Thursday, October 30, 2014

dubious jungle fruit, for your snacking pleasure

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years,
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres,
Trying to learn to use words. And each attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure,
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. So each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate--but there is no competition--
There is only the fight to regain what has been lost
And found, and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
from T.S. Eliot's "East Coker"

I've heard it said, or I've said it myself, that if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Maybe so. But it's at least equally important, in practical life, to recognize that if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly. That is, imperfectly. That is, in the only way in which it can be done by me.

I'd like to re-enter this particular mode of expression (blog). It's an oddly public yet oddly limited one in terms of audience, but even that brings certain benefits. As I continue to differentiate into the human subspecies Undergraduate philosophy* student, several peculiarly bloggish qualities are increasingly important to me.

For one, this sort of writing forces concrete, temporally situated articulations of a cross-section of my impressions and thoughts, with the additional requirement of some measure of narrative continuity across time. Arresting the amorphous mental ooze and flutter, the flower and screech of the jungle-- Wait, to be fair to my educational institution and reassuring to my parents, I must acknowledge that much of my thought life is, of course, forcibly cultivated in rows by the discipline of being a student, taking classes with articulate syllabuses and set reading lists and, cough, writing assignments (ah, this blood-sucking blog, requiring always on the altar some innocent victim: a good night's sleep, or an unrushed Pride & Prejudice paper... or both...) Yet still, I say, wading through the rest, the borderland wilds, the jungle, and prying from the dirt a few exotic vegetative specimens, unraveling their twining shoots from the tangle, bringing them back to be potted in the greenhouse, is worthwhile for me as writer (even if not for you as reader). I've compared this blog to a greenhouse before, I think, and I do like the image. The collection of thoughts here is artificed, a sort of representative display of something wider and wilder, but the thoughts are still living. Composing a blog post forces my constant half-conscious musing to a serious test of articulation and intelligibility, indeed, gives them the opportunity to realize what the choking, crowded darkness and disorganization of the wild would never have allowed to come to fruition. I do not wish to live lost in a jungle, alone and uncivilized, among half-formed, feral thoughts. I want to bring back my curious happenings-upon, at least some of them, to our man-made shared places. I want to write in words people will understand and enjoy. Writing a blog post requires (a bit) more communicative polish than journaling, but not as much disciplinary specificity, in content or in form and vocabulary, as a school paper. Rambling here is a mode of expression I wish to stay practiced in, and you (whoever you are) are an audience to whom I desire to be able to continue to tell my story, even as new words enter my vocabulary and new names and new projects take on particular importance in my vision of the world and of my place in it.

For all my talk of discipline, it's clear that editing for concision and clarity aren't huge priorities. The truth is, for me this blog is just a rollicking wordy good time, and that's really why I'm doing it. It's an existential plus if it happens to be fun for anyone to read it, but, well, for me there is only the trying. The rest is not my business.

*One-step choose-your-own-footnote-adventure!
Option One (in calculus terms): This is my instantaneous velocity. Time shall tell what sort of curve this is.
Option Two (in historical [?] terms): This is an accurate statement of my current intent and orientation. Of what temporal extent is its accuracy remains to be seen.