Footnotes 2

# in which a point becomes a line

You do have to start somewhere (a spatial term I should perhaps delete) or at some time. At some point you have to start again, with a point that can turn, (via, probably, the mechanisms of neurochemistry & body parts, involving some baffling causal relation between the thinking parts & the eyes, watching, & the hand, doing, making symbols) into straight lines & curves that can be understood by some other being, similar, (genetically I suppose we believe) to myself, whatever that self might mean.

It is a matter of fact, I believe (two, or probably three concepts that have generated a vast amount of literature) that once the writing starts the unconscious mechanisms of neurochemistry & neurophysiology, in any event (another word with such a dense history), it seems to me, Take Over, & I have no idea (another concept, like the others) where this will end up. It is certainly true (oh god, another of those words) that when I start drawing lines my head seems to make decisions about my hands (its eyes watching), with no conscious explication accessible to that being I call myself. (1) I sort of think, afterwards, that the aesthetic decisions my brain is making are akin to the colossal gaps in our understanding of what is going on in this world, or on this planet, on which we find ourselves. (2)

Writing is not drawing, this is a conventional distinction: on the art planet, it is the book-producing distinction between text & image. But there are also the perhaps insanely important distinctions, between thinking inside a head, using speech to repeat what was in the head, & writing down what you thought was in it. It is slightly frustrating, but when you think about it, the ludicrous intricacies of what goes on from ideas in the head though to the larynx & then ALSO onto paper. Well.. How is any of it even possible.

(The difference between thought, speech & language: I am aware that many many many peoples have investigated this, the qualities, the evolution thereof, blah: of course, I know this. But I try to allude to that distinction that you can notice without, totally without, the assistance of theory: the differences you notice when trying to express the thought through speech, or, or &/or, writing. I KNOW, I know, so much has been written. I just want to say that you only have to experience it, by doing it, that the gaps, the holes in the transition from mind to matter become so dark, & infuriating.

I am trying, just now, right now, at this point, to decide whether it is permissible to think, to speak, to write, about stuff like thought, & speech, & language, given that so much has been thought, said & written about thought, speech & language. The temerity of me, I realise, comes to sit next to the emotional state of reluctance (if reluctance is an emotion, perhaps it is an absence of activity hidden by a secret, & maybe the secret is very secret) about which I wanted to write about, which makes all of this a preface constituting an attempt to explain why I do not wish to write about what I need to write about.

This image was made under a constraint.

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And this was made under another.

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Both images were made under the same more general constraint. I was obsessed with two landscapes in Wales, & subsumed them under the concept: Hairy Building On A Hill. This concept was to be explored, using only small pieces of paper & some ink pens. So far, so conscious. But my head had other ideas, & what appeared on the papers seemed to me to be other, possibly related concepts, not invented by me. The first image here came into existence after many attempts to catch the emotion, or atmosphere, I suppose, (I think the concept of the uncanny was in play) (3) behind the concept. The second image came into existence because of an intervention by a friend. He drew a small rectangle on the top left hand corner & told me to work with that. If you look closely I believe that, despite my attempt at the erasure of an alien hand, you can see the impolite & outrageous invasion. But my head reacted to it, & a form of straight line geometry came about, very different from those curves in the first drawing.

Which brings me to the point upon which I have been very reluctant, I now realise, to expand : the point, becoming language, which was supposed to be a continuation, in a literary sense, of chapter $1.

The second chapter was supposed to start like this:

# in which certain particular movements of the hand can express a charming interest, or an unpleasant contempt

It was to continue like this:

My mother said, just the once (& I cannot forget it) , whilst licking her right forefinger to turn, with joy, the page of one of the innumerable (well, there were many, but not infinitely many, of course not) gardening booklets & magazines that popped through the letter box, periodically (I now realise, seasonally) that these booklets, containing images of botanical creatures that could be ordered through the post (life, through the post!!!) , that these booklets were the reason P (my brother) left for X (a tiny island floating in the Atlantic).

And this:

Hmmm, I said, FLICKING, rapidly, using mainly my thumb, through one such booklet, I can see why.

But before I can even begin to explain why these words could not come into existence, due to a reluctance on my part which is in itself difficult to explain, I realise, with horror, that in that other reluctance to use proper nouns in a geographically normal & explanatory way, I have uncovered an extraordinary ignorance of the relationship between land (in this case an island) & sea (in this case a large amount of it, completely surrounding it). DOES this island float? DOES IT? It is not a question I have considered asking of a large landmass, it just seemed to be a natural verb for a tiny island: float. In the back (back?) of my mind (I am getting a touch too aware of spatial words for the non-spatial workings of it) I think I am thinking of that short story by Melville, about remote islands. There is a strangeness left over in my memory of that story, & I think it is that prominent juxtaposition of Ship, Sea, Remote Island, but most particularly the image of a Ship, which has allowed my head to conflate floating with islands. And now, I realise, yes, to my horror & with consternation, that I do not know whether islands float. This ignorance is fascinating & fabulous & a digression about this ignorance is hopefully it’s closure but is generating many images in my head. Ancient memories of geology, of the search for compressed dead animals, volcanoes, tectonic plates, orange & brown & chalky layers of sediments & rocks & soil in diagrams, the crust of the planet. And still, with my image of a tiny island, I can not decide whether it has, as it were, a stalk underneath it going down to the centre of the earth, or, just a little bit, so that you could swim under it.

Hmm. I now reason, if you could swim under it, it would be moving around in the currents of the oceans. It would not stay in roughly the same place. How would you find this ancient mythical isle again? An image of the Albatross comes into the head. I am enjoying my exploration of these undiscovered & strange, yet beautiful, vacant, floating islands, inhabited only by black rocks.

So, I am thinking the verb to float is not the best one to use about an island with a known dimension & a steady latitude & longitude (Mercator pops into my head again), but the imagery remains, & I will try to capture it, with lines that cannot be read.

The diagram does not come close to my imagination. But it is a first attempt. Perhaps I can tell a story about this lost island, with all that wealth of literature about loss, & discovery. Again, I am reminded of Melville, & of Columbus, & also, it appears of that book about the invention of the shipping container, & of Pegasus, a container ship that dithered around the coast of China, its owners trying to decide whether it made financial sense to dock, given the imposition of tariffs.

But after this digression, I return to my reluctance to write about what, from a logical point of view, I should write about. Chapter 2 seemed to me to be a necessary, yet unpleasant telling of the character of values. Already, I have indicated, in parentheses, what I mean. For if the first chapter revealed me to be a person of empathy then I needed to explain that although I have compassion, I am still very uninterested in how hair looks. The hairs on the head. My mother used to say that hairdressers were some of the happiest people in the world. Why, I asked. Because they make people like me very happy.

To vomit it out as it were, to redress the possibly perceived surfeit of compassion, & concentrate on the deficit with respect to shared (that is, not shared) values, I never cared about hair, & still do not. The fact, as became evident, that my mother considered the appearance of her hair a matter of great importance was completely unintelligible to me, & my unexpressed fury about it needs to be expressed here. It was the same with the gardening catalogues, as my brother realised, not by saying as much, but by getting away from them, a long long away, as it turned out. As to the catalogues, I made a decision. It was a very conscious decision, a proper one, in other words. Are YOU interested in gardening, I was asked. Nope, I said, but I have decided to become interested. The end of that non-existent chapter was to reveal that, firstly, it did not take long to get interested in the life of plants. Secondly, I was made to acknowledge to myself, after some time, that I had values I did not even realise I had. To have different values to my mother, & to silently, & furiously, & secretly hold her values in contempt, seems to me to be inexcusable, albeit understandable, perhaps. The fact that we have values inside us that we do not make transparent made me think that the hidden beliefs we have about what to do on the planet, with the concomitant actions, is a hideous fact about us that has led to no end of deeply unpleasant unpleasantness, leading to war & hatred.

And that is why I did not write that chapter. It is just too horrible to accept.

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(1) As a reminder to myself that here is a topic which requires consideration, the idea that there is such a thing as the New Unconscious, about which much has been written recently, seems to me to be absurd, no matter how interesting. Did anyone ever think that you needed some form of knowledge of the apparatus of the body to carry on, living, breathing, digesting, excreting, making babies. All that stuff that bodies do without being in the slightest interested in whether we have the words for what goes on.

(2) A story about epigenetics wants to burst forth here, but in the interests of what I hope to be clarity, I shall refrain from going on about that here. 

(3) I would rather use the German word unheimlich, the word Freud used. The German word carries with it a darkness, about being lost, which the uncanny, in English, does not carry. English speakers could joke or smile about the uncanny, a German speaker would not smile. There is a darkness around the word which prohibits it. A very dark, empty, isolated building, looking out (the black windows) over a black sea & being shaken by a howling wind & heavy rain. That does not tend to make one smile. On the other hand, the invention of the uncanny valley in robotics does seem to indicate that the word can now carry a creepiness after all.