Sunday, September 17, 2006

9.17.06, Where Truth is Found, as Promised

OK, this post has been sticking in my brain for months it seems. Part of it just resist being polished and finished and presented publicly. God damn sometimes. Since yesterday I began to explore the Idea of the Negative, or the method worldview approach mode multi-perspective . . . whatever it precisely is, and since I promised to follow up. Here it is. But, about half only. Below I'm pasting in the first half of what I'd written sometime ago about negativity and truth in relation to The Sopranos, and for various reasons it ceased being timely. One big reason was that I re-watched all the previous Sopranos seasons and lacked example material. :-) Soon I will have access to tapes of season six — doesn't that sound illicit? actual old-school "tapes"? I do need to finish up the post, get the final paragraphs straight, tie ideas together, or deliberately let them go their own ways, it's just that now it's being unruly. What's below then is about half, a "to be continued."

Franky Scale today was in the 7 area with my physical condition really seeming decent, psychology a big behind that, and then my sleep was hideously disfigured yesterday and today so that threw me off slightly.

Thanks too, especially, for the comments to yesterday's blog. Even a few months of blogging hasn't given me much insight into what people will respond to. I thought is so strange that yesterday's post seem just off kilter to me, like I was really missing something, but there was a good deal of response on and off blog. Hm.

* * *

“Where Truth is Found: Negative Aesthetics and The Sopranos

To continue our investigation into the negative, I want to move it into an example a decent number of people will know about; if this is totally foreign to you, think of a personal film substitute. The Sopranos can be swapped out for any other well-made drama, anything made of fiction, a solid work of poetry. I say this because at times people wonder “What is up with all the Sopranos allusions in this blog?” Any cultural production, any artwork, that has a certain degree of truth content, an idea we’ll get into below, works well enough to illustrate the point.

The argument or thesis: The only real truth, the only “thing that is” or “phenomenon that is” and accurately reflects the world is what is expressed indirectly, obtusely, obscurely through allusion, which is all to say, negatively. Once you try to express a thing directly . . . poof. This is what Lacan means in psychoanalytic terms when he defines the Real (big R) as “that which cannot be symbolized.” Yet the Real is something we experience every day, every where, in every aspect of our lives; it is like the air we breath. We just can't symbolize it or express it in any way. And that is a slightly different story.

Let’s put it another way. Somewhere Picasso said “Art is the lie that makes us realize the truth.” That’s the crux of it. That is how poetry works, evocative painting, successful film, that is why fictionalized memoirs — which is simply another term for all memoirs really — are more engaging than those that hold vigorously to the straight “facts.” (I suppose the James Frey “memoir”-Oprah incident and the question of [non]facticity provides a timely example for us.) Not all art is true in this sense however it is only through the negative of expression, the indirect, the creative admixture produced by the human mind, that we find anything that really is, that is accurate, that feels universal.

As mentioned yesterday, science, being in a sense the summa of positivism, might be invoked as a counter argument (now here I’m talking about science as in “hard science” or the physical sciences) — “How can you dispute gravity or a rocket to the moon?” And yet this proves the point by failing to hold true forever. A more accurate theory, method, or technique will always be found, to challenge it, modify it, replace it. Newton to Einstein to quantum physics. Art, on the other hand, does live eternally, it only needs continual transmission and translation. The translation of a work becomes its immortality (a borrowed line). Science’s job is to fail repeatedly; good art continually pretends to fail but never really does.

A poem, a novel, a film — these forms tell you up front “I am a lie. I claim no truth value. I am imaginary,” and then they proceed to haunt us with the accuracy of their expression. So The Sopranos portrays the most dysfunctional and unrealistic of families: it’s only HBO, it’s entertainment, even the mob exists this is all make-believe. Still we find mother-son or brother-sister relationships we can identify with; we find expressions of anger that call up something within us; there are familiar lusts and passions; and the morals of the stories often make us nod in agreement — or shake our heads in denial. Both reactions, however, represent the same deep identification / recognition. It starts out with “I’m a lie” and in the end we’re disconcerted and have to keep trying to remind ourselves, “Right, this is a lie. It’s not true. That would never happen.” Why do we do that?

[to be continued]


Anonymous said...

Mr Jones,
I've been thinking about the NCPB procedure that you are going to have done. As a person that is going thru her own GI issues, and will end up with celiac spru problems in 10 years (according to my DR.) and what I have discovered on my own is my system no longer can tolerate gluten products. Have you tried to avoid white flour, and whole wheat products? I now eat organic brown rice krispy cereal, and avoid what I know bloats and causes problems, what a difference it has made with my system.

Mr. Jones said...

Dear A,

Thanks for the questions. I don't know what a "celiac spru" is, I must admit; however, my prognosis is so radically far from ten years that I'm not sure I should be concerned. (The doctors say that most patients with this die before they even need the 3 month re-do of the procedure.)

Also, maybe if I tell you more of my symptoms or causes you can see if the advice is still applicable. I've been tested for gluten issues and have no allergies, etc. My pain is from tumors, from the cancer growing in my gut, specifically in my pancreas, in lymph nodes, and in my liver. So as I understand it my pain is not diet related. Do you think we're talking about the same thing re: the NCPB?

Mr. J.

Anonymous said...

Hi, again-

I had a dream about you last night, though I have no guesses about what it means.

It was the first day of school and I showed up for your Korean class. It was an impossibly large lecture hall filled with students. You came to the front of the room, explained briefly that you were showing a film, set up and started the film (it took some time, since it was an old school film reel), and left the room.

Some students grumbled that you were showing a film on the first day of class. Others seemed excited, and a few promptly fell asleep in the dim room. The class was mystified when the film began- it was a cartoon, but was not in Korean at all, but Russian. It looked like it was from the 60s.

At the end of the class you came back, took apart the film reel, and left the room again without speaking. I followed you out and we both walked, without speaking, through narrow corridors which seemed to go lower and lower into the earth. (Have you ever been in the basement of Denny Hall? It was kind of like that, but much more vast and maze-like).

We never spoke. You kept trying different doors to find a way out, but they were locked. But we kept walking at the same pace, and didn't seem nervous or hurried. I was behind you mostly, but at some point we switched places and I started trying doors.

And then I woke up.