j. reports in a recent comment on Thoreau’s remark that things speak directly without metaphor while books speak in metaphor. This leads me to reflect on Wittgenstein’s glancing comments on aspects dawning, and Thoreau’s picking us up into an experiential awakening to dawns — evoking dawns, letting us sing along unselfconsciously with dawns that come upon us, overtake us, making analysis or reflection-about drop away. That’s very roughly put.
I think Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard both had a fear of the encroachment and entrenchment of the systematic that destroyed a sought immediacy with the world. Thoreau wanted to produce satisfactory narratives, renderings of the flow of things that attained the status of something like scripture, with great immediacy of impact. The ‘moments’ of dawning could be linked into ever wider patterns; whereas Wittgenstein settled for ‘micro-narratives’, satisfactions in disparate, unlinked, almost atomic single conversational exchanges, with no attempt to spin out connective narration, big Walden-type books. Both Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard speak as if it would be fine if, having gotten a discrete point, or series of them, we set their books aside as incidental to the rest of our lives. At least Postscript reads that way. I really think Thoreau wanted a different success; he wanted (crudely put) to be a best-selling author. (And SK of the early pseudonymous works had that in mind too.) And Thoreau thought there was a place for books to put under your pillow. A book could be read over and over for its redeeming flow. LW didn’t aspire to produce such books. Thoreau wants a book of continual dawning that weaves into itself the world-ever-dawning. Wittgenstein despaired of tying things together and left us what he acknowledged were only fragments, or what Kierkegaard called ‘crumbs of philosophy.’
Here’s a hope: that when Thoreau says things speak without metaphor he speaks of a naturalness of expression that is unselfconscious, one that we might come to share more continuously. If books seem filled with metaphor it’s because their speech lends itself to a kind of breakdown into the literal-and-figurative that can distract from a directness, immediacy, that has none of the detachment necessary for breaking out a figurative non-figurative contrast. The phenomenology of hearing brooks sing will end with the hearing. The phenomenology of my reading a poem in which brooks sing may begin with the poem and the brooks in it just singing, but often switches out of that immediacy of singing. We begin to place lyrics in the space of analysis in the way brooks don’t place their singing in the space of analysis.
My hope is that I don’t let skill and interest in analysis crowd out having evermore of my life consist in hearing language-as-it-sings, as in lyrics, where the satisfaction doesn’t at all require that I note the metaphors at work in the lyrics. On such occasion, I just sing along, consciousness just sings along, like brooks, not like poems about brooks singing, or analysis of what it could mean for a brook to sing, or the ‘knowing’ that of course ‘it’s a metaphor — brooks can’t really sing.’ When they do sing for me I undergo transformation, minute by minute. I think theater people read poetry-for-stage-performance in a ‘happy ignorance’ of analysis. Thoreau aspired aiding and abetting that sort of life-flow-for-readers where his books and life were in ever amplifying feedback loops. Wittgenstein didn’t have an aspiration to write that way, and I suspect, thought it ‘couldn’t be done any more,’ almost the way Adorno said lyrical poetry could not be written after Auschwitz.
All very rough and unfinished . . . thanks j.