Several years ago, for Rod Knox’s seminar on daydreaming, I wrote a short story called I&M— a dialogue between two unnammed characters, about philosophical questions, inspired by Before Sunrise. This is how it started.
I: So, what’s new with you?M: Many things. Actually, it’s lucky I bumped into you, because I’ve been thinking about love…I: Oh, boy. Let me say first, make sure you’re thinking of love the right way. I strongly dislike when people misuse words. Aggravate, naïve, random…M: …and love, yes. Some people don’t know love when it’s staring them in the face. It’s the most frustrating type of misuse to me, because in its case it gets devalued. Mostly, thinking of the big picture, it’s the evolution of a word that causes meaning to shift. But in the case of words like love, the meaning hasn’t shifted as much as it’s simply become diluted. For me, that’s a dead-end path to extinction.I: Sure—but nowadays I equate it closer with a kind of voluntary ignorance. Instead of engaging words and language more intensely, the average person is allowed to get by on the shallowest possible thinking. We are so fearful of solitude, of having to encounter our own thoughts and put aside thinking about our appearance for even a moment. Tarkovsky once said it’s important to learn to take pleasure in finding oneself in solitude. It teaches patience.M: Keep silence. Silence cannot be kept; it is indifferent with respect to the work of art which would claim to respect it—I: Blanchot?
All I can think of when I read this now is: “how exhausting.” Imagine 1000 more words of that.
In the spirit of the solipsistic theme of the class, and of my laziness, I didn’t properly end it. Just cut it off like a punk rock song. Then, a year later, I decided to finish it… somehow:
M: Meaning is a human invention. Like we already said, we need to empathize with animals. They have no concept of right and wrong, good and evil. When one is truly at one with the universe, the point becomes not to question or even to understand the meaning of things, but instead to accept them as they are and have that existence be the only justification required. Meaning is a conclusion of thought, the destination that we deem sufficient to understand something.I: Once again it’s the case of the conquest of language.M: And again the universe looks very dull by comparison. Life is a phenomenon all its own. When homo erectus first became aware of his being alive…I: That must have been the first thought. When man got up off his fours, everything changed. These two thumbs meant not only freedom of movement, it also meant freedom of thinking. They slowly began meditating on the world, then reframing their thoughts from thousands of angles. Then eventually the time-bomb detonated, a dormant perception lit up from the back of their mind, they picked up a stone, and began drawing their world on the dim cave walls.M: Are you writing all this down? That’s funny.I: Listen, I have to get going. But it was good to bump into you. I’m glad we chatted.M: Can we meet again?
It sounds nothing like how I write now. Partially it was the dreary setting of a graduate-level seminar that brought out the petulant philosophy major in me. And yet, I can’t fault the premise for anything. The pieces have floated for years now, and I feel the need to finish what I farted, rub this thing on the forehead until it starts to burnish a tad. The challenge is: I have to speak that old tongue. The story has to be finished with its own voice, as much as I want to slap that voice across the face and tell it to wake up.
It’s getting to be more like Before Sunrise than I thought. I have to collapse time. I have to stitch the ending to the beginning, with words that no longer come to me naturally.
How often does this happen?