The Lifted Veil

I just finished a novella by George Eliot, The Lifted Veil, and amongst the many quotes I marked this one stood out the most:

“You will think, perhaps, that I must have been a poet, from this early sensibility to Nature. But my lot was not so happy as that. A poet pours forth his song and believes in the listening ear and the answering soul, to which his song will be floated to sooner or later. But the poet’s sensibility without his voice – the poet’s sensibility that finds to vent but in silent tears on the sunny bank, when the noonday light sparkles on the water, or in an inward shudder at the sound of harsh human tones, the sight of a cold human eye – this dumb passion brings with it a fatal solitude of soul in the society of one’s fellow-men.”

There’s a thin line between what we do for ourselves and what we do for others. I wonder about Nietzsche and Freud’s dinstinction between our own impulses and civilization, and wonder how those two could ever be so evenly divided. How much of our desires are dictated by how others perceive us? And is that really a product of civilization or something more primitive? Can’t civilization in fact be seen as just another desire? Back to the point though, I wonder if it is possible solely to write for oneself. Would you continue to write without it ever reaching another soul? I guess it goes back to that saying, if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, did it really fall? If one writes solely for the self, did one really in fact write? I’m not sure.


4 thoughts on “The Lifted Veil

  1. I discovered you late one night, by chance… and I found resonance in the sophisticated, spiralling curvatures of your mind, or at least of this entity, activity or beautiful and dynamic pattern that all those words and intricate un-sayings illustrate.

    To “write solely for one’s self” is perhaps always already to presuppose the existence of that self and I am not so sure that such existential assertions or “certainties” are necessarily complete or consistent in any way which can ever definitively prove their axiomatic coherence or certainty. It may be that the implicit teleology and narrative vector of written language in reference or respect of that self is always reflexively defined; comes into existence pari passu the historical development and socially constructed concepts of that self and a certain experience of time. (That awareness or experience of time conditioned as it is by the existential pivot of “now”, again reflexive of that subjective individuation of “self” – always implying or alluding to some aspirational Archimedes point “beyond” the system but forever and always enigmatically, recursively encapsulated by it).

    Which self, anyway ? That internalised subjectivity, aggregated from words and concepts absorbed, adopted, borrowed, recomposed and then mistakenly identified as necessary, innate or owned ? Or perhaps that notionally external self that culture and the logic of communication requires, implies; and through which the depth-matrix of responsibility, purpose and shared economies of value and meaning become concrete or at the very least – intelligible ?

    Neither end of the spectrum of self (individuation or collectivity) forms any secure resting place or anchor and, indeed, this expanding interior void between these two nebulous uncertainties represents a free-floating self-and/or-world which is essentially Void-like. This is so unavoidably Apophatic and empty by virtue of the unending self-reference of just such a logically incomplete system of semantic recursion that your question concerning whether or not one writing solely for one’s self actually constitutes writing at all becomes also a reflection that may invoke an elaborate emptiness: interdependence without dependents; only the words exist, sans writer.


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    • So beautifully explored and put, thank you.

      It’s interesting that you brought up the certainty aspect of the existence of the self, of an “I” speaking of the self, I just read a similar notion of this as being termed “vulgar apprehensions,” phrases like “my body,” “my spirit,” “my self,” as if the “me” is separate from those entities. In the book he says it could either be due to actually thinking of the different words as real constituents or just the way we think about the world (ethnoscience). I personally think it’s a bit of both, and comes down to the practical application of what is working or isn’t, helping or hindering. If it’s proving to be a hindrance then get rid of them, and if categorizing is working then see where that goes, how far it can go.

      I think the internalized and externalized subjectivity are like that. I think that once you start delving into them further and further, the void becomes wider. “Neither end forms a secure resting place,” and I think we start erring when we try securing one of the anchors. Embracing that void is the only option then. Infinitely jumping from one self reference to another. (I wonder if this void is sort of a culmination of all the voids, of the spaces in betweens, like the space between thoughts and emotions, but that’s a space that would give rise to imagination filling in the void, the imagination that allows the self-referencing in the first place. Or am I confusing something here?) “An interdependence without dependence, only the world exists, sans writer.” 👏

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      • Imagination may be necessary to comprehend the depth of these convoluted, coiled symbolic matrices but it is just as much a product of them, a symptom and consequence of their self-reflexivity. The growing complexities between these two contingent endpoints of self and world are ultimately strange and empty, as are the psychic (in the psychoanalytic or psychological sense) and symbolic anchors themselves.

        That internal space, or void, is the expanding aggregation and apparent depth constituted of so many shallow surfaces, vectors, probabilities – not unlike a purely mathematical state space, abstract and purely inconsequential without consciousness (or at the very least – an experiencing sentience) to activate or enervate it. This is deeply paradoxical because the endpoints of our metaphor are only Real in any sense by virtue of their roles in supporting the logic upon which the void is constructed and the void is itself also only Real in as much as it is supported by the existence and intelligibility of these notional endpoints. We are here attempting to boot-strap the impossible. 🙂

        In apophasis we may find direction, if not resolution. Acknowledgement that saying is also unsaying is important – the construction of narratives, of concepts is by virtue of its logical reconcatenation, essentially a juxtaposition of new configurations and the subsequent absorption of these new axioms and algorithms into the total mass-density of all narratives and concepts. This is of class or species akin to Cantor’s diagonalisation method proof of infinities beyond the set of natural numbers – there are always new patterns, configurations and sequences. These are also always implicitly negations upon previous states; the internal extensivity of logical systems occurs in Gödel through that curious self-reference of provable unprovability and the leap to that meta- level and abstraction, while possible to conceive of as additive is also essentially reductive, negating, internally extensive. (The characterisation of time as a negative dimension in special relativity, for instance, may be purely a convention which possesses little mathematical consequence but the sensibility of the imaginary depth of temporal “space” as negative implies the kinds of conceptual sophistications required to incorporate multidimensional, multi-vector extensivity to our models and systems of thought). Each meta- abstraction becomes incorporated into the whole system, extending it on and on, ad infinitum.

        Any system conceived of as a Whole can only ever be internally extended and internal extension is always only possible as logical self-negation, at least in cultural, narrative and organisational senses, if not formally logical. The holistic view is the view in which all activity, growth and development are internal to the system. All partial or contingent boundaries are purely heuristics.

        Imagination is a symptom of all of this but simultaneously also a requirement for its cognitive possibility; we are bootstrapping again. Interior and exterior, self and other/world – all merely cheerful lowest-common denominator fictions to allow ourselves, our world and our proliferating narratives to maintain plausibility. Apophasis is also a psychological (as much as a spiritual or metaphysical) tool and unsaying appears to me both deeply troubling and cathartic, both mundane and sacred.

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