Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Because they don't stop very well

You have probably noticed, too, that a mental construct does not stop very well. Almost without exception, the raw materials and witnesses of the thoughts of this page appear precariously inclined toward a decay of coherency when captured in repose. This, one discovers, is more truly what we mean when we say we sense a decadence in their arrest; but while decay or disintegration is a fact, decadence is a term of art invented by a degenerate will to see. But if sight were not such a close cousin to language, one cannot doubt that our world would snap into less resisted focus.

The same is famously no less true of fine edifices, which only appear to interrupt their dance for our convenience. Stasis is painful to the searching character of Monticello, Katsura Villa, and the Salk Institute, as we observe upon the instant of our slightest movement. Because movement in our perspective excites or tracks movement in our subject, we appreciate the unstable and the contingent as much as fluency in design, as an endowment of necessary capability. But it is movement, that we are celebrating, exactly as Rossellini said we would.
Of all of one's debts to the sources of this page, their natural validation by movement rises to the top. Yet to learn from them, we have to place them within a frame, so we resort to an implement whose genius is to interpose the least delay between perception and assimilation. Every picture of one's own at this page was made possible in critical ways, by this device. Yet the participation of a machine is only a universal element of discourse in this medium; it can expose the means, not the substance, of our perception.
To pare delay so auspiciously in text, is to approach axiomatic generalisation, as in Heraclitus, at rising cost in texture. But the principle of movement is preserved by the elegant means of his gift for framing interruption. Interpose a line between a figure and a daunting light, and you will feel character, because you have changed the rhythm.

The complaint cannot be with the image, only with the line, which is language. It's almost healing, in a time of language's most anguished civic debauch, to beg for it to mean nothing, like the evidence barring the door between war and peace, Laffer curves and public debt, snobbery and gentility. But you and I, sitting here, are not brain-dead to implication; and I hope not to the first sense we acquired, touch.

Touch the page; it's OK. I know of no one in whom its plain-spoken evidence is distrusted. Use a common sense, to restore demand for evidence, the pathway through the lurid glare.

i    James Dean, late film actor
iii  Leica III-f 35mm film camera

George Orwell
Why I Write
  Politics and the English Language
Penguin, 2004©

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