The Insanity, the Courage, the Presumption of Writers!

What type of protection does the writer expect his writings to receive who imagines all of them, or fragments of them, surviving–for to survive as a fragment is still to somehow survive, to not be obliterated– outlasting other writings or other structures or other lives, perhaps outlasting the lives of entire cultures and languages, ways of living for the human, escaping cataclysm, making it out intact of not only the destruction of a house or of a village or city or nation, but even the extinction of the species, or of the destruction of the planet itself–perhaps moreover the entire solar system and its sun, perhaps too the galaxy and its suns and planets and other bodies, blip that it is.  Making it out not only of fire and flood, those emergencies the species has faced before and, with its imagination, projects to different times and different levels of severity, but out of annihilation itself?  What unspeakable imagination, what unimaginable presumption could construct an entity, at bottom merely words and designs, that is capable of such everlastingness?  If human beings end up colonizing other planets, or other galaxies altogether, just what would make these works worthy of insurance and selected for preservation–why would they, in relation to all other works, be brought on board whatever ships we use to travel the lifelong and generations-long journeys to other light sources or habitations?  These records of our dreams and of our failures, or of the all-too-undeniable monotony of living with a brain such as we have, if they have shown us anything, have shown us the utmost fragility.  With more minor upheavals in human and geologic history, most of those of our past have not been remembered or kept safe in any fashion, along with the authors of these tracts or poems, along with entire writing tribes and peoples.  What difference does it make for those of us writing today, for anyone writing anytime?  When there have never been writers in more abundance than there are now on this scribbled-over planet, and when we see things not looking too good for us, what gives us the assurance to proceed as we do in our craft, in our linguistic experimentation and disclosure?  What gives us–the courage? the insanity?–to go on writing as we do?  That is, if it is true that no writer avoids the desire to be read, if not by his contemporaries, but by someone out there, in the distance of time and in the unknown future, why now, when more than ever the fragility of such an enterprise seems explicit, complicated by layered certainties, so blunt, why now propose to oneself such a fruitless task?  And to say what?  Of course Kafka asked for his oeuvre to be committed to fire, and some other writers admittedly make much of getting down on paper or on the screen so many momentous times or grand thoughts, only to burn them, or delete them, themselves, without the help of an executive of estate after their deaths.  But these writers into the flames or into irretrievability are only exceptions that prove the rule, a rule which we see is no less a conundrum, no less a phenomenon before which only awe or respect, or ghastly horror, is sufficient.

             Writing in the digital seems to aid many would-be or actual writers in their fantasy, for the material here, more than what we were graced with in considering our words in the medium of radio technology, since the 1940s, traveling to unknown other ears and countless other places of other eras, has more tangibility, even if to many its tangibility is utterly inconceivable, utterly intangible.  The computer chip comes to our assistance in our attempts to be remembered.  Sure a computer chip could melt or be washed away like any other thing, but if it leaves the earthly terrain, if it is sent via satellite or some other space-worthy body into vast stretches of the universe, if it is somehow self-repairable and even self-protecting and -immolating against the ravages of time or internal deterioration, what then?  Well, some nebula or black hole, some total transfiguration of a segment of the great chaos all around could make who-knows-what out of our little chips.  Perhaps here is rooted the wish for the Cloud, some more disembodied digital reservoir: here we might wish to store our works and maybe, as time goes on and refinement in the technology progresses, our brains themselves, something of our identity, and thereby survive whatever is in store for more embodied things.  Could the Cloud be hacked into or manipulated, could its contents be erased before anyone comes along who is capable of processing or translating what it contains into an intelligible idiom?  Could the Cloud itself grow weary of holding in its wireless belly such inconsequential matters as the babbling and worries, or perhaps even the records of the joys, of long-ago extinct and writing beings, and itself make room for data much more comprehensive, if only much less human?  These questions are not answered, and the writing class shirks it only to continue toiling in its endeavors with the same uncertainties as before.  We are all of us, if we write and if we think along with our writing, writing as though the executive of our estate were ready, upon our deaths, to make nothing more than ash of our outbursts and ideas.  The writer seems as courageous, as insane, as insanely courageous or courageously insane, as before, and perhaps more so, now, if he continues in his pursuit of being read.  Inhumanly courageous, inhumanly insane, staking our claim of immortality on such inanities and such certain uncertainties!  Not only writing about climate change but in the face of climate change itself, in the face of the possible uninhabitability of the planet at some–near, so near now–future time, not only about nuclear wasting and nuclear winter but in the face of these, when the human will have other worries besides gathering all the poems and tracts of its kind, not only about black holes and nebulae but in the face, the faceless face of these, how they might thwart our attempts to send records of ourselves out into space, how they may alter anything we say beyond recognition, not only about but in the face of–annihilation, no more, no more writers, no more readers, all gone: our writing, if it is to be honest, can only be done with shaking hands, can only call out to the world with its chemical and more than chemical emissions like an ant does, for its time on the earth, before it is stepped upon, before the entire colony is wiped out, before its genetic heritage is no more.

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