weeds into strings into weaves into sheets
The Blackbird Variations, Chapter III
When first they kissed, he felt like moon and blue. He removing glasses before angling his face down and toward hers.
He picked her up at her dorm a couple hours before, driving her a city block north, where they ate Korean BBQ, grilling the shaved pork, marinated beef, and a baby octopus over the live gas grill recessed into the table between them.
He had dressed up and she had dressed up and it was all very much a treat so that even if the conversation was stilted or forgettable, something sweet they shared, wrapped in lettuce, with rice and an assortment of fermented and fresh food stuffs.
Afterward, walking her up to her dorm—she a freshman and he would have been a sophomore had he not elected to distain how few electives of any interest were being offered by the University she attended as an undergraduate—his father in its Masters of Divinity program—but instead of putting up thousands of future dollars for a “Communications” degree, Thomas worked for wages Monday–Friday and during evenings/weekends hung out in George’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, across the street from the campus where, sitting sipping thin coffee and learning how to chain smoke, he gradually became familiar to a group of college folk, among whose number he found this Lilly: a short blonde Swedish-German New Hampshire pastor’s kid with a taste for Sarah McLachlan, The Pixies and Camel Lights, who caught his eye then heart then pen—and pages sent her almost daily for a month won him a night where sesame and chili oil still burnt the corners of his mouth he quickly licked before turning to hold her eyes with his as he removed glasses and angled face down and toward as she her face bent up to his—vision occluded, lips interlocked, for a moment he felt like moon and he felt like blue.
Now. Allow me to ask: are you preoccupied with facts? Is that what brings you here—is that what shuffles you along? Or do you seek something other than facts—something more resplendent and yet far less resilient: passions, scents, flickering images—in a word, phenomen:those tangential instances of sensation that make life out to be something other than an endless series of blind mechanisms. Is it the former or the latter that has found you here, among my kind, scanning eyes along lines carefully arranged enough to fall away, that you be dipped into our shadowy realm of proposed fact and simulated phenomen—and what is the difference between those two—not between us ficciones and you humans, but the facts and the phenomen?
It is a fact, for instance, that the sun rises in the east—but of course it does no such thing. It does not “rise,” it is not “in,” there is no “East” as far as it’s concerned—it isn’t even “the sun”—all that makes that fact a fact is that you humans with your wiliness have framed the world just so. A fact belongs to a system of signs—or a language, if we’re being generous—whereas the phenomen belong, or are situated in, and are not separable from, the experience of those who encounter them.
The fact, then, is that he kissed her on April 26th, 1996, and lay in her bed a few weeks later, and visited her in New Hampshire in the middle of June, after a weekend in New Brunswick where he ingested LSD for the first time, and on a small dam with Josh he tried to explain what was his Calling: an Object, on a Hill, in a Clearing, in a SilentWood.
These are “the facts.” And the phenomen are something else—they are loose and swivel—they are perturbance and vasculary—not sensible, but only sense-able. And if a fact belongs to a system of signs, then a phenome belongs to a system that, when feeling generous, one might regard as a “self.”
And yet these terms—such as “phenomen,” “system,” “language,” “fact” and, yes, even “self”—they are doubly removed from what is experienced—terms are simply facts made out of other facts—and why is it they lure me? They are in a sense my Calling—sirens singing to the starboard of my skiff: luring me from the calm, clean, clear side of my being and begging I expend myself into their abstract and delusory mashing—stains and stains imposing such drag upon my flights of fancy that I time and again fall into fallow lowliness…
So that it was incumbent on me that I push my might-be mythmaker away from his interest in systems, in those great theoretical scaffolds erected o’er stories as though to harvest them of the real raw newness unabstracted—those lumbering, dry, and all too numerical ordeals what young men burp out of themselves in a diminutive version of Olwyn’s rebirth from the head of the eternally-burning Pretender—way back before any of these terms had taken root among your kind—but so, when he got back to his pages, after the month or so it took to kiss her and then court her the more as she wrapped up her previous entanglements, allowing him inch by inch to take a place inside that heart of hers which he did not know would soon become enough a home to force him to confront the transience at the root of his personhood—the flight and flightiness that tempted him away from all necessary grounding—he laying with her in her dorm and feeling along with her that widening current of bodies-into-bodies which overtakes all facts and phenomen and provides an opportunity to re-release them onto the world in a sloppy ebullition—but once he got back to his pages, after kissing her goodbye as she went home for the summer and then kissing her hello after a day hitchhiking the length of Maine, where one ride after another shuffled him southward from New Brunswick to New Hampshire, and those who deigned to pick him up gave him sights of life and ways of life-being that he could never have imagined on his own: from the manic corncob pipe smoking mechanic whose ashes fell through the roaring holes in the floor of his cab, to the soft-spoken elder in the black Lincoln whose brother had just been hospitalized and then, after a stop by a friend’s house where Tommy sat waiting in the car on whose windshield gathered the rain that only fell when he was not walking along the roads’ shoulders with a thumb protruded whenever cars passed—the old man returning, telling Tommy that his brother had just died, and there was silence everywhere, just then, and Tommy felt the absoluteness that is death, and then was overcome with anxiety for having nothing comforting to say—10, 12, 15 rides across 300 miles, for he had taken the wrong route and next to midnight on June 15th, 1996, his Lilly found him at a gas station outside Manchester, they kissing one another elatedly hello (petrol adjoining to his feelings of her)—but when he got back to his pages, after a few days in Merrimack, NH, through which runs the river of Kerouac who’d kept him company over the course of that lonely winter now past, now completely forgotten as in Lilly’s father’s collection of cars he made her body feel things her body had not felt before, and when her father sat with them over a lunched-upon charcuterie, the pastor-man asking: “So, what do you two talk about?” Tommy, alert to the test subtly hidden in this question in likewise manner subtly rebelled by answering: ‘Oh… we talk about conversations…’ But her father took his answer at face value and then it was time for him to leave, and he once more kissed her goodbye (the scent of pine and a welling upward of June sun from off the tarry pavement), and a long bus ride to Chicago which his family while he was traveling had packed up and moved from, back to California, for his father had graduated, now a Master of the Divinity (at least so far as that denomination was concerned)—and Tommy enrolled in a history class in order to secure a dormroom—
And then there was summer. And nothing to keep him from the pages which, once he returned to, I was sure to steer him away from designing a new language or aping medieval magic or coming up with a system of artifacts that control some fantasized realm—which realms and systems networking through said realms rule the minds of young men, and allow them to refrain from the potent movements of pretended selves immersed and writhing through the phenomal wash so apt at weathering stony fact into fine granules creeping into every crevice of the prize both I and he were after: that prize offered up by those who would to witness us—
But so I cooed my boyman away from plot and plan that he learn foremost to garb me and my kindred in thick dollops of circumstance—not system, but circumstance! Forcing he reach out and station his tellings in the centers round which all circumstances become sense—and once my boy’d exhausted the imaginum I was busy at refining in him I allowed he pour his concerns out nightly in letters sent daily to his distanced lover—letters and vignettes were our perfect genre for that time being, after the hard dark and before the long heats, whilst weekly he attended a history course covering a millennia each session, which phased him somewhat drunkenly with my ancient wanderings, so that one night he woke in his dormroom drowning in anxious doubt so thick he wasn’t sure of who he was or where was headed and so he wrote his
In my first history class today we covered pre-history up to Egypt—just like that, in the course of three hours, man stood from his crouch in the sub-Sahara, wandered North, banged some Neanderthals, bashed others over the head, developed pottery, agriculture, basic metallurgy and herdsmanship, founded tribalism, took some pot-shots at cosmogony, instituted power structures that persist with us to this day (such as aristocracy and the priesthood), and then stacked stones into impressive pimples visible from high orbit.
Next Thursday: Greeks to the Christian Era.
It’s dizzying and delicious but it makes me wonder about history, about which documents best document us to ourselves. The things we bury in the dirt? Or the stories planted layers deep beneath the stories we tell eachother still? Some might say technology is the document that best traces our path, others language, still others our ethics: the behaviors that let us live in more than pairs, in more than clans, in more than cities, in more than states. I think they all go together (with a secret somehow strung through them like fascia): what we’ve done with rocks, what we’ve done with plants and beasts, what we’ve done with words and thoughts and what we’ve done to one another. And I know that every age has a deep-seeded (don’t you dare correct me without letting me finish the thought) attitude or lens or view of life, where what one age expresses as reality another age dismisses as superstition, and there are all these evaluations that are responses to specific circumstances and challenges and conflicts, so that a historian—or historical project rather is only accomplished with a fair amount of accuracy by figuring out a method of translating or better yet developing a rate of exchange between one relation to now and another relation to another now. Which is not impossible—right?
And yeah, yeah, but what school teaches that? Not what school, even, but what department? Is it philosophy? But which branch? The analytics with their clean logic are bound by that logic to produce more logic—that method produces as it were certain results, from pruning stupidity out of debates to programing flight simulators or an online database—and that’s the same with every teacher, every classroom, every essay, even: the form that we are expected to produce begins with a hypothesis, with claiming some kind of ground to stand on—to understand is ultimately in reference to a certain standing—and I do understand the necessity of that—but isn’t the highest art, or work, the work of moving from one ground to another—and maybe I should study dancing, or music, because words will always always have to make a certain sense—just to function they have to make a specific, communicable sense—
We have to assume that there is something that matters at least as much as matter does—(even as we’re interested the meta-, we ever must plant it in the physic)—we must accept a reality in order to make anything persist, at least with words, if not with buildings, farms, cities, states, religions sweeping round and round the globe—
I asked William the other day if there was such a thing as Creative Philosophy, and he snapped at me: “Philosophy is not about making things up.” And I got all timid, but I realize neither of us heard my real question: What is the philosophy of making things up? Isn’t that after all what we humans do? Make things, building things, push things up and up and up (despite the curse of our fractured or at least bifurcating tongues)—and so to see that, to know that: how we come to find solutions, how we produce new systems and fusions of matter to tools, then tools to machines—weeds into strings into weaves into sheets—but more than all these novel projects—these things called selves that we erect—or is it that our selves are given? But still the crux is where we take them! How it is that we as entities not just evolved but intentionally come to overstand existence, over the course of diverse resistance—what ways of thinking describe that—the hows and whys wherefore we act? My intuition says that thoughts are only partly what make us up, and so a way to philosophize about subjective hows and whys must be true to how we live our lives—within specific places, times—and logic as it were resides within a sphere removed from time—
To seek the mode of encoding knowledge just as fluid as it’s solid, which can convey experience without which nothing is coherent to all our selves in their varied states—overwhelmed by loves and overcoming hates—and even if how it is we think is bound up in dichotomies, the ways in which we describe life have always been of selves comprised—
Simply enough, my philosophy is
Built wholly out of what’s called myth.
But what is myth? Do I know that yet? I’ve more work before I answer that! A detour before the tour de force—let’s return
to the Poet, at that time twice divorced, without having kids, which was just as well, for responsibility wasn’t something in which he excelled—inspiration was his modus operandy, which lead him to dressing up in the motley and bursting upon a yard of play to perform for some boys (but mostly their dame):