Inaugurations

The WordPress app for iPhone ate my first post of 2011 the other morning. Secreting honey, almonds and champagne through every pore, I woke in the early hours not long after going to bed to tap out a post in the darkness about the use of the word ‘we’. Writing in the dark, in bed, half asleep, into a little screen a few inches in diameter, has its advantages. For one, you don’t get tempted to look at a whole load of other internet sites to see if anyone else has been saying something similar to what you’ve been saying.

And everything in that state of consciousness reads great! It’s not that far off the sense of being in a dream where you’re reading a newspaper and you think, “Wait a minute, this is a dream? I had no idea my mind could write paragraph after devastatingly coherent paragraph of unalloyed good sense! Holy shit!” I suspect, though, that if we tried the Freud-prescribed practice of writing down the content of the dream, the manifest content committed to paper would be a bit disappointing. But only because our puny waking minds could not capture in mere text the richness of the meaning served up by our unconscious, mind you.

What happened was this: after writing several long paragraphs in the tenebrae, I wanted to double-check a quote from Winnie The Pooh. So I tried the toggling thing to open up iBooks, and on my return to the WordPress app, my night’s labours had vanished. I resolved to get some sleep, and then do a rewrite in the morning. But when I awoke, I couldn’t remember a damn thing I’d been writing about. But wait, it’s drifting back to me now, albeit in a way close to how the written description of the manifest dream bears only the dimmest of relations to the marvel and terror of the dream. It was that good. I’m sure.

Harry Nilsson sang “I can’t live/If living is without you”. This is not just a desperate and overwrought plea to get someone into bed for the last time. It the desperate and overwrought statement of an ontological axiom. The “I”, or the ego, has no existence without other people. It’s not just you without whom I cannot exist: it’s him, her, them. The “I” unfolds through social encounters borne by language: I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

Even the most dedicated narcissist anarcho-capitalist survivalist rugged individualist, out to fend off the apocalypse by feasting on his stockpiles of beef jerky and tinned pineapples in some deserted and undisrupted spot well away from any other human being, can not escape the fact that the language he uses to plan his escapade is a social product. When he decides to look at the best before date on the long life breakfast packets, as he will every now and again, he will do so using knowledge acquired through language, which is a load of stuff that he didn’t make. It was made by other people. Self-made men always give their creators far too much credit.

What’s more, if some Man Friday arrived on the scene and made off some of with his beef jerky, he might use the language of private property law to justify cracking Man Friday’s nut open with a lump hammer. It isn’t just that no man is an island because he requires assistance to address even the barest of his animal needs: what is more, he cannot exist as himself unless others exist. Like Donne says: “I am involved in mankind”. Human interdependence is not something you can opt out of, short of killing yourself. What sort of language might you use to say “Enough of this being human bullshit: I’m off to found my own species!”? And to whom would you say it?

More later. For now, Happy New Year, humans.

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