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FROM THE JOURNAL I WRITE BY HAND: 12/29/04 - De File — LiveJournal
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
I was just thinking, as I heard the tinkling of Kim's Soleri bell outside the kitchen window and thought about the sense of contentment this rainy, windy day is giving me, augmented by a belly full of Kim's X-Mas Eve spaghetti "refried" w/ eggs and the pleasure of reading in my new Time-Life Russian Cooking book about, most recently, Georgian and Armenian food, the last memory being a shot of grape vines against the snowy backdrop of Mt. Ararat, which conjured up Egoyan's films Ararat and Calendar, that I should do more entries in which I "blog the moment" in the (pseudo-) Zen manner of paying attention to no other end than not focusing on an end outside the present.

Of course, the longer it takes me to write this, the further the present I wished to document in writing this recedes into a past that I'm holding onto in what seems, on the surface, to be a very un-Zen-like manner. But the writing itself is in the present, after all, and the bell is still tinkling, though now the sun has emerged from the clouds to cast intermittent rainbows, courtesy of the faux crystal snowflake I gave Kim as an anniversary present this year. I keep hearing Skylar half-speaking the words to the story she's illustrating with her new gel pens in the little pink journal I got her at IKEA. It's a steady sound, like the bell.

How closely should I zero in on the moment? How tangent should pen and mind be in order to truly be "in the moment?" I want to say that I'm getting off track, that I had a purpose in lying down to write this, but my point was going to be, is, that it would be good to do more writing without a point in mind. What led me to write in the first place was a train of thought about "point" in the sense that Ross Chambers discusses it in his U of Minn press book on narrative. So here goes, belatedly: when there is a point to what we write, we are already imposing a telos -- there's an issue of that journal from 1978 at my feet, BTW -- on it. And when we search for the point in someone else's speech or writing, we are trying to place it on the rails of a progressivist narrative as well. Point = end. Point perspective implies a point of origin or destination -- it depends on your perspective which! -- and provides the right analogy for thinking about the "point" of a story. The point is like what resolves a vector in math. It orders, subordinates, reduces. Whether that limiting comes about as a result of the author or reader's intention, it is the antithesis of Zen. I should write more pointless entries: that's my point.

Mode: burly
Muse: A-Walkin' And A-Talkin' - The Weavers - Wasn't That A Time

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From: (Anonymous) Date: February 20th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

the point

(from Jodi) I laughed with the great last sentence. Your reflections are interesting--I've been paralyzed in the past by an essay's too rigid structure. Maybe this sort of thing is a kind of insecurity: if I don't have a point why would anyone bother listening, reading, or anything at all?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 20th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the point

Thanks for commenting! Yes, I wonder that too. But I often find that I like reading others' writing, whether in blogs or not, when the point, whatever it is, does not seem to be directed at me. That is, I enjoy being a voyeur in this very specific sense, when the point is not for me, but for others. Whether it's possible to get outside the teleology that point implies is another matter. That last sentence is about that. Even when the point is not to be focused on the point, there's still a point. I had two points in that entry at least: the one I just mentioned and to show that when I write things by hand I write differently than I do at a keyboard. In the academy, of course, point is the ultimate fetish. I think this is something Zizek plays with beautifully. His writings are filled with a surfeit of points, often tossed off in a sentence or two, to the extent that the idea of having one point is revealed to be limiting and/or absurd. Maybe the way to not become of a one-track mind is not to write under the illusion that it's possible not to have a point but rather to go in the opposite direction, piling them on until the result is a kind of cubism of ideas. I think Adorno and Benjamin are pretty good at doing that too, in addition to Slavoj.

From: (Anonymous) Date: February 20th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the point

This is great--multipoints, not without limit but also not singular; great way to read Zizek, and helpful for me as I grapple with trying to find ways to make him accessible to more mainstream political theorists (from Jodi--I tried using my blogger id name; will need to register for livejournal...)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 20th, 2005 08:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: the point

Yes, I think it's an interesting way to think about his work. If you think about those representations of him in the non-academic media, he is often described as deliberately paradoxical, not committed to any particular line of argument. But paradox in the etymological sense means, roughly, "alongside the doxa," implying that the multiplication -- it need not be doubling, but that's the easiest eay to imagine it -- is the issue. The first chapter of Dialectic of Englightenment, of course, makes a similar point about the problem of reducing everything to a singular point, though more heavy-handedly. Thanks again for writing!
commonalgebra From: commonalgebra Date: February 20th, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
you know, I often think about the fact (somewhat guiltily) that I am obsessed with telological narratives. i strangely feel ashamed that i adore a certain order and point being imposed on human drama. There's something terribly gauche...or obvious about enjoying point-driven, nicely tied up story lines. (What's that oscar wilde quote? "the good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.")

there is the enjoyment of these things as artiface. And the fact that affirm ideals that are obviously not concretely in existence.

In many ways, this has nothing to do with what you wrote.
Point: I just often think about this quandary, both in the creation and observation of (interaction with?) art.

Question for you: I find when I resolve to let myself be more point-less, I become a bit caught up even in putting thoughts into actual words. There is already something in the act of writing that defies immediacy and point-less-ness...and sometimes, I mean if you consider grammar a mini-telos, language itself pushes us towards more of a point than we may want. maybe I take it too far...hmmmmmmmm. That wasn't actually a question. But perhaps you can respond all the same. hmm.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 20th, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It was great to read this train of thought. I know what you mean. I struggle with my craving for an end to the means too. That's why I've spent four years plus reading various Zen literature with the intention of one day writing about it. It reminds me of the alternative to being goal-directed, even if that alternative lies in never-quite-attainable realm of the ideal.

As for your question, I totally agree that language pushes us towards a point. Grammar is definitely a "mini-telos," and being grammatical leads us to impose other ends on our speaking and writing. Transitive verbs, direct objects etc. all conspire to transfer the force of an action from one point to another.
somemonad From: somemonad Date: February 21st, 2005 02:58 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Love the new pic!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 21st, 2005 03:21 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Danke sehr. I sure don't envy your post-divorce situation. Sounds terrible. I hope it starts getting better soon.
somemonad From: somemonad Date: February 22nd, 2005 03:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's beginning to be bearable because I'm realizing I have a lot more support than I thought I did. I really appreciate that you're thinking of me.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 22nd, 2005 04:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The more I hear about divorce, the more I'm glad that I'm not getting one!
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