Doubts and Honesties

The urge to flee the confines of limited identity plagues me. I dream of discourses that would spread lightly through bustling channels of thousands of people, messages that would change the way they operated on a daily basis, the way they thought of “self,” and brought them peace; to turn them away from the bogus world discourse, the circus of politics and market, toward the work of justice, art, thinking, mercy, love–whatever brings to them the highest intensity of release from whatever limitation.

But instead of traveling out, instead of hitting the streets and commingling with persons, I gravitate always to the palace of words, study and writing, thinking perhaps naively that it is possible to draw everyone in. Placing my heart at the distance of art and language, I use the internet as my point of contact to an audience potentially universal, favoring the virtual over the actual forum because it is less combative and imposing, more composed and dispersive, like a book ought to be. I strive to deepen my discipline, improve the quality of my sentences, drown myself in complexity and detail to give them voice, seek out the untamed beauty of historical intelligence; then I submit my findings to an ethic of (nearly instantaneous) sharing, preferring the webpost to the book form because of the immediacy of its reach. Nothing lessens my desire to represent this effort as a work of art, and to seduce others to similar risks and enrichments of aesthetic engagement, knowing that, because of worldly constraints, most do not have the time and freedom to make such commitments. Yet it is precisely this situation of oppression, of harassment by a society built on the exploitation of classified and atomized individuals, that I wish to combat with my inventions.

My deepest ambition has been: to neutralize the “I” of thinking, to stage its destiny in the other’s epiphany, believing that this was the avenue to both an explosive creativity and an emancipatory “community,” founded not upon bonds but unbinding, upon a deep and rigorous release from all ontological determinism. Grounded in the “symbiotic kenosis” of creative energies, I’ve curated myself into self-vacating, staged an open space of non-identity, hoping in practice to merge the written “I” with this generic procedure, which is admittedly at odds with the conventional realites and discourses of the “world” I too must still contend with. But beyond my grasp, at the breakdown of knowledge, custom and memory, my faith is transported, the words raise me into you. I have such little guiding influence on this, suspended as I am on their clang and disappearance. Even to acknowledge this now, I am fictioned by them in a way I know seems self-absorbed, overdone, pretentious. But the elegance of the word’s solutions implore me, and I cannot fight the savor of their long-prepared taste, for it feels right to take this tone, the truest I could take, though it issue from the seemingly inhuman distance of poetry.

In myself I recognize, as I do in figures like Walter Benjamin, the struggle between a compassion for the universal that would love to proclaim a liberating message before an expansive populace, and the orneriness of a book-bound lifestyle dedicated to a “for all time” influence, with all the reclusiveness, dissimulation, and obsession this can entail. Every evolutionary energy, the ecstasy of entanglement with others, is funneled into a prose that can only pose a challenge to the singular listener, in a style appearing to aspire to the timelessness of literature—not a manifesto, nor purely theoretical, nor preachy or programmatic or analytical, but in the language of birds, of celebration, anticipating the end-time redemption today, pleading and affirmative and confessional.

Does this mode jeopardize my chance of reaching all? Does it sacrifice the simplicity of the street (something I’ve never known)? Is it all just an ornament to privilege? Or is it right to speak to humanity’s highest intellect and make them pause? Is it enough to pursue an artform and trust in the universalizability of its truth? Is it enough to heed a call and not look back? This I ask myself, aware of the social conditions of my own production. Into them I was fated, and I must put them to use as honestly and faithfully as I can, returning to others more than I’ve received, hopefully. Alas, I know there will never be proof of that, and that moreover any proof would have to be disregarded; thus does the horizon stretch to infinity, and I into vigiliant blindness.

When I meditate upon the severe limitations of my approach, upon the “loftiness” that might be preceived in it–an elevation I cannot help but love and pursue vigorously, with all my health and soul–my one consolation is the notion that we are all different members of one body, with different skills and stations and duties in the overall development of the socio-spiritual organism. But still I feel the doom of art–of unwittingly backing the victor’s spoils, of being disqualified by a lack of direct intervention into the situation of injustice (though I have tried at that too, and failed), or of speaking in a way that only a specialist might understand (though I strongly refute any claim to authority). This is an internal ordeal, raging between doubts and honesties, to craft an original form while remembering the “anyone” to whom it must be consecrated, whom it must welcome openly. It is upon the strength of anyone–my anticipation of you coming to my heart already–that I stand firm in my conviction: it is possible for the word to reach farther, to be more than just the echo or sepulcre of some dumb writer.

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3 Responses to Doubts and Honesties

  1. Jana H White says:

    I have Nathan to thank for landing here. hello hello hello!
    I also feel that once becoming a “tuning fork” there’s no turning back except to the now empty casings of our own metamorphosis…. thank you for your beautiful “living” words

    • tmlavenz says:

      Thanks Jana, what you say about becoming a “tuning fork” is quite apt. Some years ago, I read a wonderful little book by Jean-Luc Nancy called Listening. He distinguishes between the phenomenological subject, oriented around intentionality and sight, and what he calls a “resonant subject,” which borrows from the model of sound and music. Some of my reflections on this book can be found here, in case you’re interested. In any case, thanks for visiting fragilekeys 🙂

  2. patrickhoburgblog says:

    The seductions of imagistic engagement are calling me, especially after an easter email, and after so much text, too much reading. And yet, I’m out for more of words, specifically Tim’s words, which aren’t sparing me suffering — providing livable accompaniment, perhaps. Perhaps, what a posh word to betray my heart, but only a word.

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