Thursday, March 26, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 12.1 (Ernst Cassirer)

Cassirer, Ernst
The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms: Volume 2: Mythical Thought

See previous entry. I have nothing else to say about Ernst Cassirer. (I think that rhymes, but I can't be sure).

Although I do want to recount an experience I had last night while sitting in Talking Leaves...Books, where Davd Landrey launched his new book of poems from Spuyten Duyvil, Consciousness Suite.

One of the pleasures of poetry readings, as opposed to, say, fiction readings, is that I can allow my mind to wander out of poems without feeling like I missed something when I wander back in. I often think of poems I would like to write while listening to other people recite theirs, or I just let my mind wander over my surroundings, listening to a line here and a line there, occasionally taking in a whole poem.

At a fiction reading, I always feel like I have to pay too close attention to the story and that if I drift off for a moment I'll miss some crucial thing, disrupting both my listening experience and my experiencing of my own thoughts.

Sitting in a great bookstore like Talking Leaves, surrounded by books, is a double pleasure in that while I am drifting in and out of the poems, I can let my eyes wander from title to title, book to book, imagining books I might like to read, remembering books I have already read or which I already own. If all the bookstores ever do disappear, this will surely be one of the many pleasures I will get all wistful and misty-eyed about when telling some young whippersnapper what these places were like.

I wrote my previous blog entry, in which I appended a correction to my memory of a past situation to the end, just before heading out the door to David's reading last night. Which is to say, the act of remembering was on my mind when I left for the reading. As I listened to David's poems, which tend to probe the mind and its thought processes with tender, humorous music, my mind drifted off in one direction, while my eyes scanned the titles on the theory shelf to my right.

I started thinking about this blog and the act of remembering, of how I keep discovering that my memories are either vague, or false, or mis-remebered, but mainly how they all seem somehow constructions of a past to which I can't ever really have access.

I started thinking about all the books on the shelves and how all the books directly or indirectly attempt to construct reality, either in a forward looking manner that eventually becomes the past (literature, philosophy), or in a rearward-looking manner that attempts to reclaim or reconstruct the past (history, criticism).

I started thinking that the past and the present and the future are never recoverable, are forever just out of reach, and that everything -- every single motherfreaking thing we think we know -- is a fabrication.

And for a few minutes this made me very, very sad.

And then I drifted back into listening to David's poems, probing the inner workings of consciousness, and I began to think that this is why we (or, at least, I), make poems in the first place. That is, I fabricate in order to understand, and what I make is my understanding of what and who and where and how (and sometimes why) I am at a given point in time.

And all those people sitting in the room and all the books surrounding us and all those words pouring forth from David's mouth were not so much reconstructions of a past or present or future reality to which we can have access as attempts to fashion and share a world to which our connections are often invisible.

Which might explain the reaction I had after the reading to Chaplin's 'City Lights,' which Lori and I watched on the couch among my books and all the boxes that contain the cabinets that will one day make up our kitchen and the animals and the photographs and the posters and broadsides and all the things that dress up our lives here in Buffalo.

At the very end, when the blind girl that has regained her sight sees the little tramp, but doesn't recognize him until she touches his hand, I lost it completely -- just started bawling. I tear up pretty easily watching things, but nothing like this. I guess I am getting sentimental in my middle age. Or maybe just confused about the fact of having lived, and being aware of having lived, yet not really knowing if what I think I have lived is anything more than what I have made out of it.

If I remember correctly, this digression is somehow related to my memory of the post-Kantian idealism of Ernst Cassirer.

But who can know such things?


kevin.thurston said...

if blogger where like facebook it would say 'kevin thurston likes this'

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

thumbs up back atcha, halfway around the world!