I am facing backwards, being thrown forward, fixed. The smaller, closer details are just whipping blurs, but the red mountains and the black factories. The power lines stretching over the under-used farms: They stand still long enough.
The ocean is something else entirely.
I’ve been on trains most days this week, again today. I’m going to the south, to Calabria, to the instep of the boot, to a minor city on the coast. There I’ll be by the water to eat fish and hot peppers, go up in the mountains, go down between the monolithic concrete pillars that support the autostrade soaring stuck above. As with much of my time away from whatever’s home at the time, the occasion for my going is a person I just met, a near-stranger who says, I want to show you this place I’m from, I want to show you all that is here as opposed to elsewhere. And I’m learning quickly to never say no to this, to become more iron and less intending flesh, more susceptible to magnets of hospitality and not knowing, of contingent encounters that have nothing to do with what we plan or don’t plan to do.
Desire is the petty show of resistance we put up in the face of plans made for us, curving tracks on which we are yanked ahead…
Excerpts (On staying still and moving along) Roman Letters, Evan Calder Williams Oslo Editions 2012
Added to Library
…As is often the case, we have to stop imagining that the simple fact of a reference to forces beyond our own – to what seem like objects and turbulences which blow out the thought that all of it accords with us, to our seemingly passivity in the face of it, to the silent cold laughter of what is against what we want there to be – is any step toward another mode of thought. More often than not it is just these supposed moves away from the centering of the human that are the worst, which too often shores up our place as the small and the dominated, sure, yet the crucial thing to be searched out, all the more important because all other structures and backdrops are there to render us less significant. The monstrous grandness of what exists is reduced to stage settings in a shitty play about how we’re finally claver enough to figure out the hubris of our thinking.
The center of the problem seems to be contingency and consistency (of how it seems that what will happen in a split instance from now will be an extension and furthering of what seems to be the case now), insofar as that’s what let’s us play at being knowingly unknowing: we will not see our position as constitutive now and we’re certain that we will not see it that way in a second. And so speculation itself, and it’s possible shattering effects, becomes only the insistence of the permanent, the stable gaze of the criticizing but uncritical subject onto what is known from the start to not exists in accordance with that seeing…
…And so trains. Which are the churning, stuck-in-motion extension of this. Yes, a path of our own making, yes the track is set and that time means a set distance crossed, yet a desperate making, gnawing at it’s path. The train pulling the track up from behind itself to lay it down in front of itself, at the last frantic moment. Never a guarantee, but a shrieking assurance that there is a continuity of motion, that we are moved along a coherent path. And moreover, that it feels like that, that it glides, it does not drift, which is lateral and off course. Unless you’re a conductor (and there is no conductor that is not just the one who strokes the engine, shoveling into a fire that swallows all just to keep moving), we always are looking out the window to the side never directly fore or aft, this passage visible in that things pass to the side of us. Other routes and collisions that could not have been. Parallel pasts. At most, on a long aching curve, we catch a glimpse of our own line, taken or to be followed, other carriages that look like ours and faces doing the same thing, sleeping, staring, distracting themselves, readjusting bra straps, coughing, snacking, waiting out the time to get there, to get to a then matched to a not here. Waiting for it to be over.
…Forget all this talk about ruins: when so much can count as ruin, it means nothing, too much is built up and too much lives in that building up. Even if all this living and expense thrown forth is welcome to itself, even if it jars against the decay on hand and at work.
We are a harpsichord melody plinked out with a single finger on a humid finger that sticks a bit. The rolling drums are not our own, but we steal them to keep the beat, for a moment, to bind our stammering lines to measures. An uncertain course of the hurled straight, without shadow and field, even at noon. No wonder the split wood and steel tongues of the tracks call so hoarsely for their sabotage and blockage. We throw ourselves, like hunting dice, sideways across the tracks of time, and we are never shattered enough.