Letters like greenhouse gasses (CPU)

Vacation. Woke up the first day of vacation with a feeling not to be forgotten of. Now, in anticipation of work, the return of a sense of inevitability and obligation. In the meantime, did some deep cleaning in my room and environs; visited close relatives. took exercise, ran and swam, read Foote on the Battle of Gettysburg. Dirt, soil, mud. Task here, self-appointed, was to arrange them in a vertical column in parentheses, like —


And first I put the opening parentheses on the one side and the closing parentheses on the other but then something “clicked” and I, manipulating arrow keys with fingers, put closing parentheses down the one side then, still with the arrows, went up the left side with the opening parentheses. These three words then linked etymologies for those words. (Occurs to me suddenly: that what was for Dante the afterlife and for Shakespeare the stage, the theater, would be for this work the on-line. Some things to think through here, such as how the afterlife seem something beyond human, while the stage seemed something exactly human, and the internet seemed, in a way, sub-human. Or maybe it wasn’t the on-line, whatever that was, but code: that computer code was the literal subtext to what you were doing. And what you were doing and saying was really quite unimportant and trivial, could be anything, but what was important was the subtext and code which made it possible. To Dante’s afterlife and Shakespeare’s stage was today’s code. Finally of note about this that a lot of what were called novels today seemed oddly to be without subtext: were simply a novelists personal letter to readers, which would make explicit everything that needed to be known.) Instead of depressing the RETURN key using the arrow keys to shift the cursor down. Supply parentheses to these terms, linking to etymologies., on the blog.

To rewrite the forgoing lightly, with humor. To not write what I was about to write, or that. Motto for this period, this year: “Keep it Light.” Self-adjuration: attempt to understand at the paragraph level, not at the sentence or word level. Self-adjuration: not the thing you have to say but the thing about the thing you have to say (and much more quickly). Self adjuration: (forgotten) “–but do try to understand something of its spirit.” Self-adjuration: that you not be tempted to imitate its style. (Person who would write another such book must do it from a non-western language base. The next Finnegans Wake should be in Mandarin.) Observation that after reading this everything that you have to read and say will seem oddly slow, as if in it language had itself been contracted, or “space folded” (having read Dune the previous year). In the same way, maybe, that after listening to Ives a lot you will wonder why Mozart used only right notes.

Looked up “Howth”, “Jute”, “Clontarf”, “Sutton”, “Danish Language”, “støde”, “the slashed o”, played recording of the sound of the slashed o, (which is considered a separate letter from o) tried to make that sound myself, forget it now, kind of an ew sound, though not quite an ew sound. Went back to Jute, clicked “age of the migrations,” which began 300 or 375 AD with the invasion of the Huns and ended around 800 AD with the invasion of the Lombards. Jutes to southern England alone with the Angles and Saxons to England.  Looked up Kraal (corral) and Mousterian.

To not write what I was about to, or that, Keeping it “light.” (Had been about to write that there was an important ethic in “keeping it light”, which was not to duck weighty issues at all — sirius waitee isuses?– but to not affect caring, not pretend, not sentimentalize, which a book like this is light years away from.) (Had been about to write: In what sense can Beckett be seen as a progression or evolution of Joyce and if so the Joyce of which book? Beckett seems more an evolution or relation of Kafka’s — idea that we don’t choose our influences. Faulkner, Conrad; Pynchon, Dos Passos)…

Had meant to look things up. Meant to look up ‘thon’ and finally did. Meant to look up Grace O’Malley, got as far as typing the name in, as far as hitting ENTER after I had typed, as far as pulling the page up and seeing, in the right corner, or just below, of the wikipedia page a photograph of someone I supposed to be her, then something drew my attention away. Maybe it was then I had looked up ‘thon.’ An idea of history (don’t even know if I’m quoting this part) — people live and die and live and leave their letters littered over all the earth and there are more letters now than there are things on the earth. Maybe an analogy with molecules of greenhouse gasses to be formed here: releasing these letter particles into the reader-sphere (the readersfear) which in a book or two doesn’t amount to much but adding more and more each year, and more of the factories of more each year, with the letters not dissipating as letters should, until suddenly we can’t think or speak anymore, no longer a tower but whole rolling globe of Babel, and the only way to suck all those letters back into people is for people to do some serious reading and for other people such as myself possibly to do what they can to reduce their “emissions”… Have forgotten the meaning of ‘thon’ which I just looked up (but having said that I remember now.) Grace O’Malley met with Queen Elizabeth; Three Castles were in Dublin coat of arms; and “thon” means tuna in French and is used as a derogatory of women (perhaps like English ling from All’s Well). And, in a separate etymology, thon is also a creation of a 19th century possibly American person who created this as a portmanteau of ‘thine’ and ‘ours’. Looked up Chapelizod (associated with Tristan myth). (Q: Where did the fashion brand Izod get its name? A: not from Chapelizod, at least not directly.)

Now to write the foregoing again with humor. Joyce accusations that Elliot plagiarizes Ulysses –searched for but couldn’t find him saying this. Odd Pound opening Cantos with Odysseus. Odd Mrs. Dalloway also a “day in the life.” Ulysses and Wasteland both out in ’22 though Ulysses serialized before this. The cad and his hymn. Looked up: “Irish Language.” True that the letters are named after trees — ACROPHONY it’s called when letters’ names are the names of things, if I had that right. Some confusion in that wikipedia appeared to say the Greek alphabet was also an instance of that but alpha, beta, etc. don’t mean anything (or do they), are not trees or cars or countries (initially pictograms?). In one language the article cites the alphabet actually relates a poem. (Had to get up to check on a name’s spelling, I actually do often check, then found myself wandering in and out of rooms, what I was looking for, thing I meant to check quite forgotten, finding myself thinking about the difference between the educated and not. Dives and Lazurus: what if Lazarus was educated and Dives was not? Wash your hands, wear a mask, don’t listen to the cranks, the quacks, the hotheads, take public transportation, ride a bike, and so on.) Couldn’t think of what Joyce had called cigarettes (air-whackers –got up to check on this but this time came directly back.) Litigiousness of Joyce. True fact: you read his allegations against others stealing but no one alleging he has stolen. Toward Proust, at their one meeting, Joyce had shown a motherly attention, I think I’d read.

Definition of cause in itself. Definition of finite, a finite thing. Definition of substance, of attribute, of mode, of God. Maybe missing one or a couple. The cause of itself — that which is its own cause– the existence of that which is its own cause involves its essence. That which is its own cause cannot be conceived of as non-extant. (When Nietzsche says God is dead he does not conceive of the non-existence of that which is a cause of itself, but says we have lost the need for an idea of that kind…?) Definition of substance. Definition of attribute, mode, God… Definition of finite: something is understood to be finite when it is limited by a thing of the same kind, a body by a body, a thought by a thought. When a body is limited by a thought it is not necessarily finite? What is a thought? Is a thought a syllogism or is a thought an electrical impulse? Can a syllogism be construed as an electrical impulse? (A thought is a color on the monitor at the hospital, an eruptive location on the brain.) Is an electrical impulse a body, a corpuscle? Does an electrical impulse limit a body? Is gravity the “fence” of a mass? (Zoo cage that keeps the animal in.) (The question isn’t what is a thought but what is thought to Spinoza and I believe he would probably say — an attribute.) In what sense does a larger body “limit” a smaller body and vice versa? Why not, for a definition of finite, “that to which there exists a limit”, what is important about something being limited by something which is its own kind, body by body, thought by thought — answers to all this on the internet. Looking up substance. By substance is not meant matter. By substance is meant what underlied, sub + stare (upokeimonon was ‘underlying’ in Aristotle, I see ousia written for substance, which I would have thought was being, feminine nominative participle to be) in any case not ‘matter’, more like God than matter, in fact, God, there being only one substance, wikipedia says, not gold and water and houses but God. Wikipedia, Spinoza’s philosophy deterministic. Nothing you can do. Our only freedom consists in coming to understand God better. (Spinoza’s belief in one essential substance distinct from Descartes’s belief in two essential substances: soul and body.)

Told customer I’d look up what sort of career opportunities the county offered, let’s do that. Career opportunities. Find myself discovering how much money some people make, not wealthy people but regular people, people like crossing guards even, my lord! I was looking at these significant salaries and having the same feeling I have when some freak occurrence takes me into the city, with all its lively characters and bustle — the feeling that I have been really missing out on life in some fundamental way. Going through the motions. As soon as I became an adult, going into retirement, living an old person’s life. This was not to romanticize others’ lives, but to feel sharply that whatever life was I had insulated myself against it, and I had to stop doing that before I really died. First, one had to live, then one could “prepare oneself for death” (i.e., live philosophically, if once alive that remained an aim.) What inspired this, again, was me seeing how much a crossing guard made, to me an incredible sum, and all these other job postings, all these opportunities to advance oneself economically, if one wanted, but I delimited myself at every turn, having too active an imagination, let’s call it — and I could not leave my [] job at the [] — why, because that would be change and change would be life. (And life was God, had said Tolstoy. And what did Dostoyevsky say was the proof of the existence of God? You won’t prove the existence of God through argument, he had said. Love people, really love people, and it’s something you will come to know. Technically, this was Zosima, not Dostoyevsky. Consider what could be your stony indifference to people: that was your disbelief in God.) Was there some vulnerability or defect in this impenetrable circummuring Unlife of mine I could peck at to break through? Was there something I always said no to and failed to notice, which I now just needed to say yes to and carefully heed? Was it just that I approached things without urgency –my life was full of slack and lag time– after every “note” I took a prolonged “rest” so that the end result sounded nothing like music. Perhaps then if I hustled, if I realized time was short, as indeed it was, the “notes” would fall thick and fast –I would do this and this and this– and make a spritely little minuet to charm my reflective hours and to charm those who one day learned of me. (Immigrants to this country looking on its opportunities with fresh eyes are tearing their hair out looking at my case. Why are you just standing there? Why aren’t you taking advantage of this? This was how my mom, looking at my case, would feel too: why don’t you get in there? Why are you hanging back?) (Idea that maybe that was how life worked for everyone was that you needed some people not to live, that the unliving were part of the fabric, was rejected.) Women were a distraction from life, parallel to life, a confirmation of life, a reward for having lived…. No what he had meant to say was: you couldn’t look to a relationship to give life; to the contrary, you had to bring life to a relationship. MLK for whom justice was life’s key, making the world more just, was how you lived. To feel one’s powerlessness before injustice, to accept it, to just let it go, was a deadening force. Or Socrates’ preparation for death: if I did without “my comforts”, which nailed body to soul, and death to life, I’d find life. Life could be found in anything but was not to be found in everything, one’s commute was good evidence of that. The more one travelled ones commute the more one buried the essential meaning of that road and all along it, had become my burgeoning view.

An idea for the fictional character I know as Summs occurred: Summs had realized long ago that he could turn his stupid writing into ingenious writing if he only realized his stupid writing was a kind of joke: if only he realized that the ideas put into writing as serious were actually ridiculous. Summs’ current revelation is that the same thing held for life: that he tried to live earnestly and well, but what he wasn’t seeing was how stupid that behavior really was, and if he could only live as a satirical comment on what he thought of as life, then he might really live… (This story line somewhat resembled that of another fictional character, named Michael. Michael, after years of “not being able to write” had the brainstorm that he would create a fictional character who really could write.)

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