Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Last entry, first recovery

On Friday night I threw down my chopsticks, leapt up from my usual semi-comatose position in front of telly and takeaway, ran to the kitchen, extracted my notebook from my jacket pocket, and wrote down the following:

'Your opinion's not valid, because you're not wearing a disguise.'

Keen followers of The Adverts will recognise this as being paraphrased from some bank ad or other, where the guy's fake moustache falls into his coffee. As ever, I liked it for its possibly inadvertent subtext that only those who assume the facade of authority, normality, maturity will be paid heed to. Also because it alludes to the independent life of moustaches, something I've long suspected.

Of course, because I left the notebook out rather than replacing it immediately, the circumstances leading to its loss could begin. Was it worth it for so trivial a note? But of course the whole purpose of a notebook is to cancel all such hierarchies as a first gesture. You copy something down because it attracts, even commands your attention, not because it's 'important'. It must speak to your underlying interests, themes and obsessions, even when you have not yet fully articulated what those are.

The part of you which copies things down, which jots down phrases and fragments before even knowing what they might form part of, which allows itself to be led by process, decidedly does not wear a disguise, because it is more 'normal', having assessed something as trivial, to forget it. That way nothing is begun, no articulation can be attempted, no conclusion will ever be reached.

The word 'trivial', by the way, comes from the same root as 'trivium', the first three of the liberal arts to be studied in medieval scholasticism: grammar, rhetoric and logic. It carries the definition in Chambers 'to be found anywhere' with the implication this makes it of little value. Its root in Latin is the place where three roads meet, 'tres via,' a place associated not only with decision-making, but with the uncanny through its associations with the goddess Hekate (Trivia to the Romans).

So which is being devalued by the modern usage: our learned ancestors or the chthonic goddess? It reminds me of the way as children in Dundee we used to dress up at Halloween before we understood this was supposed to be an American custom. We were supposed to be making the scary fun, though perhaps another interpretation would be we made it tolerable. Perhaps that's what to trivialise something means. Certainly we called ourselves 'guisers', to validate the exercise.

There's a nice confrontation here between the rational and irrational which matches my experience. The loss of the notebook is mysterious, so I attempt to deal with it first by logic, and then by assembling a sort of grammar of the lost categories, and a rhetoric of recovery, actions which in themselves are pretty barking. But then so was my initial note-taking. Was I abolishing categories or inverting them?

Whilst we're on latration (barking), Hekate always liked dogs. Dogs, horses and snakes. Not sure how she feels about moustaches.

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