November Hut Journal

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 haven’t often gone in that direction.
But that’s pointless really (just like a lot of things seem to be now). I’m no longer so sure that we/they/I werent /aren’t 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 distance.

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 doesn’t 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 knowledge—the 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 empty—now 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 Agamben’s terms.

Nov. 8
I made another trip to mississippi recently…too tired now but when i have time I’ll 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.”

Robert Musil

I’m back in Mississippi on some family business.
There’s 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 there’s 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 doesn’t 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 personal—after all thats all that really matters right? You’ll have to determine the degree of irony here for yourself since i am entirely uncertain.)

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… I imagine 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 cybernetically.
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 father’s 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.
mississippi cont.

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 believed—as 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 day—Tales From the Freudian Crypt: the death drive in Text and Context—he 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 open further.)

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) wasn’t 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, didn’t even seem to HAVE contours. Just jim jams wriggling out of the corner of one’s eye that disappeared the harder you tried to see them.

really, it was impossible to consider, the mind refused, couldn’t, 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 you’re a graduate student it’s an easy thing to believe. And i suppose you could say that at the time ‘interstitiality’ was in the air---but it wasn’t 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. It’s 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 physical movement.
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 Agamben’s refugee/concentration camp/home sacer points to brownian motion....

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 turpitude’s graceless thud
finality brought into bold relief,
axiomatic strains of unbelief,
folding straight into the heart
of the matter
giving warrant
to roll your lack of belief
straight into the ground.
And that’s where you’ll 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.