Friday, October 10, 2008

The Difference Between Blogging and Emailing: Reflecting on a Sad Sad Sad Obituary

I'm sure I've got this just wrong, but on the occasion of my sharing this URL with a few friends and family, I want to clear up a couple of things. The first is that I'm not trying to accomplish some feat of literary or journalistic accomplishment. If I thought I were actually any good at that stuff, I think I'd have tried my hand at it by now (although I'm not entirely certain of that, since I, as do all of us, suffer from plenty of self-destructive bad habits and blind spots).

I'm simply trying to figure out how to say something clearly, which I feel very strongly is extremely important to say. As far as I can tell, anything philosophical of quality which I read tends in the same direction toward this kind of summary statement. Right now, for example, I'm reading Everything and More: A Compact History of , written by David Foster Wallace who very distressingly recently hung himself.

I find that I can read only small chunks, in spare time say before work or just after dinner, because - and you'll find yourself rightly skeptical at this claim - it spins my head out of control, sort of like one of those little whirring sirens you blow into and they amazingly sing. Or maybe just like a top or Chinese diabolo which gets going to incredible orbital velocity with seemingly tiny inputs. Quite beyond being an excellent philosophical mind, Wallace was, I gather, an accomplished artist - I look forward to reading his novels, of which I had been unaware.

The trouble with this book is that it places my little quest in historic context, and reminds me, alarmingly, that I'm attempting something in the company of folks (don't you love that Bushism?) back to Plato and beyond. And then, bringing things up to date, that I'm just another dilettante, say, watching Star Wars, or even better, The Matrix, who wants to find in it some ultimate truth, which it would be absurd to think even its director would understand other than by means of his production.

Sure, it is pretty cool to come floating out of the Star Wars big screen to find your car transformed into a spaceship for a little moment, just as your mind has been expanded beyond its petty preoccupations by some artistic outlining which - and this quite simply is what makes it art - draws the mind beyond itself. Art is in touch with ultimate truths, and by its creation avoids the necessity to describe them more mundanely. Proper authors always refuse interviews or any privileged "insight" to their own work. Only hackers know exactly what they "meant" to say.

I might long to be an artist, at least because the project could be more literally in hand, but I think I'm something more like a craftsman, and very much less than a scientist. I am not attempting art. I think the blog - as a medium - is supposed to be free of aspirations toward journalistic excellence. And I include within the spaces of my thick verbiage "chapters" from my youthful writing, not because I think there was anything great there, nor certainly well written, but because it is the very thing itself. The documentary evidence of a discovery, actually embodied, so to speak, in the document itself. That is to say that the writing of the document was the occasion for the discovery of something which I found ever-so-slightly to be ahead of its or my time at the time, and which for whatever reason it is now my burden to reify virtually, as it were and is.

My god I hope there is another soul in the world who finds these words even remotely funny.

I wrote this thing in a single sitting - I'm not even sure that I took breaks to piss and eat and sleep, but I must have. And then I word-processed it out, at the dawn of such infernal machines, having developed that profane skill so far from piano playing, but ever so much more utilitarian - keyboarding. There was something magical in the word processor, just simply in that I didn't have to white out or literally cut and paste. Then there was the magic of double justified margins - whooey!

The occasion of my typing it out confirmed to me the "truth" of what I'd written, and then I proceeded to make a near complete ass of myself trying to explain the thing around town. I did, however, eventually make my way in the world, and almost completely shelved the document in my mind as well as in reality, as some youthful strange obsession, not unpleasant in recall, but certainly not worth near so much as I'd thought it to be at the time.

But things happen. Just as with this book I'm reading, I find that this fellow so recently self-hung, seems to grasp almost completely the nature of abstraction along with its history and the fact that attempts to understand such things before their time can and has lead to actual concrete insanity in this temporal world. I am incredibly saddened by his death, as I would imagine the accomplishment of great art to leave one other than alone. But apparently history belies this imagining.

So, at least I haven't completely lost my mind yet. I find it an actual marvel that I can manage to live all alone and by myself and still be shaved and almost completely dressed every day (the almost has to do with a certain cluelessness, as you might imagine, with regard to style). This very morning I did indeed install a new mailbox with my very own name lettered thereon, since the old one, along these New York salt encrusted roads, had finally almost entirely melted away and the much patched-again door was no longer responding to the mailman's flap. I imagined him angry with me - even in the outback, there are civil requirements!

Do I digress? Well, gentle reader, what follows is the actual letter I didn't have the nerve to send said friends and family because, I guess, I didn't want to be the cause of worry. So, now I put it here, even knowing that these self-same friends and family may - are even likely to - read the thing I didn't want to show them.

Everyone knows that great accomplishments are least recognized by those closest to the accomplished. My family in particular is made up of people doing pretty well for ourselves, thank-you-very-much, but almost literally surrounded by the in-your-face accomplishments of all those we grew up with. In many cases, we are demonstrably smarter and more capable than these avatars of success. So there must be something very intrafamilialy wrong. Hell, I've already described a very very extreme example, in conscious abuse of my very ex brother-in-law.

Among the family, I'm often supposed to be the one with the promise - no surprise there I imagine. I do alright, and keep myself manifestly sane, because I have a knack for the practical arts, now specifically computer networks and related technologies. Consistently, I don't pretend to any professionalism, so shortly I will have to move along as this field (also) proceeds to marginalize us talented amateurs. You might even observe that I patently eschew moves toward professionalism, nursing, such is my archetype, this truly silly notion that I sort-of "have" something of worth beyond whatever I might devote to and thus contribute via some developed profession.

My disease is nothing if not thoroughgoing and consistent.

In any case, you, gentle reader, will not worry very much about my sanity or safety, although a blog is a very live production, so that you might. A book is presumed to be finished, though almost the very opposite of dead. Its currency is a function of how well read it is. The blog is not exactly a live email , which ought to be to someone (explaining the apparent sin of even the best joke-spams which get sent around in such a way that the persons to approach almost the entire cosmos of readers, and in the case of really juicy stuff like an email about your neighbor Sarah Palin actually does get read by almost the entire cosmos.)

(I have a terrible fondness for parenthetical digressions)

So the blog pretends to something like a journal, but gets to be more immediate. And I pretend to something near eternal, but want to work it out in public, as it were, maybe partly because it seems that important (and I want it to be discoverable when I wander away from sensible reality), but also precisely because I don't think I have it in me actually professionally to write. You will have noticed that by now.

Here's the email to three closest friends and family, which I had provisionally titled:

fear and trepidation, but with a good natured laugh (here's letting the cat out of the bag)

Hello fine treo.

For some silly reason, reading this morning with the fire warmly glowing, a very disturbing book lent me by my friend Wayne over the weekend (Everything and More, A Compact History of , where infinity is the symbol I don't have time to figure out how to keyboard), I find myself compelled to "publish" the location of my little blog.

This is not some great big deal. There is nothing terribly embarrassing there (I hope, although I am not really certain). I'm just simply not sure where I will end up in the near future, especially as I feel myself descending, with the prologue to this book, into something which feels very much like coming unhinged.

Very disturbingly, this David Foster Wallace, who is undoubtedly one of the great intellects of our time, hung himself recently, and I assure you I do never want to find myself in such despair. ( I want you to know I'm sending this in the middle of the work day, and am doing so in good humor feeling very strong, especially as I mowed my lawn yesterday and watched the debate with only mild amusement rather than anxiety last night)

The opening of his book defines and describes "abstraction" in a way that is excruciating in its familiarity to me. In a very comical way, he explains why dealing with abstraction can and does, apparently often, lead to madness. That's this thing I feel.

I am, of course, re-entering the very abstract world of my Eureka epiphany moment on the boat-womb-cocoon, the anniversary of which, along with cat piss in the bed, time-zone crossings, and the oddly unfamiliar experience of sybaritic bliss did recently send me howling to the hospital. I assure you I will do everything possible in my power to avoid that fate a second time, including putting down this book for the moment, and possibly forever.

Meanwhile, I'm trusting you not to find in my blog rantings any cause or sign of insanity. I'm trusting you, in other words, with my secret. I'm also NOT trusting that you will understand what I write about, since I'm not nearly intelligent enough, nor a good enough writer (honestly, I'm not being modest, but what I'm attempting is really really difficult) - the burden is purely mine to make this intelligible and I haven't even gotten close. Wallace has such lucidity that I can only still marvel at my pretense.

Well, pretender or not, I remain convinced, especially as we watch this world tumbling down into something frankly terrifying (I'm not getting overheated here - I think I simply have my eyes open) that I am "on to" something.

I guess it, this thing I hit on when my mind was sharper, is the very essence of abstraction, properly so defined, and I am getting rather desperate to find someone to share these thoughts.

The blog thing seems to work better than private writing in journals, simply as a kind of discipline.

If I thought I were asking you to read what I've written, I would consider that to be an unforgivable abuse of friendship.

I'm just asking you to take note of the address, in case I hit on something there, and in the process wander off beyond the pale of sensible existence (you are meant to laugh here). A kind of mild paranoia, if you will. which I only sense as a kind of shadow in the darkness, off to the edge of my vision . . .

I do have hope that I'm not quite alone in this whole business, and so it is with some mild hope also that I share what I'm up to as the best way to stay sane.

Well, so with fear and trepidation, here you go . . . . .


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