about grand notions formed, not through philosophical introspection or abstract theory, but by intuition — they often far exceed the contrived in nuance and depth.3

In case my rhetorical reader is not familiar with said novel, I will briefly summarize; though, I don’t claim it will be a particularly riveting account (click here to skip):
Our protagonist, Mr. K, is laying in his bed one morning when he notices his breakfast has not been brought to him, as is usual, so he proceeds to call into the other room for the maid, only to have mocking response made by two policemen in the other room. He is being placed ‘under arrest’, a weird sort of arrest wherein he carries out normal business but must check in with the court for inquiries occasionally. At first, filled with confidence and contempt for the court — him being a high ranking ‘Bank Official — he is not much troubled by this peusudo-arrest, but as the novel progresses, he becomes more and more enthralled by the court and its shadowy world. There are court offices in every attic, and its agents lurk in every boarding house. The news of his trial spreads through his business-life, and policemen can be found in ‘the junk room’ of the bank wherein he finds employment. He becomes more and more frazzled, unable to keep up with the demands of business and his health generally — all due to his mounting obsession with his trial and its outcome. Eventually, he is executed by two men in a quarry at the edge of the city while an unknown witness looks on from a solitary building.

While the above is a high level summary, there are a couple of particular events, dialogues, and details that will be important to my thoughts:

  1. Towards the beginning of the novel, shortly after the arrest, Mr. K has a conversation with his housekeeper about the affair. She is abashed by his arrest and can hardly engage in the conversation; consequently, she attempts to turn the conversation to another boarder at K’s place of residence, a typist who is always ‘out late’. The landlady, Miss Grubach, implies that the typist, Miss Burstner, is improper, as she has seen her with multiple ‘young men’ at night — she’s implying Miss Burstner is a ‘loose woman’, basically. Mr. K, for some reason, takes offence at this assertion, rising to defend the typist and her honor, thoroughly shaming and embarrassing his landlady. Later on that night, he enters Miss Burstner’s room under pretense of apologizing for some disturbance in her quarters due to his arrest and makes sexual advances, which are gently rebutted. He even goes so far as to promise that, if she sleeps with him, he will tell the landlady he ‘attacked’ – raped – her in order to save her reputation.4
  2. The court is not a ‘normal’ court. During the arrest scene, Mr. K behaves as one would in a normal, modern legal proceeding, implying that such proceedings do exist in the universe of the novel. He says he “knows” the district attorney, but the attorney does not seem relevant to this particular court — the ‘policemen’ are not concerned etc.
  3. During the last chapter, as Mr. K goes towards the place of his execution, he sees Miss Burstner again, the only other time he does in the novel excepting the night of his improper advances. He is struck by a sense of shame and wants to keep her in sight to remind him of ‘his wrongs’.
  4. Once one is accused, one can never truly be acquitted — it is not known to happen but in legend. The trial is a lifelong affair.
      For sake of brevity and because these details are sufficient to qualify my thoughts, I’ll leave off here.

(Click to go back to top of summary)
While I won’t claim that the concepts I’ve formed during my reading of this book were the same concepts in the mind of the author at the time of his writing it, I do think they fit as one possible conceptual superstructure. The court, in my mind, represents the unspoken laws of society, those ever shifting dynamics by which one falls and another rises. At the beginning of the book, in the conversation between Mr. K and Miss Grubach about his arrest, she seems to have insider knowledge about the matter which causes her to be bashful about discussing it with him; as diversion, she then goes on to gossip about Miss Burstner, about her imprority, about her (the landlady’s) responsibility to ‘say something to set Miss Burstner straight. By rational of her clear pension for meddling in the affairs of others, I would proffer that the landlady, no matter the esteem Mr. K thinks she holds for him, was the one who reported him to the court, who brought his reputation into question — if we’re working under my metaphorical supposition. Mr. K was a hardworking man, a man who previously rose through the ranks of the bank, and had a laser focus on one thing: business. But, after he achieved success, I interpolate, he started socializing more, taking on lovers, more frequently going to bars, effectively instating himself within the realm of the ‘invisible’ court. In his inner monologue, whenever he comes across a women he finds attractive, he has all sorts of power fantasies and ‘improper thoughts’ — especially by the standards of his landlady — which I believe reveals a more generalized social carelessness. Further to this point, when he first is placed under arrest, he has no fear of the court, holds them all in contempt, but as the machinations of the court start to effect his material circumstances more and more, he becomes concerned. From this I would infer — more than mere carelessness — a sort of social blindness in Mr. K, a centering in the material and the tangible. He constantly scorns the advice of those within the court, even at later stages in his trial — he can’t seem to understand the nature of this court, its ruleless rules. That nature which is optics, appearance, opinion — and perhaps something deeper for Kafka as he was mystic — that is what Mr. K cannot comprehend, and that is why he ends up being executed. In my thinking, taking the execution in metaphorical relation to our reality, it represents social ostracization, complete expungement from the annals of society. His execution takes places on the outskirts of the city: his being exiled from the cities social circles is his execution.

I would like to use one more example to support my interpretation — another interpretation, one of a story found within the story,  a parable told by a priest to Mr. K while he waits for an ‘italian man’ he was to show around inside. In this parable, a man wants access to the law, which is within a building guarded by a doorman. The man comes up to the building and asks the doorman for entrance, but he refuses, telling the man that one day, maybe, he’ll be able to enter. The man returns day after day, giving the doorman gifts, asking him endless questions, all in attempt to enter into the law — in order to gain knowledge of it — but as the man’s life nighs its end, he still has not entered into the house of the law. As he dies, he sees a light coming from the center of the building.

In the main narrative, Mr. K is not able to stay on the right side of the unknown law, the unspoken rules and dynamics of society, and from hence comes his ruin. But, in the parable, the man who seeks entrance into the law is portrayed as respectful and wary, pious in his wish to know the good; even though he would be able to overpower the doorman — granted the doorman was the first of many, allegedly —  he still does not. His refusal to resort to force, his constant respect for the doorman, the very doorman that is blocking the way to the fulfillment of his highest wish, demonstrates an unconscious adherence to social forces and dynamics, a respect for the law that he nevertheless does not explicitly know. Contrast the seekers attitude with the attitude of Mr. K: his constant ploys for power, dominative desires towards women, amd material focus. One can only know the law, the law that cannot be spoken, by transgressing it; hence, the seeker cannot enter into knowledge of the law. For, he embodies it. If Mr. K had never been convicted, he would have never known about the court, he would never have knowledge of the unknowable law — he would have never known it existed. Only through his transgression did he come to know about that which he transgressed against. Those who adhere without thought to social dynamics and norms, take the content of these as their own selves and never come to an understanding of them as separate from themselves, from the disparate collection of individuals that embody them. Only those who have transgressed — for whatever reason — experience society and its dynamics as malignant, as an alien power with inexplicable rules.

That leads me into my final thoughts: while I was reading this novel, I was struck with a familiar sense of horror and a sense of identification with the protagonist, Mr. K. Given my above assertions, that sense of identification does not exactly bode well for me — it speaks to my own social blindness, my own transgression against the wordless law. I find in a lot of theorists who are in positions contrary to social norms and dynamics, a kind of anti-stance. They create the maxims which they wish were norms, those maxims that reinforce their position, and posit these as ‘truth’ or as ‘best’, attempting to condemn society thereby. I want to avoid this in my own writing and theorizing. I have made enough mistakes in life to be aware of my fallibility. What arrogance to assume that my reason constructs could better subsume the necessities of human existence than nature, than the unknowable law, that which contains what is older than man and greater than any individual. Still, I fervently believe that transgression is necessary for the unknowable law, that the Devil — whatever he may intend — furthers the works of God and that intentional construction is also part of that work, even constructions cut off from awareness of that which they contributes to.5

I don’t see condemnation in transgression nor ‘moral’ sin in the sense of good and evil; only, there is a flow in the way things are, and that which goes against that flow or is washed ashore — into the desert — by it. To hate that flow and to personalize that flow is folly but so also is ignoring it. I hope to widen the channel and to make new ones in this world of social dynamics and norms, but I don’t hate that world, even when it hurts me, anymore than I would hate fire for burning, snow for chilling, or poison for killing.

One should have Amor Fati but also utere fatum!6     [Have love of one’s fate but also use that fate]
Or: Love the flow; Ride the flow. 

12/27/2018:

I found a quote whilst reading Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, about this book — along with The Castle — which is congruous with my interpretation here and which I would be remiss not include (as I will probably include any other reading that relates here in the future):

It is this unpredictability which Kafka’s art attempts to describe in The Trial and The Castle. In one sense everything which K. and the Surveyor are doing belongs strictly to them in their own right, and in so far as they act upon the world the results conform strictly to anticipations; they are· successful acts. But at the same time the truth of these acts constantly escapes .them; the acts have on principle a meaning which is their true meaning and which neither K. nor the Surveyor wiIlever know. Without doubt Kafka is trying here to express the transcendence of the divine; it is for the divine that the human act is constituted in truth. But God here is only the concept of the Other pushed to the limit.

Being And Nothingness Pg. 266

 



1 No, this post is not sponsored by Amazon — unfortunately — though I would be more than ambivalent about the prospect in the alternate universe where such a sponsorship would be conceivable.  I claim no exhaustive knowledge on the subject, but I’ve heard less than pristine evaluations of Amazon’s labor practices whilst perusing around the internet.
2 I want to do my parents justice in this respect: I was brought up, until my twelfth year, in a classical education where I had instilled in me the ideals of and appreciation for learning — in the, according to my pretentious thought, true sense of the word — which would manifest later in my own pursuits. The issue arose when, at about thirteen, I decided I would not be ‘raised’ any longer and rejected all imposed tasks and learning, a decision that has set me back and which I very much regret in some respects. The environments I found myself in after said period, environments which I chose, admittedly, and which supported nothing but Bacchanal debauchery and destructive world-rejection, are the particular milieu I refer to here. It must be noted that I can’t say I regret the descent into the lower spheres of human activity completely — I learned many lessons that are unteachable by words alone.
3 I’ll note here that these ‘philosophical intuitions’, must still be subjected to the same rigour and cross-examination as philosophical concepts formed intentionally to be profitably utilized in thought; though, I don’t mean to imply an idea must be profitable to be beautiful or worth ‘keeping around’ in the mind.
4 His advances, while standard for romantic narratives at the time, would most certainly be considered assault or at best harassment by today’s standards.
5 I am speaking figuratively here. I believe, as a quasi-pantheist, that God is the emergent phenomenon which coordinates collective human existence. The devil is only the spirit — spirit meaning disposition in the original greek if Thomas Hobbs is to be trusted — of rebellion, perversion, mutation, change, and necessary as such. Impersonal Pantheism — no personal god, even as emergent phenomenon — which is what I generally hold to, cannot really be called theism in any real sense. It is merely belief in an order behind things, a law that makes existence possible. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was god.” The word is the law, binding the works of nature, and in the linguistic sense, binding the reality of man to definition.
6 Shoutout to Miss Crow for the correct conjugation!

Written Vs. Spoken!

Recently, I went to a slam poetry reading — by recently I mean last night — and I was struck with the complete lack of similarity in critical factors between spoken word and written word; meaning, the things which would make a poem pleasant or engaging to read were not the things which made a poem pleasant or engaging to hear. In a written poem, complexity in the text allows for more patterns to emerge, more meaning to manifest. Conversely, in a poem spoken, complexity does not inherently add to the piece but can even detract.

Let me back these claims up a little:

During my, albeit one, experience with slam poetry, I found that what most swept me away was delivery — rhythm being included in that category — and the oscillation between high and low rhetorical registers eg. one poem had a short, repeating verse about spiritual wounds and the path to healing, but the meat of the poem, its most substantial aspect, was these graphic, stream-of-consciousness verses about how the poet’s step-father beat him.1 The term ‘sublimation’ comes to mind here — the process of distilling painful experience, harsh reality, not into a bitterness or a hatred, but into something positive different, something transcending the particulars.The particulars and the emotion they evoke, the hypnotism of the rhythm, while forming the majority of the content, didn’t best embody this man’s poem; rather, those brief interludes where something broke through reality, through pain, through the particulars, unifying and modifying reality into something more — into a moral impetus, a desire for the future, a knowing for the present — that is what I remember most and what I feel best subsumes the poem. Not pain, but change and hope. 

Sublimation is an important factor in written poetry as well — I can’t deny — but one often finds an entire work of sublimated content, of modified experiences, emergent feeling, rather than a mix with harsh, emotionally pertinent, reality.3   The personal journey from the mundane to the poetic is often kept hidden, and for me, that is part of the appeal of written poetry — it’s otherness, it’s incommensurability with daily life. However, the slam poets who employed things I might love in a written piece — word play, alliteration, extended metaphor etc. — things that add to ‘otherness’, to the creation of a purely poetic space, I found less engaging. In these cases, there was no connection to substance, no life blood coursing through the words, only a dull, mechanical vomiting of tropes. When reading poetry, the author is not present, and even if they felt nothing while writing, even if they merely filled out a formula — their own or another’s — the reader can still project affective content in, give the poem substance themselves. The honesty of the voice is missing: that by which the most skilled of wordsmiths stands naked.4 In a spoken piece, poetry takes on another dimension — it becomes social/intersubjective, physical/acoustic, visceral/embodied — and it is through that dimension it gains the most power. All the machinations of intelligence, of formula, of calculative word choice, they pale in comparison to the awe-inspiring skill of a great orator. I can admire written work from a distance, muse at the intentionality behind the form, appreciate intricate symbology, but in a spoken piece delivered with mastery, I am swept into the world of the poet, into their emotion, their turbulence, their reality. I feel not just like a mind appreciating a mind but a soul appreciating a soul  — a mind with a body, with a world, a mind with stakes in that world (my definition of soul).

As for complexity and its relation to the two forms of poetry, the claim I was intending to develop before the above tangential remarks:

Complexity requires attention. It requires intention. The more the complex the form of the thing to be expressed is, the less attention one has to give to the thing itself.  One could break even spoken word into a set of ‘factors’, rhythmic and aditoury variables, analyze the effects of different tonal combinations and delivery speeds — high rhetoric? high bullshit — but the fact remains that these “tonal combinations” and rhythmic structures are embodied attitudes toward the world, towards others, and towards ideas. One cannot happen upon a formula for speech, for good speaking, because speech is the embodiment of one’s life, specifically one’s life embodied towards others.5 Still, this embodiment requires attention and intention even if not an intellectual process — arguably requires more thereby — and too much formal meditation and intentionality, when it exceeds the skill of the poet to stay grounded in their subject matter, becomes a detriment to the power of the work.

Conversely, a written work is developed over time in multiple iterations: there is no final moment of truth for it. An author can brood on the thing to be represented/conveyed in the poem in one iteration, compose a form in the next, play with word choice in another etc. There are multiple poets in a /developed/ written piece, not just one, and they all handle different aspects of the composition. Likewise, in reading a poem, reading it thoroughly, there are multiple readers ie. the successive readings of and meditations on a piece culminate into a true understanding, experience, and appreciation of a multifaceted composition, a grasping of its sense.6  This is not the case in a spoken poem. There is only one chance at expression, at reaching your audience; with this in mind, delivery tops complexity in pieces intended for speaking — where the two conflict, not implying they always do.

Phew, all that theory with quasi-free-associative structure; I must admit, I walked into this post blind, with only vaguely thought out assertions. Every point I attempted to make requires a tremendous amount of qualification, which I will develop in the footnotes should any feisty reader wish to check my work. I find thinking about language and speech self-referential. The insights I gain through writing reflect directly back on that writing, revealing its defects through its virtue.  Touching just on a few factors pertinent to poetry revealed a whole swath of others I left out of account and had yet to think about, so I can by no means claim a complete analysis.7One can also become ungrounded from their subject matter in writing, not just in speaking, by theoretical and formal concerns — can lose sight of what inspired them to write, what fascinated them about their subject — and I fall prey to this often. What I wanted to get across was the power of the spoken word, of embodied speech, of visceral communication. As one who spends most of his time reading, I often forget how powerful language can be when used in its ‘original’ context. The written medium definitely has advantages even in its being disembodied, but man cannot live on ink alone, cannot subsist on thought without body, on theory without application.



1 My use of “rhetorical register” might be incorrect here. Further on in the post, when talking about ‘multiple’ readers, I was struck by a possible interpretation of “rhetorical” register — the multiple ‘readers’ we all embody simultaneously are these registers. What then would differentiate a ‘high’ register from a ‘low’ register? I wouldn’t want my use of high and low to connote moral or intellectual superiority to either; merely, I want to denote the continuum of concrete to abstract through the ‘vertical’ metaphor. Abstractions, these one must have been exposed to previously in order to derive meaning from their utterance while — in the case of the concrete — only membership in the general ‘language community’ is required, in most cases at least. Those who associate superiority with education may then think my distinction is specious, but I by no means think they are related inherently. There are many ways in which ‘education’ is also an  unlearning of the innate.


2 I want to avoid using morally charged — valanced — language like positive and negative. The use that’s made of the dichotomy in popular discourse, frankly, disgusts me. In the case of this specific poem, the poet is clearly working through some unpleasant experiences, learning forgiveness, and healing from an emotional wound — I don’t deny that that warms my heart and that I would like to see more of such metamorphosis in the world — but I will never deny someone’s right to anger and resentment. These things have their place within the human socius and the human heart; they inspire one to enact material change, to grapple with the resented. Spiritual sublimation of the harmful and unpleasant cannot be denied worth, but I would venture that this process is only possible after the material circumstances behind that unpleasantness and harm have been upbraided. Further than that, sublimation can often be used as a vector to escape action, to escape engagement in one’s circumstances — I do this often enough — which cannot only be harmful to one’s own long term benefit but also to the benefit of the community at large. Even if only using positive/negative as a way to denote harmful/beneficial, the common usage still doesn’t reflect this given the above. All this to say, the positive/negative dichotomy is insufficient for qualifying the functional and holistic value of an emotion or a state of being, and blackmailing all those who express sentiments which make us uncomfortable with it should /perhaps/ be avoided — by “perhaps” I make an attempt to appear good natured and amiable but feel strongly on the validity of the point.

3 Kant defines the sublime as that which exceeds our ability to conceptualize, an experience or a concept that generates a feeling of infinity. What then does it mean to make experience sublime, but to make it infinite? Hope is sublime — as is despair — because it looks towards the horizon and the horizon is infinite; all the emotions associated with poetry, they are not bound to the is but extend it infinitely, fill the void with heavens and hells. They are the unconceptualizable concepts, those notions which break our current reality open in order that it might receive a new one. Poetic feeling is the bridge between lived worlds, between an actual way of being and a possible way of being. Sublimation is, in some sense, a letting go of definition, of limit, and of stasis — and it is in the shattering of the stable, the known, the currently lived that it has its power but also, for some, its danger.

4 Initially, when reflecting upon pop-music, the blatant disenguinity and fabricated lyricism, I thought I would have to redact this point. If an industry can so effectively fool masses of people with formulaic expression, what validity could my ‘nakedness of the speaker’ notion hold? I think it could be defended on a couple points: in some cases, people want to be fooled, and there is often a differentiation between the function of the speaker and the one who formulates what the speaker will speak ie. the one who is writing the songs to formula is not actually the one performing them. The speaker may be genuine while expressing something someone else contrived — perhaps the special quality of pop-stars is vaccousness, the ability to believe and embody the contrived in order that the industry, through you, might fool others. On the point of people wanting to be fooled: while I don’t want to over endorse the postmodern-nihilist tagline, I definitely think that, when faced with the looming abyss of purposelessness, of the unknown, people will cling to known-falsities. In my own ‘youth’ — technically still in that youth — when I supposedly ‘liberated’ myself from religious notions, I was initially exhilarated by the freedom and the particular pleasure of deconstruction, of watching a reality fall away, but as time went on, I grew nostalgic for those religious “delusions” and the security they provided, that security that once was felt as a prison. To leap into an abyss, to abandon an untruth when there is no truth in sight, not only is that not appealing, it may also be unwise; in this particular situation, disbelieving in the disingenuous when you can find nothing genuine would be akin to social suicide — to perhaps be a touch dramatic in phrasing.

5 Good writing, I opine, allows one to simulate that embodiment imaginatively, implies an absent author well enough to evoke their presence in the mind of the reader. Channeling Baudrillard(with a hint of Deleuze): The despotic signifier, the source of meaning — the author, the idea of the author. The simulacra, the fantasy, the unreality — their presence in the written text. The deceitful craft, the wile of the textual serpent — how produce such a fantasy, such an unreality, convincingly; the ultimate apex of the craft being a fantasy completely exchangeable for reality, for presence, for a true other. The Devil’s Mirror, stealing the soul of The Real to fuel the fantasy. The ultimate ideal of writing — and of communication more generally — is for it to be imperceptible, for it to disappear underneath the expressed. The ultimate of craft is for there to be no craft apparent.

6 This concept of multiple readings being required to truly grasp a poem perhaps reveals my dilettante status in these matters — in an appropriate education, one is trained to recognize all the multiple forms of intentionality as a whole. The successive readings, rather, take the form of institutional norms for a certain art form one internalizes, allowing one to appreciate a poem in a way not contingent on its particularity. Sort of like in the Orthodox church: as you learn the dogma you begin to appreciate the intricacies of the ritual, to see all the intentionality and symbolism that previously went unnoticed — institutional art likewise is an acquired appreciation. One is able to reconstruct, in some cases, this formal education with a reverse engineering of sorts; admittedly, this sometimes produces results not in line with the intentionality of the institutional artist. It is a useful practice in that, if you know how to recreate an artistic/linguistic paradigm through observation, you can form your own. Likewise in Philosophy: if you can learn to excavate the institutionally taught assumptions of a philosopher, to understand a tradition without being in that tradition, you can create your own philosophical frameworks etc. Always good to check your work though! (I want to add something here about the readings one naturally does just as a speaker of language, readings which don’t have to be taught institutionally — noting the desire in this case will have to suffice for fulfillment.)

7 I want to clarify what I mean by analysis: I don’t mean to reduce complex phenomena like communication to the variables I abstract from them. I believe things are more than the grids we overlay them with, the parts we trace out and remove from the whole. I also think analysis must take into account the irrational, the unexplainable, the just because ; further than that, I think it’s sole use is in peeling back constructions, revealing what is rational, what is structural about a phenomenon, and what is not eg. one can analyze the particular style of a painting, the technical process of its creation, and how well it conforms to its intention, but what makes the given style aesthetically pleasing, worth striving for, the technique worth reproducing, that is necessarily irrational. Analysis reveals the hollows within which wonder hides, the sources of magic, if you will. The essence is the unspeakable, the ephemeral, that which cannot be known but only known around . To mistake form for essence is to be fooled by a particular construct utilizing that essence. Beauty is not Cubist, or Impressionist, or Surrealist, but each of these formal constructs utilize the essence of the aesthetic, of ‘beauty’ — to be vague — in a different way.