Hundred

Exordium, narration, division and proof, refutation and conclusion – Cicero.

  1. Sontag writes, in the Aristotelian tradition of art as imitation, the writer was the medium vehicle for describing truth about something outside himself. In modern tradition, roughly Rousseau forward, of art as expression, the artist tells the truth about himself.
  2. In this modern way, she argues, society comes to illustrate its chief value, which is suffering. The truth of oneself in is the truth about love, oneself, and suffering.
  3. It was Rousseau, the French 18th century philosopher, who came up with the term “noble savage,” for the new human-center period of the Renaissance.
  4. The noble savage converges on the truth, a truth that is uniquely his and his alone. The operative word here is: alone. In this way the converging is not convergence, but rather diverging from absolutes and away from collective ethos.
  5. This will make sense later.
  6. In death memory is born, for only in their passing can experiences be resurrected.
  7. Imagination occurs at conception where hope and desire meet in congress to bring to life that which was never before.
  8. May Sarton writing in Journal of a Solitude: “So perhaps we write toward what we will become from where we are.”
  9. Memory is an art borne of death, initiated by poetry and initially used for rhetoric. Consider Simonides, the lyric poet and the day he escaped the collapse of a banquet hall.
  10. He had just droned a lyric in honor of his host Scopas in front of his many guests, which included the obligatory nod to the host, but also mentioned and praised Castor and Pollux – two gods.
  11. Following the poem Scopus told Simonides he would only be paying half for the lyric since the other half was in homage to others and that Simonides could well go collect the money from them.
  12. Shortly after this exchange Simonides was called out of the banquet hall by a page saying two men wanted a word with him. During his absence the roof of the Scopus banquet hall collapsed killing the nobleman and all his guests.
  13. The corpses amid the rubble were badly mangled making it impossible for relatives to correctly identify the bodies for burial.
  14. But.
  15. Simonides remembered where each of the guests were seated during the banquet and therefore helped the relatives identify the loved ones.
  16. From this experience the poet realize the art to a good memory entailed orderly arrangement of images in particular places.
  17. Simonides never did find the two men who had called him out of the banquet hall at precisely the right time.
  18. Socrates said in Theatetus that memory is a slab of wax in the soul; and that what we see, hear, feel, touch and taste – or even think – are the signets impressed upon the wax, writes David Krell in Of Memory, Reminiscence and Writing.
  19. What remains is the impression, not the actual experience itself. So our memory deals with the absence of something, the impression, the outline of something that once was.
  20. “We are often unsure in any given case whether what we ‘see’ in our minds is actually a memory or not.”
  21. Actuality is extant, objective, conditions in reality.
  22. “Usually, however, we can enter into reflection”
  23. Memory is defined as a function of the mind to retrieve stored information. It relies on sensory detail.
  24. “…recollection, or reminiscence…”
  25. Recollection and reminiscence is an activity unlike memory, which is an affection.
  26. “…and discover that we have heard of seen the thing in question earlier, and so escape equivocation,” writes Krell, quoting Aristotle.
  27. Recollection and reminiscence is an activity that is triggered by being reminded. It means experiencing one thing which puts us in mind of another thing.
  28. The affection, says Aristotle, is passive.
  29. The undertaking is active.
  30. But then there’s Meno. And paradox.
  31. How can we select a starting place or reference point connected with what we seek to recollect, unless we have in some sense already recollected it?
  32. Seeking is believing, Saint Augustine writes.
  33. Aristotle again.
  34. “Whenever the movement of thing and the movement of time are engendered simultaneously then one is at work in memory.”
  35. A memoir is a special use of memory by a writer based on personal, subjective, knowledge.
  36. Imagination however is not memory, but is used in memoirs.
  37. Because.
  38. To write is to create and to create is to use imagination and imagination is the use of sensory details, which are closely associated with memory. It is brought to life.
  39. Practice resurrection, writes Wendell Barry, every day.
  40. Metaphor and Metonymy are easily confused for one another. One is to transfer, which is the former; the other is to substitute, which is the latter.
  41. A memoir is an extended metonymy composed using memory and metaphor.
  42. In short: It is mimesis.
  43. It is wax; signets; absence; engendered simultaneously.
  44. Seek and you will find.
  45. But not too hard, we’re told. Be receptive. Be open.
  46. Mysticism is the soul’s reception of a divine gift, writes Bernard McGinn, editor of The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism.
  47. Mysticism is something hidden.
  48. Is…a part of historical, established religions; a process; is transformative; is of the conscious and presence more so than experience. It is mediate by prayer or meditation and through its exposition in words, no matter how inadequate.
  49. “…I have forbidden myself to dare to alter even the most light and indifferent circumstances; my conscience does not falsify one tittle; what my ignorance may do, I cannot say,” writes Montaigne.
  50.  {Short but lively intermission. Absinthe and spoons of sugar cubes}

Part Two: The Five Dogs and the Time Pieces in Their Mouths

  1. Little did I know…
  2. Writers read for two main reasons – how and what.
  3. On how to write, a writer might read, say, Simon Weil, or Dag Hammarksjold, or Annie Dillard or Kathleen Norris or C.S. Lewis or Scott Cairns.
  4. “Love sees what is invisible,” Weil writes.
  5. But writers will read writers like Paul Heliker, Kenneth Burke, Mieke Bal not to order to learn how to write, but what is this thing we call writing, what is its DNA.
  6. “Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making and symbol mis-using) animal
  7. inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative) separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by a source of
  8. order) and rotten with perfection.”
  9. So writes Kenneth Burke.
  10. The rhetorician academician says that we view and explicate the nature of things through what he calls “terministic screens,” a world-view fed by terms of reconciliation.
  11. “…the nature of our terms affect the nature of our observation, in a sense that the terms direct attention to one field rather than to another.”
  12. Terms in the Bible are for authority, writes George Kennedy, another writer you wouldn’t read to find out how to write, but the what of writing. Its guts.
  13. “The fundamental rhetorical technique in the Old Testament is the assertion of authority.”
  14. Aristotle gave us pathos, ethos and logos, the Bible gave us proof, grace, authority and logos.
  15. First there was the Word.
  16. Enthymemes are common here. Keep the Sabbath: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it”
  17. Minor premise and conclusion.
  18. Burke concludes in the terministic exposition of mind, body and the unconscious there comes to the fore five realities or forms, or dogs.
  19. “Primal” – your first dog.
  20. “Jingle” – dog spelled backwards.
  21. “Lexical” – look it up.
  22. “Entelechial” – perfect and positive or modes of negative – actuality. The “perfect night’s rest.”
  23. “Tautological” – associations, ladders of terms, cycles. Endless.
  24. Which it can seem to be.
  25. “’What more did I have to seek’, exclaimed a voice within me,” writes Leo Tolstoy, one of the writers, rare perhaps, writers read to know both how and why.
  26. “This is He. God is that without which you cannot live. To know God and to live is one and the same thing! God is life. Live seeking God, and then you will not live without God. This light that dawned inside and around me never again abandoned me. And I was saved.”
  27. During the writing of my dissertation, about my path to mysticism in the aftermath of my brother’s untimely death, during my study for an exam, in parsing these thoughts and words from writers here and long gone, my seventy-seven year old mother died.
  28. “A narrative text is a text in which an agent relates a story in a particular medium, such as language, imagery, sound, buildings, or combination thereof. A story is a fabula that is presented in a certain manner. A fabula is a series of logically and chronologically related events that are caused or experienced by actors,” writes Mieke Bal in Narratology.
  29. Since much pertains to time in narrative acts, it is important to understand things like: ellipses (two years passed); summary (encapsulation); scene (explication of time, space, and the filling of them); slow down (a selection of great importance) and the pause (no movement, great attention to one element).
  30. A “span” is something like – Last year I was in the hospital, while my father was getting a pacemaker and my Mum was sick with lung cancer, for a week.
  31. Anticipation in narration is something like: At the end of this piece there’s a great quote by C.S. Lewis.
  32. Pacing and sequential order help to provide rhythm and melody, rhythm and melody.
  33. For the lyric essayist is concerned with rhythm and melody.
  34. With metonymy and music.
  35. Associations and reminiscences.
  36. Best guesses.
  37. With dogs and their jaws clamped onto timepieces. Drooling.
  38. When I was ten, delivering papers, one dusky fall late afternoon a black dog jumped the small white fence of its yard and came after me. I fled, but was too slow and the dog caught me clamping its jaw on my leg, behind my knee.
  39. Today I still can see the puncture wounds I got thirty years ago.
  40. The dog’s owner gave me $10 for new jeans, torn in the incident, and thusly avoided having his dog’s head cut off to check if it had rabies.
  41. An essay meanders.
  42. An essay is an epistemologically skeptical text. An attempt.
  43. {a pause} But it’s not so free.
  44. IMG_1258
  45. It can have problems, just like you and me.
  46. Thesis and support bedevil the essay, the standard, academic one, being developmentally, epistemologically and ideologically inadequate – and masculine, writes Paul Heilker in The Essay.
  47. It can be so much more. It can be a woman. Intuitive, associative, holistic. Not (negative says Burke, we are the inventors) framed, contained, preselected and packaged. It can, “simulate how one might actually reason to a conclusion,” writes Heilker.
  48. And, “proceed without a readily recognized plan.” Just like this.
  49. Similar in a way to Montaigne. The fountainhead of essays, writes Phillip Lopate. I drove from the Saint Louis Airport with Lopate and Dustin Micheal.
  50. C.S. Lewis writes in A Grief Observed: “And suddenly at the very moment when, so far, I mourned H. least, I remembered her best. Indeed it was something (almost) better than memory; an instantaneous, unanswerable impression.”

A soul’s reception.