Friday, July 1, 2011

Making Sense Of Sense

How many senses do I possess? Are there more than five? Is there a sense I haven’t discovered yet? Is poetry a sense, or simply a literary form? That is to say, is language an antenna, or a ganglionic mass of syntax and nerves?

If I had another sense, wouldn’t I simply sense it? I don’t think about touch, I touch. Don’t think about hearing. I hear. Don’t think about seeing. I see. Don’t think about tasting. I taste. If Ismell a rose I smell a rose. I don’t think about smelling a rose. I don’t think, smell a rose, then smell a rose. I simply smell a rose. None of these things are cerebral. They just occur. Happen.

But what if a sense were so subtle, I didn’t know I was sensing it, even though I was sensing it. Sensing the sense. Without sensing the sense. Because it’s too thin, too delicate, too ethereal.

But that doesn’t make any sense. How would I not know I was sensing something? Something not touch, or sound, or sight, or taste, or smell? Something ineffable. Something beyond the scope of language. Something I felt but could not say what I was feeling. Or that I could not affirm that what I sensed corresponded with something in the outside world. In the same way that something wet and sweet on my tongue is translated into a cherry, or an unpleasant quality on the skin is interpreted as cold, or something liquid and black and bitter to the taste can be identified as coffee.

Charles Olson did mention something about a proprioceptive sense. This is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body. The cavity of the body in which the organs are slung. Lungs, stomach, kidneys, intestines. All that gooey gooshy slimy convolution. Blood moving and moving through the veins, pumped by a muscle, the heart. The body of us as object which spontaneously or of its own order produces experiences of depth. A position, as being seated in front of a computer, a movie screen, cockpit of an airplane, or dentist’s office, someone, man, young woman, is bending over, concentrating heavily on our open mouth. They have latex gloves on their hands, and the radio is so low it can barely be heard. There are mountains on the ceiling. And a bright fluorescent light, for which the dentist has kindly provided sunglasses.

It gets to be a story. The senses combine to bring us the world, and it is delivered all at once, which makes it hard to organize in a paragraph. Poetry is more adept at this sort of thing.

Consciousness as ego, followed by judgment. Judgment has, of late, acquired a negative flavor. People often say: don’t judge me. Or, it’s so nice to be around friends who don’t judge you. That’s stupid. These aren’t friends, these are morons. I’m friends with people because they have judged me. They have judged me worthy to be a friend. And so there is friendship.

But’s matter for another discussion.

So let me ask you: do you have passions beyond your understanding? Beyond your control? Beyond the bounds of polite society? If civilization were to disappear tomorrow, would you miss it?

I would miss running water, electricity, and cellophane, but not much else. I imagine myself sometimes as living in harmony with the world, with nature, as a Laplander, a Sioux, a Choctaw, a Mongol shepherd or Celtic farmer circa 800 B.C. I could deal with that. No salt for my meat and vegetables, no place to shit except outside, behind a bush, but that’s no big deal. I would do that in exchange for a planet. Because the planet cannot sustain the kind of technology we have imposed on it for transport, houses, TV, computers and energy. The oceans are dying, the bees are dying, the planet itself is dying. I wonder if there will be enough protein left to begin another species. But how will they survive the radioactivity?

Certainly none of this makes sense.

And how do we know what is sensed is real? I have had my share of hallucinations. Hallucinations are fairly easy to identify. They’re like cartoons, all full of color and goofiness. Monsters, angels, phenomena not commonly found in the external world. But what of delusions? Beliefs that turn out to be false? Is there a surefire way to discriminate between what is real and what is not? If there is, I haven’t found it.

Let’s say you believe in God and one day a tornado comes along and blows your house away and kills your pets and spouse and children. Or leaves your pets and spouse and children safe and sound. But your house is gone. And you have no insurance or place to live, except the high school gymnasium, where the Red Cross has provided some blankets and a cot. Do you thank the same God who made the tornado for selecting you, out of all those other people, for saving your life? Or do you get pissed like Job, and say what the fuck, I was pious and prayed and went to church, and this is how you repay me? Destroy my house? My job? My friends and family?

Spinoza cautions us about language: Again, since words are a part of the imagination --- that is, since we form many conceptions in accordance with confused arrangements of words in the memory, dependent on particular bodily conditions, --- there is no doubt that words may, equally with the imagination, be the cause of many and great errors, unless we keep strictly on our guard. Moreover, words are formed according to popular fancy and intelligence, and are, therefore, signs of things as existing in the imagination, not as existing in the understanding. This is evident from the fact that to all such things as exist only in the understanding, not in the imagination, negative names are often given, such as incorporeal, infinite, &c. So, also, many conceptions really affirmative are expressed negatively, and vice versa, such as uncreate, independent, infinite, immortal, &c., inasmuch as their contraries are much more easily imagined, and, therefore, occurred first to men, and usurped positive names. Many things we affirm and deny, because the nature of words allows us to do so, though the nature of things does not. While we remain unaware of this fact, we may easily mistake falsehood for truth.

It’s so easy to slip up, and assume that an idea has weight, and substance, when, in fact, it is less substantial than a palace of vapor floating over Düsseldorf.

I believe, right now, this minute, that what I am sensing is summer, moderate warmth, about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lingering taste of coffee, and fingers on a keyboard, dancing, making these signs, pixels, words, and if I want a boat, I will make a boat, write boat, and a boat exists, at least in my imagination, though in actuality, there is a boat in my future, assuming the future is real, which it is not, it is always a fiction, a ball of myriad possibilities, rolling toward the void. Where there is life and potential. And assurances and oceans. Floating a boat of the future on a suffusion of words.

No comments: