Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ontology 101 Part Three

Is existence a property?

If the existence of a thing is its sheer ontological presence, its thatness, then to ask what the properties of a thing are in order for it to exist is to ask about the whatness of this thatness. The thatness must have a whatness.

We are in the realm of whatness.

Existence exists by virtue of existence. The idea of existence comes into existence tangled and weird, like roots deep in a German forest. Flaming eyes in a fairy tale. It is partly imagined, partly constructed. Made of words, rags of dream. You break an egg and a hand comes out holding a giant atmosphere. Chaotic gases and lightning. The clash of titans. A conception of space and time boiling in the mind. Existence exists because pathos is piercing and there is an ox bearing a load of wood.

Can there be a pure existence stripped of all properties? Can there be a section of cheese without the things that make cheese, cheese? Cheese without smell, or shape, or density, or color? Without flavor? Without history? Without fatalism, or February?

Existence is a property because property itself has an existence. It is a presence felt as a vibration, or peculiarity.

Butterflies smell of words dipped in metaphor.

It is therefore marvelous to have access to drinkable water and electricity.

And cardboard.

Cardboard is wonderful. But what is rattan?

A pretty abstraction, a prickly enigma. Rattan is rattan. A tautology of sticks. An object you can feel with your fingers. And the weight of your body. And the idea of existence. Which is sometimes a circus, sometimes an elegy.

As soon as a conception obtains purchase on a canvas, we begin to see war, and how it is magically ugly, and cold and brutal.

Language is language. Orange is orange.

This is why we are always busy embracing one another. The mystery of pain remains veiled. It is a form of fruit, a digestible meditation. Later analysis reveals how clumsy toys are. And sometimes I feel like drawing rattlesnake. Who knows why? I love diversions. Maybe that’s it. There is a glittering presence in drops of rain. A palette larded with vibrant colors and a seminal snake tied to the Big Dipper. The sky, curiously alive, swallows itself. The pencil moves and a sphere appears. A skull. With two black sockets where a pair of eyes once moved, and blinked, and viewed the pageantry of existence.

There is always a fire burning somewhere.

Describe fire.

To an extraterrestrial.

Who has never seen fire.

And now you begin to see the problem of language. And existence.

This is a word, and it is on fire. Draw the flames naked and alone on a beach. A nearby sculpture begins to talk. A woman on a horse gallops by. There are paths leading nowhere and a fish that is orthogonal and wise. Like the Louvre at midnight. Or a passage through time.

Time is an existence. But what are its properties? An hour is round like a wheel but a minute is sharp like a knife. It is the same as a chisel. An instrument gouging shapes out of space. But by who? Who is it that gouges shapes out of space? What existence? What presence? Or is it all simply an accident of creation? Arbitrary as a bathing suit. An impairment, or hospital. May you enjoy this hat. I am giving it to you. It is shaped like a head full of eyes. Hundreds of eyes vulgar and round and misunderstood.

Consciousness splashes around in the head. A drug is a frequency, waves of energy. Most of the time I just look out of the window. Or slither across the floor bending time. Or float monstrosities in my mind, huge leviathans with diamond wings and blazing eyes.

Movement has existence, but does it have a property? And what about grace? Movement can exist as a mathematical modality. It can be measured, quantified. But grace is a quality. This raises another question. The question of quality. These are slippery rocks. The river is moving and it is graceful. Gracefully moving. Its grace alone has an existence but it is the river that brings the grace into meaning.

We are soothed by its water. We are carried by its being.


spencer selby said...

These Ontology pieces are wonderful. I think maybe there's a progression here, getting deeper and brighter and more mysterious (or delirious. One thing is clarified, at least for me: that for John Olson poetry is the very root and inspiration of living breathing thinking imagining and questioning life. The existence of these inspired words is proof to me of the undeniable yet inscrutable reality of joy emanating from the pen of Olson to the mind's eye of any reader who may happen by.

John Olson said...

Thank you, Spencer! That's a great Christmas present. I've been having a blast with these ontology pieces, so I will be continuing it for an indefinite period of time. Is anyone ever really done seeking essence? Truth? Reality? The perfect bottle of wine. The perfect bag of coffee beans. The perfect imperfection. The perfect entrechat. The perfect shaving cream. The perfect niche. The perfect tambourine.