metaphysical in mississippi

Posted on August 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

Well why not? O. and Slim are not done yet but for now some errant divagations in the form of the itntroduction for this book (subtitled Notes on the Un/Heimlich Maneuver):


“…in the pines, in the pines”
“The terror of Lovecraft is not a noumenal horror, then, but a horror of phenomenology.
Graham Harman
“[….] aporia of the transcendental: we encounter something about which we do not know how to speak, but which we also cannot pass over in silence.”
Steven Shaviro
And that something is time, “where the sun never shines.” It’s strange to remember or find out, that no one seems to know who wrote those lyrics (Fred Neil) maybe?) … but it reminds me of the piney woods, as we called them when I was a kid, the place where I was born, ‘down there’ in the deep dark heart of Dixie. Used to ride small pines down which means climbing up and getting to the top where they start to bend over. My father was a schoolteacher there, we moved around, lived in many small towns. Come to think of it, there’s nothing BUT small towns in Mi crooked letter crooked letter eye crooked letter crooked letter eye hump back humpback eye. That’s how we spelled it.
I’m thinking of Rosewood and Linwood specifically but there were others; that’s all that there is, others: Union, Newton, into the paleonymics of Kosciusko, Tishomingo, Neshoba, Corinth, Quito, and like every other such place in the Great Nation, overlays of commerce and farming mashed down over mysterious ruins, meetings, and landings, commemorated (and then forgotten) by a name.  But something of the ruined probably hangs on, dropped off the map in one way, reappearing, but faintly, in some other more numinous way.
Middle of nowhere, usually just a service station, waiting on a bench with my brother catching a ride with a motorcyclist riding through one Sunday nowadays have yr guts cut open head cut off. Nope just a lazy ride around a couple of streets.
The song reminds me in some way too of Harlem Nocturne … and the theme from the Andy Griffin Show! I found out recently that they were both written by Earl Hagen, who wrote a lot of themes for TV shows. But those are the only two that count right now. Sometimes that slow, sauntering, smoldering Nocturne pops into my brain for no reason at all. I wish you could stop for a minute and hear it again in your own head, on your own time, thinking about all the terrible struggles that my poor old native state has gone through. In the pines, in the pines … forms a quiet carpet underfoot, nothing but the soft susurration of the pine needles overhead like some secret language of sibililants, snakes sisssing along. You surely feel like you’ve dropped out of the world at midday, out of the heat, the glare.
That which is excluded from the community is, in reality, that on which the entire life of the community is founded.
Giorgio Agamben
I think also of 1948 when I got here/there, an epochal year it was too; I always tell folks: the year the state of Israel was formed out of the ashes of history (or: the start of the ashes of history), and the year that Claude Shannon wrote his paper on Information Theory and Norbert Weiner coins the term cybernetics. The Best Picture that year went to Hamlet. The Polaroid camera first went on sale: Instant history. Or at least populist archive, time stood still. Ezra Loomis Pound (that middle name sounds so Mississippi) releases Pisan Cantos, another version of history, bespoke, taken apart, occulted, recombined. Kerouac got the Beat Generation going, got it on the road.
The year before, the Roswell UFO incident, Kenneth Arnold coins the term ‘flying saucer’ after seeing the unimaginable flying over the Cascade mountains in Washington state. The transistor was invented and the first of the Dead Sea scrolls found in caves near Wadi Qumran. The CIA was formed, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The world that most of us think to be the ‘modern’ was in the heat of formation.
Somewhere in this time scale, maybe 1956? I walked one of these dead roads after reading Major Donald Keyhoe’s first book on UFOs and made a tune about walking the spaceways, while the very large very red luminous orb of the sun went down over the piney woods. Mississippi retained a dropped out character (like, say, data loss in a bit stream), never quite able to come into the space age, my grandparents still driving a buggy and horse into town, inconceivable except as a late night movie. The idea of a gap in a historical continuum was not new to me. It wasn’t clear (still isn’t) whether the Space Brothers would liberate Time or seal it closer in a transparent package.  But it sure beat Brother Claude droning on in vacation bible school.
The day is not far off when signal processing will reach the physical limits of feasibility.
This absolute limit is where the history of communication technologies will literally come to an end. Theoretically there remains only the question as to what logic this completion will have obeyed. From Freud to McLuhan the classic answer to this was a generic subject – humanity – which before of an indifferent or interferent natural world would have externalised first its motor and sensory interface, and finally its intelligence, in technical prosthetics. However if Shannon’s mathematisation of information rested on his “fundamental idea” of inferring, through a conceptual transfer, the “information efficiency of a jammed transmission” from its cryptoanalytical efficiency, interference will only be understandable as the interventions of a hostile intelligence, and the history of communication technologies as a series of strategic escalations. Without reference to the individual or to mankind, communication technologies will have overhauled each other until finally an artificial intelligence proceeds to the interception of possible intelligences in space.
Fredrich Kittler / The History of Communication Media
For better of worse, there is no therapy in Mississippi (and very little modern and no ‘postmodern’ — or perhaps it’s all postmodern now) and no therapeutic strategy to eradicate Mississippi from memory because Mississippi the state (of mind, of psychogeography) rides the great primeval wanderings of the river bearing its name, a bent, curling, alternately placid and then tumescent wand of the gods overflowing floridly towards abundance and catastrophe, an unending sentence of destruction and creation, our very own Shiva, puffing out watery alveoli in flooded lungs, first gasping and then shouting, epithets and field hollers, it floods itself then, somehow, the rest of the state but simultaneously hunkering down and ebullient at the same time, laying waste while sending up/down roots (you forget which in the storm), confluence of red Indian, black African, white European, like the tangled muds of the River itself.. Mississippi you are Legion.
“Time stands still in the Delta. But the dead go on opening doors in our mind”
Taking the back river road out of Vicksburg somewhat parallels the river, meandering for a bit before it begins to stretch out and straighten, shotgun level for miles and miles and miles, even as the river itself coils through bayous and oxbows; at one point early on out of Vicksburg, maybe Issaquena county, down from Panther Burn, Nitta Yuma, and Grace, and up from Onward, and way down from Rosedale where my cousin was mysteriously murdered while frog gigging, it even turns into a one-lane road, a levee, elevated around 30 feet above the cotton and corn blooming into the distance. This back-road ride down state route 453 is intense: high heat, no cars, passing through small ‘towns’ (scare quoted because even though they are on a map they consist of nothing more than a church, a gas station, a couple of houses and a row of new stainless steel grain silos) in which not a single soul can be seen.
(In 1932, Walter Benjamin wrote – and read on-air – one of his radio plays for children, his last surviving radio play in fact, on the great flood of 1927, “Der Mississippi-Uberschwemmung 1927” : the State, attempting to break the dikes and save property downstream, the river feints, lays down, spreads out, the dead coming back, two brothers from Natchez in dire straits, one brother commits suicide, shortly thereafter help arrives, uncannily foreshadowing, some say, Benjamin’s attempted escape from the Nazis and subsequent suicide at Port Bou  Spain).
“One would be obliged to conclude that at times, remembrance can be as destructive as oblivion can be productive: in this case, the end of memory would lie in muteness, and forgetting would lead to speech.  There is no doubt that achievement, in these terms, grows difficult to measure.  It could be rash to propose any summary judgement of the relative accomplishments of those speaking beings who can and who cannot speak.  Who does more, and who does less — the one who can remember but cannot talk, or the one who forgets and can thus speak?  Among lesser animals, the possibilities are many; privation wears more than a single mask.”
                  Daniel Heller-Roazen, Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language
Like so many things, modernism (that is, where we are now) hates nostalgia and yet constantly courts it; slanders it while picking at the scabs over the past, continually pushing and pulling on it, trying to uncover something, trying to evacuate the past, getting all the pus out of the pore. But as everyone knows, the secret of the past is safe and out in the open and there that will be no final bottom to the ‘pore’ of the past because — and here is where the modern in us gets excited — the nostalgic bent which started its life as probing and longing for a subjectivized and personalized past, leads assuredly into the impersonal, even into the uncannily inhuman at times.
My small hometown in Mississippi where even a casual walk into town leads me past a palimpsest of ghosts, sepia snapshot of gestures caught in midmotion, no idea some many years ago THAT gesture, THAT small tree, would make it into the future in such a way, which then bottoms out into galaxies laid in strata, magically beckoning forward and bracketing the same time, the continual drone, the small engines of time, whining away like mosquitoes in the dark, so close yet never catchable or slappable, all the time, so clouded in happiness, gone yet always swirling, infuriating…
“…a child is never more content than when he invents a secret language. 
His sadness comes less from ignorance of magic names than from his own inability to free himself from the name that has been imposed on him.  No sooner does he succeed, no sooner does he invent a new name, than he holds in his hands the laissez-passer that grants him happiness.  To have a name is to be guilty. And justice, like magic, is nameless.  Happy, and without a name, the creature knocks at the gates of the land of the magi, who speak in gestures alone.”
Giorgio Agamben, from Magic and Happiness
From 1991 until about 2005 I stepped into another invagination (seeping from the bottomlands of Smyrna, GA), the Time of the Hut placed on top of the Mississippi of Memory, memorialization, the haunting of the genealogical turning into and coming from the generic (another fold of the invaginate, UFO-as-placeholder-for-Something, remnants of a previous life raising like a late evening wet clammy fog), the oxbow of the River itself, periodically snapping off pieces of territory, holding them close, mysteriously sealed for awhile, a fall back into a more perennial existence (always with us, always, but sometimes as inaccessible as the land inside the oxbow, the soft light inside the saucer, the glow from the TV set late at night). A bit of land carved, double fold of the invagination, hocked into deepest suburbia, notes, dreams, portents made on napkins, coasters, online, candy wrappers, receipts, ruled paper, ruled by the iron-clad law of material strokes, double folded backwards and forwards (one could only wish for such prophetic reach – but then that’s the frame that crooked letter humped huts get you by on the way to the river.)
Like the Mississippi itself, these fragments wander, break apart, reform, fritter away energy and direction, swirl aimlessly while scooping up debris, rushing finally into an endless open where it all dissipates, just as we will all do at some point, left behind after being caught up in that uncanny fold between birth and death, the words becoming more debris floating around those who are left.