synthetic zero

April 22nd, 2009

Heather Anne and I had an interesting conversation today about ways of speaking and writing, and she brought up this Emerson quote from her post:

I have been writing with some pains essays on various matters as a sort of apology to my country for my apparent idleness. But the poor work has looked poorer daily as I strove to end it. My genius seemed to quit me in such a mechanical work, a seeming wise—a cold exhibition of dead thoughts. When I write a letter to anyone whom I love, I have no lack of words or thoughts. I am wiser than myself and read my paper with the pleasure of one who receives a letter, but what I write to fill up the gaps of a chapter is hard and cold, is grammar and logic; there is no magic in it. I do not wish to see it again.

She was saying that she wants to be able to write to “anyone whom I love.” This is something I really have to remind myself to do … it’s so easy to get pulled into a certain way of thinking, speaking, and writing that is natural for a lot of people but not so much for what I’m interested in doing. It reminds me of my two really important criteria for a good conversation: one is that it’s open to both the sublime and profane, the everyday and the intellectual, the deep and the frivolous … all accepted as part of a single fabric, not just juxtaposed but seen as one and the same thing, part of the play of conversation in life. The second is that it be an open-ended, creative endeavor, a kind of mutual collaboration towards the unknown or the unknowable, where both people are open to the possibility that it may go where neither initially imagined. It’s not just about one side convincing the other, but about both sides challenging each other yet being willing to build on what the other has said, towards an unbounded undetermined destination. Writing, I think, can be a participation in this kind of conversation, but it’s delicate … it’s so easy to get pulled into binary oppositions, into attempts to explain too much. Heather Anne’s idea of taking a cue from Emerson and writing to anyone whom you love is lovely, a way of protecting your voice and that infinite space of vibrant creative interchange which writing and conversation can be part of.

I’m excited that my Roku now can stream HD rentals from Amazon (in addition to the SD rentals it could do before, and the SD and HD rentals from part of Netflix’s catalog). The Amazon HD rentals are quite good, they look better than the Netflix HD rentals which are a little grainy. Watching Chinatown in HD right now… beautiful.

A trackback reminds me to remind you to check out Magdalena O’s thoughts.

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