Story’s have beginnings and endings. Even those stories that end leaving us with a sense of messiness and incompleteness, or that open in a disorienting en media res, they have a beginning and end. The sense that they continue, that they extend indefinitely beyond themselves on their own terms is a narrative illusion, trompe l’oeil, but for our sense of time.
A powerful urge last night just to gather together all of this and take a picture, put in front of myself the trajectory of this long trajectory of writing I have been involved with. It looks a little mad, doesn’t it?
The top row begins somewhere in 1993 and those numerous, tiny notebooks were filled in front to back, then back to front. They are crammed with thoughts, excerpts from books, quotations of people that I knew, drafts of poetry (some of it is, well, let’s say not terrible; philosophy absorbed my poetry and nowadays I tend to only use poetry as a gesture in my thinking, to tell myself to change my speed, alter my rhythm). I had one of those on me almost all the time.
I have enjoyed watching folks talk about the latest season of Twin Peaks and around the home we have been talking about it quite a bit. I appreciate this post over on the Nightshirt, not least of which for reminding me that this isn’t just a David Lynch joint, that Frost’s influence is key, too. Pointing out the series’s connection to Kubrick’s The Shining also clarifies and I find it exciting to consider how this connects the series to Stephen King and his particular Americana.
Rewatching the original run of Twin Peaks is an illuminating experience, especially alongside the third season. The show establishes joins the surreal and magical to an increasingly traumatic series of scenes in a way that suggests the traumatic material forms the axis of the series. More than that, it suggests that there is a kernel of suffering and cruelty at the center of the ‘mysteries’ that distract us from it.
Every time I think I have a handle on what that trauma is, it deepens and broadens itself, encompassing a wider gyre. There is a question that opens here about the nature of time that necessarily entails asking after the particular shape time takes in relationship to human consciousness. Part of the temporal patterns of repetition have their roots in an inability to confront our culpability in suffering, that we repeat certain patterns precisely because we use them as a form of distraction, a dream from which we dread waking. There is a hint of Freud in this, but in many ways Freud performs this distraction more than he is able to grasp it.
Ancestry and lineage are hot topics in magical circles these days, but in talking about these things we often fall into vague and romantic notions about how kinship is constituted and defined. Having talked about the very concrete connections between kinship and kalunga recently, Lucien Scubla’s Giving Life, Giving Death: Psychoanalysis, Anthropology, Philosophy has been a timely read. The way in which Scubla repositions kinship studies to emphasize the central fact of maternity (and highlight how it is often overlooked) resonates with much of my own thinking.
Yuval Harari’s Jewish Magic before the Rise of Kabbalah includes material that clarifies the relationship between magical skulls and incantation bowls, the tight linkage between witchcraft and harlotry, the invocation of angelic spirits (‘princes’) to acquire knowledge of both a practical and theoretical sort (most especially knowledge and understanding of the Torah), and so on. As the title suggests, it focuses on the pre-medieval dimensions of the Jewish magical tradition, looking quite a bit at the rabbinic material, but it does dip into the debates that are taking place on the eve of the medieval era (most prominently those defined by Maimonides).
Recently, I had the chance to attend an exciting panel of talks around the challenges of translation in the context of African diaspora religions. The panelists talked not just about the practical issues that plague every translator, the challenge of finding corresponding meanings across languages, but also the challenges of appreciating how Africans forcibly displaced from their homeland both preserved and remade the language of their religious practices in a generations long effort to translate themselves and their spiritual world into an entirely different social and ecological milieu. And of appreciating the folks who tried to speak on their behalf.
It was helpful to think with as I have this very small but dense translation enterprise that has been preoccupying me lately, that of understanding the term ‘kalunga.’ Since the term contains both a prefix and a root, that led to other related terms (lunga and -lunga derived terms, as well as others more distantly related, like -lambo/-lombo derived terms).