Saturday, 18 September 2010

Here may be the beginning and end of an explanation...

31st December 199-

Dear Mr A. B.,

I am writing to you Sir because I thought you might be able to help me find something I have lost. Your face and your Portrait in Le Monde des Livres (29th December 199-) seemed to be beckoning me to seek your advice. What I have lost is my inner voice, my δαιμονιον.

I feel utterly adrift since then and disarmed for my voice used to warn me away from the forbidden subjects. It also told me to write certain letters which under no circumstances should be dispatched. The sound of the voice was musical after a fashion, like a strident yet barely audible note played on the violin in the manner called flautato or ponticello. Since losing this voice I am slowly turning into something, but I don’t know what. Hopefully not a red-eyed bitch like Hecuba, a condition possibly curable by sulphur. In other words happy?

You may very well be asking yourself why I have chosen you as a confident. One reason — it is the time of oracles. But you are a stranger. For a certain school of prophecy this can only recommend you. The ancient Greeks thought that the first sentence one would hear after leaving the temple precincts, could be taken as an oracle. Or as Cicero said, some birds seem to have been put on earth exclusively for the business of divination. But although you are a stranger for me, you are certainly no stranger for the forbidden subjects, having dealt in them for so long. As Emerson wrote - life consists of what a man is thinking of all day. What is thinking but a tissue of explanations, excuses and apologies? 

I have tormented myself with my own questions. I have lost all the explanations.  Forever.  I have been thinking about the soul.  About the Immortality of the Soul. What is the soul made of if not the sum total of all possible explanations. When the explanations go missing, the soul goes with it. It lies in the nature of explanations, that in the search for one explanation one devises other ones in the meanwhile as stand-ins, so that with one and the same swing, the originally sought after explanation (whereby seeking is equal to building) is raised and at the same time demolished. The search for explanations is a building through destroying in an unending act of substituting the one for the other. Every time an old explanation dies (for though the soul is immortal, the explanation of which it is fabricated is not) one must have already made sure that a new one is growing up in its place, that is the transmigration of the explanations, the Maleficent Force will always try to kidnap an explanation for his own purposes.

He cannot invent his own explanations, he cannot destroy them either, contrary to popular opinion, neither creation nor destruction lie within his power. What he’s exceedingly good at is all sorts of alterations of any given explanation, almost any kind of distraction, subtraction, dissection, contraction, convulsions, dilutions, stagnations, inversions and conversions etc but stopping just short of total annihilation.

This is an act reserved for the native forces of the soul itself. The Harmful Force is unhappy when the soul destroys its own explanation without having provided a replacement, he is as dependent as the soul upon an unceasing supply. The annihilation of an explanation by the soul is actually the soul’s most drastic means of saving itself, it rescues itself to death. A sort of auto-da-fé of the soul.

That is why, the Hindering One is always a helper, he wants to prohibit eternally the egress of the soul along this final escape route. He helps the soul believe that there’s plenty of life still left in an explanation, no matter what stage of raw putrefaction it may have already reached. This is a technique requiring radical skill and maximum effort from the Maleficent One. It is also not without its risks.
The sort of persuading which then goes on is not done with words. We have no words for this act. The Evil One must give up some of its own living pulp to the dead explanation by irreversible transfer, it must deplete part of its own reserve, which though great is finite, to preserve in general a source thereby no less extinct. It creates a sudden blast of heat by boiling itself down at an unaccustomed rate, such that the dead explanation flickers one more time as if with its own light.

Not only does this procedure show the mastery of the Great Reducer, it is not without its own sombre heroism. But it is also the time when the Evil Force comes into its own, really deserving of the name given it by Kant, “das radikale Böse”. Only then can it enter upon the hazardous course which involves suspending the capability of the soul to nurture new explanations. It must have come to the conclusion that without this last resort, the soul would slip out of its grip altogether, dropping away into the Indefinite. This is a highly dangerous season for das radikale Böse. One can truly say of it that it undergoes a metamorphosis, comparable say to the male salmon when it swims upstream to breed. It turns a brilliant red, gets a humpback, its jaw changes into a sort of hook like weapon (so called Habsburg chin), deadly against the enemy of the female, but totally useless for feeding itself. Something like that happens, to das radikale Böse.  Only by pawnbroking its own flesh can it hope to unnaturally sustain a clinically dead explanation, giving to it all the compression of a life by artificial means.

The soul does something similar when revising the body of its own explanation. It doesn’t like to squander an explanation, it lavishes great attention upon the details of its construction, the principles of soul economy would never permit it to abandon an explanation except in extremis; contrary to the impression I may have created, this does not happen as often as one might think. Unfortunately, precisely this circumspect behavior of the soul, virtuous in itself, can lead to the most terrifying Doppelgängertum between the genuine work of the soul and the labors of das radikale Böse. How is one to know as a soul who exactly is working on the prolongation of the life of an explanation and if the explanation hasn’t already in reality passed away and is merely being respirated by the life will of the evil force. This is the uncertainty which accompanies and infiltrates the life of any soul.

I was also once keen to learn about things I don’t know from books, for example I always wondered where Pascal and Thérèse of Lisieux procured those embarrassing but necessary items like the spiked belt or the barbed undershirt so essential for their spiritual hygiene. I think I found a possible source near the end of the final volume of À la recherche du temps perdu.  Jupien, by this time in charge of M. de Charlus’ ‘hotel’, obtained similar equipment for M. de Charlus and his clientele from naval suppliers.  The most punishing regimes are on ships.

What I really would be interested to find out from an experienced horticulturist like yourself is why you raise snails on your balcony? Similar to most English gardeners, I am praying for a really bitter winter, a generous application of north and east winds from Siberia, the only ones which really howl down the chimney, drying out everything in their path but also hopefully afflicting a holocaust upon the snails. As the English say, snails are always with us, like the poor, I may be conventional, but why bother to cultivate them?

Do you bring them indoors in the winter? Forgive me for my curiosity,

Best regards,
Respectfully yours (…)

No comments:

Post a Comment