Technical Note on Why the Last Essay Isn’t Really About Writing

Maybe what I’m really after in speaking of an imaginary “you” and “Me” is a rapport with these persistent thoughts of self and other, these imaginary beings that occupy center stage in life. I’m not interested in being a writer, it’s not my career. But in looking at the dishonesty of thought honestly I’m dealing with a communal mess. And part of the resolution of a communal mess will necessarily involve communication of this sort.

Writing provides the opportunity for an elongated span of attention on these matters.  But it’s not the only way to approach all this. So it’s not about writing, it’s about the communal movement of thought. In any communicative case (speaking, fighting, using sign language, doing math) the same issue looms that I was trying to contend with — what to do about the self-image that insists on acting like a middle-man at all times, even poking its ugly little head between two embracing lovers more often than not in the form of anxieties and worries. This spoiled brat of thought has to be the center of attention and is constantly driven by insecurities, because it is by nature a deception, a projection posing as a reality.

So the question tends to be, how do I look at thought honestly knowing full well that a fictitious “I” or “me” will inevitably intrude on the scene demanding to play a central role?

There are a million ways to handle this and all have been tried in these essays, with varying effects. The one is to do what is being done in this paragraph, which is to refuse to use personal language and speak from the third person’s perch.

But in Truth and Distortion it was pointed out that every attempt to squeeze some clarity from the world contorts and blurs the universe in another way. The self-less speaking point of view has its weaknesses that are not worth discussing in detail. Every way of looking at things has its weaknesses. But maybe this needs to be said: The third-person approach simply skirts what inevitably arises in any normal, everyday conversation. It’s not facing the issue squarely. Besides, it’s almost rude to talk to another person without using the “I” point of view; in that context it sounds distant, robotic and phony. And that is more or less the context I’m trying to penetrate.

So what I’m experimenting with right now is using the “I” and “you”, but using them knowingly as fictions. I mean, none of this is new, I’m not inventing anything here. But every attempt involves a slightly different shift of tone and color. I’m not trying to put a stop to this issue of persistent self-consciousness so much as approach it differently every now and then either because I’m easily bored with the same old approach or because I think the particular topic at hand is better suited to one approach or another.

Also, I’d prefer to speak about thought in a way that allows for a rolling commentary on my own sentences as they emerge, and the third person isn’t as conducive to this more or less proprioceptive turn. But this is a difficult maneuver to pull off in the first or second person also, because if either you or I are imagined too ironically it leaves a stink of dishonesty. Nevertheless I think it can be pulled off if a mild and honest sense of humor about the use of “I” and “Me” is allowed to penetrate the otherwise self-important and self-defensive exterior of these people.

And so I occasionally allow the essay to slide into something like a fictional monologue. (Quite frankly, I’m just winging all this and trying to make sense of it as I go, I have no plans or intentions before my fingers hit the keyboard).

Now I can’t imagine that You are out there sitting on the edge of your seat devouring this technical discussion I’m having with myself. But I think that all of this does apply directly to your everyday life, no matter what you do for a living.

Because when you or I are walking down the road by ourselves, seemingly peacefully, we’re still speaking to these people in our heads. The same interplay between a “You”, “I” and “Me” is constantly happening in our heads the way it happens on the page (where the footprints of thought can be pursued more easily). So we might as well be writing. And that’s really what I’m digging into on these pages. I’m writing to penetrate the daily dialogue in my head, and it’s easier to call attention to it when I sit down at a keyboard.

End of technical discussion.

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