To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bruce Stater: “The Possibility of Becoming”: A Letter in Response to a Posting

[The original posting appeared on February 15, just prior to this one.]

Dear Jerry--

Thank you again for this. I looked at the post this morning & beyond my pleasure at its being there, in the presence of such remarkable company, I'm very happy with the way you presented it. Lori feels that the piece itself is best read as bits picked up slowly, read & reread over a course of time, meandering & wandering, perhaps allowing oneself to get lost, but not so completely that one loses the desire to return again to the swirl of the labyrinth. So I think offering an excerpt from one of the longer chapters, particularly the first, which has such a nebulous & uncertain way of drifting, both captures the scope of the work & invites one into its vortex. & I like also very much where you chose to end the excerpt. It seems to me at a moment which moves toward "clarification" -- in hints of a psychological & emotional need for expression arising from the experience of pain -- yet the "background" of such need remains mysterious & unresolved -- prior to the act of witnessing or testifying -- which the piece continuously defers, in spite of its promises to do otherwise.

I also want to remark on your blurb, which, once again, I feel extremely honored by. The comparison with Nerval is an extraordinary compliment, & raises all sorts of questions concerning the relationships between experience, memory, vision, dream, & the act of writing. Nerval, of all writers, has impressed me most with the ability to write from within the Vision. From within the Dream. The writing itself taking on the uncanny qualities of a lucid unfolding & passing beyond fantasy & the reflections of imagination into ... what exactly? What you have called "overflow."

The fact is that for me -- in the midst of my most vibrant & terrifying waking-dreams, visions, hallucinations -- whatever one wishes to name them -- I was entirely incapable of writing at all. Not only "unable to find the words" -- beyond the disorganization & the aphasia -- something more terrifying. That any word I might attempt to grasp on to -- to put into utterance --would transmogrify & reassemble its meanings through the counter-speech of "the others" -- the dream creatures --the meaning makers -- so that to speak, or write -- was to drown, to stutter in the echoing cavern of a language I could barely decipher, barely comprehend. A writhing language. I could not speak within it. Even now, I can only speak of it in neologisms & babel -- through the shadowscream, the cri-cri, the skree, & the glug-glug. In beginning to write, record, witness, question & doubt -- I had to begin with the emptiness between images & signs -- of what couldn't be spoken -- or could be spoken only negatively, in the Hegelian sense, against the impossibility of speech, the muteness -- in silence & scream -- in thought -- & in memory -- memory because such an experience raises the question of what has happened, what can be spoken of as real, what can be raised as doubt, & what belongs to the materiality or illusion of consciousness as it struggles to protect itself from that which would & does, quite literally, destroy it. For there were times when the "onslaught" of the visions, the dreams, the meanings, the noises of signification, were so difficult to bear that I would pass into catalepsy & lose consciousness -- I think simply to escape them. To write was & is, in some sense, to return to the visions -- beautiful, sublime, horrible, ecstatic, & absurd. A slow & difficult labor -- particularly in the beginning -- before the processes of writing & remembering -- gathering & restoring-- could begin to do their work. Slowly the remembering became more lucid, & then the dreaming. & then the fabric & the purpose of the writing grew stronger. & the "overflow" was no longer a terror, a horror -- but finally a sort of means -- a way of growing into & through what had been so boundless & uncontrollable.

Interesting to me that I began A Labyrinth ... in my last & -- I do not hesitate to profess it -- final period of hospitalization. That in a significant way the writing has been a means of transforming this experience -- not simply of avoiding, confining, or eluding it -- but of providing it with a meaning beyond itself -- rewriting it toward some purpose -- allowing it to emerge beyond the familiar cultural meanings & necessary outcomes without falling back into the private meanings of its own delusional system, its fears, its horrors, its ego driven & solipsistic ideas of reference. Refusing to choose between these. I suppose one could say that I was simply unsatisfied with the semantic field of "madness" -- of schizophrenia -- of the terms through which my experience must necessarily be defined & constrained by our cultural paradigms. Of the limitations of such a term's possible or inevitable outcomes. Even within it, "the madness," I always had a sense of a genuinely ritualistic mode of performing the possibility of becoming -- summoning a sort of transformation. The terms "psychological," emotional," "spiritual," & "cognitive" do not quite capture it. I could work with these terms, alongside them, at their edges & fringes -- but had a sense in which their fit was imprecise, shallow, & devoid of meaning. "Madness" was not to be purposeful-- & yet mine seemed to be so.

So ... extending this discussion even further ... I have yet another something to thank you for. Which is the fact that through your work & ideas I had already become familiar with yet another kind of "overflow" -- the reaching for processes, ways of being, performances, actions which overflow such paradigms & spill out into the wilderness of the uncertain in new & unexpected directions. New definitions & contexts which allow us to imagine what such a "madness" might become in a culture other than our own -- in which "hallucination" is no longer "hallucination" but a gift of vision -- vision a calling, & calling an opportunity to act in the creation of what is truly of value, meaning, & importance. To think beyond the Influencing Machines, beyond the Desiring Machines -- finally toward such a paradoxical idea -- the Shaman-Machine.

with love & deep respect, Bruce