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Not necessarily vis-a-vis what Marilynne Robinson sez in the Paris Review,


  I’m not terribly persuaded by the word supernatural. I don’t like the idea of the world as an encapsulated reality with intrusions made upon it selectively. The reality that we experience is part of the whole fabric of reality. To pretend that the universe is somewhere else doing something is really not true. We’re right in the middle of it. Utterly dependent on it, utterly defined by it. If you read somebody like Wallace Stevens, he’s basically saying the same thing.


but going through an old folder of quotes has got me thinking about the question from another angle.

I’ve been thinking about the aesthetic objects I enjoy to work out a more formalized way of thinking about aesthetics, and overwhelmingly I enjoy things that either 1) make perfect sense — like a Swiss clockwork thriller — or 2) those that make little overt sense — like abstract expressionism. The former has a pretty clear source: I’m an orderly person and orderly things delight me. The latter is confusing because its nature is non in sense-making.

We saw Under The Skin in the movie theater and I knew nothing about it going in. After I saw it I still knew nothing about what happened. I knew what happened, but it lacked a certain about-ness. Its meaning wasn’t clear. Like in a dream when you see something happen or like in real life when something violent happens to you or around you, either way you have sensed (as in used your sense organs) that something happened, but the something is horrifically opaque. I didn’t know that ScaJo was an alien (or supposed to be an alien) or what she was doing to the men she picked up, but none of that mattered to the experience of the film. The fact that the movie didn’t try to make sense meant that it made perfect sense in a way.

(This judgement would totally differ for a movie that tries to make sense but does so in a ‘zany’ or ‘nonsense’ way. Like a movie ‘on acid’. Under The Skin was taut and unfathomable, like the surface of an infinitely deep, large lake.)

A lot of things make sense by concatenating meanings without the constituent meanings really making sense. This gets to I think something Bogost talked about in his totally mediocre book on object-ontology (it was v. much more lowbrow than that sounds) and some French guy, I think, who thought that lists of arbitrary words were the greatest thing ever. Or was that bricolage? Either way, if you’re interested, look up Alien Phenomenology by Bogost and see. It was just OK.

A really skillful clusterfuck — my American reformulation of bricolage, put a bird on it — frustrates, maybe causes pain, but not as an end. It illuminates, but not as an end. It is characterized by not having an end. No telos. It’s like meaning-nihilism. The Robinson quote above gets right to the middle of it. While I’m sure she wouldn’t subscribe to a non-teleological world (or would she? I’ve only read this one interview but I think not), her formulation of a world “we’re right in the middle of” — over and above a hermetic world into which things reach — sounds like the messy, lumpy brand of reality that excites me. The idea that there is a reality is the wrong one. As if there were an experience of life, and then a higher experience of life that gives meaning to that experience, and then a higher experience above that one that gives meaning to that one, etc. (Like this: {Life is like [ life is like ( life is this) this] this}, see?) Being in the middle of it and experience ‘raw life’. In this sense maybe Robinson would agree, since the higher order to her would not belong to humans, and the rest is flat and laden.

Not necessarily vis-a-vis what Marilynne Robinson sez in the Paris Review,

I’m not terribly persuaded by the word supernatural. I don’t like the idea of the world as an encapsulated reality with intrusions made upon it selectively. The reality that we experience is part of the whole fabric of reality. To pretend that the universe is somewhere else doing something is really not true. We’re right in the middle of it. Utterly dependent on it, utterly defined by it. If you read somebody like Wallace Stevens, he’s basically saying the same thing.

but going through an old folder of quotes has got me thinking about the question from another angle.

I’ve been thinking about the aesthetic objects I enjoy to work out a more formalized way of thinking about aesthetics, and overwhelmingly I enjoy things that either 1) make perfect sense — like a Swiss clockwork thriller — or 2) those that make little overt sense — like abstract expressionism. The former has a pretty clear source: I’m an orderly person and orderly things delight me. The latter is confusing because its nature is non in sense-making.

We saw Under The Skin in the movie theater and I knew nothing about it going in. After I saw it I still knew nothing about what happened. I knew what happened, but it lacked a certain about-ness. Its meaning wasn’t clear. Like in a dream when you see something happen or like in real life when something violent happens to you or around you, either way you have sensed (as in used your sense organs) that something happened, but the something is horrifically opaque. I didn’t know that ScaJo was an alien (or supposed to be an alien) or what she was doing to the men she picked up, but none of that mattered to the experience of the film. The fact that the movie didn’t try to make sense meant that it made perfect sense in a way.

(This judgement would totally differ for a movie that tries to make sense but does so in a ‘zany’ or ‘nonsense’ way. Like a movie ‘on acid’. Under The Skin was taut and unfathomable, like the surface of an infinitely deep, large lake.)

A lot of things make sense by concatenating meanings without the constituent meanings really making sense. This gets to I think something Bogost talked about in his totally mediocre book on object-ontology (it was v. much more lowbrow than that sounds) and some French guy, I think, who thought that lists of arbitrary words were the greatest thing ever. Or was that bricolage? Either way, if you’re interested, look up Alien Phenomenology by Bogost and see. It was just OK.

A really skillful clusterfuck — my American reformulation of bricolage, put a bird on it — frustrates, maybe causes pain, but not as an end. It illuminates, but not as an end. It is characterized by not having an end. No telos. It’s like meaning-nihilism. The Robinson quote above gets right to the middle of it. While I’m sure she wouldn’t subscribe to a non-teleological world (or would she? I’ve only read this one interview but I think not), her formulation of a world “we’re right in the middle of” — over and above a hermetic world into which things reach — sounds like the messy, lumpy brand of reality that excites me. The idea that there is a reality is the wrong one. As if there were an experience of life, and then a higher experience of life that gives meaning to that experience, and then a higher experience above that one that gives meaning to that one, etc. (Like this: {Life is like [ life is like ( life is this) this] this}, see?) Being in the middle of it and experience ‘raw life’. In this sense maybe Robinson would agree, since the higher order to her would not belong to humans, and the rest is flat and laden.