Friday, July 4, 2008

I cannot stay, I came to say I must be going

Let me begin by taking my leave. I'm turning off my computer for the weekend, and won't be back till Monday. This post has no function other than to allow me to enjoy the sense that I have created a personal blog, which is one of the things I wanted to do today before unplugging. However, I won't quite be satisfied that this really is a blog until I pad my post with an unnecessary, unpremeditated, and unedited expatiation, which has to be long enough that my readers get weary of it half way through and decide to bookmark it for later and never come back.

So let me continue by taking leave of my leave-taking and lingering a while. It is, after all, a time-honored custom of blogdom for authors to swear they are leaving (sometimes forever) only to reappear a short while later, perhaps under the auspices of a new URL but more often in the very place to which they said they would not return. I am only taking this familiar pattern a little further by coming back before I have departed.

This is for me an exercise in saying too much, something which has given me trouble since I was a little boy. The truth is I'm not much of a blogger because I get tired of my own words long before anyone else does. Sometimes I get tired of them before they have even got out of my head, and more than once I have found myself surrounded by people who are waiting expectantly for me to say something which has already become much too boring for me to carry through to the point. I get so far ahead of myself that I can't even follow myself, much less bring anyone with me, and where it is I would be going anyway is a mystery, and not a very interesting one.

What I'm trying to do now is to write in the manner of one who is jumping onto a moving train. I want each sentence to be tracking alongside a moving thought which is just getting out of its grasp, so that if there is no sure trail to follow at least there will be a dotted line. But this is about as hard as taking notes in a lecture in which the instructor is constantly racing from one thought to the next, following a path of suggestion visible only to him, without ever clarifying what is essential and what is only a wild diversion, or, what is more frustrating, without ever tracing himself back to explain what inspired him to jump from, say, the intellectual virtues to some detail in the life of Winston Churchill.

Is it even possible to stay with one thought and not already to be leaning into the next? I suspect from my own experience that lingering on the verge of the next thought while trying to understand the "present" one usually means falling into a kind of stupor. Consider the question, "What are you thinking?" After this question, especially if it is asked me when I am in a particularly thoughtful state, I often find myself straining to see into the darkness, and not the darkness of the present moment but of the past. Well, after all, what was I thinking? Is there another way to answer this question other than by doubling thought back on itself as something past?

I feel myself becoming obscure here. But obscurity is just the point. Exactly when I try to answer the question as to what I am thinking, what I am thinking goes into hiding, behind the thought of what I was thinking. If my explanation of this point becomes impossible to follow, it is because explaining it has required me to quit following. I've had to let go of that moving train in order to go back and investigate its past motion, which is no more there to be seen.

This post obviously doesn't belong on my personal blog, because it's exactly the kind of thing I was not going to put here, but it also doesn't belong anywhere else. So here it stays.

See you on Monday.

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