Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/24/2009

What I cannot prevent, I should not post, my (mania?). Hypergraphia not in check. Or bipolarity. Hobson’s choice.

Try to stop. Don’t write. For God’s sake don’t show it to anyone. STOP! (help?)

Think “Arthur.”  Think of yourself wandering around lost singing “The Best That You Can Do” and wondering how to get through life. Then think John Gielgud. Hobson.

All of us—all of us who live in societies “developed” enough to “self-sustain”—have personal valets and handmaidens. Every morning they lay out on our beds for us to take up, wrap ourselves in, wear for the day (and we, in turn lay them out for others)—what we are to believe is “real.” Piaget has studied the steps of our growing into those reality garments. And we all fantasize what we would be like if we grew up without them: Wolf Boy, Tarzan, the uncivilized hero. We know the family story—who our grandparents were, and their grandparents before them, where we “came from” and what our culture’s rules, regulations, desires, and beliefs are/were.

Listen to me. Please, someone listen to me. Am I Cassandra?

From the beginning the reality is laid out for us. The narrative of our supposed existence begins perhaps even in utero. We learn language. This is a dog. This is a cat. A cow. A flower. A rock. People. Our people, the ones who know the secret of our kind. Mother—the one from whom we receive our very reality. Family. The ones who know what the moon and the stars and the grass and the flag and other people are. Our people who believe that reality is not a construction but is simply the way things are. The roll-top desk that belonged to great-grandfather before which he sat and worked just as grandfather did and then mother and now you. It is part of what we know. We simply know all is real. And if we can’t remember or don’t have the keepsakes to make memories live, we can buy them at Wal-Mart.

It’s necessary to believe, to take up the reality Hobson has laid out for us. I work in a sub-culture where the desperate urge to find and wear “reality” drives every action and every reaction of all participants: the academic world. My field. English. Literature, language, writing, reading, and—if you are one of the anointed few who have reached the pinnacle–researching the realities of the past, if you get really good at laying out reality for someone else to wear, you can put out so many layers that even you will not be able remember who is buried beneath reality:  “Like his more widely known preoccupation with entropy and the hidden lyricisms of everyday dialogue, this humanist theme is one to which he returned with Freudian compulsiveness, and whose various interactions he investigated across the spectrum of the social realm.” (1) The perfect description of the reality of one man (the man described or the man describing?).

“The function of the tuche, of the real as encounter–the encounter in so far as it may be missed, in so far as it is essentially the missed encounter–first presented itself in the history of psycho-analysis in a form that was in itself already enough to arouse our attention, that of the trauma.” –Jacques Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts (2)

“The significance of the name Saracen is multiple. The word itself, which refers, among other things, to a nomadic people of Syrian-Arabian deserts, possesses a “nomadic” character of its own, having traveled over numerous languages to reach modern English: it is a Middle English word deriving from old French (saracin), which derives from late Latin (saracemus), from the late Greek (sarakenos), which probably comes from the Arabic sharqiyin, signifying “Easterners,” from sharq, meaning “sunrise” or “east,” from sharaqa, meaning “to rise.” The inhabitants of this boat, themselves temporarily nomadic, have wandered from their homes in the hopes of experiencing the resurrection that will permit them to start their lives–or return home–again.” (2a)

Listen to me. Please, someone listen to me.

Laying out Reality. It starts by withholding truth. What the hell is a “tuche?” The “real” as encounter? What does that mean? (I mean it, find “tuche” in a dictionary; I can’t; I am a lesser member of the culture of the desperate urge to find and wear reality, and I cannot find what either Mr. Lacan or Ms. Schwartz mean by the word).

We believe because we are taught. This is the real world. People. We can touch the people. When we grow up, we can even fuck the people to make more people or to have our pleasure, to fulfill some urge of “reality” that our bodies, our “real” bodies need. This is grass. This is a dandelion in grass. This is my shoe on grass. This is me smoking grass. This is the grassy knoll.

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
 is any more than he. . . . .
                      —Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself

We are taught what the grass is. We are taught that it must be mowed. We are taught to fear the fire ants. We are taught that those who don’t mow their grass can be fined. We are taught that grass is green. We are taught that “all cows eat grass.” We are taught—and some of us believe it—that we exist. We are taught that there is this thing called earth, and that we are part of it and that it is our island home. We are taught either that we must exploit it or that we must care for it, and it’s all the same. There is no reality here. Jesus doesn’t love me because Jesus doesn’t exist any more than I do. The Bible can tell me so all it wants, but that doesn’t make it so. That does not make anything so. In the beginning God. Why God in the beginning. In the beginning nothing. Get it? Nothing. And in the end, Nothing. Do I have to explain it to you? Are you so dense that I, with this mind that fades in and out of what you might call reality, am the one who has to tell you to stop depending on John Gielgud? Am I the one who has to try, as I have tried all my life, as I cannot manage because, like every other “reality” we think we know, language is impossible? It’s not real? It’s the clothes Hobson has laid out for us to wear today because we have no clue that today is not happening, so we cannot lay out for ourselves what to wear. No one can admit that we need wear nothing because nothing is. That’s all that is. Nothing.

We lie in the grass. We look at the stars. What we think is a star is another galaxy. Another swirling mass of 200,ooo,ooo stars growing, burning, dying, collapsing, exactly the way our own private star is living out its life. And we think. We think we are part of this. We think what Hobson lays out for us to wear today is important. We think if we only get our ducks in a row. If we only make enough money. If we only learn not to be co-dependent. If we only get sober. If we only learn to write like Lacan. If we only help the children of Darfur. If we only destroy the Palestinians and take back our land. If we only defeat the terrorists. If we only have one more Christmas present. If we only save one more soul for Jesus. If only. Then our life will be real. Don’t you get it? Nothing is real. Nothing is tangible. If my mind is not real, how can I believe anything else is real. Anything other than the ringing in my ears on what we have agreed together in order to try to fashion reality out of white noise is B-flat. So high you can’t hear it. And then, before I can share it with you, it is gone, and I am dead. Every day I die. Don’t you? Is that why I can see that nothing is real and you can’t? Because I have the gift of true sight, of true hearing, of true taste and smell (there are hotdogs cooking in the next room, are there not—or is it cinnamon?). To know that none of what Hobson has laid out for you so that you don’t even have to notice that there is nothing, nothing there. To know that the Big Bang has not happened yet, and all of what you imagine that you think is some giant figment of someone’s imagination, and the rest of it is going to end when the Big Bang starts? What makes you think that, simply because two thousand generations of these animals (which don’t even exist) of which you are (or think you are) one have been handing down this lie for 3.2 million years since Lucy Australopithecus afarensis first told her children and it’s now I Love Lucy and Lucy Activewear up on Preston Road or the vampire Lucy on Eclipse or Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Lucy in the Sky. With diamonds. Like the rest of us. And where is God? Like as the hart desireth the waterbrook, so longeth my soul after thee, O God.  My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?

That’s all I know for sure. Where is now thy God, as my tears are my food day and night. Where is now thy God? What is real? They ask where is now thy God because even the ones who believe most clearly and resolutely that Hobson has laid out what is real for them to wear today, fear it is not real. The only thing they have that is real is their tears for their food day and night. The tears of horror, the tears of terror, the tears of self-absorption. When the brain stops taking in oxygen as Lucy’s did 3.2 million years ago, all that is left is carbon. Carbon and oxygen and hydrogen. But mostly carbon because the Big Bang has not happened yet, and nothing is yet, and when we die we will not float off into some place that God has prepared for us because all that is left is carbon getting ready to fuel the next star floating around in the next universe. And thinking about where it all ends is our job, not wrapping ourselves in the reality that Hobson has made for us today.

. . . . .The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
        ——Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself

Luckier than what? Hobson’s choice?

(1) Vanwesenbeeck, Birger. “Art and community in William Gaddis’s The Recognitions.” Mosaic 42.3 (Sept 2009): 141(16).
(2) quoted in (2a)
(2a)  Schwartz, Nina. “Itsy-bitsy spiders and other pieces of the real in Dead Calm.” Camera Obscura (Dec 2002): 148(32).



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