Aphorisms IX

When I was what you could call ‘virulently atheist’ I remember warding off any future professions of faith with great vindictiveness. What did I expect? I imagine it was a form of self-reinforcement.

I would say… if, in the future, I profess faith, then you can know that it is truly a mistake. As if to protect and account for my future self, who would undoubtedly have gone through an incredible transformation.

I’m still atheist, I’m just a lot more materialistic about the cultus now. Now, I would say of my future self – if he professes faith, just be kind to him. After all, something must have gone wrong.


Say NO! to hysteria


Metre and syllable limit are machines to make beautiful language, or good poems. There are others, among them actively thwarting metre and syllable limit. These machines routinely break down, when they are not understood as machines.


We make the future out of what is given to us of the past, as every generation does. And that is all. The sheer vertigo of this is terrifying…


A good journalist or historian will know when to spend time naming an important event, give it a key to lasting power.


On the Creation of Worlds – The idea related by M. John Harrison here (at the 37 minute mark) that we live in a secondary world, or tertiary world rests on the idea that we, image creating beings as we are, at any time in the past had access to a primary world which we have lost.

When we experience a thunderstorm, and then later draw that thunderstorm on the cave wall, as a kind of mass of jagged edges, and the crow flies past and cries, we have already created a fantasy world – our connectome has inessential connections insofar as it is representational. That crow comes to imbue the storm memory, we see crows as the storm bird, the bird contains the storm, it’s black shape flying is the cloud soaring. And yet humanity is tied to the land and weather by root and branch. It is already too late, we are already fallen. But only insofar as we see the purpose of life as being to represent the world, and not rather to move within it.

Maybe the painter here should have ignored the crow, and focused only on the storm. But then the material of the brain, of memory, and of material, in the hand, the paint, the representation as it develops in relation to itself, how it changes, and also in relation to the storm it is directed towards, all get in the way.

Of course, it might be that representation has levels or intensities of corruptness. The entire representation system of race is fabricated to an extreme, so self-referential as to be almost unparsable for some. And a photograph of the bark grain in a tree is more pure, yet impure all the same, with its associations of photography and the machine, how it takes the position which is no position, and relies on us to read it.

Maybe Harrison might accept my point and say – yes, yes, we are essentially fallen. Or that representation itself is a corrupting activity, and what we should do is try and make things happen, rather than represent them. But then all action has this directedness within our connectomes. We expect, and therefore represent expectations in a physical way. We embody representations in acting with expectations.

If we as beings necessarily represent non-existing, that is, fake situations, live as if we lived in the simulacra of the world, then what can we do about it? When we try to unrepresent, we necessarily fail also.

I think when we write, we aren’t creating false worlds, we are evoking images. They may feel like worlds, we may think of them, see them in our readings, but they are no more worlds than a painting is the secondary world of a thing looked at when it was painted. Evoking is easier for us to do, after all, but a lot less predictable. It doesn’t have to be consistent. There is a vertigo in knowing that the poem, the piece you write may not have the same effect on the being that reads it as you would have liked, or that you expected. But we can certainly try and do these things nonetheless.

The way then, to think about how ‘world building’ might be objectionable insofar as it is considered an end in itself, a brand, is that it evokes something that is not useful, not authentic. It directs us away from the world by evoking within us these thoughts that pretend to be worlds, when they are not. These thoughts are not images, because they are not ‘of’ anything. Their being is that they are self referential within the connectome, they are castles in the sky, or fragments in the brain.

To create the idea that a world exists in someone’s head, might lead them to enslave themselves to that world. To take it as representing some more beautiful place. But it might make them want to evoke elements of that place into existence, the drive behind a true utopia. And since we are essentially representational beings, in that we are all directed towards the world in an imperfect way, there is a lot of possibility inherent in utopia. World building isn’t all bad. I would also celebrate the urge to write a trilogy as a victory for egalitarian creativity.


Content over form is the sign of a human understanding.


I sometimes think – is this it? Will I use my phone every day for the rest of my life? Will I always see life as bearing in it this visitor, this smooth glass, this microphone? I hope not. But what will be the final thing? The spur to an ending? I think I would love to live without a phone again. But then, I haven’t tried…


Some ‘liberals’ bemoan the way things seem to be regressing in certain ways, whilst also telling us to be mindful how good we have it. They seem to confuse anger at the rebirth of mainstream fascism and destruction of the welfare state as a rejection of liberal values, when it is often driven by them. Socialism as such develops out of liberalism not as a rejection of but extension of its values. It is liberalism but applied universally, rather than just to the propertied, landed, already free, already educated. They say – look, liberalism is great, but these reforms are still liberal, these fascists are only reacting to you on the left. But the left is not in power, implementing these reforms, nor has it been for decades. There is a depressing sleight of hand going on here.


When translating poetry, you have to make a choice whether to allow the structure of the home language override the structure of the visitor language. Like, do you try and hide the fact that this germinated in another tongue? Maybe this feels a bit dishonest, requires the most sleight of hand. Or do you allow the grammar of the tongue to seep through, bestowing a kind of newness or jarring difference to the translation? In which case you aim to alienate the reader, make them feel alien to this thing.

A seesaw that it’s difficult to balance. We might say – but being true to the visitor language is better, shows the otherness in it, is more enlightened. But we might also say – being true to the home language is better, shows the sameness present in all of us. In the mathematical sense, translation is like both reflection, and transformation. It moves, and it mirrors.

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