Tightrope-walking #lettersfromselvespas(t)sed

Written in around 2000: (see more #lettersfromselvespas(t)sed here)


she walks the tightrope. she’s become quite adept at it. not so much adept at balancing, at maintaining focus but accustomed to the air, the rasping, gulping, concrete-lung quality of her breathing.

nietzsche speaks about man walking the tightrope between the old world and the new, between the man in his white picket-fence existence and the übermensch. he speaks about smashing the old values, embracing the new. he was a visionary, a poet. he saw the human condition in its essence and was unfettered by the restraints of convention.

he was also mad.

walking the tightrope is out of necessity an act of madness. why leave the safety of solid ground to teeter on an inch of rope strung across an abyss? but for the tightrope-walker this balancing act is in and of itself sanity. because to stay on the solid ground, to inhabit the white picket-fenced soil with its whisperings about the increase in petrol prices, soccer and laundry detergent would be death.

when they talk about columbus, drake and other explorers they do not tell you about the fear. they conjure up images of the excitement of mapping the unmapped, sailing the unsailed, conquering the unconquered. they do not tell you about the fear.

each day seems to be going nowhere except into the next day (the hours, always the hours). each day is exceedingly difficult and painful for her. because she doesn’t know how to use her body. she cannot inhabit it comfortably, she cannot make it talk to people and fit in. her mind is so accustomed to conversing with itself, with books and their characters, that she has formed her own language, lives in her own world. she cannot understand their language; they cannot understand hers. she’s surrounded by people, she’s got a job, a relationship, friends, but the effort of trying to converse in their language is slowly killing her.

she’s faced with two nightmares: the overwhelming loneliness of a world where she seems to fit in, but doesn’t, and the world of her mind where the victim is stalked by the rapist. she tries to have a conversation but it becomes a monologue; she tries to live but she wants to die. she tries to die but she wants to live.

this is her tightrope, and she has to walk it. she cannot stay in the world of white picket-fences because she knows it’s a mirage. she has learnt that the conventions, rules, mores, values and language of this picket-fence world are pink-coloured tissue paper held over a gushing wound.

now that she has a taste for blood she cannot see the tissue paper. she cannot see the tissue paper and so cannot stay. she has to walk the tightrope with a taste of iron in her mouth.

as years pass, walking the tightrope becomes easier, she becomes more skilful. she learns to couch her fear of the world and her tears in the language of nietzsche, derrida, woolf and plath. clutching this dictionary she walks the tightrope, smashing the values of the world she has left with nietzsche’s hammer and derrida’s differance, while chanting to herself from mrs dalloway. when confronted by patronising and paternal society she maintains her balance with a vociferous “daddy, daddy, you bastard, i’m through.”

she has, however, come to learn that no matter how well-versed she becomes in the lexicon of her dictionary, it is impotent in comparison to the wordless murmurings of a language beyond language, lessons learnt before she could learn. she cannot shout and scream and froth and bleed and mouth inaudibly the words beyond words because it is a language beyond language which she cannot utter because it is unutterable, a language beyond language which she cannot understand because she learnt it before she could learn, and a language beyond language which she cannot silence because it is always already inaudible, yet always already present in its absence.

she can only continue to walk the tightrope as long as she sticks to the socially accepted madness of philosophy. “ontological doubt” does not compare to what she feels. but there is no space in the world for what she feels, no market, no future. with “ontological doubt” she earns accolades and degrees and admiration. she can speak about ontology and epistemology, but she cannot simply cry out, “who am i? what does any of this mean?” so she clutches her dictionary tightly to her side, because she cannot shout and scream and froth and bleed.

we live in the era of the backlash of nietzsche’s declaration that god is dead, barthes’ cry that the author is dead and postmodernism’s claustrophobic questioning of truth, history, identity and reality. yes, art mirrors nature because the postmodern novel performs the writing subject’s discomfort. how can we have a coherent, cohesive, stable written text when s/he who holds the pen is falling to pieces?

not only can the falcon not hear the falconer, but the tether has broken and both the falcon and the falconer wander the earth searching for that which used to centre them; they cannot remember what it was. they just know that they used to be in control, they once had purpose and meaning.

i can no longer pretend to be an author who creates, defines, delineates, controls. i cannot smooth over the cracks in my self by gluing pages together with meaningless scribblings of ink. so why do i write?

i’ve asked myself this question innumerable times, but the dissatisfying answer is always the same: it is a soundless, bloodless, toothless thrashing and screaming. you see, dear reader, i am just like you. i too like neat beginnings and endings; i too long for the comfort of the prince and the princess and the pea and the apple and the witch. i, who am versed in deconstruction and poststructuralist pulling apart of convention, would simply like something to cling to.

writing is a desperation; a frantic ejaculation of ink in order to capture feelings, thoughts, events in the hopes that a story will emerge. in this sense my writing is very much like my self-mutilation: each incision, slash and wound is an archaeological attempt to excavate a solid self. like the scalpel, the pen digs through the layers of paper in order to find that page with my story on it.

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