Friday, February 19, 2010

Cracks in Everything

Some people never stop reading. It's true. A man puts a book down, closes his eyes, and reads. He opens them again, and reads the arch in his girlfriend's eyebrow, the way she abruptly flicks her wrist as she tosses away the cigarette he can't stand, the way she then closes her own eyes, pretending that she, too, reads. But whereas he has learned to read the darkness against his own closed lids, she sees only a bright flash of light, the backside of her eyelashes feathering across the shadow of a page.

Why do we read? Maurice Blanchot writes:

Apparently we only read because the writing is already there, laid out before our eyes. Apparently. But the first person who ever wrote, who cut into stone and wood under ancient skies, was far from responding to the demands of a view that required a reference point and gave it meaning, changed all relations between seeing and the visible.

"Apparently," says Blanchot. It is only apparent(ly). Magicians--oh, and those people on stain remover commercials--are famous for taunting us with "now you see it, now you don't." Those who deal in either magic or marketing knowingly capitalize on our weakness: our tendency to believe that what see exists, and that what we don't...doesn't. But what if we try to catch the il y a-- the "there is"--on its way from seen to unseen? How do we read what happens in between concealment and revelation?

Blanchot isn't finished:

What he left behind him was not something more, something added to other things; it was not even something less--a subtraction of matter, a hollow in the relation to the relief. Then what was it? A hole in the universe: nothing that was visible, nothing that was invisible. I suppose the first reader was engulfed by that non-absent absence, but without knowing anything about it, and there was no second reader because reading, from then on understood to be the vision of an immediately visible--that is, intelligible--presence, was affirmed for the very purpose of making this disappearance into the absence of the book impossible.

Reading is (only) a "vision of an immediately visible." When we read, really read, we disappear into the absence of the book. When we read others--the face of a loved one, the scowl of a stranger, the back of a former lover--we disappear into their cracks and everything becomes illuminated for us. I suppose this is why I look for fractures: I want to know what it feels like to be suspended, darkly, in between wholeness and fragmentation. What is dark within a person does not discredit him.

A friend sent me one of his poems today, and the idea contained in the poem is what led me down this path. The poem draws on some of Leonard Cohen's lyrics: "There is a crack, a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." The crack is what divides the seen from the unseen, the visible from the invisible. But how to read it is the most difficult question of all.


David Suissa said...

When we listen, really listen, we disappear into the absence of the other. At that moment, there is no in-between. It's only fracture.

Casey said...

Maybe, inevitably, a generation of intellectuals will come along who will only listen. Imagine that! When the brightest minds all fall silent together. That'd be something.