Walking around my neighborhood with my only destination being the place where I started (“in my beginning is my end”), with no purpose beyond exercise. Traveling from point A to point A. Discovering the indefinite distances contained in the 4200 meters that separate those two points.
I looked for water, and found C. Musonius Rufus. I lost him, I think, in the galleys coming out …
It took many years of unconcerted effort to lose myself. Lose? Or to bundle myself in layer upon layer of outerwear. Unlike a snake that sheds its skin as it ages, I have merely added layer on top of layer.
Walking through the falling urban night, I start to experience the world outside my skin (the sounds of the city in the deepening evening, the sound of people walking alongside or past me, the sound of people talking, of traffic idling or rushing past, of wind blowing through the trees in which the insects sing) — and the world inside my skin (the straining of muscles too little used, the feel of the soles of my feet rhythmically striking the pavement through the cushioning of shoes, the rise and fall of breathing, waves of tension in back, neck and face).
Who or what experienced that walk?
To elucidate the meaning of a text — or a proposed cause of a state of affairs — is another take on the notion of explanation. Here the meaning or cause is obscure, hidden in darkness, and the explanations on offer seem equally obscure. To elucidate the meaning is to make it lucid, to shine a light on it so that what is dark can be seen.
The exposition of a text exposes its meaning and its underlying mechanism. Exposure removes a covering, it reveals, it makes visible. To expose a deceit or a fraud is to tacitly censure its perpetrator. To expose what, in a given situation, is out of place or contrary to propriety is to censure either the person so exposed or those whose actions are responsible for the situation so exposed. Exposure is neutral or even positive when it simply uncovers the mechanism by which an effect is created or a state of affairs has come to be.
To explain a text is to make plain — or expose — the mechanism of its meaning. To explicate the text is to unfold or untangle that meaning, to show the layers or strands which carry its meaning, the components and connections that are not obvious upon a first reading. Another etymology worth reflecting on: according to M-W from the Latin explicatus derived from ex-plicare meaning un-fold, but also plectere — which evokes a plectus as in solar plexus.
Donald Lopez, in the introduction to his Elaborations on Emptiness, describes explanation as a “leveling”, Etymologically this description is accurate, although I’ve never thought of “explanation” in those terms. To explain a text or statement is to make plain its meaning. To explain a state of affairs is to make plain the causal mechanism that gives rise to a it. The “plain” in “explain” means to make obvious or visible. The “plain” in ex-plain is not plain as in ordinary or homely, neither remarkable for beauty or ugliness, but “plain” as in undecorated, free of superficial ornament. Both plain and explain derive from the same Latin root. The Latin explanare, according to M-W, derives from planus, level or flat. Across a level or flat or unobstructed space it is possible to plainly see what is on the other side.
prospect.org: When Shareholder Capitalism Came to Town
The publicly traded corporation has two products and two customers: its stock and the goods or services that makes. It sells the one product on the stock exchange to investors, most of which are other corporations. It sells its goods and services in the ‘marketplace’. Which customer comes first? Is that a reasonable question?
My aims are fairly limited: I expect to hug my kid, and tell him I love him. I expect to hug my wife, and tell her I will always support her. I expect to make my Momma proud (“Be a good race-man,” she used to say.) And I expect to honor my Dad. I expect to drink some good rum. And I expect to know more tomorrow than I know today. And I expect to talk to the youth about taking control of their own education. And I expect to be a good writer.
And that really is it. It’s all I can ask. It’s all I can control.
That was written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and posted on his blog at The Atlantic a few days ago. It is singularly sane and hopeful. A mark of in-sanity, particularly the ordinary everyday insanity of mood disorders (to use a bland pop-generic term), is the desire for the wrong things. Wrong in the sense of impossible, unattainable, delusory. To expect sane things ― to love my husband, to do right by my kids, to be a friend to my friends, to do my job ― is to desire these things. It is also to expect that I will have the ability to do these things: to hope that I possess, or can acquire, the capabilities and skills required to achieve them. Further: it is to expect that my circumstances will not prevent me from acquiring those capabilities and employing then to achieve my heart’s desire. Some of those circumstances are of my own making ― or undoing. Some conditions are created by others: employers, clients, family, friends, strangers. But many of the conditions that can defeat or justify hope are institutional ― including the legacy, both good and evil, of the past.
I fear that my visits to Temendia are, however much they seem to be mere visits, the first stages of my own relocation, by own habitation, my own removal to the status of a resident.
In Temendia I seem to move through a world composed of remnants. Not in the way I thought during my first visits. Past and ‘present’ are mingled. But the immediate past, what occurred 20 or 10 minutes ago is just as likely to be jumbled as things happening 10 or 20 years ago. More likely, in my experience. What is impaired is my ability to construct a narrative that plausibly connects present experience with the past.
Here’s the thing: I stumbled into Temendia, by taking one day at a time, always supposing that this was temporary, short-term, just another in a long series of choices and half-choices that could be reversed at any time. Midway, or more, along that path I woke in a tunnel at the end of which was only night, made darker by the bright light of my fantasies. But Temendia only makes the darkness visible — the light at the end of the tunnel, if light there is to be, is only the light I bring.