Don’t particular works find us at the moment we need them most? When we are most ready to receive them?
From the preface to Laurie Sheck’s A Monster’s Notes:
So much of a life is invisible, inscrutable: layers of thoughts, feelings, outward events entwined with secrecies, ambiguities, ambivalences, obscurities, darknesses strongly present even to the one who’s lived it -- maybe especially to the one who’s lived it. Why should it be otherwise?
I try to keep notes on my dreams. Often so vivid on waking, but then turn to mist when I try to recapture. This is nothing that has not been said before. From earlier this year: “We are walking through a maze floating on dark water. An ancient ruined place -- moss-covered stone, slick. There are creatures -- menacing and persistent -- snaking along the path.”
What is this attempt, if not interrogation of the self? What dark creatures? What maze? And what of the ruins of the mind?
I returned to a manuscript I had put aside for some months -- a friend’s generous reading guided me back. To reconsider questions I had raised there. She was not the first reader to have described my work back to me as “restrained,” which I find funny and odd, since I most often feel as though I have left a trail of blood smeared across the page. And yet it is consistent with what I have started to observe about myself. The walls I erect, the ways I establish distance -- to people, to the events of my own life unfolding. To my own secrecies and ambiguities.
Werner Herzog, on pyschoanalysis:
You could not live in a house that was illuminated to every last single corner. And human beings become uninhabitable when they are scrutinized and illuminated into their last little dark abysses.
I don’t disagree, although I suppose I would say nor can one live in total darkness. How many lights are left burning, in how many rooms, and at what intensity are all matters of individual inclination. Certainly some acts we perform require more illumination than others.
I have become fond of telling students that in early drafts, we often leave notes to ourselves -- unfinished, unexplored gestures that are a kind of shorthand for something that interests us. To be picked up and developed in subsequent drafts. Most are impatient and find it difficult to acknowledge or imagine that such gestures can deepen, accumulate, take on weight and nuance over time. And as I can myself attest, even believing or knowing such a thing intellectually does not make the waiting any easier. It is not simply waiting, after all, it is some more complex form of considering, receiving, questioning, and circling back to the thing -- that originating impulse, which may have, in that time, flattened or become inaccessible. “I want to capture the emotion, what I was feeling at the time,” they explain. Yes. I understand. I want that, too.
After a failed attempt to capture a dream, the details of which are not particularly relevant, I noted, “Persistent awareness throughout that the purpose of life (?) is to be able to hold all the complexities, to contemplate them, to take them in without necessarily taking action. I am not saying this right. To allow enough quiet, enough presence to hold many conflicting realities in mind, to not require or impose causation. This is the idea that pervaded my dream, seemed present throughout but I cannot locate it within specific imagery.”
In the early pages of A Monster’s Notes, there is a section called “Notes on Time.” The narrator introduces the idea of the “block universe,” suggesting that all of time is “somehow laid out in its entirety all at once -- a landscape made of time where all past and future events exist together.”
And then the parenthetical note, made by the “monster:”
(I’ve felt this but have had no words with which to say it.)