Thursday, October 23, 2003

pinions of buddy don: wurds

i been trine to put wurds to my life or mayhap ye mite could say i been trine to put my life into wurds. i aint so nigh-eve as to thank ye kin fit life into wurds, but i been playin with wurds so long i cant hardly quit. the subjecks been a cunundrum frum the verr beginnin. heres a sample of my thoughts on the subjeck in 1977:

Tuesday, November 1, 1977

After this morning's drive into school, I began walking -- with a pack of books sitting appropriately monkeylike on my back -- towards this oasis, the McClung Undergraduate Library. As I did so, words flowed through my mind. The other day the word "precession" came up in a conversation. Seeking its meaning in a small dictionary proved a disappointing venture, so everyone fell back upon experiential definitions. "Precession of the equinoxes" seemed a good starting point as did discussion of graphs, changes of direction, near perfect circles and other word groups. No one knew the meaning. Later Suze and I looked it up in my unabridged dictionary. The definition confused me but enlightened her. It contained as many new terms (to me) as it defined, at least as many. Suze had learned the terms while in college.

When Virgil and I went our separate ways after this morning's coffee, I began walking around looking at the different buildings here. Ayers Hall: people learn the language of mathematics; Physics Building: people use exact definitions of words like force, inertia, gradient, vector, polar coordinates to learn physical "laws"; Ferris Hall: people learning to use computers to take date from and control various portions of reality by learning languages which computers can interpret; Communications: interpretive reporting, lead, upside down pyramid, what when where who why and how, local interest, human interest, local color, features, headlines -- what a mass of words; Humanities and Social Sciences Building (McClung Tower or The Tower: itself a symbol [see the Tarot]): learning to use various word systems -- psychology and schizophrenia, behaviorists, Freudian, psychosis, paranoia, lithium, librium, transactional analysis, hierarchy of needs, analysis -- sociology and disadvantaged groups, social animal, animal without instincts, the public, statistical data on prevalence of marijuana use, divorce, abortion, problems in aggregate vs. solutions, unified, Auguste Comte (voila: man, society, woman to God (our comfort is her breasts) -- English and a thousand grammatical, stylistic, "--ismistic" (real, natural, romantic, lyric, existential) -- philosophy and . . . but do I dare go on??

Many people are unaware that the University is nothing more than a place to learn the manipulation, power, rules, assumptions, ambiguities, (let me put the grand etc. here), etc. of language(s). Until you learn that it's the manipulation of symbols being taught here, you are only learning the shadow of what's being taught.

Biology is not cells and corpuscles and respiration and photosynthesis, chloroplasts, excretion, protoplasm, nuclei and DNA (and the grand etc. again), etc.; it is something far beneath (or should I use the word beyond?) words.

The first thing to learn? That all you are doing here is learning about words. When you realize the true focus of your educational pursuits -- words -- then you can put your attention where it belongs.

Now: Is there any good reason to learn about words?

I sit many minutes trying to think through the approximate words I'd use to answer such a question. As I do so, it occurs to me that I probably should drop my discussion of words and return to a description of events. I realize that either of the things I might now do -- go on talking about words or begin again to describe the events I've missed so far -- will only further prove two things: I can't yet do more with words than poison either ideas or reality and that the good reason for learning words depends upon the use to which I might put them. So what can I say?

"In either case, the answer is, yes, there is good reason to learn how better to manipulate words; I just can't (yet) pinpoint that reason with words. It all has to do with the fact that should I want to tell you my reason, I need to become more adept with words so that I can do so adequately," should be my confident reply.

Or I could answer, "No, no reason at all. The goal is merely a mirage. Words can never do what you want to do with them. By trying to increase your abilities with words, you really only deepen your understanding of how weak words are," and thus even decide to quit keeping my diary after nearly 10 years. ("No, no," I hear my self image -- a dead thing, not even real -- cry out, "Don't leave me alone here.")

But words do have great power and that seems to argue for increasing one's understanding of how to use that power . . . doesn't it, in some certain personal sense? . . . just to get along in the world, one must use words if one can (to ward off arguments using deaf and dumb people, I say watch one long enough and he'll form words with his hands in the air), just to get by . . .

Quandary. Confusion. Misunderstanding. Again my world building crumbles a bit -- will it fall again? -- and sections are in such poor repair that I haven't the time or energy to repair them. The bricks from which my world building has been constructed: isn't that really what's disintegrating -- disappearing into thin air somehow . . . no? Then what are "words"? The mortar? The supporting beams? Cmon, fit them into the symbol . . . no? You don't? It'll fall, you'll see . . . like the Tower of Babel again . . . ach! Leave off with words about words for a minute . . .

Suze and I

On Saturday we -- that is, Suze and . . .

Earlier Suze had received an invitation to a party on Saturday night -- that is, the party would take place on . . .

So Suze dressed as a French floozy and I as generalized perversion -- a bearded lady in combat boots and black gloves and purple shower cap and little girl looking dress of blue and pink checks and my face all made up -- and we went to the party on Saturday. Thinking that most of the people there would be Suze's age, we gave no second thoughts to our -- particularly my -- costume(s). When we walked into the door, a shock sparked its way through the room, stopping conversation -- the words spilling out of the mouths of sillily looking older Carbide types dressed in appropriately tasteful costumes whose meanings required much cultural experience to divine: Laurel and Hardy, Grouch and Harpo, Darth Vader, a Sugar Daddy -- the words from the costumes dried up for a moment as everyone checked everyone else's responses to my attire -- is it really a man dressed as a woman? Wonder . . . the beard, fake? Or the boobs?

Re: the power of words, I just ran out of ink after attaching the question mark to "boobs." As a result, half an hour has passed, and I've changed location. In order to continue, I decided, I'll go, a la Gurdjieff, to an eatery -- too bad there are no cafes here -- have some more coffee and continue this collection of useless symbols -- words, that is -- in such a way as to insure that the two-edged sword wielded by the verbal animal is appreciated by, or at least suggested to, the poor helpless readers upon whom I so completely depend for my existence . . . you, that is.

Shortly after the dip in the noise level mentioned above, everything returned, in a sense, to a new moment of normality, in its own terms, of course: people drinking as inconspicuously as possible, people cursing the Onion -- I, too, curse the Union Carbide disease -- people putting across sexual messages with fairly "neutral" words pronounced in the usually suggestive way, people playing parts, pretending, pretensions and apprehensions, what rot! Suze blazes a trail through the wilderness of bad actors, eyes each with a searching glance, checks out the last, then turns, over her shoulder, in that casual way of saying things that means that what is said is not for everyone's ears and that insures everyone will have their ears "on," to me (who else?) at a volume loud enough for every nosey ear to be pricked in a satisfying way, "Buddy Don, you're the only faggot here!"

Again, the party spent a respectful and uncomfortably long few moments, soaking in as many "true" meanings from Suze's words as there were people in the room, silently adjusting, glancing with heads down a the . . . whisper it now . . . the . . . faggot? No, it's too funny, it can't be, right? And still silently shifting feet or positions on the couch or in the corner, coughing quietly until a few of the many billions of words collecting behind the momentary stop gap damming (damning?) of the ever-present spring of words caused by Suze's statement in each curious "social animal's" being . . . until a few drops of the deep, frustrated pool of words spill over the tops of the dam of surprise -- even shock -- and begin again to soak the room, first sprinkling here and there and growing finally into another rapids of symbols, churning up the room and changing -- if ever so slightly -- every person in the room.

I'll tell you about the power of words: I couldn't escape the label Suze accidentally splashed upon my image in everyone's mind when she blurted her thoughtless remark out into the party . . . pinching, merciless jokes and true embarrassment -- even shame -- occupied my evening there . . .

I almost feel I can't go on. Is it better this way? Endlessly refining my technique, telling of my life in greater and greater detail . . . can this be it? Shall I
                    this way? Or is any other way more "true," more "right," more "good"? I really don't know . . . meanwhile the people at the University here are patient. I've promised them words -- a novel! -- and they nurture me like a rare and precious plant which they hope will produce a certain very prestigious and highly sought after flower, which they can add to their already burgeoning bouquet of mostly stale flowers of research and creation. How can I go on now?

Let me rest my pen now. I must cart my ears and tongue to Existentialism -- we study existentialism here, can you imagine that? -- and participate in a discussion which is meant to enlighten me further.

I would imagine I'll be back, more words will be scrawled following these and this particular madness will go on. I can barely keep it going, but I want to watch it, understand it, also . . .

I think I'll stop by The Tower on the way.

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