One can perhaps share two sorts of things: things that have just recently come to your attention and things that you’ve carried with you for a long time. Unless an informative description is attached, the recipient may not be able to tell which of the two it is: if what they’re seeing is new to the sender, too, or if they haven’t suddenly been given access to the contents of a mysterious crypt. Objects have a curious way of swallowing up vast stretches of time and space and labor and attention into neat, anonymous capsules. So one writes the date and occasion on the back of the photograph, puts one’s name on a storage box, specifying: caution, valuables, breakable. But even these notes are indifferent to whomever is unacquainted with the references. Everyone needs a storyteller to contextualize the thing, to communicate the experience it means, or at least to set the established facts in motion and unfold an interpretation that is relevant. To avoid the standard mush, an activity of selection and molding is necessary. Otherwise, the object stays wrapped up in itself, mute and distant; and the sharer disappears behind the thing shared, abandoning it naked to the world’s icy clutch.
With your average post on social media, of course, everything tends to the cool and self-explanatory. Thoughtful touches are rarely contributed, at least not until one amasses a community of users around one who are similarly dedicated to transforming the social media space into one of just sharing. Otherwise, it often seems like the very purpose of the apparatus is to purge such touches from the polis or to scare away those who might risk them. But it would be a mistake to blame digital culture alone for this. It is tough to add thoughtful touches in any social setting, overloaded as they are with codes of dominant language and behavior. It is not even easy in the comforts of one’s own home or among friends. Even with lovers there can be disconnects, reluctances, great incommunicables. How does one ever know what to share and when? Even when the words are blurted out, the intimate detail confessed, the reception is often disappointing. We note in the other an uninquisitiveness, disinterest, distraction, or a simple inability to relate. Ambivalence can even wipe away our desire to be exposed raw, to attain lacerating communication and shaken out of normalcy. Everywhere just sharing encounters reasons to get discouraged: no one responds, people respond superficially, detailed responses get forgotten; there is much fatigue but no progress; no one learns anything, the crux of the matter is never fully conveyed; and so many gaps remain, so many petty assertions infect intersubjective space, so much misplaced superiority and ingratiating waste, so much reactive selfishness. The result is that sharing itself, and the hopes we place in it, degrade. Afraid of rejection or incomprehension, we forget our boldness and consent to a hushed mode that is safe but alone, while the mind rages.
Alas, it takes time and attention to find the justice in this affair and continue with it despite its many perils. As Bataille once said, giving voice to the void encountered in the trials of human communication: “Experience itself had torn me to shreds and my inability to respond finished tearing them.” Even the semblance of transparency is forbidden. Nothing shall diminish the earnestness of the divulgence. But no one who has not begun the long journey of experimenting with this “inability to respond” knows to what extent it prevails over every furtive success. The impossibility inherent here is the foundation for the most creative sendings and the most earnest receptions, in a word: of loyalty. For justice to be had in sharing, the enigma of what is shared demands its rights. The mystery demands to remain. Children know this and delight in the mysticism of sharing, absorbed in the wonders that attend them. What if adulthood was the art of childhood regained, made excellent? What would that do to our serious discourse on the world? In any case, there must be an ethic to “posting,” lest the social sphere devolve into a quasi-automatic circulation of impersonal information, a sphere from which all sensitive souls are driven to the margins, ostracized and ignored. There must be something like a “just share” that does not imply the sacrifice of the soul, that strives to make no false or careless move, no rash or crude opinion, that does not weigh the evidence of the world or try to measure up to its cleverness, but exposes itself, at the limit of what it can recognize and formulate, to a community of strangers―the first best hope of a redemption that will ultimately hinge on their ability to be examples of “just sharing” for each other.
These remarks in mind, let’s turn to the two types initially mentioned: things that bespeak the new find, which could potentially enter the chest of treasures, and those that signify an everlasting acquisition, which at each new encounter reaffirm their relevance for our life.
Attached to the first is the excitement of discovery and the need to proclaim it. Social beings that we are, we cannot separate our enlightenment from that of others, so we are sure that whatever strikes us will surely strike someone else, too. One broadcasts out the song, quote, news, or image in hopes that it will catch on as suddenly and unexpectedly elsewhere as it did for us. Our surprise must be shared, for we have faith that it will be a surprise for others; in sharing, our own surprise is fulfilled. This is perhaps at the root of our love for teaching and spreading knowledge: it is only when we send back out what we have received that we ourselves fully receive it. Thus the urgency of the first type, which strives partially for our own wholeness, partially for the wholeness of the social whole. Our reasoning goes like this: whatever we have learned is something others should learn for themselves too, whatever has inspired us could also inspire them, and it is our duty to solicit their attention (or concern, indignation, curiosity, etc.) for the sake of universal interest and its edification. Aiding us here are the revelations themselves, which are by nature contagious. Their seductions overflow the limitations of past knowledge with the force of evidence, charm or truth. The sharer adheres passionately to revelation’s logic of bloom, like a child’s first musings on the growth of plants. One’s aim here, at least, is to make it possible for anyone else to be embraced by the beauty, not just of the revelation, but of transmission itself, too, a source of joy in sociality, in the release of thought and emotion and spirit into new materials, which is essential to the expansion of a rich human culture―for without the chance of crossing paths, no one would ever travel.
But then there are the things that haunt us. Far from beckoning us to chase them, it is they that chase us, even invisibly. They recur because they can never leave us: poems, videos, songs, quotations, anecdotes, persons whose spirit or mode are so deeply ingrained into our unconscious that one can never tell where they stop and our conscious thinking begins. These subcutaneous relics support the unspoken principles of our behavior and creativity. They accompany us, aide us, but also blind us, lead us astray. Thus is formed our irreplaceable singularity: after the fact, in dealing with these indelible marks, scars, tattoos of a life. We cherish them with a fatal attraction, knowing that the depth of our affection for them will die with us; and that only they, our partner in mad descent, know the heights to which we have carried each other. With them we shared nights in quiet wonder, giving thanks for them in solitude, alone with the universe yet linked up with it eternally through this object, that word, this memory or sound. At the same time, we are not always so meditative and often lack the time to reflect deliberately upon these fellow travelers. We forget them even though they remain unforgettable, having left their trace in all our words and actions in a way we could never articulate to ourselves or to anyone else. About these things, one does not hold long discourses except with great difficulty, with a mixture of mortal bitterness and endless gratitude. For we know these things, as much as they stick with us, are also lost irretrievably, for they have always already been thoroughly incorporated into the dreamscape that is our being or spirit―which, for better or worse, withdraws in the end from all obvious or immediate sociality.
To share from out of the mystery of our own crypts such things, then, is to share a secret no one else will ever know. It is to accept the silent, confessional foundation of our own truth, lodged as it is in a million irretrievable corners of our history. One lacks entirely the exuberance of the proselytizing mode, for the only urgency here is the urgency of eternity. The goal is no longer to reveal a truth or spark interest, but to testify to something beyond fact or fiction. Put more strongly, one would like to resurrect a body, to let be seen the “ashes of our vital praxis,” from which something like our spirit would rise. What it bears is the melancholic certainty that there will be no direct contagion here, nothing “viral,” nothing that captivates any great mass all at once. The importance of one’s life-long bearing of this thing, too, will never be replicated; at best, someone else will incorporate it anew, but now in a way so unique to them that the experiences remain incomparable. It does not catch on, but carries us up. It does not extend unless it merges with us and brings us with it. It says that, between us and it, there was no distance, that we and it remain inseparable. To share such a thing is to share our entire creature, to grant a lens into our widest scope. Our heart looks at its heart, and its heart looks at ours. The other who stands in these crosswinds, receiving what is shared, is a stranger―not a voyeur, since the true drama is concealed to vision, nor a danger, since what rises is indestructible, but a friend, we could say: someone who will be caught up in our body, which they let free. For if they choose to stand there, we know that they are already being lifted up with our heart into a common one. We know then that there is no longer I, nor you, nor we, but just this Thing in love: the just share, rising, shining, unperishable.
―March 20, 2017