Friday, December 7, 2007

Schrodinger's Igloo


A true Winter morning here in Brooklyn: cold, dark, just enough snow on the ground to make me nervous, or more nervous, about riding my bike to work along the slippery Manhattan "bike paths." Winter, Seth....Winter! Just writing the word makes me excited and provokes me into contrasting your Mediterranean, sun-worshipping shark-attackery with my own bearish love of cold, inside, small quarters, snow...

(great how we can do this. Last night in my journal: "A new person is an opportunity to create yourself again." It's strange since I spend so much time alone, but to be totally honest I don't think I'm anybody at all without another person around - even if that other person is only a vaguely-imagined audeince. I'm like Schrodinger's cat: I mean, common sense and experience dictate that I should exist on my own, but then what do you do with the fact that entire constellations of television satellites are kept in flight based primarily on the science of my nonexistence...? Do you just let these things hurtle into Australia...?)

Winter is a natural time for introverts and sleep-artists like myself: a great season for writing but even more so a great time for Not-Writing. I personally have been doing a lot of the latter and not looking back, embracing a mix of Pushkinian laziness and Rimbaudesque mopery, though with much less absinthe, wine and derangement. All that stuff is fun - but for me, the most interesting route to life's strangeness isn't jumping on it (pretending it's a horse, galloping, I don't know, spilling everyone's drinks), but rather crawling under it. I've been calling this the Russian way here and intend to stick to the term despite the fact that pretty much anybody can do it bearded or not.

Even Americans, like Ahab, who wanted to strike through the mask - though in my own personal cosmology I cross him with my grandmother's quilt making and imagine myself a needle pushed - tenderly but firmly - to the other side of the fabric. What a strange place that must be for a first-time needle! A sort of anti-world, colors muted or reversed and the stitching hanging off of everything like wiring after a hurricane, ragged and warm and dream-like, frightening.

Winter, for me, is like a gigantic, three-month-long other side of the quilt: a time of transfiguration and power - the season of advent, which I, being heathen and bearish in my understanding of the term, associate with tiny, pockmarked calendars and the world they represent: a world that isn't a single unliftable piece at all, but a network of little doors and tunnels: people slinking down fireplaces and disappearing into back pockets. A subterranean hearth-lit dreamed and dreaming world; domesticated. Most importantly a place where escape is possible.

(hilarious and revolting how much this post makes me sound like a fat old man eating gumdrops)


Freedom/Nonfreedom, or as Victor Shklovsky calls it, "Unfreedom"...Why does this idea obsess me so much?

VS says about his time as a young writer:

"I spent the second factory thinking - or to put this in terms of an object being processed - undergoing the thought of freedom.
What concerns me now are the limits of freedom, the deformations of the material."

And again later, in a letter to Roman Jakobson:

"Roman, I am studying the unfreedom of the writer. I am studying unfreedom as though it were a set of gymnastic equipment."

Freedom presumes that I AM something to begin with - but what if this constant reaching was just a slightly more complex version of the way a plant moves towards sunlight? Then what we've been talking about here isn't freedom at all, but an attempt at a more complicated unfreedom than the one we've got.

An unfreedom we're at home in, like a gigantic living room, with the great living-room strangeness I can remember distinctly from when I was a kid, and even a paper-weight was like a nugget of uranium that had landed in my hands against all sense and decency.

The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss described the fables the native Brazillians told him as an attempt to turn the world from something strange and frightening to something human - something interesting, rather than terrifying. Igloos, however, are usually abandoned after a night's use, since food moves and anyway snow is everywhere.


Seth said...


Did you know that I am, ethnically, a Russian?

At least, 50% so.

My father's parents both emigrated from the Ukraine.

I don't own even a drop of Mediterranean blood, unless you count my uncle's side of the family's offering: 25% French.

Perhaps I'm simply reaching for the UnMediterranean within me.

Josh said...

call yourself French-Cassanovan then, man. Remember, we're talking imaginary heritage; sort of like FreeDarko's liberated fandom. And please don't tell me this isn't possible, because if I have to be a purebred WASP 24-7 I'm gonna shoot myself.

Fucking white people.