Monday, September 12, 2011

Nothing De-Scribed



The disaster . . . it is the limit of writing.

Only now, in the earliest hours of September 12, 2011, do I venture to write anything. The day before seemed to me little more than the culmination of our collective desire to write something, anything--to pretend to remember, to commemorate. How can we remember what we don't know?

Anyone who fancies himself a writer of any kind had been thinking about what he would write, what he would say, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. We filled the empty space with the appearance of mourning, but what we call mourning is perhaps nothing more than self-therapy in drag.

We want to tell our stories. We want to remember our selves: where we were when we heard the news of the disaster. We want to identify the remains of our egos in the rubble. But the truth is that we've forgotten what we've never known. Our knowledge, our memories, are mutilated.

I'm not saying it's wrong. But I didn't want to be a part of this.

This must be repeated: the disaster de-scribes.

I didn't want to be a part of this, and so I thought of nothing. Nothing until now. And yet now I find that it is even impossible to think of nothing. We emerge into this world from nothing, and it is the return to nothing that we fear with a fear so deep that we disable our capacity to conceive of it. It terrifies us with its lack of clutter and chaos. Absence, silence, emptiness: they remind us of our origins, of the place from which we come and the future that quietly threatens us.

I reject coherence, here and now, in a vain attempt to write the de-scribing of disaster.

Like the surface tension in a cup of silence, trembling.

I read something earlier today, on a blog, about how we are perhaps only in the latent stage of trauma--we have not yet borne witness to the events of 9/11. When we do, the stories will cease for just a little while in favor of silence.

We do believe that we want to know everything about the collective trauma, though. It's kind of like the time when Moses said to G-d: "Show me your face!" He saw, instead, the back of G-d. The story is that it would've been too much for Moses to bear had G-d revealed his face. I always wonder if Moses was underestimated. And on other days I wonder alternatively if he, Moses, was traumatized, and whether he found comfort in deception ("No, no, I never saw His face.")

And weeds grow in my mouth.

I'm only talking about things I don't know. Doesn't it feel gross to use our own words on occasions such as these? I just thought of the end of a poem by Norman Finkelstein:

Now among more twisted paths,
where each new archetype proves less adequate than the last,
I move forward in mourning,
proceed looking backward, mumbling a kaddish for the myth of the resurrection,
the unruly corpse we cannot put to rest.

Not everything will live again. Everything need not be rebuilt, even if the re-building happens only through narrative. And yet I still cherish these stories, if only because of how they illuminate our amnesia.

* Italics are quotations from Maurice Blanchot, Alicia Ostriker, and Yehuda Amichai respectively.

1 comment:

Casey said...

I'm with you. I'm sure that I'm still living that trauma, and unsure how it shapes me still.