Response to Reading Loop, 11/5/11

I had hitherto concealed the secret of my dress, in order to distinguish myself as much as possible from that cursed race of yahoos; but now I found it in vain to do so any longer. Besides, I considered that my clothes and shoes would soon wear out, which already were in a declining condition, and must be supplied by some contrivance from the hides of yahoos or other brutes; whereby the whole secret would be known.

(Jonathan Swift, 1726)

Language can only describe the shores of our exile, and what is contained within.

Outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck… Something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion…

(Joseph Conrad)

We may, in our endless freedom, construct metaphors of escape, but whether they sink or sail is unimportant, for they do both in perpetuity. Left to stroll aimlessly, what we do not see is always a reminder of what we have seen – shades are reflections of the sun.

Home, this mystical lacking, primordial and vague, is here defined in opposition – it is a place of un-exile. Because opposites cannot be reconciled, the result, in this instance, perhaps in all, is a painful awareness of separation, a nostalgia. Preoccupation with this space between opposites is utopian thought; all utopian thought is nostalgic.

Karatani relates a practice of Zen Buddhism, in which a disciple sits before the teacher, and is presented with a number of alternatives, all of them unpleasant, from which he must choose one. The student chooses none: he walks away. Is such a thing possible in the dichotomy described above? Is the restriction of dialectic a matter of choice?

An allusion to a metaphor of escape:

What if there was more than one language? What if there was some meta-language, which is assumed not to exist because to confirm it would necessitate translation? Any description, such as this one, is another denial. To call it ‘meta-language’ is a cutesy affront; ‘passive’ or ‘existential language’ only create further binaries. ‘Aporian language’ might be better, but even this is ‘infinitely false’ (De Quincey). All allusions to its existence, like this paragraph, teeter hopelessly – mystically – into a pit, in which prowl the vague, the primordial, and other linguistic creatures.

E.D.

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