Friday, July 14, 2006

7.14.07, "What Defines This Life?" You Ask

*Franky Scale: Why just one? Started about 6, dropped to a 5 for a while till I did some pharmacological adjustment. Ended up close to 7, the day was good, saying good bye to Ms. T over crumpets and books at the Left Bank, then with Mme. X for a dinner of bar food.

*Dearest Prof. Jeong, Yonsei University,

First, I wanted to let you know that this is the right blog. I was so glad to get news of you recently, or more accurately news that my fucked-up news had reached you. And I was moved by and can imagine your reaction. It's been too long since we've seen each other and I hope, as always, only the best for you. I miss being able to drop in and discuss aleatory marxism, Althusser, and modern poetry. Whether the category "lyric" is salvageable let alone salutary . . . figuring out what Hwang Jiwoo is talking about . . . So much there left undiscussed. Also, I'm sorry if the pseudonym threw you off track, my nom de geurre, as it were. For professional reasons I witheld my real name initially and the "Mr. Jones" trope, though I haven't yet discussed its why's and wherefore's, has proven useful in unexpected ways. Let's talk soon, I'll try to email.

*There is a certain clarity I possess, or feel possessed of these days, only occasionally, usually around this hour of twilight — not meant to sound either Romantic or mystical, just noting the phenomenon — so at this time, when the combination of hunger / fullness, pain / nonpain, nausea / calm, etc. settles down below the most obvious level of consciousness, then I feel my fingers freed up (odd metaphor of the keyboard age), and a certain sense of vision accompanies this: not Blakean, or Ginsbergian (after Blake) but more Spinozist, it's almost scientific, that of a lens grinder, someone who is thinking of visual theory at the same time as rhetoric. I hope it combines to produce somthing lucid or pellucid even or even merely reflective of the clarity. Jibberish? Could be. Oxycotton? Could be.

*An Anonymous commentor posted a few questions on the post called "What Cannot be Said" from two days ago; it ran as follows:

"question to consider (or not?)? [a] what if all questions are the wrong questions at this moment? [b] it isn't as simple as what to do with your time; [c] rather, what will you do regardless?

[d] not what to do in the time left, but what would you do anyways, given one week or one year?

[e] what defines the life you have chosen?" [I've added the letters for easier reference.]

The final question #e I can answer with some confidence, what defines a life, whether chosen or fallen into, is always the same it seems: it's action, the practices of everyday life, movement, activity. All the talk and hyperbole, all the promises and the efforts, all the intentions and the apologies, and finally, all the ideals and the general wishes or desires — none of it means more than a passing comment in a dark bar, in the end. Part of a failed seduction. In the middle and the beginning, too, it's nearly meaningless, however, we can more easily kid ourselves, succumb to an ideology that allows us to remain productive. After all is said and done only the book that is published, printed, or passed around and read at least, is the book that counts. All the ideas for other books, all the drafts (in the mind) and sketchy notes, uncompiled notes don't count. The Other ideal profession doesn't count, only the one you actually did. Me, professor, modern Korean literature, poetry, aesthetic theory. Like it or not, that's what defines me, it's where I've come. Most simply put, I can't help but think more and more surely over recent years & especially now, that only what one does is what defines one's life.

As a brief interjection, these questions have all been covered on the blog before. In fact, they're nearly the primary philosophical or psychological reason for starting, for figuring it out. That said, I'm glad they're raised again since revisiting them now and then is always a good idea. Too, things change quickly in the Big Casino. (And too also, it's good to have comments to engage with now and then on the blog.)

Question #d is, to put it rather directly, not relevant. Not anymore, not to me during this period. The meaning of all activity has radically changed for me since I was introduced to terminal cancer, except to the extent that I think of the act / action as described in the paragraph above. To ask what "I" would do "regardless" (#c and #d) of this situaiton means to ignore this situation; one would have to confront it head on and then decide to live in defiance of its reality. I think that's somewhat counterproductive, especially in light of the numerous ephiphanies the experience affords. So much new insight to be had from the 2x4-across-the-head nature of this new knowledge, that not only am I mortal (of course) but that my mortality has been radically foreshortened into a number of months I'm supposed to be able to count on my hands. (The timeline now, based on admittedly less than ideal statistical averages, in fact puts down the number of months like this.) Finally and practically, I probably would not be concerned with writing a memoir currently without the news. Life's obligations would push all that aside.

I suppose the latter two questions addressed would be quite on target for someone at home with eternal recurrence, someone unquestionably not possessed by the notion of "the grass is greener," someone who had made all the "perfect" life choices and was either in unquestionable love with her work or independently wealthy. Wouldn't it be nice — sorry, not be sarcastic toward anyone who's so comfortable in their skin (and / or loaded), it's just never been me.

On #b, looks like I screwed up my numbering.

On #a, I wonder the same frequently: do they need to be asked? The facile Socratic retort doesn't apply I think; and yet if there is ever a time to do perhaps this precisely is the time . . .? One thing for sure, and no one every said I wasn't picky about language, but the logic of "at this moment" does miss the primary fact of what it means to be confronted "prematurely" with death. The Moment becomes This one, for better or worse. The next moment may never come.

And how can I resist the return to aleatory marxism, above, to note again that "the lonely moment of the last instance never comes"? Perhaps it's time for me to reevaluate that proposition in light of my new context . . .


Slarry said...
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Slarry said...

Sat. July 15, 2006

Mr. J:

After we spoke this morning, I revisited your post from yesterday. I am so glad I did.
Throughout your eloquent writing ( and by the way, are you aware that almost everything you write; every phrase, sentence and chosen word, sounds poetic? ) --- yesterday’s post seemed especially poignant, remarkable, useful and full of insight.

Thank you for allowing me to see and learn to understand more in depth how that beautiful mind of yours works--- what you think about mortality, more specifically, your own mortality, and more so, how you have come to your conclusions. Your beliefs on life.

Also, I am glad the Professor and you were able to get in touch with one another.
That letter, was endearing.

Thank you also for reminding me, that life is what you do, what you’ve done and are doing--- not just thinking and talking about. The lesson here shouldn’t be profound, but not living, not doing, is precisely what some of us waste our time on. Myself, by far, being one of the worse offenders.

I felt that the questions the anonymous person posted were very relevant and gave me pause. I am so aware that too many of us take life and living for granted. So, good things to think about and consider. Like me, I am so aware that currently I am merely existing, living half of the life that you are, half of the life I'm capable of. Or more to the point, you are actively living a real life. An honest and authentic one.

Because you are, and actually have, with or without the cancer that continues to threaten and shorten your time, your life----always LIVED. The cancer seems to have only made you more passionate, more directed.

I really can’t recall a time when you were not actively and anxiously engaged in life, not just professionally, but also in your desire to learn and study anything of worth.
This is why I say and refer to you as being remarkable--- most people don’t do this. I certainly don’t, but your life and words inspire me to move, to act, to do something purposeful. This has been a theme that has defined and been a part of you for as long as I can remember. It is one of the characteristics I love and respect most about you---
your clarity, your fearlessness, your tenacity.

And for what it is worth, this is why I feel so safe around you, this is why I say you amaze me. This is probably why Mr. Franky often refers to that beautiful mind of yours. It is also one of the main reasons our dear nephew, Dan, held you in such esteem. He wanted to be you.
Thank you for that. What a priceless and precious gift.

And I did figure out the dashboard all by myself--- and it felt good. What a geek. : )

Love you--- and appreciate your always giving me something to think about, and gently coaxing me along to want to do more, be better. It gave me a nice ( loving ) kick in the buttocks.

I hope your evening is comfortable and enjoyed.