Risk Losing the Sympathetic Reader.
(or, How to Love Inordinate Life Inordinately)
I instagrammed an uncharacteristically brief manifesto a couple of days ago to a dear friend (which he’d have to be to put up with these periodic spews of mine) — brief, anyway, compared to the proto-exegeses that more habitually seep out of me like untoward body fluids — and while none of it will be news to anybody who knows me, I do think it “noses like a stoat before it drinks the blood” (line in a DH Lawrence poem I’ve always loved) closer to Quentin Crisp’s admonitory suggestion to “say what you’ve come to say”.
And so — stoat-nosing the following squib as I now do to the length if not the status of exegesis with this unnecessary prologue, I affix a joined pic of me musing on the memory of Messrs Lawrence and Crisp’s written & spoken words just for the quasi manifesto/exegesis helluvit — knowing that this ‘paper’ might have with unwarranted luck earned a grudging D minus from Pardon Tillinghast, much-lauded history prof (sadly now deceased) at Middlebury College who for many decades intellectually funded and sustained the national reputation of that department — whose very name had the ineluctable rightness which invested his rules for and standards of governing diction and argument.
All of which I’ve herein left egregiously unheeded but without which — pardon me if you can, Pardon — I have rashly proceeded anyway. Thank you for the generous grade I’ve had the temerity outrageously to imagine you munificently might have granted this gaffe of unfounded assertion -- by which gaffe perhaps I may at least lend credence to the unquestioned merits of your Alert that most historians’ speculations are not to be trusted — although, had out of drollery you felt impelled to accord its unholy business deftness of any sort, your reaction readily may well have been to concede my having transmogrified the act of expressing thought into a long unbroken steam of farting. It would in that spirit and from that very word have earned a redolently fetid F.
Which I’d have told the world stood for fabulous. A perquisite I employ because you’re dead and I’m not and I can. Which means I’ve invoked you as a ploy the baldly manipulative intent of which may lose me many sympathetic readers. So please to pardon me, Pardon, I didn’t mean a word of this. My apologies to any readers I have offended.
But to those sweaty bands of miscreants who remain I confide: I just this moment realized this unbeautiful beginning may have gained it genuinely deft entry to what it just now allowed me to grasp is the point in what follows. Here it is in its bulkiest and (I think appropriately) most tedious form: that the attempt to investigate (in the hope cathectically or empirically to heal from understanding) historical sources of one’s behavior (the engine that runs most if not all psychotherapy) may more readily lead to madness than cure it. Professor Tillinghast is hereby exonerated from having any but an expedient fictive role I forced him to play here in igniting my audacity to say what I believed that moment would make my claims gut-level memorable: an ancient advertising shtick employed and exploited by everyone from Shakespeare to the putative (and therefore actual) current leader of Our Gang to any of those persons who lied when they said they loved you, or to you who lied when you said you loved them.
Packed with the far from dissimilar sorts of transgressive triggers that enable orgasm, thinking is not safe and life brims with danger. Which is why dichotomy and ambivalence are such a blast. Whatever peace we know passeth understanding. Is that peace a lie? Presumably not if you feel it.
What you just read may be the bad-ish cop to the good-er cop coming up, I don’t know. But I’m all but certain both cops love life (when they don’t weary of it) exactly for being inordinate.
And I suspect when they love it, they love it inordinately.
Here’s my quasi-manifesto, sent to my shamanistic friend Patrick Ryan in Tokyo, albeit much added-to. A long unbroken lump of prose. But I couldn’t think where to start a new paragraph.
These sources of unrest are probably most of them forever out of reach – we feel like we can name some of them, and we probably can but even those we only partially know. I think the main reason I’ve turned away from psychoanalytic inquiry is that it seemed to me to lead to madness, not to beckon us out of it. The madness of thinking the more we knew about our past the freer we’d be. Such a reasonable-sounding promise – which to me turned out to be nonsense. It’s not that certain memories are not illuminating or useful. If they are, take a nice look at them and welcome the info. But do not, I would suggest, extrapolate a whole of theory of being from them which explains all. We like to do that because it gives us the brief illusion we can “know it all.” (And who knows, maybe we can, I sure haven’t seen evidence of it yet.) Every ideology or religion, when it thrives, thrives because it makes an irresistible case for agreeability. (Even when, maybe especially when, fire and brimstone are part of the recipe.) And a lot of this is genuinely eye-opening. As with memories that illuminate, gather ye rosebuds of illumination whene’er and where’er you can. I love “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” It’s generally meant as a kind of trope for Christ but it signifies the experience of anything or anyone being incarnate: every human being and every good poem and every stirring stretch of lovemaking and anguished grief and above all helpless laughter. The more we pay attention to who, what and where we are (I won’t even say “now” because that implies time, of which, as you’ll see, I take a dim view) – not abstractly but in the flesh – the more we become what we do, be one with it – not try to become what we think (an impossibility: you can’t be an abstraction – the word must be made flesh, and how that happens is a mystery I don’t believe anyone has plumbed, though if you have, write me immediately would you?) – the more we follow the spirit and letter of that, the more fully we’ll know we’re alive. It’s all happening in your skin and your tongue and your breath and your nose and your ears and eyes, and yes, your feelings and memories and speculations and sexual fantasies and terrors – in whatever hurts or feels good, in whatever excites or bores or saddens or leaves you dimensionally in a sense of not-knowing or un-knowing (especially that feeling, for me). Notice I don’t say “live in the moment.” That’s a ghastly admonition. It tells you there’s such a thing as a moment, which means it sneakily implies that you have to believe in measured time, since when most of us hear the word (“wait a moment, would you?”) that’s what we think of. There is no time, there’s only infinity and eternity. We need not look any further “for something” than what we’re already looking at. Therein lies the mystery, I suspect, of word being made flesh – and dwelling among us. The great cosmic hilarity is that we do that all the time and don’t have a clue about it. All of this describes to me what I may just as well (and so do) call “happiness”.