Food Allergy For Thought

There’s a rare condition called lexical-gustatory synesthesia in which people involuntarily experience food tastes when they hear, read or say a word.

I’m allergic to milk. A severe reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock, which isn’t fun.

If I were also allergic to words, would uttering “milk” make me swell-spoken?

In college I wrote a story about the time milk almost killed me in the fifth grade. People thought I was exaggerating my symptoms. I wasn’t.

If you must write, risk your life to write. Every sentence, in the end, is a death sentence.

If writing doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, you’re not doing it right.

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Memoir Seminar

Jean Baudrillard: “Cipher, don’t decipher.”

Translation: Keep to yourself. Keep something of yourself for yourself. Keep something of yourself from yourself. Commit silence.

***

How shall we write silence? How shall we write in silence? In what tone does silence not-write?

Knot-writing. Bound books. Unsafe words. Writing is seen as emotional release. It’s first and foremost a building of tension. Writing complicates. Writing frustrates.

***

If you must write a memoir, don’t spill your guts. Deflect reflection. Let sleeping Freudians lie.

Engage like a mistress in tease and denial. Put a hand over your mouth. Hand over your mouth. Muffle your dreams.

Publish It Yourself

Looking to s(h)elf-publish? Write books nobody reads to be a better person. Be nobody yourself. Inspire readers to do nothing, to say no to being themselves for once. Give the floor to each reader’s No-Self. Write No-Self help books.

Poet’s Market

Against the (cash) flow of the free market, poetry is useless.

Poets practice idle worship.

A poem traffics in elicit non-sense, in that it asks for no response, checks for no pulse.

You can put a price on a poem, but it will never sell (out).

Burn After Reading

Ingeborg Bachmann: “I am writing with my burnt hand about the nature of fire.”

Some questions. Some thoughts.

Where is this fire? Perhaps you’re full of passion, to the point of pain. Should it read instead: “I am writing with my burnt hand about the nature of fire within me”?

About the nature of fire.” Are you holding your hand to the fire? Is it hovering above the flames? Why don’t you remove it?

It sounds like you’re using your hand to write. Another way of seeing things: Is your hand writing all by itself? Are you writing alongside it? Is your body, minus your burnt hand, writing its own material?

Are you using your write hand?

Words can contain fire—a fiery speech, inflammatory language—but words can’t contain a fire, can’t command a fire to stop burning. If we’re angry when we write, are we playing with ire?

When you wrote or spoke this line, were you aware, Ingeborg Bachmann, that a fire in your bedroom would contribute to your death in 1973 at the age of 47? Did you enjoy your last cigarette?

Connection Issues

In his 2017 book In the Swarm: Digital Prospects, Byung-Chul Han examines the challenges of working in a global economy. Concerned about employee burnout, Han writes,

Even though we are now free from the machines that enslaved and exploited people during the industrial age, digital apparatuses are installing new constraints, new slavery. Because of their mobility, they make possible exploitation that proves even more efficient by transforming every space into a workplace—and all time into working hours. The freedom of movement is switching over into a fatal compulsion to work everywhere. (34)

According to Han, “a fatal compulsion to work everywhere” leaves employees stressed out and sleep-deprived. During the industrial age, workers suffered untold hardships, Han says, but at least they could clock out and leave the factory behind for the night. Today, turned into mini international business machines, many workers drag the factory home with them on phones, tablets and laptops.

The amount of information—be it personal, social or work-related—stored on our “digital apparatuses,” as Han calls them, boggles the mind. Jean Baudrillard called people’s compulsion to collect and catalogue every last piece of data “obscene.”

With a flair for the dramatic, Baudrillard writes in his 1987 book The Ecstasy of Communication that “today there is a pornography of information and communication, a pornography of circuits and networks, of functions and objects in their legibility, availability, regulation, forced signification, capacity to perform, connection, polyvalence, their free expression” (26-27).

Today every event, every interaction, every idea, every word must mean something unequivocally. Earth and all its satellites must speak. We can’t go off the grid of “forced signification.” No one has the right to remain silent. We must answer every email and text, share our thoughts on social media, express ourselves on blogs. Non-tweeters risk ex-communication.

Seventy-five years before the release of the first iPhone, Romanian philosopher E. M. Cioran just wanted to be left alone. Writing was anti-social media for Cioran, who proclaims in his 1934 book On the Heights of Despair in full pessimist mode:

As far as I am concerned, I resign from humanity. I no longer want to be, nor can still be, a man. What should I do? Work for a social and political system, make a girl miserable? Hunt for weaknesses in philosophical systems, fight for moral and aesthetic ideals? It’s all too little. I renounce my humanity even though I may find myself alone. But am I not already alone in this world from which I no longer expect anything? (43-44)

I admire Cioran’s defiant spirit, but short of committing suicide, no one can resign from humanity. We can quit a corporate job, but we can’t quit seeking the company of others.

There has to be a middle ground between being hyper-connected—to our families, colleagues, (Facebook) friends, Instagram followers—and being totally isolated, as Cioran might have envisioned it. Anyone who finds this middle ground might, with the right connections, sell millions of self-help books and never need a “real job” again.