After my father died in 1976, my mother developed another love: that of cemeteries. Although his grave didn’t follow us when we moved to another city not long after the event, mother would drag us to the cemetery every Sunday. Her argument was that there was no place like the cemetery where one could really get a sense of silence. I paid attention. Ever since then my love for silence has been constant. It manifests itself in many ways, however. Also in association with sound. I suppose that saying that nowhere is silence more formidable than in a blasting Bach organ recital would be a kind of paradox. ‘Tis true, though. When I was in my teens, mother was worried that I never went to anything other than such recitals or the opera. She would say, “but, young people don’t go to these things. Try a disco place.” I would go, “excuse me?”, and that would settle it. When I came to Denmark in my early 20s I realized quickly at that point that I must have been the only person on the planet who had not heard of the hippies, Woodstock, and Bob Dylan. It was a kind of irony that in spite of such major ignorance I wanted professionally to be in American studies. You can imagine the big holes I had to start filling in terms of acquiring what others would call basic knowledge. It was also about that time that I realized I was an epistemologist at heart, only my love for abstract formalism kept messing with my plans to study hard core philosophy. All the better, as I’m not really interested in big questions. If there’s one truth out there it’s this one: we’re all going to die – and if you ask me, the sooner the better; just get it over with. It’s the only end result I ever believe in. Now some would say, “don’t be so cynical.” I would, of course, deny any such charge. But I forget now what the argument for it is. Perhaps this one: because “our days are numbered.” Not very original, but then quoting the Bible has always proven to be very efficient, especially when one has nothing to say. Which makes me think that what I really wanted to be in this life time is a famous mathematician. It never happened. Given that I was no good at putting two and two together, ever, my love of math must remain both a mystery and a paradox. Anyway, where was I, yes, silence. My God, how I love it! So did Wittgenstein. When he elegantly passed the ineffable over into silence, he made a paradoxical move where the tension between finitude and the infinite is concerned. On this I like what Jabès has to offer in The Book of Shares: “finite: all that is no more. Infinite: all that is more” (30). Of course as a formalist epistemologist, mathematician, Americanist, Bach enthusiast, and cynic, I would have to ask Jabès: “what do you mean by all?” (this is me as a judge talking, which I also fancied becoming especially since I always thought that if one has to measure silence, one has to make recourse to a notion of scaling actions; another paradox, I know). But Jabès would instantly reply – already there, through a silent reading of the juxtaposed page where the above quote is lifted from, so that even any such noise resulting from turning the damn page is altogether liquidated – that “silence is no weakness of language. It is on the contrary, its strength. It is the weakness of words not to know this” (31). So we’re back to fucking knowledge. My God, will it ever stop? Let’s stay silent for a while, and observe others observe. Here’s Guy Davenport hunting The Hunter Gracchus:

“Poe’s mind was round, fat, and white; Kafka’s cubical, lean, and transparent.” (15)

“The emptier a room the smaller it seems. This is true of minds as well." (230)

“Jaako Hintikka, philosopher and critic of Wittgenstein. In private life a reindeer.” (228)

“Hemingway’s prose is like an animal talking. But what animal?” (234)

“ – Rabbi, this tearing off of the foreskin, is it right?” (231)

“Poetic knowledge is polythetic: it needs only a representative example to make its case. But to talk about poetic knowledge in prose we need the full set." (300)

“Talk ruins everything.” (300)


Bent said…
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?
- Woody Allen
Camelia said…
Good fucking question.
Anonymous said…
iti amintesti ca mai aveam un loc in care intram sa "ascultam linistea", in catedrala catolica din centrul aradului, unde forfota centrului disparea cu fiecare pas intrind in biserica, apoi pe ultima banca faceam liniste si inauntrul nostru, iar de cite ori te intrebam ceva imi retezai scut intrebarea printr-un "ssst taci si asculta" si ne cufundam intr-o liniste mormintala... si totusi atit de placuta.manna
fiecare om are perioada de efervescenta dupa care poate simti nevoia de liniste dar astsa nu anuleaza dorinta si bucuria de a traii si imi place sa cred ca sint si batrini de 90 de ani cu pofta de viata,si care spun ca viata e scurta si ei inca mai au ceva bun de facut
Camelia said…
Mana it's good you remind me that I'm not the only one who turned out weird - (why have you stopped writing in English?) - but then who could not learn that special something in a class all of its own from mother, once one knew her? We were lucky. Yes, the big cathedral in Arad, when I used to pinch you to make you stand still and not even breathe so that we could hear it, the silence, especially as it gathered in the well by the door, yes, I have such fond memories of that too. Silence happens in such acts of attention, when the mind turns from entropy to synergy. Here’s a quote for you, from one of your favorites, Anne Carson: “a thinking mind is not swallowed up by what it comes to know.” Indeed, a lot of knowledge was produced when mother let us register her desire in her eyes – for silence and such other things of marvel – when you allowed me to bruise your skin while looking into your eyes demanding that you listen, and when I instructed myself to open myself to imagination, particularly the kind that prevented me from drowning in the desire to know, and thus forget to feel what it’s like to stand in close proximity to metaphysical unlikelihood. It was all rather beautiful, and worth the while. Thank you.

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