Of this ineffable

My mother covering me, wholly, from the man with the gun. That was the dream. Being at home in the world. Fuck you, Freud.

I spoke to my friend and former lover after she’d returned from South Sudan. This would have been about a week or so ago. Life was hard there, she said. Her handler was a wreck and left her things in a wreck. Doctors without borders.

She told me a story of loss: of food, weight, routines, sickness, things. In the midst, so much was gone, so much pared back and down, so much taken and taken away, all the everydayness of things laid bare. She likened the experience to the Book of Job, to having very little, then almost nothing. And then? And then there was the turn.

She said, “To have everything taken away and to see what’s left.” What’s left: not nothing, not the darkness of the eternal night, not terror, but union, oneness, communion. (She said, “Oneness and whatnot.” “Just take out the ‘whatnot,'” I quipped, “and then see what’s left.”) Without having experienced this–this all ineffable–she wouldn’t have made it. Worse, she wouldn’t have been able to see how to help.

As I wrote this, I remembered two lines from a lullaby I’d written one early morning about a warm night in April.

In the midst of the mist of the night, my friend, did you feel the warmth of the night?

And was it then that you opened up your heart, was it then that you felt whole?

Addendum on the Ineffable

I’m of the view that conceptuality goes all the way down and all the way up. The ineffable, accordingly, is not that which is unsayable in principle but that which we have poorly said. It is rather like a stutter. I canvass this view in two places: in the final section, “The Dialectical Character of Experience,” of “Unbounded Naturalism,” Cosmos and History; and more generally in “Adorno and the Question of Metaphysics.” If you’re interested in reading the Adorno, feel free to drop me a note in the Contact form, and I’ll send you an offprint copy. Caveat lector: Both essays are written for academic audiences.

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