Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Bounds of (in)Sanity and Degrees of Freedom

I have to leave early for work tomorrow, so I'll try for a few digs tonight. The mind raves on, without any real notion of what I'm working on for now. Driving back from getting some groceries for tonight, I was pondering my state of sanity. After checking the quirky backwoods video store - which I used to swear has absolutely every film ever pressed - for Buckaroo Bonzai, which it seems I will have to join Netflix for - I was stuck on boundaries and reading and other hangovers from this morning. Probably a good thing I didn't end up lost in some goofy film no one else, apparently, wants to watch.

I'd tried out my diatribe about how school de-educates the lower half of the population, and where I trivialized the teaching of reading - an observation I stand by firm. But of course, it takes a lifetime really to learn to read, and I'm still very much the beginner myself.  On the radio was an interview with a guy who wrote a piece for the New Yorker, I think, about David Foster Wallace. Unfinished work, unfinished life, cut short by suicide.

This mind so much greater than my own, though I'll bet less lonely. I aspire to such a state of "read" (state of being, past tense), and can only dream of writing so gracefully strong. The process of learning to read is very much like all internalized boundary making. It starts out simple and effortless, because all the boundaries are clear at first. Then you have to build out catalogs which true those words again and over again. Each word reaches back across time and makes new sense alongside new others. Each brilliant new mind orders them again, and makes new sense again, anew, aloft, away and anon.

And now we have this dizzy blogosphere, where millions or is it billions of us monkeys keyboard away. There has to be a kind of longing for the days at the start, when the puzzle was so simple, and each word could resonate across all time and space. "The Way which can be followed is not the constant Way (the word which can be uttered is not the eternal Word), The name which can be catalogued is not the Proper Name . . . "

Transgressions are how we learn. Illegal crossings where sense is lost, and sometimes - often - we must return to the very source of sense. Thank God there is much forgiveness, though even the mild oversteppings have filled my soul with guilt. It's what makes my writing so stilted and uptight. (It's what keeps me tight in my cocoon for just a while longer) 

We have, again thank The Word, formality among us so that border crossings can be better marked, and dictionaries for the passage. Yet most of the time, I bite a word and it feels solid until I play it back in my mind or someone gently reminds me, at the end of a speech, that obfustication is not in the dictionary. (Hell, it should be, that's a funny word right there).

Well fuck you Jesus, sang coyote and skulked away. I think the time has come when words can make more sense than we can handle. I try on wigs and disguises and different postures, but in the end my coy pose to be anonymous is as ridiculous as that redundant signature at the corner of a painting. If it could be someone else's it likely is, though forgery's an art as well. (The Hoax was a great and underappreciated film). I guess forgery lacks only soul, just as words, too, have lost their zing and awe.

I know, I break the Law, but hell it must be done. These words have no sting to them. And if they're crossing bounds of sanity, so what? Where's the harm? I test my limits inwardly, more often than you do I'll just bet. I try for that moment when my narrative hoists me beyond all sense and reason, and I start living in it. When mind levitates and sense gets lost. 

It lands you in the hospital, hearing Mercy Flight helicopters and imagining them to be Marine One, prototyped apparently just down the road, because your warning shout was heeded seriously all the way to the top. And they're coming to debrief you, and give assurances that they already know who's out to get Obama.

In hospitals lurk serious bugs, which eat into your flesh. Our ecology there is all wrong, as every effort to cleanse back the germs, incomplete as it necessarily must be, gives advantage to the more stalwart mission obsessed genes. (Their mission, please note, has nothing of purpose to it - it's our environment gave it to them. Our artificial ecosystem made them so.) The more firepower that we bring to bear, the deeper into our bodies those germs can creep, until we resemble returning vets, whose lives will attest forevermore the power of good up armor.

So, I aim to keep away from hospitals, and stay this side of sense. It isn't always easy, since it is my mission to plumb the limits of these words. To take them back as far as I can be led, or at least to renew them in their original sense for myself that there is some actual mission to my purpose.

Unlike most of my former students, I have no Latin. No Greek. No very fluid Chinese (hah, gotcha on that one). I am no prodigy with words for sure, and I do know my reach far far exceeds my grasp. It simply is not a talent that I have, any more than I can go beyond ace(I'll give myself that one) troubleshooting with computer networks, since the fundamental designs are so very far beyond me. I guess, like a hunter in the woods, or hunted, I have good sense for the signs that count, and can internalize my path. But mostly, I know full well that it's luck which kept me alive, and not my own kung fu polish. There's God in that right there, since I sure do know the limits of my discipline.

Sad to say, I'll have to leave this thought incomplete, since it's time to dodge more bullets on the highways.

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