Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Stand in the Ruins of the Memory Cathedral

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It helps to keep my mind busy. To not let the imagination get up on the trampoline and start its tricks. The opium den dreams of all the wasted days. Desire lights it all in sepia shadowed nostalgia. It was all a movie. Even the worst days in the Haunted Houses at 24 frames per second start to seem like Truth. Got to keep slapping the idiot driving around inside of me to stop zoning out, pay attention to the road.

So, been re-reading a lot of the books that once mattered to me. Trying to remind myself of my mind. What I once believed to be of value. Most, like trying on an old pair of boots or the wedding suit. Memory in the bones - if not the flesh. Those other times: like wearing someone else's skin. Uncomfortable, cold and wet. Trying to keep the reading close to the fire, away from the edge.

Fiction mostly disappoints, the world behind the words is like that around a miniature train set: plastic, painted and pathetic. I read on to find some reason why I read it in the first place. Must have been something there, I keep trying to tell myself. Turn the page. Beats staring at the boots. Mostly.

Non-fiction holds up better. And some part of me is mightily amused to read non-fiction about fiction. The old man walking down the road carrying a mirror on his back. I guess I'd rather talk to the old man than look at the world reflected.

There is this from The Key to "The Name of the Rose":

Ibn Hazm (994-1064)      Andalusian poet, psychologist, philosopher, and theologian. Ibn Hazm, who spent his early childhood in a harem, wrote a fascinating treatise on love and lovers and on the apparent and hidden meaning of lovers' words. He also wrote perceptive comments on feminine psychology. In his Kitab al-Takrib, Ibn Hazm gives a summary of Aristotelian logic and in his Kitab al-Muhalla, an analysis of prophecy, Paradise and Hell. Linguistic theoretician and moralist both, Ibn Hazm stated that the evil of liars is that they use language for their own ends instead of serving it. Language has been instituted by God and contains in itself a truth. It is itself, moreover, the only means of discovering the truth and expressing it, provided it is not removed from its divine origins to become the pawn of human desires.

Got my attention. The part about "the evil of liars," that they do not serve the language, stand under it, understand, was right on the beam. A cancer of wretchedness has metastasized throughout my being because I abused the language, compelled it to serve my own ends, and thus deprived myself of being able to have the Truth expressed through me. It's hard. I am using words to try and explain - spread out before you - why I cannot use words. A man down in a grave with a shovel trying to dig himself out. A dreamer searching for his sleeping body in the dream so he can wake himself up.

You've got to almost torture the language to make it make any sense. Proof: there is a quote by Heidegger at the beginning of After Babel by George Steiner that says exactly what I mean:

Man acts as if he were the shaper and master of language, while it is language which remains mistress of man. When this relation of dominance is inverted, man succumbs to strange contrivances. Language then becomes a means of expression. Where it is expression, language can degenerate to mere impression (to mere print). Even where the use of language is no more than this, it is good that one should still be careful in one's speech. But this alone can never extricate us from the reversal, from the confusion of the true relation of dominance as between language and man. For in fact it is language that speaks. Man begins speaking and man only speaks to the extent that he responds to, that he corresponds with language, and only in so far as he hears language addressing, concurring with him. Language is the highest and everywhere the foremost of those assents which we human beings can never articulate solely out of our own means.

Strange contrivances, indeed. The Greeks invoked the Muses, whose mother is Mnemosyne, Goddess of Memory. The voice in the ear is no longer that of the Muses, but that of a deformed and deranged conscience. Those channels within where once rushed the breath of inspiration are now blackened and blocked. And that place of memory is now a place of aporia. There is no language here - only echoes.

I stand in the ruins of the Memory Cathedral and wonder: what happened here? Because this is what is at the core of my fallen-ness. It was here, upon the high altar of memory where the Pulse once burned, that it happened. Some sacrifice not made... something? I don't know. It was here that I was... struck down. Words are failing here like herds of buffalos running over a cliff. At the core of my being, I was wounded. It was not the drugs that did it. The drugs came after. Maggots that grew fat upon the flesh and kept the wound from healing.

I once knew a woman that couldn't help herself from wailing: "What happened to me? I've lost my mind. What happened to me? I've lost my mind."

The wound is healing. I know. But I don't feel anything. And the days accumulate around me like the scattered stones of this ruined place of memory. I am waiting for... just silence.