In Words Fail: Theology, Poetry, and the Challenge of Representation, Colby Dickinson argues that language allows us to speak about a thing, but language never leads us to “the ‘thing itself’—the as such-ness of a thing beyond its linguistically codified and intelligible form” (43). We are left with imperfect representations of things that fail us.
Earlier in his book Dickinson asks this profound question: “How indeed, we might add, would one begin to live as if they knew an intimacy forever beyond our ability to represent it (as in cases involving death) and yet find themselves living in a flesh, with its age and its sorrow, that is, at times, simply all too present?” (25).
Would I live my life differently if I knew for certain that a Great Beyond exists beyond words, beyond my life? Could I ever visit, ahead of time, an afterlife awaiting me before I die?
The ultimate illusion, a depth-defying feat: to take a leave of presence, disappear to a traceless place beyond representation, then re-present myself as myself right before my varied eyes.
Anne Dufourmantelle, in Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living, reminds depressed patients looking for a quick fix that “medication only patches up the desire to live, or the heartache, or the professional failure, or the feeling of inadequacy; for nothing can sew up such a wound. Nothing except creation, what reopens the wound elsewhere and differently, but on less shifting ground” (86).
Two months ago, I published my third book, once again creating and re-creating myself through words. Writing it gave me pleasure, but it was a lonely endeavor. I write best when nobody’s around, but I don’t write for myself alone. Depressed or not, we all crave connection.
“When we are seized,” Dufourmantelle says, “by the feeling that nobody will ever come to us, that this solitude will not loosen its grip on us, ever, we must still find the strength to extend our arms, to kiss, to love. To say it, to start again, to hear the whisper of that wild voice that calls you from well before your beginnings” (98).
My books are an extension of me, a reaching out, a kiss. A wound reopened elsewhere, my writing is an expression of loneliness that challenges but never defeats loneliness.
Paul Tillich finds hope in The Courage to Be when he writes: “The vitality that can stand in the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning” (177).
Jean Baudrillard finds despair in The Ecstasy of Communication when he writes: “Everywhere one seeks to produce meaning, to make the world signify, to render it visible. We are not, however, in danger of lacking meaning; quite to the contrary, we are gorged with meaning and it is killing us. As more and more things have fallen into the abyss of meaning, they have retained less and less the charm of appearances” (55).
Baudrillard laments the loss of the charm of appearances in our all-too-visible, hyperreal world. Today we can’t let Nothingness be. We deny silence the right to remain silent. There once was a time, Baudrillard suggests, when the secret essence of things remained hidden, but today we’ve stripped the world of its profound illusion.
Melancholy, through writing, is Baudrillard’s last defense against madness.
Back to Tillich: “Even in the state of despair one has enough being to make despair possible” (177).
Baudrillard, in his despair, has enough being to make despair possible. The depth and vitality of his enigmatic writing invokes a silent resistance within and against the ecstasy of communication. A silent resistance destined, like all forms of (radical) thought, to fall into the abyss of meaning.
I’m in the moment, longing to be the moment itself. I’m fully engaged in the Being-Me of being me, but being me is not enough. I want to be everything and every person I’m not.
Flawed, fragile, fearful—enough! I want to be right now.
Impossible, I remind myself.
After years of sorrow, I accept the truth of my flawed, fragile, fearful self. After years of mourning, I wake up in the midnight of my life, aware of everything and every person I’m not.
What I need, to let go (of) myself, is touch. I long to touch a body longing to be touched.
Still possible, I remind myself.
Three holes to fill: I’m lonely, horny and ornery. Or, in clinical terms, I’m depressed, (hypo)manic and anxious. In the end, I’m screwed.
Jean Baudrillard: “Language, too, has its molars for grinding, its incisors for cutting, its canines for tearing—and, from time to time, a wisdom tooth.”
Enlightenment: enduring the pain of a wisdom truth.