|Jan/Feb 1999 Salon|
OK. The original idea centered around a conversation. This is an interactive medium, right? Maybe we could figure out a way of making voices meet. A way of stopping. Stopping the leakage. Stopping the breaching.
The drip drip dripping.
(How sad. These first person accounts….essays….memoirs….commonplace channelings…. Just what are we supposed to be doing in these Salon installments?)
OK. So I contacted Mr. Sampson, my Salon-mate. Suggested that for this edition of Eclectica we could write on the same topic. Suggested we could work up some ways and means by which our various takes on said topic could interact, communicate, cohabitate. Oh yeah. Words making love when we’re not looking. Turn around and find, where once were only lone voices draining out into great white night of cyberspace, courtly couplings. The birth of silent words.
So I contacted Mr. Sampson. And he says. This is what he says. Yeah, let’s do it. And so we decide to do it. And we agree upon a topic. And the topic is History. Specifically, reflection upon the assertion that those who forget History are condemned to relive it. And I think this is a great idea. And I love this idea.
In the face of it.
To say about it.
Ain’t that a kick in the ass? Cracks me up.
The problem is History, itself.
I am, of course, a Calvinist. Smile.
Total Depravity. Doctrine of. It’s not as bad as it sounds. This Calvinist doctrine. Or maybe it’s worse. I’m not sure. In any case. Here’s the deal. According to the Reformer, the apparatus is broken.
Human. Ain’t no faculty—no not one—which does not distort—isn’t twisted by wrong-ass desire—bent will—fractured love—(class, gender, race, etc.)—oh world gone wrong! Mr. Calvin, of course, saw this in terms of Original Sin. (You know, “In Adam’s fall, so do we all”….) Total loss. And he did indeed mean “total”.
See, other God-boys figured that something clean remained after the Fall.
Some last unsullied remnant of the Image of God, by which we could all know on our own what’s what with at least some certainty. Not that lawyerly French guy though! No sir. He knew better. The minute you start thinking you got a pipeline to Ultimate Truth—or even a proper means to apprehend it—you’re proving your brokenness, depravity, mendaciousness. Point being, this side of resurrection—(“I’ll fly away, O Lordy. I’ll fly away!”)—ain’t no mountain high enough.
Upon which to stand.
Ain’t no view wide enough.
From which we can see the whole shebang.
Which is to say. Every human understanding remains just that: Human.
History, no matter how large you capitalize it, remains a story told by and for humans. And that’s the first problem. If we’re going to talk about History, seems to me we got to be straight about what we can know about History. And as near as I can tell, all we can know about History is ourselves. The story of who we think we are. Which is never fully who we are. The story of our collective self-distortions. The story of the breaking of our desires. And worse yet.
The endless recurrence.
Of the story.
Of the breaking.
Of our desires.
The closed circle of our unredeemed finitude.
Total depravity, man.
Which is to say. O do not look for Truth in History. Not unless. That is. You want your Truth in hauntings. Meaningless repetitions and returnings. In the rattling of chains. In the hollow howlings of twilight apparitions or midnight moanings of spooks and haints.
Jeez. They tell us all the time. Those academics. They tell us that History is written by the victors. And man, that’s so obvious that their saying it’s just gotta cover up something even more True. Something they aren’t saying. More True for being hidden. Something they don’t want to know themselves. Yeah. Cover up the Truth. The Truth that it is the dead that speak in our Histories. In our stories. The burnt out strivings. The final form of unfulfilled desires. Longings without end. You think these things just go away? Victors may write. But it is the vanquished who speak. The form of the vanquished which returns. The ten thousand unfinished plans and dreams gone awry.
That will not be forgotten.
Or left unlived.
In History. The dead return. Or rather. Merely do not go away. Sad satellites. Lost in space. Trapped in meaningless orbits. Forever. And in as much as we are the sum of all our moments—and the moments of our parents—the sum of our experiences—and the experiences of our grandparents—in as much as we are the sum of our Histories; we, the living, are, ourselves, the attempt of the dead to be freed. To be liberated. To be exorcised. Sent home into great Silence.
In us do ghosts hope—(or perhaps seek expression for rage. (O do not let it be true!)). And this too is a problem. We know ourselves in History, only insofar as we know that we are the knowing of History—that we, ourselves, are one more mask of History. That in us. History seeks to unwrite itself. And all good ghosts seek a way out.
So Mr. Sampson. I do not have anything to say about forgetting or remembering History. No, not one thing. All the smart money is on the present. And with the present, the future. All my good ghosts are counting on me. And the children of Dachau. And the ghost-dance dancers of Wounded Knee.
And I am lonely in my present. And would be ever grateful if you would talk with me. Converse with me. Build with me in imaginary cathedrals of conversation a home for Silence. The end of hauntings. And the beginning of the end of ghosts. O let the dead bury the dead!
We are armed with broken language. It is what we have to share. But in sharing. And beyond our speaking. And beyond our chatting. And beyond our stopping of solo voices here in the Salon. In the spaces between words. And in the couplings of words. Lies a curious redemption.
My fellow lover of language. My Salon-mate.
Talk to me.
Fuck History. We destroy it in love.