Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann . . .

darüber muß man schweigen.

In English: What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence. (Or: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.) The philosophers among you--and perhaps Larry, given his background in semantics--might recognize that as the last line of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico Philosophicus. (I'd originally thought to open with some quote from T. S. Eliot, who, despite his anti-Semitism and Catholocism, wrote poetry that has always resonated with me. Given that I don't really like poetry, or religion, or anti-Semitism, that just seems weird to me, but there it is.)

Larry's comment to the last post made me recall the ways in which I avoid words, when I do that. As you might imagine, given my (b)logorrhea, I don't mean that I don't talk about things. It also doesn't mean, as Larry speculated it might, that I somehow exist on feelings (the very thought of that gives me hives AND shivers). I think what I mean is that I try things on, verbally, with a very few people I trust, even more often only with myself, and I see what starts to sound right. By that I mean something like: Does this accurately capture, name, or describe the reality(ies) in which I'm enmeshed at the moment? Have I included enough perspectives? Is there enough color and light? Is the point of view tenable, or does it fall away like an Escher drawing? (And I find it interesting that I'm turning to visual analogies here . . .) What I often discover, especially when a situation is complicated, messy, drawn-out, fraught, uncertain, still in progress, mutable, etc., is that, even when I think I might have the occasional piece of it right, even when some phrases resonate in that deep way that lets me know I've probably hit something real, even when something becomes clear to me (perhaps in part because I've found the right words for it), I know I still don't have enough of the picture, or the story. Interestingly enough, that's fine with me.

When I wrote my dissertation, I really didn't know how it was going to turn out. Some people set out to do a certain kind of statistical analysis, say, and they run the numbers and report them. (I'm not criticizing that kind of work, at least not right now.) In part because of the multiple layers of the work I was doing, I really didn't know what I was going to find, or what I would or could say about it, until I was done writing it. Nevertheless, I did manage to write it--that is, I'm not made completely uncomfortable by not knowing how something is going to Turn Out. I like the uncertainty, sometimes, if you can believe that--I can immerse myself in it, if things aren't TOO crazy, and just kind of marvel at it, and maybe even enjoy some parts of it. Go figure. (It's probably why I like watching sports so much: nearly everything else we watch--most movies or television shows or whatever, and even a large part of the "news"--well, if you can't figure out in the first few minutes what's going to happen in the subsequent minutes, you're not paying attention. But when two people or teams enter a playing field or arena of some kind, there's no telling what's going to happen. I usually can't stand the announcers, though.)


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