Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thanatopsis


I dreamt I lay dead and buried in the Earth. 
My immortal soul / my consciousness
had survived the cessation of the body's vital functions,
but it did not ascend into heaven, or transmigrate,
or go anywhere.
Rather it stayed

interred in the ground--
beneath layers of packed, airless clay
and mounds of dripping loam.
 
There my mind was subsumed
into the collective sentience
of all things once living
that now lay dormant in the Earth--
this totality of the intelligence of the dead
which you could, perhaps, liken
to Gaia, the noösphere or God.

As I would soon discover,
this pool was aware
of the events that transpired around
and above it, but it had no outlet
for communicating with the living
or effecting change. 
It was doomed to spend eternity
passive and immobile
observing the futile and destructive
the oblivious and misguided acts of the living.  

What's more, the dead man's mind
slowly ceased to exist as an independent entity;
it became merely one more indistinguishable component
making up the amorphous mass
of the thanatosphere's collective consciousness. 

But what was the nature of this pool? 
Was it dominated by human thought
given that, individually,
men possess intelligence of the highest magnitude? 
Or were the thoughts of man drowned out
by the brutish instincts of dead animals
as they vastly outnumbered the men
buried in the ground? 

Is the collective consciousness shaped
by the unknowable minds of the great,
extinct beasts entombed in the Earth for aeons--
those with monstrous claws for hunting down prey,
and those who roamed the land in peaceful herds
their footsteps resounding as they trudged along--
mother and calf stopping to observe from a distance
as elder males crossed tusks in struggles for power?
What wisdom might they have passed down
over the span of untold generations?

Is the pool led by the alien impulses of trillions of insects--
those who twitched their wings and chirped
and buzzed and droned horribly,
whose chitinous shells crunched and oozed green ichor?
Even in life, many of them moved in concert
seemingly controlled by a single hive mind.
What lessons could they teach the souls of greater beings?
 
Of this much we can be certain:
the congress of the dead
takes place in stifling darkness,
where there is no air to voice dissent,
and all things dead eventually learn to dream in unison.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's in a blog name?

 

Why did I start this new blog?

I don't know... so I had the old blog, but I hadn't posted anything there in a long time.  I feel like it had formatting issues and was starting to seem cluttered and kind of cheesy. Plus I sort of wanted to take things in a different direction-- I know that the stated rules were that I could write about anything I wanted, but after a while the blog developed a voice and a momentum which I've become dissatisfied with.

So I've decided it's time for a fresh start.  For one thing, I want to start posting more diverse stuff: more fiction and poetry as well as the essays, rants and journal entries about whatever's been on my mind.  And I want to start taking the blog and its formatting more seriously-- trying to make everything a bit more professional or aesthetically pleasing or whatever.

So then the first question was, What was I going to call the new blog?  I wanted to come up with something unique that would set the right tone.  Let me walk you through the thought process by which I arrived at "superfluae" as a name for this new blog.

Idea #1: Don't Get Me Started

What was I thinking?

This is really what the first blog should have been called.  It's more original and not so much of a pat phrase as "too much information;" plus it's something I actually say, and it could have easily been put at the beginning of the majority of my posts-- whether we're talking about the rants or the sort of rambling, maximalist, digressive posts on history, literature, etc.

Why I ultimately decided against it?

First off, I swear that I googled this a year ago, but when I looked more recently I found that someone else already had a blog called "don't get me started."  Plus, while this would have been a good name for the old blog, I wanted to set off in a new direction (remember?) and this would probably be setting the wrong tone.

Idea #2: Hrönir

What was I thinking?

This one requires a bit more of an explanation, I guess.  The word "hrönir" was coined by Jorge Luis Borges in his short story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius."  Borges is a 20th century, Argentine writer, and I read a collection of his short stories (Fictions, originally published in 1944) earlier in the summer.  It was amazing!

So anyway, in the story Borges describes a fictional planet called "Tlön" in which the dominant worldview was an extreme form of Berkeleian immaterialism.  This means that people did not accept the external reality and continuity of objects existing in the spatial plane, but rather just thought of the universe as being a collection of ideas and sights/sounds/sensations.  As Borges put it “for them, the world is not a concurrence of objects in space, but a heterogeneous series of independent acts.”  

This philosophy was reflected in the two languages spoken in Tlön, neither of which employed nouns.  The first consisted entirely of impersonal verbs modified by prefixes and suffixes which acted as adverbs.  In this language, the equivalent of “the moon rose over the sea,” translated literally into English, would be “upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned.” The second language was made up entirely of monosyllabic adjectives which are combined to express a single concept.  One could say “airy clear over dark round” to describe the moon, but one could just as easily pile together a number of discrete sensations (e.g. the brightness of the sun, the salty smell of the ocean, the cool feeling of the sea breeze) and thereby create a purely verbal/poetic “object.”

The people of Tlön also accepted the occurrence of several phenomena which we would regard as impossible. In one example, a person announces that he lost his wallet and several people begin searching for it.  A minute later he finds it between the sofa cushions, but he doesn’t tell anyone.  Then, after five minutes, his friend finds THE SAME WALLET on the kitchen floor.  When this sort of thing happened, the second, duplicate object was called a “hrönir.”

I thought this concept was cool and that hrönir was an especially apropos name for a second blog of dubious necessity.

Why I ultimately decided against it?

Wouldn’t you know there was already a hrönir blog.  Plus, on reflection, the name might have been a little too “fantasy rock” (or, to put it another way, a little too “dungeons & dragons”).  And I guess stealing Borges’ word wouldn’t be very original of me.

Idea #3: Superflua/superfluae

Then the word “superflua” came to me... as in superfluous.   Tonally, this seemed to be a good compromise between the sardonic “don’t get me started” and the epic “hrönir”.  Plus it seemed to neatly encompass both ideas: the excess of “too much information” and the extraneous duplicate of the hrönir could both be described as superfluous.  

Just to make sure my name would be unique, I appended the final (superfluous) “e” and arrived at “superfluae.” If “superflua” were the singular noun for a superfluous thing, I thought, then "superfluæ," or "superfluae" for those of us who avoid non-standard characters, would be the plural. (Personally, I thought that superfluum was the actual singular form and superflua was the plural, but it would seem that none of these are actual words in English.)  I also think the word suggests fluid movement like “flow” or “fluent.”

As this is my second blog, it is in a way superfluous from the outset, and, likewise, I believe I can promise that everything I post here will be, if not excessive, at least unnecessary.  Isn’t everything after “Om” superfluous really?