Thursday, March 14, 2013

post date and title

the ship's log became something different.  I don't know if it's fair to even call it a ship's log anymore.  there was no discernible ship, no discernible ocean, no discernible people, no discernible elements.  my god!  at the very least you need elements!  one needs something along the lines of physical matter to point to!  all of that wide open space, be it ether, water, or solid...well, it confuses the issue!  it obscures the central reason why we even embarked on this journey!  if we'd only taken keng's advice and just sat tight in our more or less "home environment"... well, it seems as though a lot of people around here have become rather bored with that entity.  they don't see it as a process, not as a vast field of endless potential, not as the cradle of mystery, but as another mere entity, floating around in the stewpot with a billion other mere entities.  my god!  doesn't even have the good sense to at least try and stay a little anonymous!

the ship's log was left lying open out on the deck overnight, even though, as stated earlier, it's not fair to call it a ship's log anymore.  I consulted a thesaurus but nothing quite fit the adjusted reality.  I didn't want to be in control, and I didn't want to tell lies, either to myself or other people, but these were, are, and always will be very difficult and ambiguous matters.  I thought the ship's log had a role to play but I might have been kidding myself. 

if I was in fact somewhat sheepish in the attempt to state our goals at the outset...the beginning of this so-called or  ostensible "journey to nowhere", a ridiculous phrase picked out from billions, a ridiculous ship cobbled together from garbage and kitchen scraps, the rag-tag crew assembled from some of the seediest employment agencies on the face of the earth... well, the ship's log tried to record all that!  ok?  it didn't intentionally go back on its promises.  come to think of it, it never even made any actual promises.  you as a reader appear to be putting words in my mouth- I may be the one speaking but you are the one making the important decisions.

I wish things had been different.  how many times will I have to echo this same basic sentiment?  how many times will it take to convince you?  I already know the answer to that question so you don't have to say anything.  you don't even have to change the expression on your face as you're reading this.  it's a vast online ocean, a vast field of nothingness, there are way way way too many vessels out there to keep track of so-called "individual" entities.

maybe the life force was curdling.  maybe the cabin pressure was wildly fluctuating.  maybe the crew went on strike at the precise moment we lost sight of land.  they've done crazier things!  why, simply peruse the ship's log!  true, it was left out on deck overnight and a minor squall buffeted it about for awhile- but at least 95 percent of it remains clearly legible- that's more than enough for you to get a picture of the bizarre company I was stranded with out there!

I'm not complaining.  I'm not.  I'm not trying to garner anyone's sympathy.  I signed up for the sea voyage without the slightest bit of coercion.  I wanted to do it.  I enjoyed doing the relevant research.  true, I enjoyed doing the irrelevant research as well, but that's yet another traditional/time-honored aspect of the seafaring life, or at least the sort of seafaring life I was introduced to as a child.  true, certain of my adult experiences may have modified the portrait somewhat, but that again is yet another typical albeit important socio/ histoico/ eco/ psycho/ anthro/ logical element.  you may or may not agree with this sentiment.  it is admittedly a rather questionable sentiment.

I enjoyed the ship's journal.  I enjoyed making entries.  I enjoyed reading the entries made by other crew members and passengers.  even if this delicate process is now going by or under or about another name in this era, that doesn't necessarily have to affect the enjoyment.  the enjoyment remains undiminished.  I state that with 100 percent conviction and clarity.  again, you don't have to believe it and you don't have to adjust the weary look on your face as you're reading this.  you are alone somewhere, in a room, gazing into the dim light of a laptop, and soon you will be putting it aside and gazing thru the casement out into the dim light of even-tide.  it's staying lighter longer these days, you'll have noticed.  people seem to appreciate that.  they tell each other funny stories alternating with sad and serious stories.  it keeps the readers on their toes, apparently.  it keeps them, quote, "begging for more."  that's a strange phrase to use, I admit it, in regards to a simple ship's log which can no longer rightfully be called by that illustrious title.  I've already mentioned the thesaurus and the disappointing results I obtained there.  but disappointing results have as much right to be published as happy and exciting results, do they not?  this is a sensitive issue, I realize, and don't expect to reach anything even resembling consensus.  that's a word that usually makes people jump up and down with delight and good cheer and maybe at some point it will be infused into the time-honored tradition alluded to earlier.  I don't pretend to be in control, as much as it pains me to say that... I pretend other things.  and the madcaps around here are just gonna have to get used to it!   

are you finally ready?

ok, good-

(let's start out with a few images from one of the ancient japanese koan masters.  his/her identity will be revealed in due course.  don't worry)

"...eyes mark the shape of the city..." 

"...through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, 

we take in the scene from midair..." 

" our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature- or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms..." 

"...countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old..." 

" the rhythm of its pulsing all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm midnight is approaching and while the peak of activity has passed the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding..." 

"...our line of sight chooses an area of concentrated brightness and, focusing there, silently descends to it- a sea of neon colors. they call this place an “amusement district.” the giant digital screens fastened to the sides of buildings fall silent as midnight approaches, but loud-speakers on storefronts keep pumping out exaggerated hip-hop bass lines.  a large game center crammed with young people; wild electronic sounds; a group of college students spilling out from a bar; teenage girls with brilliant bleached hair, healthy legs thrusting out from micro-mini skirts; dark-suited men racing across diagonal crosswalks for the last trains to the suburbs.  even  at    this        hour,                the             karaoke               club                     pitchmen                        keep       shouting      for    customers. aflashyblackstationwagondriftsdownthestreetasiftakingstockofthedistrictthroughitsblacktintedwindowsthecarlookslikeadeepseacreature with specialized   skin     and           organs.       two  young    policemen   p  at    r o     lth  e  s    t reetwi       tht      enseex   pre    s     si      o n    s,bu         t  noo        n    esee    ms to      not        ice the        m.t     he     di  s t r i       ctpl      aysbyitsownrulesat a time like this the season is late autumn no wind is blowing but the air carries a chill the date is just about to change."

"We are inside a Denny’s." 

"Unremarkable but adequate lighting; expressionless decor and dinnerware; floor plan designed to the last detail by management engineers; innocuous background music at low volume; staff meticulously trained to deal with customers by the book: “Welcome to Denny’s.” Everything about the restaurant is anonymous and interchangeable. And almost every seat is filled." 

"After a quick survey of the interior, our eyes come to rest on a girl sitting by the front window. Why her? Why not someone else? Hard to say. But, for some reason, she attracts our attention—very naturally. She sits at a four-person table, reading a book. Hooded gray parka, blue jeans, yellow sneakers faded from repeated washing. On the back of the chair next to her hangs a varsity jacket. This, too, is far from new. She is probably college freshman age, though an air of high school still clings to her. Hair black, short, and straight. Little makeup, no jewelry. Small, slender face. Black-rimmed glasses. Every now and then, an earnest wrinkle forms between her brows." 

"She reads with great concentration. Her eyes rarely move from the pages of her book—a thick hardback. A bookstore wrapper hides the title from us. Judging from her intent expression, the book might contain challenging subject matter. Far from skimming, she seems to be biting off and chewing it one line at a time..."


I wish I knew why that stuff happened.

is that a ridiculous wish?
I pose the question to strangers.
suppose the question is strangers.
the question to strangers: "question strangers."
yeah, well, and what if the strangers don't answer?
wish I knew why they called themselves strangers.
why certain other stuff seemingly failed to happen.
anonymous, underground, vexed, out in the open, 
whatever, whoever, whenever, how, to what extent, why, 
and perhaps even if I pose a legitimate question is 
the blank line convulsively turning back on/of/to itself,
and therein encountering something
very different from what the surveys expected.
but who's to say, finally?
maybe they didn't expect a damned thing!

the dense or rental self 
is, according to "science, a mere network of mis-managed memories"
and un-blindfolded stabs in the work, in the dark:
timid, desolate, feral, buried alive, multilingual-
the self taken out of long term storage and context.
mis-allocated, mis-labeled, memories 
melted down into projections and forecasts, 
frozen again into granite mines, dense, reflective, arterial, 
gesticulating wildly even after nobody is listening
but maybe nobody was listening, ever.

start to quietly gnaw on a few extra calories.
walk thru "fields" and start tucking footprints
away in a small gathering basket.
I offer the portrait to strangers.
is that a ridiculous impulse?

the answer comes back fairly quicky-
"footprints come pretty cheap nowadays-
you're gonna have to do a little bit more
with the conceptual field and grounding."

that is, golly jeepers, pretty much what 
I was expecting to hear,
so I return to my stomping grounds
with other sand awls on this time-

it's a small affair, minor, 
both in key and velocity,
aimed for the most part at so-called 
"primitive" or "timeless" politician/artists.

I was one myself once, ya know,
sending my shit out to strangers,
little statements, lists of media,
indexes, codes to inner meanings, etc-

I wish I knew why that initial stuff failed,
because now that the new stuff is selling,
and I'm not able to discern the slightest difference in quality...

well, it's confusing!
whether or not you're a primitive!
whether or not you seek and/or find good civic representation!

(it's still a very tiny, perhaps even microscopic affair.)

and yet, I keep hearing that


the blank line is a fiction
the broken line is imaginary
the name is leaves in late autumn
the space is breathing noise fading to silence
the eye is a sandpath is a windscreen around us
the shield the secret the water table the music
the blank line is an essay
pulled out from under the hiding place
the slight pause is a fairy tale and fairy tales are comforting
the broken line is a phone call
the name is leaves in late winter
the space is mere echo
the blue eye floats thru the cell block
the chain link the paper grid the cleft lip the river
the _______'s flotsam and jetsam 
the __ __ __ is an inter-state
the nameless leaves in transition
the space station still being renovated
the eye melts, no resistance 
the bickering quarrymen, quarrywomen,
quarrychildren, quarrystars, quarryanimals
picks and stone shovels
hammering blue silence late into the morning
every term is provided
the blank line evasive
the broken light barely flickers
the claimless, the endless, the pointillist  
space becomes fairly distributed
I is an upside down letter
written in the form of a spiral
staircase to no/some/in/any/where


the blanket lie isn't fiction
the time broker's life stillborn, illusory
nails leaf out of late autumn
paces labored breathing noise suddenly fading to nothingness
the blue dye is a swath of wind designed to protect us
the field waters fables for anonymous internet users
the blank wine is a poem
crumpled inside rivets of raw-filtered honesty 
the island clause is just berry jam and berry jam is delicious
the token rhyme merely an operator
blame the leaves in late summer
sticking around like an echo
chinese sage, texan incense  
linked by acid-dropping phosphemical documentarians
the _______ flowing dragon-like inside of the engine 
the __ __ __ by-passes civilization
soft rain, hard to translate
radiohead's wavelength on another mini tour of saturn
the eye meets resistance 
the bricklayers go on strike in blue canyon
pick out stick figures
chiseling solitude til the eleventh hour evaporates
certain terms are illegal
the blank line evasive
broken, phantasmagorical, ill-lit, torn asunder
here ageless, there homeless, points  
seldom conceded by congress or science
life is a reverse image of something
not represented in the face of a diary
still chained to no/some/in/any/all/one


ranking slime like afflictions
roaming blind, desultory
the waif, leaden, blatant
perhaps the sky is in swaddling
the field guides fabled, eponymous
stoked by disembodied voice coaches
echo auto-pages thru thousands
postmodern chinese mythology
no original language
neither _______ nor __ __ __
weathered skin, soft like saturn's eye
tumbling down into baby blue canyon


there is a thing, sir, confusedly formed
born way way before any of this recent stuff even got underway-
silent and void, it stands alone and does not change,
goes round and round and does not weary.

come again?

there was something formless and perfect, sir

before the universe was set into motion-
serene, empty, unchanging, silent, infinite, utterly present.

are you sure?

undifferentiated and yet complete.  I'm not kidding!

but also radically nebulous.
hence, sir, empty yourself of desires in order to observe its profound and inscrutable subtlety. 

ok, maybe I will.

but also allow yourself to have desires so as to observe what it is after.

you've got strange notions, fella.

they're not mine.

whose are they then?

again- empty yourself of questions and you just might understand the thing suddenly.


the way can be spoken of, sir,

but it will not be the constant way.
the unnameable is the eternally real.
naming is the origin of particular entities.

but I like particular entities.

so do I, sir!  so do I.

and yet, free from hard and fast identifications,
you enter into the mystery.
wedded to them, you see only the manifestations.

but I like manifestations!

and again, so do I!

mystery and manifestations arise from the very same source!
I'm not fooling!

and what is this source, may I ask?

I'm sorry, sir.  it would be better for us both if you didn't.

why am I relieved to hear that...



(the grace of time

or may be

yet another race to the end

the gradations of echo

or may be
another rat's nest in the easy chair

the mirror of self

or may be
more tarred images of water frozen and falling

the spacebars below nothingness

the weather patterns remember us
a little something to jolt star mazes
out of their long term complacency-

is that desirable?

or maybe, once again, merely delusional?

the grace of time

ways in light
hidden docks
tapped by avalon
tiny ripples drink in the shore
swish it around
spit it out

a small silence slowly grows up

to become a "legitimate" silence
head half asleep banging against
the lurching greyhound bus window
far from all of that crazy stuff
on the "other" side of the glass,
contained while it is moving,
named and clothed
while it is naked, anonymous... 

did I sleep?

or survive?
naively explore ancient canyons
before I had any idea of what that adjective
would most likely refuse to protect me from?

coming in from the outside,

maybe not,
like the sangamon,
bowing under the new weight
of a hand-lettered sign, reading:

"you see, I find what I am after eventually."



the name inside 
a new stranger's glance  
raids our little bunker of faces
the grades are issued
and the rodents kick off another all night food and dance
mirror slash steel nerves in the mashpit-

is that desirable?

are these questions ridiculous? 

space and light

all of it
time patterns still rooting around in the cellar
car mazes invite us
to a new round of indignant dives toward oblivion

yes, that's the way, ladies, gentlemen,

children, plants, animals, minerals, ethers, etc.

the "other" sides with the canyon,

contained while the "self" is still "moving",
named, fed, clothed, schooled, utilized
by the huddled masses of billionaire-funded rescues. 

how could anyone sleep through that?

or let anyone else even try?
terrible screams coming from deep inside of the mansion,
maybe not,
maybe that's just another hollywood special effect
credits rolling
buried treasure
usually finds its application eventually.)


there was no sense of desolation
no river made up of chemicals
science project finished on time
and ready to present to the others

some of them cohorts,

some of them utterly distant and destitute,
desperate to learn which of our findings
might add a few years to the universe.



what kind of suffering?

not sure.
what kind of research?
same answer.
how do you know this?
take a guess.
ok then- you read it somewhere, I suppose?
what kind of text?
not sure.
what kind of space were you in as a scientist?
same answer.
that's a slow way to make progress, keng.
how do you know this?
not sure exactly- I think I paraphrased it somewhere.
have you ever heard the old adage "you can't believe everything that you read nowadays"?
I wrote that adage.
wow!  when?
in grade school.
yeah, those were simpler times.
I'm not sure I'd go that far.
well, calv, guess what?  you don't have to be sure.
have we been here before, keng?
you mean this precise...
no, I mean... more in general.
no way, keng.  this is new.  this time is gonna be different.
isn't it already different?
it's already unrecognizable.
well what are you waiting for then?
waiting for them?
just kidding.
keng, this is no time to be fooling around.
I thought you said that laughter was the most effective medicine known to the species.
I was joking, keng!
and it helped me!  it temporarily cured me!
but don't you want a more permanent cure, keng?
doesn't matter what I want, calv.
aw come on- that's just the nihilist talking again!
whether it is or it isn't- doesn't matter so much what such and such entity wants
I disagree totally, keng!  don't we partially create our realities?
partially, yes.
is this one of the parts that we don't?
I never said that.
you didn't?
come to think of it, I don't think I ever said anything.
well, at least that much I think I can sorta agree with.
sorta, calv?  what does that mean?
the dense or rental self, so-called, is usually j
I know.
what kind of rental?
not sure.
what kind of research?
same answer.
how do you know this?
take a guess.
that's a super slow way to make progress.
can't help it.
can't or won't?
can't, but even if I could, I might not.
is that maybe, just possibly, the little nihilist talking again?
there is a thing, sir, confusedly formed born way way before any of this recent stuff even got underway- silent and void, it stands alone and does not change, goes round and round and does not weary.
oh great- here we go again.
there was something formless and perfect, sir, before the internet was set into motion- serene, empty, unchanging, silent, infinite, utterly present.
you sure that's just not another hollywood special effect?
I'm gonna give you three different versions to the answer of that ridiculous question.
that's generous of you.
ok then, listen up:

1.  there are things that cannot be described by or understood thru language.  a complete description and understanding of the purpose and operation of non-hollywood harmony is way way way beyond the power of language.  whether you try to reason your way through life or act thru emotion, the words associated with each path can be traps, not bridges, because they hide what is common to each: the presence of mystery.

that seems pretty obvious, keng.

I agree.  number 2: non-hollywood harmony, the subtle reality of the universe, simply cannot be described.  that which can be described in words is merely a conception of mind.  although names and descriptions have been applied to it, the subtle reality is beyond the description.  one may, if one wishes, use the word "nothingness" to describe the origin of the universe, and "beingness" to describe the progenitor of the myriad things, but, again, nothingness and beingness are merely fancy conceptions.

ok, if you say so.

and, finally, 3: the harmony that can be told is not the abiding or ultimate harmony.  temporary names can be given to things, yes, but not permanent labels.

so all that stuff about the blank and broken lines was just metaphor?

no, it was real, calv, but ephemeral.
and the stuff that you laid out just now?
same answer.
those sure were simpler times.
have we been here before, keng?
you mean this precise...
no, I mean... more in general.
no way, keng.  this is new.  this time is gonna be different.
isn't it already different?
it's already unrecognizable.
well what are you waiting for then?
I'm waiting for something ephemeral.
that too.
inaudible?  motionless?  solitary?
all of that, yes.
and how will you know when it comes?
we've already covered this, calv.
we've already uncovered this, keng.
you're right, we're inexhaustible.
it's so we won't think.
we have that excuse.
it's so we won't hear.
we have our reasons.
all the voices.
they make a noise like faint wings.
like leaves.
like sand.
like leaves.
they all speak at once.
each one to itself.
rather they whisper.
they rustle.
they murmur.
they rustle.
what do they say?
they talk about their lives.
to have lived is not enough for them.
they have to talk about it.
to be dead is not enough for them.
it is not sufficient.
they make a faint noise like feathers.
like leaves.
like ashes.
like leaves.
long silence.
say something!
I'm trying.
long silence.
(in anguish) say anything at all!
what do we do now?
wait for readers.
this is awful!
sing something!
no no! (she reflects.) we could start all over again perhaps.
that should be easy.
it's the start that's difficult.
you can start from anything.
yes, but you have to decide.
help me!
I'm trying.
when you seek you hear.
you do.
that prevents you from finding.
it does.
that prevents you from thinking.
you think all the same.
no, no, impossible.
that's the idea, let's contradict each other.
you think so?
we're in no danger of ever thinking any more.
then what are we complaining about?
thinking is not the worst.
perhaps not.  but at least there's that.
that what?
that's the idea, let's ask each other questions.
haven't we already done that?
not sure.
I think we've... already done that.
you think a lot of things, calv.
and you write a lot of stuff down in your notebook, keng.
true enough.
indeed and in word- those were simpler times.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"wanders in a world of shadows"

(from the call of the daimon; love and truth in the writings of franz kafka by aldo carotenuto; trans. by charles nobar.)

the castle opens with a protagonist who has lost his way and wanders in a world of shadows, accompanied by the invitation of the unconscious to compare himself with his inner images.  but the call that comes from within raises the problem of the answer as soon as it is perceived.  what is evoked is an impalpable and fleeting world similar to the shadows that inhabit it.  here we move in an indeterminate dimension shrouded in the mists of our unawareness.  and it is precisely this indefinite quality of the thing that now opens before us, the impossibility of exactly circumscribing the goal, contrary to the clarity with which we can see the reality left behind us, that gives greater value and dignity to our actions.  the entire story of the surveyor, his search, his desire to understand the world in which he finds himself living, his personal relationships, his efforts to reach the castle- all these can be considered his reply to the call.

the call of the unconscious- the same heard by k.- which according to jung is primarily the prerogative of the mature in years, cannot be dated chronologically. our lives continually pass through periods of crisis, stages of transition, in which the balance achieved up to then must be destroyed and another one created.  each new relationship, each new job, is a death and a birth at the same time.  and to open oneself to the new, to change, to what at first appears unknown and confused, means to answer an inner call, to prefer the upheaval of an authentic choice to the stagnancy of renunciation and of accommodation.  to give heed to an inner voice that impels one toward a nonhabitual dimension implies the capacity to contact the unconscious, to establish a relationship with its images.  human life, different from that of the animals, has a relationship with the imaginary. it is a reality that has no tangible existence, which, having no material weight, vanishes into air as soon as we try to seize it.

and yet this fantastic world obsesses us and impregnates every moment of our lives, not only in dreams, fantasies, and memories, but apparently breaking out of the very heart of reality as if to announce its imminent conversion into another dimension.  the fascination of the imaginary is born from the very center of our lives, shaping itself in the form of an "elsewhere," an "out-of-this-world" that embroils us in its net and captures us (pfeiffer 1996, pg. ix).  it reveals the irresistible attraction, the seduction of a dimension that eludes us, that is absent from consciousness and not reducible to it even while intensely permeating it.  the eidolons that populate our world contain our past and our future inasmuch as destiny is nothing but the realization of an unconscious image.

all of life is a constant confrontation with our fantasies, which in manifesting themselves color the external world with meaning.  events are important to us only insofar as we project our inner world onto them.  from a psychological viewpoint it is much more the inner images than the external events that create our reality.

it is important to understand that the famous point of leverage, from which archimedes claimed he could lift the world, is situated within us.  that point is not outside us, nor does it involve destiny any longer.  many wrongly believe that it is enough to change external circumstances alone to achieve happiness.  on the contrary- a true transformation must always take place within ourselves.  a fabulous winning of the lottery will mean nothing at all if the inner condition is not changed that makes us feel poor.  to be poor and a loser, if you are not living in a dramatic reality such as the third world, often is caused by the inability to live, to let oneself go without fighting.  to believe oneself to be ugly, unfortunate, helpless in the face of adversity, is often to behave as if this really were so.  life is a struggle.  those who cannot believe in their own potential, in their own abilities to overcome the obstacles with which every individual's path is strewn, have lost before beginning to fight.  heraclitus maintained: "whoever does not hope in what cannot be hoped for will never discover it because it is closed to research and no roads lead to it, because it happens."

the way in which we relate to events depends on our personal psychological experiences.  riches, to continue with the same example, are illusory realities. we believe they can satisfy us only because we have projected onto them the power to fulfill our inner insufficiency.  we should think of, for example, king midas, who, believing in the panacea of riches, asked the gods to turn everything he touched into gold.  but having attained this power he was condemned by his own desire to die of hunger.  as the myth demonstrates, however rich and splendid external objects may be, they are certainly not able to nourish our souls.  true riches can only be found within us, in knowing how to relate to our daimons, and thus change the situations responsible for our suffering.

to accept the confrontation with our images, to hold dialogue with the unconscious, requires a certain capacity to bear with the tension created between the conscious ego and the secret levels of the psyche (neumann 1979, pg. 181).  the extraordinary sensitivity of artists to the imaginary and their ability to describe all the shades of the human soul is due to their condition of "permanent laceration."  the artist is one who knows how to express all the multiple personalities inhabiting her soul.  to write, to paint, to compose music, or any other artistic expression represents the polytheistic structure of the psyche.  alongside a monotheistic conception, according to which the soul tends to an ever-greater integration represented by the archetype of the self, it is possible to place a polycentric hypothesis.  giving a mythical background to every complex- according to which every kind of behavior is the manifestation of a "god" or a "daimon" it is possible to recognize not only the importance and dignity of the symptom, but above all to integrate it while respecting its specific quality.  to accept the multiplicity of the inner voices without trying to unify them into a single figure allows us to recognize in the process of dissolution and fragmentation a value equal to that of coagulation into a unity (hillman 1981, pg. 12-24).  a transformed personality is bound to result from the recognition of the multiple personalities that dwell within us.

to accept the possibility of a plurality of psychological dimensions, of inner focal points within us, may on the one hand give us greater awareness of our fragmentation and perhaps sometimes a more acute suffering.  what one wants to be is not clear and unambiguous but always changing, while, on the other hand, it allows for a better understanding and acceptance of ourselves.  to leave room for every psychic component means to have greater tolerance even for our undesired aspects, for those which have not grown and which instead of continually progressing- in accordance with a positivistic idea of the psyche- take us back toward past conditions.  the moment we encounter our own daimons, it is possible to recognize and listen to their voices.  the result is an undoubted enrichment of the personality.


being lost and empty is a condition that immediately calls up the need of finding a "roof," an inner point in which one can take refuge.  the confrontation with inner images is always difficult, hard and sometimes painful work.  one feels the need of having some support.  for those who go through an experience of analysis, the therapeutic relationship, especially at crucial moments, functions as a warm and reassuring place where one can pause for a moment and call a truce with ones' lacerating sufferings.  but the refuge, the hostel are also and primarily endopsychic.  they represent the psyche's capacity to create a containing space within itself where repressed and rejected feelings can be given some leeway.  it is here that the psyche provides its own nourishment, cures its own wounds, and accepts its own illness.  and such recognition is what enables one to keep the wounds from festering in isolation.  the search for an inner place of refuge was predominant in franz kafka's life.  in fact, in a letter to max brod, milena will say of him: "he is without the least shelter, without any refuge" (brod 1937, pg. 259).  for kafka, who continued to wander as a stranger in the world, frozen by his own detachment, the only welcoming space was afforded by his writing.  on december 16, 1910, in fact, we find this note in his diaries: "I won't give up the diary again.  I must hold on here.  it is the only place I can" (kafka 1910-1923, pg. 29).  for all personalities who have difficulty in relating to the outside world, in establishing emotional contact, writing offers a substitute, an opportunity for dialogue, for comparing oneself with the other even while she remains absent, distant.  those confrontations with fantasies, which the extrovert often unconsciously makes by diving directly into life, occur mainly in the imagination of the introvert.


to stop and seek refreshment at the inn, that is, to turn to one's own inner life, also implies stopping to reflect, putting questions to oneself, before taking up the difficult struggle to reach the goal to which one has been called.  it is important to point out how this questioning arises at the moment when any sort of obstacle obliges us to deviate from our path.  it is the effort to overcome suffering that makes us seek a meaning, something that will make what we are going through seem less absurd and accidental.  just as the blind man and the cripple continue to ask the reason for their destiny, k. too during the entire novel will do nothing but question himself and others about why he is excluded from the castle and the impossibility of reaching it.

an obstacle creates a gap between us and life, a gap that we must try to reduce.  people who are happy rarely question themselves about their condition.  but whenever life, for one reason or another, seems to slip out of our hands, when it moves away from us, when its fullness is a distant memory and it is no longer possible to plunge joyfully into external events, then it is necessary to move away from the vortex and find that "magic" element that can put the pieces of our mosaic back together.  the reply would seem to be to possess that apotropaic power to ward off suffering, perhaps only for an instant, and reestablish the disturbed order with the security that it brings...


(from k. by roberto calasso; trans. by geoffrey brock)

at the beginning there's a wooden bridge snow.  thick snow.  k. lifts his eyes "toward what seemed to be emptiness," in die scheinbare leere.  literally: "toward the seeming emptiness."  he knows there's something out in that emptiness: the castle.  he's never seen it before.  he might never set foot in it.

kafka sensed that by then only the minimum number of elements of the surrounding world ought to be named.  he plunged the sharpest ockham's razor into the substance of the novel.  to name the bare minimum, and in its pure literality.  and why so?  because the world was turning back into a primeval forest, too fraught with strange noise and apparitions.  everything had too much power.  thus it became necessary to limit oneself to what lay closest at hand, to circumscribe the zone of the nameable.  then all that power, otherwise diffuse, would be channeled there, and whatever was named- an inn, a file, an office, a room- would fill with unprecedented energy.

kafka speaks of a world that precedes every division, every naming.  it's not a sacred or divine world, nor a world abandoned by the sacred or the divine.  it's a world that has yet to recognize such categories, to distinguish them from everything else.  or that no longer knows how to recognize them or distinguish them from everything else.  all is a single unity, and it is simply power.  both the greatest good and the greatest evil are saturated with it.  kafka's subject is that mass of power, not yet differentiated, broken down into its elements.  it is the shapeless body of vritra, which contains the waters, before indra runs it through with a thunderbolt.

the invisible has a mocking tendency to present itself as the visible, as if it might be distinguished from everything else, but only under certain circumstances, such as the clearing away of mist.  thus one is persuaded to treat it as the visible- and it is immediately punished.  but the illusion remains.

the trial and the castle are stories about attempts to deal with a case: to extricate oneself from prosecution, to have one's nomination confirmed.  the point around which everything revolves is always election, the mystery of election, its impenetrable obscurity.  in the castle, k. desires election- and this thoroughly complicates every act.  in the trial, josef k. wants to escape election- and this thoroughly complicates every act.  to be chosen, to be condemned: two possible outcomes of the same process.  kafka's relationship with judaism, every recess of which has been doggedly (often fruitlessly) examined, emerges most clearly on this point, which marks the essential difference between judaism and what surrounded it.  much more so than monotheism or law or higher morality.  for each of these, one can look to egypt, mesopotamia, or greece for precedents and counterbalances.  but the emphasis on election- that's unique, and founded on a theology of the unique.

the court has the power to punish, the castle, to elect.  these two powers are perilously close, at times identical.  more than anything else, kafka, thanks to atavism and inclination, had antennae to recognize them.  no one else was so aware of their proximity, their overlap.  but this wasn't only a matter of jewish heritage.  it had to do with everyone, and all times.

the trial and the castle share a premise: that election and condemnation are almost indistinguishable.  that almost is why we have two novels rather than one...


the scrivener

" first, bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing.  as if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents.  there was no pause for digestion.  he ran a day and night line, copying by sunlight and by candlelight.  I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious.  but he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically.  

it is, of course, an indispensable part of a scrivener’s business to verify the accuracy of his copy, word by word.  where there are two or more scriveners in an office, they assist each other in this examination, one reading from the copy, the other holding the original.  it is a very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair.  I can readily imagine that, to some sanguine temperaments, it would be altogether intolerable.  for example, I cannot credit that the mettlesome poet, byron, would have contentedly sat down with bartleby to examine a law document of, say five hundred pages, closely written in a crimpy hand. 

now and then, in the haste of business, it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself, calling turkey or nippers for this purpose.  one object I had in placing bartleby so handy to me behind the screen was to avail myself of his services on such trivial occasions.  it was on the third day, I think, of his being with me, and before any necessity had arisen for having his own writing examined, that, being much hurried to complete a small affair I had in hand, I abruptly called to bartleby.  in my haste and natural expectancy of instant compliance, I sat with my head bent over the original on my desk, and my right hand sideways, and somewhat nervously extended with the copy, so that, immediately upon emerging from his retreat, bartleby might snatch it and proceed to business without the least delay. 

in this very attitude did I sit when I called to him, rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do—namely, to examine a small paper with me.  imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when, without moving from his privacy, bartleby, in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.” 

I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties.  immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning.  I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume; but in quite as clear a one came the previous reply, “I would prefer not to.” 

“prefer not to,” echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride.  “what do you mean?  are you moon-struck?  I want you to help me compare this sheet here—take it,” and I thrust it towards him. 

“I would prefer not to,” said he.

I looked at him steadfastly.  his face was leanly composed; his gray eyes dimly calm.  not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him.  had there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been anything ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises.  but as it was I should have as soon thought of turning my pale plaster-of-paris bust of cicero out of doors.  I stood gazing at him awhile, as he went on with his own writing, and then reseated myself at my desk.  this is very strange, thought I.  what had one best do?  but my business hurried me.  I concluded to forget the matter for the present, reserving it for my future leisure.  so calling nippers from the other room, the paper was speedily examined. 

a few days after this, bartleby concluded four lengthy documents, being quadruplicates of a week’s testimony taken before me in my high court of chancery.  it became necessary to examine them.  it was an important suit, and great accuracy was imperative.  having all things arranged, I called turkey, nippers and ginger nut, from the next room, meaning to place the four copies in the hands of my four clerks, while I should read from the original. accordingly, turkey, nippers, and ginger nut had taken their seats in a row, each with his document in his hand, when I called to bartleby to join this interesting group. 

“bartleby! quick, I am waiting.” 

I heard a slow scrape of his chair legs on the uncarpeted floor, and soon he appeared standing at the entrance of his hermitage. 

“what is wanted?” said he, mildly. 

“the copies, the copies,” said I, hurriedly.  “we are going to examine them.  there”—and I held towards him the fourth quadruplicate. 

“I would prefer not to,” he said, and gently disappeared behind the screen. 

for a few moments I was turned into a pillar of salt, standing at the head of my seated column of clerks. recovering myself, I advanced towards the screen and demanded the reason for such extraordinary conduct. 

“why do you refuse?” 

“I would prefer not to.” 

with any other man I should have flown outright into a dreadful passion, scorned all further words, and thrust him ignominiously from my presence.  but there was something about bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me, but, in a wonderful manner, touched and disconcerted me. I began to reason with him.

“these are your own copies we are about to examine. it is labor saving to you, because one examination will answer for your four papers.  it is common usage. every copyist is bound to help examine his copy.  is it not so?  will you not speak?  answer!” 

“I prefer not to,” he replied in a flutelike tone. 

it seemed to me that, while I had been addressing him, he carefully revolved every statement that I made; fully comprehended the meaning; could not gainsay the irresistible conclusion; but, at the same time, some paramount consideration prevailed with him to reply as he did. 

“you are decided, then, not to comply with my request—a request made according to common usage and common sense?” 

he briefly gave me to understand that on that point my judgment was sound. yes: his decision was irreversible. 

it is seldom the case that, when a man is browbeaten in some unprecedented and violently unreasonable way, he begins to stagger in his own plainest faith. He begins, as it were, vaguely to surmise that, wonderful as it may be, all the justice and all the reason is on the other side.  accordingly, if any disinterested persons are present, he turns to them for some reinforcement for his own faltering mind.

“turkey,” said I, “what do you think of this?  am I not right?” 

“with submission, sir,” said turkey, in his blandest tone, “I think that you are.” 

“nippers,” said I, “what do you think of it?” 

“I think I should kick him out of the office.” 

(the reader of nice perceptions, will here perceive that, it being morning, turkey’s answer is couched in polite and tranquil terms, but nippers replies in ill-tempered ones.  or, to repeat a previous sentence, nippers’s ugly mood was on duty, and turkey’s off.) 

“ginger nut,” said I, willing to enlist the smallest suffrage in my behalf, “what do you think of it?” 

“I think, sir, he’s a little luny,” replied ginger nut, with a grin. 

“you hear what they say,” said I, turning towards the screen, “come forth and do your duty.” 

but he vouchsafed no reply.  I pondered a moment in sore perplexity.  but once more business hurried me.  I determined again to postpone the consideration of this dilemma to my future leisure.  with a little trouble we made out to examine the papers without bartleby, though at every page or two turkey deferentially dropped his opinion that this proceeding was quite out of the common; while nippers, twitching in his chair with a dyspeptic nervousness, ground out between his set teeth occasional hissing maledictions against the stubborn oaf behind the screen.  and for his (nippers’s) part, this was the first and the last time he would do another man’s business without pay. 

meanwhile Bartleby sat in his hermitage, oblivious to everything but his own peculiar business there. 

some days passed, the scrivener being employed upon another lengthy work.  his late remarkable conduct led me to regard his ways narrowly.  I observed that he never went to dinner; indeed, that he never went anywhere.  as yet I had never, of my personal knowledge, known him to be outside of my office.  he was a perpetual sentry in the corner.  at about eleven o’clock, though, in the morning, I noticed that ginger nut would advance towards the opening in bartleby’s screen, as if silently beckoned thither by a gesture invisible to me where I sat.  the boy would then leave the office jingling a few pence, and reappear with a handful of gingernuts, which he delivered in the hermitage, receiving two of the cakes for his trouble. 

he lives, then, on gingernuts, thought I; never eats a dinner, properly speaking; he must be a vegetarian, then; but no, he never eats even vegetables, he eats nothing but gingernuts.  my mind then ran on in reveries concerning the probable effects upon the human constitution of living entirely on gingernuts. gingernuts are so called because they contain ginger as one of their peculiar constituents, and the final flavoring one.  now, what was ginger?  a hot, spicy thing.  was bartleby hot and spicy?  not at all.  ginger, then, had no effect upon bartleby.  probably he preferred it should have none. 

nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.  if the individual so resisted be of a not inhumane temper, and the resisting one perfectly harmless in his passivity, then, in the better moods of the former, he will endeavor charitably to construe to his imagination what proves impossible to be solved by his judgment.  even so, for the most part, I regarded bartleby and his ways.  poor fellow! thought I, he means no mischief; it is plain he intends no insolence; his aspect sufficiently evinces that his eccentricities are involuntary.  he is useful to me.  I can get along with him.  if I turn him away, the chances are he will fall in with some less indulgent employer, and then he will be rudely treated, and perhaps driven forth miserably to starve.  yes.  here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval.  to befriend bartleby, to humor him in his strange willfulness, will cost me little or nothing, while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience.  but this mood was not invariable with me.  the passiveness of bartleby sometimes irritated me.  I felt strangely goaded on to encounter him in new opposition— to elicit some angry spark from him answerable to my own.  but, indeed, I might as well have essayed to strike fire with my knuckles against a bit of windsor soap.  but one afternoon the evil impulse in me mastered me, and the following little scene ensued:

“bartleby,” said I, “when those papers are all copied, I will compare them with you.” 

“I would prefer not to.” 

“how? surely you do not mean to persist in that mulish vagary?” 

no answer. I threw open the folding doors near by, and, turning upon turkey and nippers, exclaimed: 

“bartleby a second time says he won’t examine his papers.  what do you think of it, turkey?” 

it was afternoon, be it remembered.  turkey sat glowing like a brass boiler, his bald head steaming, his hands reeling among his blotted papers. 

“think of it?” roared turkey.  “I think I’ll just step behind his screen and black his eyes for him!” 

so saying, turkey rose to his feet and threw his arms into a pugilistic position.  he was hurrying away to make good his promise when I detained him, alarmed at the effect of incautiously rousing turkey’s combativeness after dinner. 

“sit down, turkey,” said I, “and hear what nippers has to say.  what do you think of it, nippers?  would I not be justified in immediately dismissing bartleby?” 

“excuse me, that is for you to decide, sir.  I think his conduct quite unusual, and indeed, unjust, as regards turkey and myself.  but it may only be a passing whim.” 

“ah,” exclaimed I, “you have strangely changed your mind, then— you speak very gently of him now.” 

“all beer,” cried turkey; “gentleness is effects of beer— nippers and I dined together today.  you see how gentle I am, sir.  shall I go and black his eyes?”

 “you refer to bartleby, I suppose.  no, not today, turkey,” I replied; “pray, put up your fists.” 

I closed the doors and again advanced towards bartleby.  I felt additional incentives tempting me to my fate.  I burned to be rebelled against again.  I remembered that bartleby never left the office. 

“bartleby,” said I, “ginger nut is away; just step around to the post office, won’t you? (it was but a three minutes’ walk), and see if there is anything for me.” 

“I would prefer not to.” 

“you will not?” 

“I prefer not.” 

I staggered to my desk and sat there in a deep study.  my blind inveteracy returned.  was there any other thing in which I could procure myself to be ignominiously repulsed by this lean, penniless wight?— my hired clerk?  what added thing is there, perfectly reasonable, that he will be sure to refuse to do? 


no answer. 

“bartleby,” in a louder tone. 

no answer. 

“bartleby,” I roared. 

like a very ghost, agreeably to the laws of magical invocation, at the third summons he appeared at the entrance of his hermitage. 

“go to the next room, and tell nippers to come to me.” 

“I prefer not to,” he respectfully and slowly said, and mildly disappeared. 

“very good, bartleby,” said I, in a quiet sort of serenely severe self-possessed tone, intimating the unalterable purpose of some terrible retribution very close at hand.  at the moment I half intended something of the kind.  but upon the whole, as it was drawing towards my dinner hour, I thought it best to put on my hat and walk home for the day, suffering much from perplexity and distress of mind..."