Sunday, August 07, 2011

On Thought Diving and its Many Uses (blog game experiment 2)

What follows is my friend Ellen's contribution to the blog game / experiment that I proposed in January. A topic was provided (in this case, thought-divers, deep divers, divers, or any and all variation(s) thereof), along with various materials (images and text), and the participant was asked to make a post following the instructions I gave. (I recommend taking a look at the materials -- before or after reading the post -- but everything that follows certainly works perfectly well as a stand-alone piece.)

Anyone who enjoys this will want to check out Ellen's excellent blog altarpiece.

The first blog game / experiment (with a different topic -- Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop) can be viewed HERE.

* * *

Go, speed the stars of Thought
On to their shining goals—
The sower scatters broad his seed;
The wheat thou strew’st be souls.

I. Exploration

x9 The growth of the intellect is spontaneous in every expansion. The mind that grows could not predict the times, the means, the mode of that spontaneity. God enters by a private door into every individual. Long prior to the age of reflection is the thinking of the mind. Out of darkness it came insensibly into the marvellous light of to-day. In the period of infancy it accepted and disposed of all impressions from the surrounding creation after its own way. Whatever any mind doth or saith is after a law, and this native law remains over it after it has come to reflection or conscious thought. In the most worn, pedantic, introverted self-tormentor’s life, the greatest part is incalculable by him, unforeseen, unimaginable, and must be, until he can take himself up by his own ears. What am I? What has my will done to make me that I am? Nothing. I have been floated into this thought, this hour, this connection of events, by secret currents of might and mind, and my ingenuity and willfulness have not thwarted, have not aided to an appreciable degree. [1]

Ralph Waldo Emerson Ralph Waldo Emerson

Herman Melville Herman Melville

Nay, I do not oscillate in Emerson’s rainbow, but prefer rather to hang myself in mine own halter than swing in any other man’s swing. Yet I think Emerson is more than a brilliant fellow. Be his stuff begged, borrowed, or stolen, or of his own domestic manufacture he is an uncommon man. Swear he is a humbug — then is he no common humbug. […] The truth is that we are all sons, grandsons, or nephews or great-nephews of those who go before us. No one is his own sire. [2]

We do not determine what we will think. We only open our senses, clear the way as we can all obstruction from the fact, and suffer the intellect to see. We have little control over our thoughts. We are the prisoners of ideas. They catch us up for moments into their heaven and so fully engage us that we take no thought for the morrow, gaze like children, without an effort to make them our own.
Each truth that a writer acquires is a lantern which he turns full on what facts and thoughts lay already in his mind, and behold, all the mats and rubbish which had littered his garret become precious. Every trivial fact in his private biography becomes an illustration of this new principle, revisits the day, and delights all men by its piquancy and new charm. Men say, Where did he get this? And think there was something divine in his life. But no; they have myriads of facts just as good, would they only get lamp to ransack their attics withal. [1]

Now, there is a something about every man elevated above mediocrity, which is, for the most part, instinctuly perceptible. This I see in Mr Emerson. And, frankly, for the sake of the argument, let us call him a fool; — then had I rather be a fool than a wise man. — I love all men who dive. Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more; & if he don’t attain the bottom, why, all the lead in Galena can’t fashion the plumet that will. I’m not talking of Mr Emerson now — but of the whole corps of thought-divers, that have been diving & coming up again with bloodshot eyes since the world began. [2]


II. Whaling

Text of this section excerpted from Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives.


And then one of them said Señor Salvatierra, we want to talk to you about Cesárea Tinajero.
Ah, I said to them, Cesárea Tinajero, where did you hear about her, boys? […] We haven’t read anything she wrote, they said, not anywhere, and that got us interested. Got you interested how, boys? […] Then I raised my hand and before they could answer I poured them more Los Suicidas mezcal and then I sat on the edge of the armchair and in my very backside I swear I felt as if I’d perched on the edge of a razor.


And when there was only a little bit left I poured a last round of Los Suicidas, saying a mental goodbye to that old elixir of mine, and I read…the Directory of the Avant-Garde. […] And when I had finished reading that long list, the boys kneeled or stood at attention, I swear I can’t remember which and anyway it doesn’t matter, they stood at attention like soldiers or kneeled like true believers, and they drank the last drops of Los Suicidas mezcal…and I too raised my glass and drained it, toasting all our dead.

And then one of the boys asked me: where are Cesárea Tinajero’s poems? …And I said: on the last page, boys. And I looked at their fresh, attentive faces and I watched their hands turn those old pages and then I peered into their faces again… I asked them again what they thought, now that they had read a real poem by Cesárea Tinajero herself in front of them, with no talk in the way, the poem and nothing else…and they said gee, Amadeo, is this the only thing of hers you have? is this her only published poem? and I said, or maybe I whispered: why yes, boys, that’s all there is. And I added, as if to gauge what they really felt: disappointing, isn’t it?
The poem is a joke, they said, it’s easy to see…A boat? I said. Exactly, Amadeo, a boat… That was all there was left of Cesárea, I thought, a boat on a calm sea, a boat on a choppy sea, a boat on a storm. For a moment, I can tell you, my head was like a stormy sea and I couldn’t hear what the boys were saying, although I did catch some phrases, some stray words, the predictable ones, I suppose: Quetzalcoatl’s ship, the nighttime fever of some boy or girl, Captain Ahab’s encephalogram or the whale’s, the surface of the sea that for sharks is the enormous mouth of hell…And then, after I’d drunk my tequila, I filled my cup again and filled theirs, and I said that we should drink to Cesárea, and I saw their eyes, those damn boys were so happy, and the three of us raised our glasses as our little ship was tossed by the gale.



Our soul before the wind sails on, Utopia-bound;
A voice calls from the deck, "What's that ahead there? — land?"
A voice from the dark crow's-nest — wild, fanatic sound —
Shouts "Happiness! Glory! Love!" — it's just a bank of sand!

Each little island sighted by the watch at night
Becomes an Eldorado, is in his belief
The Promised Land; Imagination soars; despite
The fact that every dawn reveals a barren reef.

Poor fellow, sick with love for that which never was!
Put him in irons — must we? — throw him overboard?
Mad, drunken tar, inventor of Americas...
Which, fading, make the void more bitter, more abhorred.



Tyler said...

The best part: Melville --> Emerson --> "truth lanterns" --> picture of underwater burial lit with lanterns (an illustration for Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea).

What I had in mind when I gathered the materials: The idea that human thought divers are hunted like whales (the key to this being the similar photos of harpoons and guns, the latter being the "harpoons" used to kill humans). Also playing into this were the illustrations of the great diver (and thought diver) Captain Nemo. And the Van Gogh painting of the prisoners, which you opted not to use, also played into this interpretation. But I do recognize that this idea was perhaps hinted at with your Savage Detectives excerpt and placement, especially via the talk concerning the magical and mysterious Leviathan... Cesárea Tinajero. (Really, the entire novel is basically the record of a thousand harpoons hurled at the dreamers who never want to wake.)

PS: I hope the above -- saying what I consciously had in mind when I gathered the materials -- doesn't come across as me suggesting that what you (Ellen) did wasn't great, or that there was a "correct way" to go about making the post. I simply thought it might be interesting.

Tyler said...

Oh, and also the final stanza of Baudelaire's The Albatross:

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

(The poet resembles this prince of cloud and sky
Who frequents the tempest and laughs at the bowman;
When exiled on the earth, the butt of hoots and jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.)

A beached whale!

the curator said...

That is interesting! To be honest, that angle didn't occur to me at all, though it's obvious now that you point it out. Here I thought I was being very clever casting Cesárea as the whale! Anyway, I hope you and your readers enjoyed my take.