...in every profession followed not for money but for love
there comes a moment when the advancing years seem to lead to a void.
Robert Musil in The man Without Qualities
july 6 2000
Like some stream once swollen with huge overflows from some mysterious
source but now subdued, this thing just keeps meandering forth, never
quite reaching the sea. Entering another horse latitudes perhaps.
The issue of time still circles endlessly over my head, sometimes obscured
by the daily clouds but always there, some slight vibrations, tremors
at the edge of the clearing.
My desire to live iintensely in the personal via this journal does seem
to have the somewhat paradoxical effect of evacuating some of the personalnot
a bad thing all in all. I'm beginnning to have some doubts whether there
IS such a thing as the 'personal' on the web. There are certainly things
that masquerade as such. But the reception of them by you unknown folks..well,
that can hardly be very personal now can it?
Things, events have a way of becoming opaque once you move a slight
distance from them. But which also says that 'opacity' must ave a certain
sort of 'knowledge' built into it.
Evidence. It is not exactly true that anything can become evidence.
Or rather: anything can become evidence under the proper conditions.
But evidence can never be an isolated thing, it can never be the hard
nugget of epistemological currency that some science would wish it to
My mother is continually finding evidence of my father's presence. Not
lost trinkets that show up under a long unmoved magazine, but active
involvements in her daily life: bits of twisted curtain cord done up
the way he used to twist them; lost articles mysteriously re-appearing;
a long unused light suddenly flickering to life. It's certainly not
any form of evidence that a scientist could accept; undoubtedly he would
cast it to the realm of the done-but-forgotten detritus of everyday
life, that perpetual and unleavable catch basin of everything now, a
place where evidence can only point inward, to the heart of the debris,
never outward. Death only becomes that commodious exit at the bottom
of the basin, just a flush away from the grand economy processing of
But still and all-people refuse to release that slight sprinkling
of pixie dust left over from the night before, the residue of dreams
and returnings lingers into the daylight, even if it's in a pale and
washed out form, a form so etiolated that it's mimicry of the everyday
is so close that it can only speak to those who ... well, it can only
speak to those to whom it speaks. And even if we cannot say exactly
who those people will be, they, at the very least, seem to be those
who have gotten caught in the prison bars of the everyday. For them,
maybe the plumbing has gotten a little stopped up.
And also, we begin to see the connect of our desires in the construction
of a world, or the possiblities of worlds. Even if, in this case, it's
the possibility of a world now past.
I don't get a chill or anything at such thoughts, it's jsut that eveything
beomes limned in black light at the edge of vision, only weakly fluorescing
on possibilities. Such edges which are also at the center everywhere
are also the only places where the weak force of the messianic
went riding the bike in the neighborhood after dinner tonight. sometimes
it's just a hassle to get in the car and drag over to the trail.
The late evening glow was so lustrous-like the evening of some
old Flemish master painter, so thick and golden in the mid summer heat.
Plus there was a storm coming up and lightning skirting the tops of
the pine trees in the distance. It's alwasy a delcious expectation when
twilight and the threat of summer storm come together. A moist heavy
evening with tree frogs and cicadas all over.
No one out and about of course. A lone jogger who had given up and was
slowly trudging uphill, her shirt pasted to her back with sweat. It's
alway as wondrous to cruise past the picture windows set in the invariably
brick facades, past neat lawns, a few scattered children toys here and
there. It's almost like a ghost town really....something has beamed
everyone up and just left the faint ultraviolet glow of the tv sets
inconstantly flickering over Walmart wall art. No one moving inside,
no one moving about outside...a little eery but in a pleasant sort of
I notice that several lawns, sacattered on 3 or 4 separate streets,
have these full size Canadian geese grazing on the lawn plastic
of course but they look pretty lifelike. At first I think this is an
update to the pink flamingo, a more toned down version perhaps. I mean,
who could get upset at some geese in your yard? But then my imagination
begins to work overtime and I think: what if these are REALLY like those
hobo signals marked on houses, barns, fenceposts and the like years
ago? Maybe the geese are some sort of signal to those in the know. Maybe
it's the signal of some migratory figuration (I would say 'rhetorical
figure' but the peopleI am imaginingwould not think that;
it would be REAL not a figure of speak or a metaphor). Maybe they were
some sect of fundamentalist Christian who had some weird take on the
Rapture and this was the way they communicated their esoteric beliefs
to those who might casually drive through. Why, i you had similar beliefs
you could just ring the door bell and walk on it. Or maybe no one lived
there permanently and these people migrated from house to house which
were all owned in common, till they found one empty and continued on
their mysterious, migratory business.
Or maybe they were a cult of alien abductees; or pedophiles; or government
agents. Or maybe their church was having a special plastic goose sale
to raise money for that new annex or ... well, the possibilities are
But that they are not all SOMEHOW connected, overtly or covertly, ....well
that's just unthinkable. I mean...would YOU put a flock of plastic geese
in your front yard-just out of the blue?? hrummph. hardly I think.
An intermediate bike ride this morning. People are beginning to flock
to the trail as it has become known about, people now on even the farthest
stretches of the bike path. Humans are a lot like ants, constantly pushing
out from the trail, moving into new territories, always tryingto see
over the next hilland the next and the next...its no wonder the
cover the globe and have mapped every square mile.
But while we know that the be the case for physical exploration, it
seems to be just as much the case for explorations of the mind, spirit,
and soul. How many stories do we have of writers, artists, etc who have
gone too far and fallen off the edge of the world--death
by overdose or just become insane. Of course those are explorers too,
just as much as the tribesperson who eats the berries and finds they
are good or: eats the berries and it kills him: or eats the berries
and he sees god. Humans are always looking for that damn berry patch
(or that ur-apple tree in the garden of Eden.)
The kids arrived yesteday and began trying to pin me to the mat as soon
as they came in. Courtney looks exactly the same. Nalhan's
grown a couple of inches and his voice is beginning to deepen...right
now it's just cracking. he lets out a croak every once in a while and
have to say 'huh?' and we stop and wrestle for a bit. Their dad isn't
staying here this week. I guess he'll stay here next week.
they're kinda exhausting really, but thy're sweet and my mother really
enjoys them although she converts to worry wart mode. Nathan got
some fruit juice out of the fridge and the cap was loose and it looked
like a little was missing, the momster panicked thinking it had been
poisoned etc, until courtney assured her it had been her who had opened
I think of their relationship to their grandma and then of mine to my
grandmother and their experience just seems so thin, composed
mostly of sitting around on that damn couch watching tv stuff, now playing
video games. they might as well be on a space capsule headed
for mars. They don't walk (unless I force them), they don't bike, ---well,
there's no place for them to walk or bike TO! nothing but
suburban streets....went walking with them yesterday evening in a nearby
neigborhood and it was like some twilight zone episode---not a
soul could be seen, no cars, no evidence that anyone lived there at
all, except for an occasional vicious dog in a fence (one was in a fence
AND had a chain on him. mean...) ugh.
but it doesn't seem to bother them. i would suppose it's similar to
the life they lead in texas. Maybe that head-in-a-glass-box idea the
cyber scientists are working on has a big future after all. Maybe a
cyberdream of a walk or bike ride will be just as good as the real thing
--rapidly becoming a dubious concept anyway--in the future. Maybe the
reason that seems like a bad idea to me now is that I'm becoming
a an old cyber-fogey. Maybe if my legs get cut off by a train it'll
seem like a better idea.
Those bike rides I used to take out to my grandparents old farmhouse
sure were fun though.
Im reading the new translation of The Man Without Qualities by
Robert Musil. An amazing book really. Amazing in the same sense that
it seems to go directly to the heart of what it means to be modern in
the same way that a classical text by Plato or Shakespeare or [pick
one] seem to move invariably into secret recesses of the hidden life
that props up the visible life. Like the writings of walter Benjamin,
Musil seems to be so completely OF the moment that somehow he is thrown
out of the moment. Or maybe it is the case that the modern moment is
a very long moment. Or maybe the modern moment is a transition
stage that any time period can go through (although by any accounting,
1900 is well within modernism).
Here is an interesting section that seems just as appropriate now as
We have gained reality and lot dream. No more lounging under a
tree and peering at the sky between ones big and second toes;
theres work to be done. to be efficient, one cannot be hundry
and dreamy but must eat steak and keep moving. it is exactly as though
the old, inefficient breed of humanity had fallen asleep on an anthill
and found, when the new breed awoke, that the ants had crept into the
bloodstream, making it move frantically ever since, unable to shake
off that rotten feeling of antlike industry. There really is no need
to belabor the point, since it is obvious to most of us these days that
mathematics has taken possession, like a demon, of every aspect of our
lives. [....] The inner drough, the dreadful blend of acuity in matters
of detail and indifference toward the whole, mans monstrous abandonment
in a desert of details, his restlessness, malice, unsurpassed callousness,
and money-grubbing, coldness and violence, all so characteristic of
our times, are by these accounts solely the consequence of damage done
to the soul by keen logical thinking!
i presume there is some amount of irony in Musils comment but
as in all such extreme comments there is some amount of truth. If one
were a Marxist i suppose one could take it to mean that the introduction
of a monetary system based on abstractions (as all monetary systems
must be?) and evaluations based on life-as-commodity, entail a certain
cold-blooded calculation and cost/benefit analyticity.
And of course there are those who contend we are always everywhere the
same as we always were --- what that means exactly and how anyone can
presume to say who or what we are as humans I dont know. Unless
somebody can claim to know how the story ends.