Paris Letters #42
I like to write about writing and think about thinking. Why? Well, because it’s good to know why you do what you do, obviously. And, to know here doesn’t really meaning getting the final answer, but to reveal more of the question. And the more the question is revealed, the wider and deeper the resonance of ones expression.
As young person or romantic — and every young person is a romantic — one can’t know this very profoundly. The young person can be a poet by accident, as Rimbaud was, but he can’t really be a philosopher. His accidents can sometimes be a conduit for the profound, but they belongs to romantic youth.
Youth cannot say what it is. It cannot understand its precious mortality or conceive of the fact that it will one day be erased. Usually youth gets lost in the superabundant oceanic world of sensation, shot through with the arrows or desire, like Saint Sebastien. That is why Carl Jung said that youth is just research — and that real life begins after forty. Youth is sacrificed to wisdom. There is no way around it.
Once you pass middle age, you cannot gamble with this previous bit of life force left in you. What you do has to be more intentional, more conscious. This means to question one’s motivation, to think about the value of thought.
For instance, I once believed that though was just that stuff that happened in our brain — that ones should empty onself of all though, in a Zen kind of way. Now, I know that the ‘mental noise’ is the opposite of thought, that real thought is born in silent contemplation. Real thought is not a construction, but some kind of revelation coming from silence, an act that involves the whole body.
My idea of writing has changed too. I don’t think of writing as making intellectual word constructions, but as a practice, a living process. Apparently, in 12th century nobody read silently: people mumbled aloud to themselves, as a prayerful activity. Medieval scripts had no gaps, no periods, no capital letters, there was just a long stream of words to decipher. One had to consciously look for forms within that sea of symbols, and to make a melody out of them. There would be a sort of constant humming of a melody, and that would be writing. The point is that writing was an embodied soulful activity, rather than a merely mental one.
Searching for the melody as much as sense is the point of relavatory writing; particular meaning is less important than the totality of the song. I am trying to decipher, not repeat. To reveal, not to conquer. Writing is an activity of liberation. By liberating one’s own ‘stuck’ notions, then one could, by proxy, help liberate others. For liberation is contagious.
I didn’t know this when I was in my twenties. I was too self obsessed, too blind. There is a difference between self-obsession and honoring this vessel of possible liberation and transcendence. Now, I know a little bit more about why I do this.