Philosophical Asides on Themes

In laying down the bare molecules of a book that’s forming, I found myself immersed in the idea of ‘theme’. That is to say, in the first instance this ‘laying down’ isn’t a physical act of writing at all (rather, it’s a coercion of various strands of thoughts into something that might later become more coherent); in the latter instance, the theme is the continuing saga of what runs through this writer (rather than, necessarily, the development of the theme of the book).

The more we write the more we can come to be aware of that which pulls at us (by way of what others write about what they’ve read in our work). It’s a sort of ‘making visible’ process of what once was completely invisible, or at least translucent to us. It’s a ‘presence-at-hand’, of which I find myself reminded of a paper I wrote a few years back on philosophical matters of being (here).

By way of a quick preamble, regarding the word ‘stage’ from two angles ‘[i] as in movement, as in a step, progression of sorts; [ii] stage as in a platform, dais, where we present’, I added the following:

In this discerning of the stage we inhabit, I reflect on Barton’s (2011) review of Heidegger’s (1927, 1962) tool analysis. To paraphrase, when an object/tool is operating normally (readiness-to-hand) it essentially recedes into the background, is taken for granted; when in disrepair (presence-at-hand) we notice it, and it becomes present to us.

It is towards this idea of presence-at-hand that I now gravitate with regards to the developing theme that is any given writer, i.e. all that coalesces into who that writer is. In being made aware of the things I write about, having those things made more visible, are they — in effect — in disrepair? That is, recurrences and recurrences are wooden wheels on a bumpy track, and the more they go round the more the sound suggests that all is not well.

Some writers take years to develop their themes and thus the theme of themselves. The question asked is ‘at which point should we jump tracks in order for that overall ‘theme’ to be all the richer?’

Perhaps I’m confusing matters with my two uses of the word ‘theme’. Just as the word ‘stage’ can be seen in different lights, and to clarify, ‘theme’ here is in terms of ‘individual strand’ and ‘overall rope’ of that which is written and of he or she who writes it. If what we write continues to follow the same idea explorations, are we broken, in disrepair as writers?

There may be some relief in the following (ibid):

Barton presents that objects oscillate between these two modes [operating normally, readiness-at-hand; disrepair, presence-at-hand] and further refers to Latour’s notions of space as a network of objects in relation. Space is something experienced and lived, rather than something we merely move through.

That is, in the analogy, this space of the writer’s inner realm is a network of objects (themes) in relation. Our visible themes and those that vibrate invisibly in the background have sinewed connection with one another. That others may discern the repetitions of our current themes doesn’t therefore suggest that other themes aren’t possible. At which point should we jump tracks? Perhaps we have less choice in the matter than we think. Perhaps our invisible themes, vibrating gently in the background, manifest in us when they need to. They are written, and it sometimes takes readers’ perspectives to make us more aware of them.

Of course, as writers, we know what we write and why we do this, but we’re immersed in that writer’s realm, experiencing the space which has its own internal logic. The reader often has clearer eyes.

Barton, F. (2011), A twist on Heidegger: the ambiguous ontology of playspace. Cheltenham: Philosophy at Play Conference.

Heidegger, M. (1927), Sein und zeit. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.

Heidegger, M. (1962), Being and time (English translation). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Things I Should Write

In her article Writing the Difficult Thing, Sonam C. Gyamtsho explores subject matters that have driven certain writers to address them and driven others away from them. Perhaps to write on such themes we have to have some personal attachment to them; or perhaps we can visualise such themes, if we have a need to do so. I’m aware that writing can congeal around themes that aren’t so concerning, or around those that are focused only on beauty, purity or the like. Writing the difficult thing first involves thinking the difficult theme.

I wrote in my notebook (because the thinking required it this way). Before the ink hit the page, the thinking was along the lines of ‘I want to write . . .’ However, I don’t want to write, as such, along these themes; rather, it is ‘I should write . . .’

I have no personal attachment, insofar as experience is concerned, of course, of the Holocaust, of draconian regimes, of oppression, as Sonam highlights. Maybe that should not stop me writing about these themes. For now, though, I should write other difficulties, experienced in these or not, I should write . . . (what began life as just a block of words, but turned — despite myself — into a rhythm of its own; my deep-seated need for some beauty in the world over-ruled my conscious thoughts on difficult themes):

I should write of

intolerances and injustices
the last taboos we have
dangerous dreams
ways of seeing with warped intent
ugly scenes
addiction and contradiction
false truths and lies
the bastard child of scandalous affairs
non-consensual sex
forced arrangements
unpaid debts
the foreboding shadows of others’ deaths
lost innocence
cause-less fights
slander, sloth, regrets

I should write of fictions close to fact
which might burn a reader somewhere
which might hurt a little sometime
in an honest moment of a clearly secret day

I should write facts disguised as fiction
which might scrape its writer’s sides, once,
when his guard’s let down somehow

I should write the difficulties clearly
here, and suddenly,
I should write about dementia
for my father,
but I don’t know where to start . . .