Somewhere in that same, now-ephemeral venture, I pulled his tabulating machine off his desk and onto the floor. I punched in "1963" -- the low key in the thousands column, the high key in the hundreds column, middle-high in the tens column, middle-low in the ones. The first time around I added 10 three times, then seven. The sum was a number that evaded all meaning for me. It was an immediate, and remains a lasting, fog. And when the year 2000 rolled around I still had no idea about that number. I am equally mystified by 46 today. But I do remember, with equal intensity, that the snick of each key seated in its register and the click-and-ratchet of the tabulating arm was satisfying beyond words.
It is, alas, in the analog of these places that most of my writing gets done. It is from me and to me, a relation between the idea of me and the machine of me that is passed in some clean, intra-cerebral idiom of lightning strikes which language, at its best, rudely distorts. The words may arrive in a scheme I sometimes find memorable or even beautiful, but only as language understands those qualities. And, only as the reader, already tasked with keeping up spam filters, calculating safe harbor in the office politics of the day, even crossing with the light but against the hardly-checked aggression of city drivers, has the resources of moment and sympathy to consider.
Writing to myself is like the discovery of a headwater, or the apprehension of some new falls. It marks the first beginning of what there is to know about the river that follows. But it is the power that drives these manifests that I most want to define. And so what I want to say about it is perhaps a strange cousin to this idea:
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
In following the traditions by which T. S. Eliot finds lilacs springing from the dead and Chaucer finds bathed in every veyne in swich licour/Of which vertu engendred es the flour, Dylan Thomas speaks to both: the gift, the dread of water's power. But also how he remains subject to the very god he demands to know. He sees himself suspect in his own intention; I imagine it's because the poet feels that urge to sell this god out, and can't quite come to terms with the devil within. He also sees it is as a fool's game, and a foolishly dangerous one.
I do not feel myself a party to that discussion. I instead feel myself moving from one station -- a search for the foundation of my own meanings that merely extend beyond my reach -- to another proposition: that if one is going to wrestle this genius, one first has to learn to walk through the rock. But language and writing do not further the means to that lesson.
Writing is instead our collective graffiti. It is our declamation in chalk, paint, ink, smoke, and pixels: Beyond this point, who knows? But I'm carving my initials, drawing a heart, marking the year, and moving on. I am here. To you I was here first, and you're not going to solve this either.
And there's the taunt and the trap: who has ever written anything that is truly new? First in print, sure, and "original" in that sense of the word. Or that is how it seems to this mind raised in the fervor of the West: always trying to get somewhere first.
Oh, and why bother to see Avatar? You know Titanic was a pedestrian, gutless love story warmed over with beautiful people, good lighting, and other expensive effects, yes? Did you want them all to live? Why? My bet is if you wait two years, you'll wonder why you ever cared about this or any Cameron movie. There is nothing more to it than exactly what you see. No reason to pay full price.