Friday, May 07, 2010

GERTRUDE STEIN SPEAKS TO THE FUTURE

Do not argue, do. That’s what I said and did. The shape of arguing isn’t interesting. Sentences flag. Attacking isn’t being. Attacking isn’t arguing either. Arguing is more appealing than attacking but being is better than both. Turning away isn’t interesting, but it can be blinding. When walking away it is best to walk with purpose. A way of walking that is thinking. Walking with purpose then is creating. The best response is being and doing and creating. Many consider simply being an attack. My being me is hostile because it isn’t what you thinks me should be. Me is elusive. So is I but I often doesn’t know I enough to know who I is and that I is some I apart from a larger force. Someone different being themselves is sometimes attacking without even doing. Is being attacking? Simply being without even doing? No one can argue with a body of work. They can not like the body but they can’t argue that it isn’t there.

Actually apparently they can. Apparently they can argue that, even while tripping over them, entire physical things are not there. They can also argue that many things are at a given place. They can then use these ideas to attack, so you see, as with the atomic bomb, it isn’t interesting. I have seen wars and I can tell you they aren’t interesting to be in. Maybe they are interesting to plan and discuss from a far off room but within they are not at all pleasant. Arguing is an activity for its own sake nothing else.

I have said elsewhere that sentences on their own are without emotion but interesting sentences deflate attack. So you see being is a kind of leaping because it is reaching. Sentences need air. One builds a paragraph like one builds a fire: a log, a log, a log, makes a place for air and a place for flames. Withholding creates gaps. But gaps need to be in proportion. Gaps too wide dampen. Gaps too narrow stifle. It is the same with being. Words are like logs. Words are like being. When a person argues what wins is the arguing. Arguing is like suddenly finding the world less convenient. Or space that is spiked. Space can be good, or it can be like a moat.

People say I didn’t mention enough of life. But of what life? And whose idea of it? Being earnest isn’t more of anything. When one is being life one doesn’t worry about hitting other people’s notes. One doesn’t worry about other people reading one’s notes either. One simply is and by being and doing one makes space for difference. Small gaps aerate culture and new ideas grow.

Now you may or may not appreciate that being and doing are not the same as complying and not arguing is not being truthful and being earnest is but I am here to say that being is more forceful than arguing and even better than saying is writing down, but not quite as good as thinking, which is after all the precursor to writing and difficult to say is not existing. I am me for me, not in response to you. I am not your idea of me reinforced in arguing. I am my idea of me in writing. Writing is what you and me are thinking. What is revealed is what you value. If you value being and doing it is useful because it makes a map for others. If you value and leave no trace you leave no map for others. Feeling full for it, that’s what to do. And do again with feeling.

And that is how to be yourself and make a difference.
I originally wrote this piece for Delirious Hem, in response to the Numbers Trouble Issue of the Chicago Review. I revised it for the fabulous Matrix New Feminisms issue. When asked to speak on the matter of contemporary feminism it's what I am inclined to say.

Or, I could simply point people to this video:

3 comments:

nikki reimer said...

Thanks for re-posting this! Just read it in the Matrix issue last night and wanted to send to a friend who needs to read it right now.

(I was thinking, should I scan the page and email it to her? Couldn't find the issue anywhere in Van and had to buy it in Calgary. Clearly it's time to subscribe.)

rita wong said...

Your halfness! Rock on!

I was soooooo happy to read this: "When walking away it is best to walk with purpose. A way of walking that is thinking. Walking with purpose then is creating." I have Alexandra Morton's salmon walk on my mind, and these lines remind me to dwell on what matters, cloaked and/or uncloaked...

"If you value being and doing it is useful because it makes a map for others." YES. Thank you for the generous traces!

Old 333 said...

LH/SQ: " being is more forceful than arguing and even better than saying is writing down, but not quite as good as thinking, which is after all the precursor to writing and difficult to say is not existing. ".

Yup - except I'd like to add they're all best when they can be ONE thing in the doing (poetry!and other things!but specially poetry!). I'm always surprised when I accidentally step on someone's arguments (doesn't happen too too much, but I did have this transgendered TA who HATED me until I learned what it was they wanted to hear - the argument in that case was so in force in their discourse/person that it was necessary to generate the perception for them of being inside that fence as it were, before one got the As one craved). I chose a long time ago that arguing was for places I wasn't physically able to be in. Unfortunately, other choices are made by others around you, like drunk drivers in the road. Crash! And you're in a (o, i HAD to do it, please kill me after) gender-bender. it all worked out fine when they (the TA) realized what a lovely birl (my ex's term for us fency birds) I am inside my troll suit.

Wow, this whole taking time to read other people's stuff is great. Thanks for another way to make my coffee cold, o Hound of Lemon(s?). You and Ron Silliman are conspiring to make me totally unproductive as a poet.

Ta -

PG