“That’s the Show, Waiting for the Show”: The Mysterious “Subject” that Hides in the Shadow of Attention

mirror

Some might think I’m dawdling over preliminaries. Like I’m endlessly adjusting my coat and tie, but never actually going out on stage and performing anything. All backstage banter.

That’s not wrong. In these essays the subject itself is backstage banter – the behind-the-scenes mumbling in our own heads.

It’s very hard to find anyone raring to talk about the way we frame reality back there. It throws unpleasant light on our habits of denial, repression and justification, which keep us consistent if nothing else. So this subject is almost inherently “uninteresting” to anyone who considers themselves already sane.

Thankfully I don’t. And neither do some of you. However, you’re almost unlocatable as a group. No demographic defines you. So I’m not even addressing you directly. I feel like we’re sitting side-by-side under a tree together, sharing a slightly psychoactive substance. What we have in common is the willingness (I suppose) to recognize a certain insanity in ourselves and not push the subject aside as a dull complacency. We’re willing to see our condition as abnormal, which is a surprising relief. Because if this way of life isn’t “normal”, then we can begin healing. Otherwise it’s just a condition defining us in some conclusive sense. I guess I’d rather be considered insane than evil.

It’s rare finding someone with a parallel insanity, someone who wants to talk about the obsession with backstage preliminaries, which occupies any jabbering mind, and why we’re all stuck jabbering, and why so few of us want to look at this absurdity as a shared insanity.

From the unwilling reader’s point of view (most already left) all this writing would seem unnecessarily wordy, because it wouldn’t “get to the point” (which is always a point away from us, never a backstage point). So the writing never seems to stop “warming up.”

From that perspective, these preliminaries – the way we think about what we’re doing, rather than simply doing them – looks not only uninteresting, but weak, hemming and hawing our lives away. So the sentences will not only seem to have no bearing on reality, but they’ll also generate a mild disdain in some unwilling readers, because the writer will sound like a doped-up navel gazer, while practical people like them are “out there” doing all the real work.

So from that angle the whole thing is verbose by birth.

It’s difficult to raise a congenitally verbose subject to a concise maturity. I mean, the subject itself – backstage mumbling – faces an almost insurmountable deficit of interest at birth, no matter how concisely it may have been raised.

Or rather, I’m toiling in a negative field – it’s a hole in the field of perception. And the infant subject must make an arduous climb just to reach ground level and be noticeable.

You can make donations payable to The Self Pity Foundation.

Or maybe I’m just making it clear to myself at last why this so-called chosen field of interest is by nature a harder interest to share with others than most. This helps clarify the subject’s location backstage: the subject is precisely the subject we’re usually trying to avoid by looking for entertainment outside ourselves.

But as Beckett said, “that’s the show, waiting for the show.”

And if I equate “waiting for the show” with frivolous banter than this dulls the desire to pay closer attention, which ensures that the thing will seem like frivolous banter. Etc. Etc.

Trying to loosen these invisible tautologies is hard work, downright futile if I’m trying to interest other readers besides those insane enough to still be reading.

Knowing this, the writer ignores the uninterested reader and talks only to the issue itself, encouraged by the presence of a few insane stragglers sitting by my side. What we’re trying to do is trace the most concise lines of this madness for the sake of our lost sanity.

But this is a bewildering mirror of a subject. Three things make attempts at concision here almost impossible to notice: 1) The madness in my backstage mumbling is the absence of concision itself. It’s a perpetual escape from the tortures of perpetual escape – down pathways of distraction and denial. So this exploration must tightly (concisely) trace the baroque pathways of unconcise escapism. The writing ends up concise about the nature of what is not concise, and nobody but the interested reader will be able to distinguish the message from the messenger. Without interest holding their attention taut, the whole thing will seem like a unconcise mess.

2) We can’t tell whether a journey’s course is the most efficient route until we see the broader lay of the land. And almost nobody but those like me who confess to being insane wants to see the broader lay of the land, because that will include the shadow portions, which we are intentionally trying not to notice!

and 3) The subject is not a real subject, it’s not merely an idea — it’s the background flow of intentions in my head. I can’t simply describe these activities, because then they seem to be located “out there,” merely as ideas and not in what I’m actually doing right now. So the subject has to leap out of the page and demonstrate itself, while under the scrutiny of this moment of honesty

But I’m not talking about poetic embodiment alone. In addition to the challenges of speaking in tones and rhythms that embody the content of what is discussed, there is a bigger challenge.

Let me clarify this before explaining the bigger challenge.

Or rather, for my own wavering clarity — for this is how I clear my own head, I’m writing mainly to myself — what does language do? First it carries the content of meaning. It conveys information, positive droplets of news, instructions, plans, whatever. Ideas.

But language is also a musical instrument of its own. So language IS rhythm, flow, texture. So in addition to the content, language is also a function. And this function conveys a perspective over and above the content — a resonating meaning.

It’s hard enough to call attention to the functional level of thought and language. But the bigger challenge is to part the curtains of language and thought to land us in a real world. This can only be done by positing and then negating the effects of language — using language to activate a specific negation, which changes the Way language functions. This is a change of an entirely different order.

The bigger challenge is to use words to negate a hidden Literalism that is nearly synonymous with schizophrenia, because in both cases the idea and the reality are conflated beyond recognition. And in both cases we’re stuck in the worlds we’ve imagined.

I may be biting off a bit more than I can chew. Nevertheless, that’s what I’m trying to do here, activate my own (our shared) potential to See things without the hidden confusion of thought and thing. So the essay can’t merely provide information, or poetically reflect what I’m saying. But it also has to trip the mind into realizing the limitations of language and thought, which leaves by default a rarer kind of uncertainty, one that isn’t floundering for answers, but seeing answers translucently, seeing their limits as well as their validities, feeling the larger world constantly emerging. This place I’m trying to inhabit on the page is the farthest reach of language, the cancellation of itself, the event horizon.

So even if I’m in over my head, the point is, this is why the subject is particularly hard to share.

And either that’s a long-winded clearing of the throat in preparation for yet more clearing of the throat.

Or it’s the very subject itself – the way perception is framed. In that case, this rambling and unconcise essay is the most concise way to unearth a topic that otherwise lies bound and gagged in deep holes of elision and omission.

But that’s why I talk to myself all day, to avoid noticing what I’m doing by talking to myself all day. I’m tied up in all these invisible tautologies and only a few of us seem willing to keep in mind that this is an abnormal way of living, not a natural inevitability. It’s hard and relentless work maintaining these self-deceiving tautologies. “Human nature” as an explanation is just another way to point outwardly, away from what we’re really doing.

So it’s not about whether I’m “interested” in this subject, because the subject is inherently uninteresting to everyone at first, simply because none of us want to notice what we’re really doing. So this subject has implicit resistance built into it.

Even now, a few readers are still asking, “what the hell is he talking about?”

I’ll say it again: I’m talking about preliminaries, all the backstage mumbling we do in preparing to live, while rarely living. And don’t tell me that the busy ones, or the adventurers are living any better than the rest of us. I give them credit for their physical courage, for placing themselves in enough danger, for pinning their brains flat against a mountain wall, for instance, forcing them into a state of emergency, where their brains have no choice but to become proprioceptive and free from turmoil, at least while they’re hanging from a cliff. But to go to that extent just to find some relief from a constantly jabbering brain seems more than mildly insane. The adventurers are also running from their own backstage mumbling, trying not to notice the boredom, restlessness, lack of love, whatever it is, I’m no better than that, it’s the same boat, it’s the same consciousness, a restless human momentum running from itself running from itself.

In other words, the whole shitshow of human decline is a slipknot – not a real knot – a knot that amounts to running from running from running. Nothing more. And that’s pretty damn exciting, when I dare to realize how abnormal this is, how this can’t last forever, one way or another.

4 thoughts on ““That’s the Show, Waiting for the Show”: The Mysterious “Subject” that Hides in the Shadow of Attention

  1. and 3) The subject is not a real subject, it’s not merely an idea — it’s the background flow of intentions in my head. I can’t simply describe these activities, because then they seem to be located “out there,” merely as ideas and not in what I’m actually doing right now. So the subject has to leap out of the page and demonstrate itself, while under the scrutiny of this moment of honesty

    But I’m not talking about poetic embodiment alone. In addition to the challenges of speaking in tones and rhythms that embody the content of what is discussed, there is a bigger challenge.

    Let me clarify this before explaining the bigger challenge.

    Or rather, for my own wavering clarity, what does language do? First it carries the content of meaning. It conveys information, positive droplets of news, instructions, plans, whatever. Ideas.

    But language is also a musical instrument of its own. So language IS rhythm, flow, texture. So in addition to the content, language is also a function. And this function conveys a perspective over and above the content.

    It’s hard enough to interest anyone or call attention to the functional level of thought and language. But the bigger challenge is to activate a specific negation, which changes the Way language functions. This is a change of an entirely different order.

    The bigger challenge is to use words to negate a hidden Literalism that is nearly synonymous with schizophrenia, because in both cases the idea and the reality are conflated beyond recognition. And in both cases we’re stuck in the worlds we’ve imagined.

    I may be biting off a bit more than I can chew. Nevertheless, that’s what I’m trying to do here, activate my own (our shared) potential to See things without the hidden confusion of thought and thing. So the essay can’t merely provide information, or poetically reflect what I’m saying. But it also has to trip the mind into realizing the limitations of language and thought, which leaves by default a rarer kind of uncertainty, one that isn’t floundering for answers, but seeing answers translucently, seeing their limits as well as their validities, feeling the larger world constantly emerging. This place I’m trying to inhabit on the page is the farthest reach of language, the cancellation of itself, the event horizon.

    So even if I’m in over my head, the point is, this is why the subject is particularly hard to share.

    Like

  2. I suspect (and hope) that you had a lot of fun writing this entry. And if I may include myself it he “we”, I agree that “We’re willing to see our condition as abnormal, which is a surprising relief”. I have a sixteen year old who is starting to get that. You may count them too as a (second-hand) reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad to hear from you. You popped into mind the other day when I was working in the garden. I enjoyed your comments, and do feel your spirit present. Thanks.

      Like

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