nov. 5, 2000
I have to come to terms with the idea that this is not a journal as many
journalers would know it. Too verbose, too theoretical, more of a notebook
than a journal of emotional travails
not that I havent often
gone in that direction.
But thats pointless really (just like a lot of things seem to be
now). Im no longer so sure that we/they/I werent /arent trying
to get some sort of emotional support from something thats not very congenial
to that. or rather, its support for an ae which distrusts (while soliciting)
emotional support and so has to nuance it on the net, trick it out with
I grow sick of it to tell you the truth. just about as sick as I sometimes
grow of everything. The pointlessness of the universe grows in proportion
to the excess meaning we find everywhere now. Like the damp conditions
that makes green slime grow everywhere and extreme humidity makes all
the things surrounding one seem too awfully close for comfort, like the
whole environment is growing on oneself, everything trying to crowd in
on the slippery stream of saliva-like air, swallow or be swallowed. Everything
hooks up immediately to everything else. it doesnt feel like a problem
of knowledge, epistemology, it feels like a problem of the soul, ontology.
and yet the only way we have of conveying it is through an organ of knowledgethe
tongue, the hand: language.
With all these surveys of the internet and its effects on social isolation,
they always seem to miss the point that the internet causes isolation
(or whatever other socially constructed identites we have based on full
and emptynow of course there are surveys contending that the net
makes us MORE social; this ambiguity is) precisely BECAUSE it puts us
into contact with so many people-and that perhaps there is something
in that contact that is draining. its like that virilio quote i found
last month: interactivity is the equivalent of radioactivity. For interactivity
effects a kind of disintegration, a kind of rupture. Yes. What always
screws stuff up is the apparent reversibility of everything, often into
its very opposite.
Im reading Of Hospitality, the new slim volume (a lecture apparently)
by Derrida. How interesting to see, then, within the space of a couple
of days, the scene from Bride of Frankenstein wherein our monster hero
Frankie stumbles into the deep forest hut of the blind violinist. He befriends
the monster only to have his hospitality interrupted by the sighted hunters
where feting the creature is the last thing on their minds. One is led
to think, and quite rightly i often think, that the only way that hospitality
can work is through blindness-or love, which is its own form of
blindness I am told.
and then then next day i saw Pay it Forward the little Hollywood gedanktexperiment
about the idea of pure hospitality. Incredibly sappy and stupid ending
where everyone gathers to our fallen 7th grade hero-much like the
faithful gathered around Lady Di and the flowers at Oklahoma City. All
touching and incredibly, numbingly stupifying at the same time.
The other thing that occurs to me is that we find the most hospitality
in times of war, when we can easily define Others and make our own our
others. it is no doubt true that hospitality requires the very inhospitable.
It leaves one with the sinking sensation that the greatest hospitalities
somehow requires bonfires and an apocalyptic approach. The only ones willing
to take it that far are religious fanatics i suppose, Homo Sacer in Agambens
I made another trip to mississippi recently
too tired now but when
i have time Ill transcribe the ramblings.
We keep crashing through the floor, if I may put it so, into the
cellars of time, even while we imagine ourselves to be occupying the floor
of the present.
Im back in Mississippi on some family business.
Theres always something disconcerting about coming back here. I
walk the five minute walk from the house to the small square and through
the cemetary where I was spooked as a kid and where now relatives are
beginning to pile up. I was as much so when I was a young boy walking
through at night with my cousins, hyped up on three consecutive saturday
matinee movies. But then, the beginnning was much closer than the end
and these kind of mordant reflections were the furthest possible distance
from the group of raucous tow-headed kids.
But theres something primitive, even primal, about walking the same
streets I walked as a child, in the same steps as my parents. The whole
atmosphere is suffused with a solidity, a gravity, that seems wholly lacking
in the city. The parts of reality interlock like some cheap jigsaw puzzle.
Maybe a piece or two missing but mostly all there and worn from being
taken apart and put back together again....comforting, predictable, slightly
boring, vaguely humorous when it doesnt feel threatening to pull
me into a time warp.
Its only vaguely comforting. Much of the time it seems to create a peculiar
kind of haunted space, every stick, thistle, branch reaching beyond itself
invisibly, yet palpably touching its predecessor, the puzzle completed
not only on the table but below and above the table, interlocking its
drift of families behind and ahead of themselves, socked tightly in the
cradle of now but only because all the other business of time is taken
care of, off stage as it were, geneology, the grave, the cradle, god and
the devil all locking fingers with a wink and a nod.
Yeah, it was comforting if you could get to the table. The other reality
of it being that once the puzzle pieces get displaced, lost, moved around,
it no longer seems quite so enchanting but clautrophobic and threatening.
And too I think we get addicted to the violence of displacement, it at
least FEELS liberating to us, even if in hindsight it is the freedom of
the immigrant forced to flee from his homeland. (Ive been reading
Agamben on such displacement
post some quotes next time. But onward
to the personalafter all thats all that really matters right? Youll
have to determine the degree of irony here for yourself since i am entirely
At any rate, that collision of the ghosts of times past is always unsettling
when I go back. And really, I have to say that I enjoy the frisson of
whatever sort of sputtering Proutian ruminations it causes in me. If I
lived there, or had never left, it would no doubt be quite different.
Although, who knows? Perhaps generations move en mass somehow and that
alienation which I feel is a part of that time/space port called a generation
(some energy source powering itself into the future) that humans born
and dies in this time have docked into. Yes, the more I think about it
the more that seems so. Nothing supernatural about it
columns of these interlocking patterns which are peoples lives, each generation
being on a different table, the bits and pieces of gestures, vernaculars,
media watched, images consumed.
But really the way that the patterns lock together dont seem all that
different, from the very earliest ones to the very latest generation linked
Ok, im losing the thread of my Mississippi ruminations here. next time.
I had a dream about MS last night (Ive actually been back several weeks);
I was walking the path connecting my fathers fathers house with
our little house. It was always a well worn well path of about 100 feet
or so, winding along the side of the vegetable gardens at the back of
both houses. This time I was walking back down to our little pink house
but this time there seemed to be a covered structure at the line between
the two properties, open at both ends. I go in and the floor is crawling
with a few small snakes. the further i go the larger they get, with some
gilla monsters and other large lizards roaming about. I manage to crawl
up on something to escape. someone comes up from the other side, basically
walking through the mass untouched and helps me. thats all i remember.
He was and always had been fascinated by the Woodlawn Cemetary pratically
in the middle of town. It had been a constant for as long as he could
remember, sometimes blooming into a brief efflorescence when someone died
or when he visited the small town, sometimes receding into the distance,
but always oriented, like the graves themselves in order to better greet
the coming messiah; or like iron filings on a glass plate with a magnet
underneath.(with this illustration he remembered how Heidegger had charactered
the history of Being: in terms of gods and goddesses for the ancient Greeks,
in terms of creatures with medievals, and in terms of fields of forces
for us moderns. It just took a slight bump or collision between words
for one form to metamorphose into another. Did that say anything at all
about the integrity of the individual forms? did integrity even mean anything
under such conditions? And what was the nature of the great historical
speed bumps (revolutions, heists, putsh, coup, paradigm shift) which seemed
to change these default settings? These different conceptions seemed to
respond to different configurations of human subjectivity obviously, with
what seemed to be a corresponding rise in abstraction, or at least non-anthropomorphism
[because when it came right down to it, what made a god any less abstract
than a field of force? that shift of registers, forces, and ratios could
just as much be about the dissolution of personality and experience as
Benjamin believedas anything else. At any rate, in modern life the
glass is painted black, even though every attempt by such life is to attempt
to scratch through, if not actually break the glass. That is also the
messianic ideal. )
The cemetary was somewhat divided into an old section and a new section.
The newer section had once been occupied by the workers for the old sawmill.
He could remember hearing the sawmill whistle at noon, calling his grandfather
back to work.
He walked past the polished sameness of granite markers bearing the names
Smith, Walton, Lewis, Hurt-then into the old section on the hill
overlooking the newly deceased with names like Jayroe, Gully, Peebles.
The elelvation of the old blackened and tilting markers on the hill seemed
appropriate, giving the dates for the beginning of time for the small
town. He now felt oddly comforted walking through the old section. It
was small enough that he could walk by practically every tombstone, a
motley collection of varying heights and styles, but all with the patina
of 200, 300 years.
Some of the early ones had markers by the Woodmen of the World, also
called the wobbles, sort of an early workers anarchosyndicalist group.
As far as he could tell, teh oldest stone was one Mary An Peebles, died
September 1859 at the age of one year, four months and 23 days. On her
tomb is written: sweet little bud for earth too fair/hath gone to heaven
to blossom there. The earliest birth a Joseph Wilson, 1797 to 1864; a
few others in the late 1800s, most of them in the early 1900s: 1904, 1906.
(Later, as he makes his way to the little library downtown and sets about
his reading for the dayTales From the Freudian Crypt: the death
drive in Text and Contexthe learns that Freud established the Vienna
Psychiatic Society in 1906. He thinks of those dog tired threadbare farmers
in Phil. Ms buried in 1906, whose very stone he had now gazed upon. A
huge gap opens up, swallowing him, magnifying the cracks between things,
both constricting distance and time, and, almost intolerably, prying it
He sat down underneath a large pine, on the side of the hill overlooking
the bowl containing only uniform new markers, and watched the two roads
below that interlaced the quadrants. The ends of a vast circle seemed
connected here, a circuitry which cities (and culture generally) wasnt
too comfortable with. It often seemed that life itself was just the samll
gap in that vast invisble circling, life just a brief spark, generated
by a huge apparatus whose contours couldnt even begin to be fathomed,
which, in fact, didnt even seem to HAVE contours. Just jim jams
wriggling out of the corner of ones eye that disappeared the harder
you tried to see them.
really, it was impossible to consider, the mind refused, couldnt,
go to either side of the gap, it just dimming to pin holes and then popping
out of existence, out of consideration anyway.
I remember one time when I was a grad student. I remember so vividly how
I was walking through the quad talking to a friend, saying how I could
see my future and that I was doomed to be an interstitial
man. Those were the very words I used. Little did I know how prophetic
that would be.
By interstitial I meant someone always in the middle passage, always in
transition. When youre a graduate student its an easy thing
to believe. And i suppose you could say that at the time interstitiality
was in the air---but it wasnt yet a part of the very fabric of everything
( a small technological component of which is cellular roaming with the
telephone; truly wireless computing will have another huge impact blow
to get people moving.)
At that time, everything seemed to be on the way to something else, to
somewhere else. Its a little disconcerting to still have those feelings
some 25 years hence--and to have the realization that practically all
of western culture seems to be in constant agitation, ferment, and actual
Some recent books by Giorgio Agamben point out that the refugee
(the interstitial human par excellance) is in fact the avatar of the age
and is the condition toward which much strives now.
After all, the uncanny is a form of dispossession, of homelessness, of
being unhomed in the very midst of the totalitarianism of everyday
life as Anne Duformantelle puts it.
Everyone is being urged into movement now, in small and large ways, by
force, by persuasion and by technology.
The very thing that the Bible warned a restless band of perennial pilgrims
about, building your house on sand, is in fact crucial for nomads. Perhaps
not the literal voids and sandstorms fo the Sahara but the wastes and
stretches of contemporary life, seen from the perspective of a trek.
The dromology of Paul Virilio, the recognition of the quest for speed
as the driving force of western culture; the nomadism of deleuze and Guatari
and now Agambens refugee/concentration camp/home sacer points to
some corpulent slumbers
left to chance
fiddling with alabaster relieves
set to explode,
one hundred thirty five pounds of charge
brought to bear with vengence
against turpitudes graceless thud
finality brought into bold relief,
axiomatic strains of unbelief,
folding straight into the heart
of the matter
to roll your lack of belief
straight into the ground.
And thats where youll wind up,
fossilized, integral to the moment,
and steeped down from transforming
earthly matters --
it strains the credulity ...
never quite certain yet,
it gives a lie to everything
beneath your feet --
and most things heaving over our head.