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Why Write Here?

Whoever does not understand what I have said,
let him not burden his heart with it, for as long as man
is not equal to this truth, he will not understand these words,
for this is a truth beyond speculation that has come
immediately from the heart of God.

Meister Eckhart

I forgot it and it passed me by like a thief in the night. It was this month last year that I started this space, this clearing (mind you, this is not a blog) and I have been writing regularly since.

Let me be the first to tell you that exposing my thoughts to the general public is really not of my taste; well, until last year, that is. I am, as those close to me know, an introvert who would rather be silent and keep my opinions to myself. (When I taught, only rarely would I offer my own take on things; I always refer to what a philosopher said.) But even if I try my best not to mention my name--and before, I also never mention the word "I"--I now am not so afraid to reveal myself, whereas my first profile, coming from the movie The Saint read: "Never reveal your name. Never turn your back. Never surrender your heart."

Well, I guess I have to a certain extent done the opposite of that dictum; yet that is only what it looks on the surface. In fact, I have disappeared all the more in the past year, hiding behind thoughts, staying silent through all this rhetoric. Another dictum I live by comes from Epicurus: "Live in secret." Hence, the new profile which is from Nietzsche but here interpreted in its inverse: something which the philosopher with a hammer often liked to do. I am no one and everyone.

Why write then? This is a good question, good because it cannot be answered. It has often been said that a writer never chooses a topic to write about; instead, it is the topic which chooses the writer. In the same vein, the writer does not choose to write; it is what is to be written (the logos) which chooses the writer in concreto--with this particular talent and idiosyncrasies, with this temperament and that patience, with this voice and that tone, etc. A writer writes not because he needs to; he writes because there is no other way.

I fancy you smiling at my pretentiousness: how can you say you are a writer when all you do is rant and blog in an unknown space in the web which no one reads, no one will read (non legor, non legar). I am not a writer; I despise labels. But what I do is I write--or at least try to. I try to because I have to; but not from the kind of necessity such that it cannot be otherwise as if my life (earning a living, dream of success, etc.) depended on it. But the kind of necessity which is a contingent necessity or a necessarily contingent matter. To keep it simple, writing here was initially an accident, a spur of the moment decision, a side-effect from the madness of revenge. Revenge, I say? Yes.

For I always believed that writing well is the best revenge. On paper, we are all equals; the tyranny of an another displayed in the world will never match the strength of words played out in the universe of the mind.

And so, this space was accidentally borne from the spirit of hate which initially had one object of hate in mind. But upon seeing that it was not even worth the energy and space (Forgive her, O Lord, for she knew not what she was doing), writing here transgressed that ontic detail and necessarily wished to transcend it and unto the ontological realm. Again, to keep it simple, I decided to talk to the world. With no more students and people who will believe what I say for its own worth, I then started talking to everyone and no one. It is here that I was able to do my talking without the judgment of people who did not--and will never--understand.

Perhaps, I talk to myself when I write here? Yes and no. This is no journal or diary; while I do not totally dismiss the idea of writing for your self, I smell something selfish in that act. This is ideally an act of taking notes on everything and on nothing; but what is important is that it is about that which comes to mind, what presents itself to be noteworthy--without my own initiative, without my own willing or wanting. Absurdly, what I had initially intended as an act of selfish indignation against someone and everyone, turned out to be a calm and anonymous speaking of what presents itself. Perhaps, you may argue on that point as the reader is supposed to know better than the writer; well, suit yourself as I have other things in mind.

Well, for me at least, writing here is really essaying. An essay, as Montaigne--the inventor of this form of writing--originally said, is an "attempt" or a "test." Another meaning is "to weigh" or "to test the mettle of something." And I could not agree more. When I write here, I do not have a clear sense of what will come out; no absurd and academic outlines which constrict and limit thought and imagination, and no method, plan or end in mind. When I stare into the blank screen in the morning, I usually have just one idea, one thing that I observed from other people or myself, one line, or even just a title. Then I test the idea and see where it goes. And I never edit or do a second draft--except when I submit an essay for publication.

Sometimes, I never even get to the idea I had in mind as I get derailed by an introduction which forces me to take other paths. (Case in point, three successive essays on imagination where it is only by the third "attempt" that I was able to "test" the idea of the role of the imagination and love.) "Ways, not works," as Heidegger says. Essay writing is a mind taking the subway lines of Japan for the first time as you never know where you are going to end up: in Shinjuku or Akahabara, Riponggi or far away Urawa.

Take away all the angst and ugly catharsis, there is one thing that I discovered in writing here for a year. Or better, re-discovered: that there is pleasure in writing well. I knew that before in high school and college; but I forgot that when graduate school enslaved me to supposedly academic and formal writing where you cannot say the word "I" and you must address your reader with undeserved respect. In the informal and personal essay, as long as it does not border on ranting and narcissism (the formula of today's blogs), we are all equals: the writer does not pretend to know more or bestow information upon the reader; he just wishes to describe what he sees. And not because he sees better than the reader; primarily he describes because he does not wish to forget what he sees and only secondarily does he think about the reader and the possibility the he, too--the unknown reader--may have seen something like what the writer saw. An essay does not project a goal of a meeting of the minds; its sole dream is a meeting of the eyes. This, perhaps, is his greatest pleasure.

So why das Lichtung? The German word, in the way that Heidegger uses it, is not only the literal "clearing" or "glade" in the forest where there is a sudden shower of light in an otherwise dark and dense wood. It is usually where loggers chop their wood, using the light in the middle of darkness. But more importantly for Heidegger, the Lichtung is arrived at by intricate paths--like Japan's labyrinthine railways--that the initiate can only happen to chance at but more often than not miss. And the Lichtung or clearing is the end of a path. Literally so because why proceed in the darkness if you have found the light? So as an end of a path, it is an aporia which means a dead-end, a terminal point beyond which there are no more paths to take. Like the end of an essay, it is the last line.

However, it does not mean that everything is completed in the clearing. Actually, it is in the clearing that one may finally begin. "The beginning," says Hegel, "is the result." For there, in the lightning of the light, one can finally begin to see. See what, you ask? See whatever my present itself, see whatever may show itself, see what finally decides to reveal itself from its hiding. This is what the Greeks called aletheia. It was their word for truth.

But such discoveries do not come one after another, as if it were merely a matter of getting there and seeing everything in succession; this was what happened to the fools inside Plato's cave of shadows. That which presents itself in the clearing can--and only this--show itself if it chooses to do so, and only in the way that it chooses. You cannot will it to show itself. You must learn how to wait.

This, perhaps, is the story not only of this "clearing room." This, perhaps again, has been my story for the past year: Writing, Wayfaring, Waiting.



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