Tag Archives: old ideas

Radical openness, part 2: Weds. 30 Dec. 2015 journal

Continued from previous post.

In essence, there is nothing that I have to say to others. There’s nothing I need to say, and what texts I’ve created, these don’t need to be published. These are not vital info for others, not all that informative nor all that entertaining. Yet, maybe I’ll publish them anyway. Maybe I put up a few things on my blog, things whose value isn’t argued for or explained. Yeah, I may look a little weird doing that, but I want to know what these other forms would look like — can these be done?

The value for me is in the act of publishing is in the doing (if someone likes what I’ve done, that’s just an ego stroke for me). I don’t learn much or have new ideas from having others read my work (though I guess it’s possible someone could read my work and give me a deep analysis from which I could get insights).

(These lines make some sense to me now, but I recognize that this text may not make sense to me later, once the ideas are gone from my mind. The ideas are in my mind now, so they do seem normal now.)

If you are to retain open-mindedness, you just gotta trust that new learnings, new experiences, will come. You can’t know/predict what these are, or else it wouldn’t be new learning. You gotta have faith in the process of letting go, having an open mind!

I may publish a text that isn’t clearly trying to communicate, but is conveying the message, “I’m alive, here’s something from my mind.” It’s not what I say that matters, but only my voice — that I’m writing — that matters? My experience of writing and editing? Of course, these don’t matter to others. But new ways to be, to write, can indirectly communicate, but this doesn’t need to matter to others — a near paradox.

I’ve written for a couple hours, and I may not have said anything of interest to anyone but me. But the point is, I like to write! I like spending time that way! Any value for others in my texts is nice but incidental.

2:55 p.m. — An implication of radical openness: I may just remain silent. I may not have anything to say! I will likely try publishing things. I won’t take “radical openness” as a restriction. Don’t take this idea too seriously, either!

I don’t want to have to put on a persona, do a performance, as most writings and art made for others are. there’s writerly ego there in making the performance pleasing to others.

When a nonfiction writer dramatizes his role as an observer or participant, that’s a layer of fakeness, because one can’t live (do things other than writing) and write at the same time. [see another example here] To pretend in an article to do so is to make artifice. Writing is done after the experience. Why not be more natural, less self-aware, self-dramatizing, portraying self-as-character? To be less aware of writing to/for others might be more authentic.

4:10 p.m. — Writings — texts — do not represent life or physical reality or experience. We may try to represent these in words, but it doesn’t work well. Writing is writing, representing only itself. The mind uses language — that’s it! Experiencing and writing are two different things — it’s inauthentic to both to elide that distinction.

The way we teach students to write — say, the Personal Narrative, the Research Paper — is filling in a form, learning to put info in a format that others people can easily recognize. This teaching has students learning to do a specific type of thinking and language use, but it’s not a type of writing that reflects authentic, spontaneous language use, as a freewrite can.

The criticism that certain narratives aren’t realistic doesn’t make a lot of sense from this perspective (that writing doesn’t represent reality). All stories use language — there’s no way to compare language to reality.

I seem to be making a claim here, though I don’t want to, because my larger point about radical openness is that I don’t need to make points. Claims are made as compared to some sense of reality — that’s one definition of truth: something is true if it matches or adequately explains some aspect of reality. My point here is that there is no truth, there’s just language, and looking for truth in language may not be possible or even useful. Of course, the trap here is that I’m making yet another claim about reality. An expression of language is just an expression of language.

6:30 p.m. — I think what I want to say is that this idea (that writing represents itself, language use, not physical reality or experience) can be interesting, useful — but that my point in writing isn’t to make claims but just to write because I like to write. There’s no point where I will or could be done. There’s no idea/claim argument endpoint. What I was writing earlier in today’s journal is that a topic or point, to communicate that is to communicate, when that’s kinda flawed. (Why? because of reasons I gave earlier today, which I can’t quite recall …)

9:12 p.m. — well, because of radical openness! Because nothing I can say will be as cool as what might be said next — and because whatever I’ve already said in the pile of writings isn’t as important as what I might learn from the next editing session! Old thoughts are old, existing thoughts are old, but the experience of reading old texts is new!

Let’s consider expiration dates on old writings

Much of the food we buy in grocery stores is stamped with a date to indicate how fresh the food is. When our food gets too old, we throw it out, and we don’t feel guilty about doing so. “I can’t eat that — it’s expired.” So we go back to the store and try something new.

Clearly, food is not writing. Really old food is hard to find, and hardly edible, but really old texts abound. The world’s oldest known work of literature, the epic of Gilgamesh, was written on clay tablets and has since been copied and translated so it’s available to us to read now, over 3,000 years after it was written. And long before stories were written down, they were transmitted orally (for example, these stories from India).

In other words, writings never rot. But maybe they grow stale.

What does stale mean in terms of texts? Again, like food, maybe stale writing is just not tasty, not appealing. Corn chips that are soggy, and yogurt that is crisp, are not foods we’d expect others to eat. But as a culture, we keep publishing the really old texts, and teaching them as if they still have nutritive value for our students.

And I’m not really going to claim here that we should throw out all of the old texts. But I want to suggest that maybe we don’t need to revere the old texts just because they’re old. The reason that the stories in these old texts have survived is because, unlike an egg or a loaf of bread, these stories are ideas, and as such never live and never die. We take in freshly made things to nourish our bodies, and yet some of the ideas we still use to categorize, distinguish, and model our experiences and our world are thousands of years old.

For example, The Epic of Gilgamesh contains (in this translation of Tablet VII) a narrative that includes a character praying to a deity, a character describing a dream of an afterlife, and a character grieving over another character’s death. Many of our stories still have these things, and many contemporary people still do these things. Perhaps these things have lasted so long because they are a part of what could be called human nature. On the other hand, perhaps these are simply old ideas that have yet to be replaced by better ways of understanding reality and human experience.

So I don’t wish to throw these old texts onto the compost pile with the wilted lettuce — I don’t want to say these ideas are actually past their expiration dates. But maybe we could ask whether some of these ideas are past their “Best By” dates, and maybe we should try new ways of looking at and conceiving of the world.