ongoingness

ongoingness

use the world all the time.. adding page this day – reading maria’s 2015 post on sarah manguso’s ongoingness

https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/03/31/ongoingness-sarah-manguso/

I wrote so I could say I was truly paying attention. Experience in itself wasn’t enough. The diary was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing I’d missed it.. The trouble was that I failed to record so much.. I tried to record each moment, but time isn’t made of moments; it contains moments. There is more to it than moments.. I wanted to comprehend my own position in time so I could use my evolving self as completely and as usefully as possible. I didn’t want to go lurching around, half-awake, unaware of the work I owed the world, work I didn’t want to live without doing.

As Manguso puts it, the diary becomes “a series of choices about what to omit, what to forget.”

Manguso found that it her own life its most perilous manifestation was the tendency to hop from one romantic relationship to another, oscillating between beginnings and endings, unable to inhabit the stillness of the middles.

I knew I was getting somewhere when I began losing interest in the beginnings and the ends of things.

The least contaminated memory might exist in the brain of a patient with amnesia — in the brain of someone who cannot contaminate it by remembering it. 

When I was twelve I realized that photographs were ruining my memory. I’d study the photos from an event and gradually forget everything that had happened between the shutter openings. I couldn’t tolerate so much lost memory, and I didn’t want to spectate my life through a viewfinder, so I stopped taking photographs. All the snapshots of my life for the next twenty years were shot by someone else. There aren’t many, but there are enough.

photograph ness

The experiences that demanded I yield control to a force greater than my will — diagnoses, deaths, unbreakable vows — weren’t the beginnings or the ends of anything. They were the moments when I was forced to admit that beginnings and ends are illusory. That history doesn’t begin or end, but it continues.

then had kid

I began to inhabit time differently.. I used to exist against the continuity of time. Then I became the baby’s continuity, a background of ongoing time for him to live against. I was the warmth and milk that was always there for him, the agent of comfort that was always there for him.. My body, my life, became the landscape of my son’s life. I am no longer merely a thing living in the world; I am a world.. Time kept reminding me that I merely inhabit it, but it began reminding me more gently

The essential problem of ongoingness is that one must contemplate time as that very time, that very subject of one’s contemplation, disappears.

Left alone in time, memories harden into summaries. The originals become almost irretrievable.

One day the baby gently sat his little blue dog in his booster seat and offered it a piece of pancake.. The memory should already be fading, but when I bring it up I almost choke on it — an incapacitating sweetness.. The memory throbs. Left alone in time, it is growing stronger.. The baby had never seen anyone feed a toy a pancake. He invented it. Think of the love necessary to invent that… An unbearable sweetness.. The feeling strengthens the more I remember it. It isn’t wearing smooth. It’s getting bigger, an outgrowth of new love.

Perhaps there is an element of “untested hope” in journaling itself — we are drawn to the practice because we hope that the diary would safe-keep precisely such throbbing, self-strengthening memories; that, in recording the unfolding ways in which we invent ourselves into personhood, it would become a constant reassurance of our own realness, a grownup version of The Velveteen Rabbit, reminding us that “real isn’t how you are made [but] a thing that happens to you.” Bearing witness to the happening itself, without trying to fragment it into beginnings and endings, is both the task of living and the anguish of the liver.

Perhaps all anxiety might derive from a fixation on moments — an inability to accept life as ongoing..t

Look at me, dancing my little dance for a few moments against the background of eternity..t

How ridiculous to believe myself powerful enough to stop time just by thinking.. Often I believe I’m working toward a result, but always, once I reach the result, I realize all the pleasure was in planning and executing the path to that result.. It comforts me that endings are thus formally unappealing to me — that more than beginning or ending, I enjoy continuing.

Seen in this way, the diary becomes not a bastion of memory but a white flag to forgetting, extended not in resignation but in celebration.

I came to understand that the forgotten moments are the price of continued participation in life, a force indifferent to time.. Now I consider the diary a compilation of moments I’ll forget, their record finished in language as well as I could finish it — which is to say imperfectly.. Someday I might read about some of the moments I’ve forgotten, moments I’ve allowed myself to forget, that my brain was designed to forget, that I’ll be glad to have forgotten and be glad to rediscover as writing. The experience is no longer experience. It is writing. I am still writing.. And I’m forgetting everything. My goal now is to forget it all so that I’m clean for death. Just the vaguest memory of love, of participation in the great unity.. Time punishes us by taking everything, but it also saves us — by taking everything.

on hold – library – thanks library

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notes/quotes from sarah manguso’s (2015) ongoingness:

miranda july: ‘after i had my son i looked everywhere for a book that might serve as some kind of mirror.. i bought so many silly books. now i see what the problem was: i wanted a book about time – about mortality. i can’t think of a writer who is at once so experimentally daring and so rigorously uncompromising as sarah manguso.. ongoingness is an incredible elegant, wise book and i loved it’

miranda

lewis hyde: ‘ongoingness is diary turned inside out, an answer to the writer’s question ‘what do i do w all the words of my life’.. it’s a quiet argument for letting go and going on‘..t

let go of the things you have to cling to ness – beyond words ness

david shields: ‘our author/narrator/speaker/heroine is never not asking the most fundamental question, namely, why live? the seriousness of the inquiry gives this book extraordinary purpose, momentum and value. i am in awe..’

a story about people grokking what matters.. ness

3

i started keeping a diary 25 yrs ago. it’s 800 000 words long.. i didn’t want to lose anything. that as my main problem. i couldn’t face the end of a day w/o a record of everything that had ever happened.. i wrote about myself so i wouldn’t become paralyzed by rumination – so i could stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it.. more than that.. i wrote so i could say i was truly paying attention.. experience in itself wasn’t enough.. the diary was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing i’d missed it.. t

missing it

4

the trouble was that i failed to record so much.. i’d write about a few moments, but the surrounding time – there was so much of it.. so much apparent nothing i ignored, that i treated as empty time between the memorable moments..t

never nothing going on ness

despite my continuous effort.. i knew i couldn’t replicate my whole life in language.. i knew that most of it would follow my body into oblivion

language as control/enclosure.. et al

from the beginning i knew the diary wasn’t working, but i couldn’t stop writing, i couldn’t think of any other way to avoid getting lost in time..t

hosting-life-bits ness et al

5

i wanted to comprehend my own position in time so i could use my evolving self as completely and as usefully as possible.. i didn’t want to go lurching around, half awake, unaware of the work i owed the world, work i didn’t want to live w/o doing

6

to write a diary is to make a series of choices about what to omit, what to forget

9

(at 9 when mother force fed diary writing) i didn’t need a diary then. i wasn’t yet aware of how much i was forgetting

11

i started keeping the diary in earnest when i started finding myself in moments that were too full.. at an art opening in the late 80s.. i held a plastic up of wine and stood in front of a painting ext t a friend i loved. it was all too much.. i stayed partly contained in the moment until that night, when i wrote down everything that had happened and everything i remembered thinking while it had happened and everything i thought while recording what i remembered had happened..  today was very full, but the problem isn’t today. it’s tomorrow.. i’d be able to recover from today if it weren’t for tomorrow.. there should be extra days, buffer days, between the real days.. if i allowed myself to drift thru nondocumented time for more than a day, i feared, i’d be swept up, no longer able to remember the purpose of continuing.. 25 yrs later the practice is an essential component of my daily hygiene. i’d sooner go unbathed..

document everything ness

12

hiding everything i thought was important in a file named after a branch of higher math, where, as only a c+ student would, i thought no one would ever look at it..

13

one afternoon i declined a ride from one city to another w a friend who didn’t survive his 20s. i didn’t think i’d survive the afternoon w/o spending 4 hours on the bus back to college thinking and writing about what had happened during my trip.. my memory was too full.. it was an emergency.. i had to empty the reservoir right away.. nothing had happened but i still needed four hours to get it into the notebook

16

i often prefer writers’ diaries to their work written intentionally for publication. it’s as if i want the info w/o the obstacles of style or form. .t.. but of course all writing possesses style and form and in good writing they aren’t obstacles..

another friend said, i want to write sentences that seems as if no one wrote them..the goal being the creation of a pure delivery system, w/o the distraction of a style.. the goal being a form no one notices, the creation of what seems like pure feeling, not of what seems like a vehicle for a feeling.. language as a pure experience, pure memory. i too wanted to achieve that impossible effect

19

after telling of people (mom about hating her, bf, et al) reading her diary: i could have protected the doc w a password or padlocked or hidden the computer, but i didn’t care enough to inconvenience myself. the diary wasn’t a trove of secrets; it was, simply, everything. i might as well have hidden myself from view. i still don’t care whether anyone reads it

20

i’d already shredded the volumes i wrote in high school not to keep them from others but to keep them from myself. so it seems i didn’t want to remember everything.. i wanted to remember what i could bear to remember and convince myself it was all there was

23

it was a failure of my imagination that made me keep leaving people. all i could see in the world were beginnings and endings: moments to survive, record, and , once recorded, safely forget.. i knew i was getting somewhere when i began losing interest in the beginnings and the ends of things.. short tragic love stories that had once interested me no longer did.. what interested me was the kind of love to which the person dedicates herself for so long, she no longer remembers quite how it began

29

the lease contaminated memory might exist in the brain of a patient w amnesia – in the brain of someone who cannot contaminate it be remembering it.. w each recollection, the memory of it further degrades..the memory and maybe the fact of every kiss start disappearing the moment the two mouths part

32

then i think i should practice grace for what i’ve been given to remember, but whatever i do, i can’t seem to forget what i want to forget.. and then i think i don’t need to write anything down ever again. nothing’s gone, not really.. everything that’s ever happened has left its little wound..

35

When I was twelve I realized that photographs were ruining my memory. I’d study the photos from an event and gradually forget everything that had happened between the shutter openings. I couldn’t tolerate so much lost memory, and I didn’t want to spectate my life through a viewfinder, so I stopped taking photographs. All the snapshots of my life for the next twenty years were shot by someone else. There aren’t many, but there are enough.

photograph ness

39

i didn’t mind that perception is partial or that recollection is worse, but i minded that i didn’t know why i remembered what i remembered – or why i thought i remembered what i remembered..

43

the catalog of emotion that disappears when someone dies, and the degree to which we rely on a few people to record something of what life was to them, is almost too much to bear

47

i am told that even a newborn, in its first months outside its mother’s body, remembers the underwater sounds of the womb

52

then i became a mother. i began to inhabit time differently. it had something to do w mortality. i kept writing the diary, but my worry about the lost memories began to subside

65

one explanation for the loss of preverbal memories maintains that after acquiring language, one forgets how to access those preverbal memories.. (on remembering crib toys when son was born)..  if you had asked me 6 months earlier if it were possible to retain infant memories into adulthood i would have said no, but i caries this memory w/o looking at it for 38 yrs

66

i believed i was trying to remind myself of how it had felt to be wordless, completely of the physical world – that even before my body was an instrument for language it had been an instrument for memory..t

not yet scrambled ness language as control/enclosure .. et al

see p 80 and forget\ting ness

67

it used to be that things always reminded me of a lot of other things… then, for 18 months or so, they didn’t. in the diary i recorded only facts. minutes of nursing, ounces of milk, hours of sleep.. things were just themselves. i was too exhausted or hormone drunk or depressed to thin of anything that resembled anything else.. that’s how things appear to an infant

68

one postpartum day it tok me forever to remember the word obsolete.. another day , suggestible, another, fennel. does the mother o fan infant need a smaller lexicon? does she need a specifically limited lexicon? did i not need to think about fennel then? about abstractions?

idio-jargon et al

69

i remember from childhood that, from the pov of a child, a mother is a fixed entity, a monolith, not a changing, evolving human organism who is qualitatively similar, in many ways, to a young person

recently i became not quantifiably old but qualitatively old. old as a state of being. as an acceptance that i’ve more or less become the person i had a chance to become..

what i’m saying is that i have become, in a way, inured to the passage of time. i’m not really paying attention (having run out of time and life to perceive and ruminate and record my minutes and says in the diary) to what’s happening to me anymore – no longer observing steadfastly the things that have changed since yesterday

70

i’m watching my little son change, though, from day to day and minute to minute..  it’s terrifying and beautiful..

(on rainbows being common where her husband grew up) they are no less amazing for their prevalence.. ditto birds, trees, stars, clouds, children, and so on.. to the laws of supply and demand the real world is immune

have\need ness working out just fine (ie: we have all we need) if we just get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

71

when the baby was 8 months old, i realized i’d stopped identifying w the man saying ‘hi mom’ and felt myself becoming the mother who hears him say it, the mother who will someday leave her boy alone

oh my

72

the essential problem of ongoingness is that one must contemplate time as that very time, that very subject of one’s contemplation, disappears..

my prose began to judge or summarize its subject before it took any time to observe that subject. i couldn’t help attaching that tendency to the subject itself: the wild velocity of motherhood, an enforced momentum forbidding contemplation..

the tendency to summarize rather than to observe and describe – would taking that time to observe and describe be selfish, wasteful, nonmaternal time?

is it possible to truly observe one’s own child, as a writer must, while also simultaneously loving him? does a mother have something like writer’s block – perceiver’s block?

73

left alone in time, memories harden into summaries. the originals become almost irretrievable.

one day the baby gently sat his little blue dog in his booster seat and offered it a piece of pancake. the memory should already be fading, but when i bring it up i almost choke on it – an incapacitating sweetness.. the memory throbs. left alone in time, it is growing stronger.. the baby had never seen anyone feed a toy a pancake. he invented it. think of the love necessary to invent that. i a handful of years he’ll never do it agin. an unbearable sweetness.. the feeling strengthens the more i remember it. it isn’t wearing smooth. it’s getting bigger, an outgrowth of new love

74

since the baby was born i still occasionally wonder whether i should have a baby, whether i should get married, whether i should move to this/that city i’ve already moved to, already left. all the large question still float about me, and in its sleep deprived dampened awareness of the present moment, my memory treats these past moments as if they’re all still happening.. 

i’ve never understood so clearly that linear time is a summary of actual time, of all time, of the forever that has always been happening..t

75

a year postpartum, my memory was still afflicted. i enjoyed writing because w/in days, i forgot what i’d written, and rereading it was like reading a letter form someone else

76

(on saying i prefer having the baby to not sounding aggressive – to non parents).. maybe the trouble is that the shape of life is elastic, that it can feel and be full at variable levels of fullness. or maybe we’re poor judges of our own lives’ fullness. or maybe the concepts of emptiness and fullness are poor metaphors for happiness, if in fact happiness is what we’re talking about

77

let me put it another way: when i am w my son i feel the bracing speed of the one way journey that guides human experience..

78

the trouble was that i failed to record so much, i wrote, but how could i have believed that if i tried hard enough, i could remember everything

79

i wrote about an illness once i was 7 yrs into a remission that lasted 4 more.. i didn’t know it yet, but the illness, which still isn’t over, wasn’t the real problem. thinking about it was the problem, and i don’t think about it anymore. not in the obsessive, all consuming way i used to..

i used to harbor a continuous worry that i’d forget what had happened, that i’d fail to notice what was happening. i worried that something terrible would happen because i’d forgotten what had already happened..  perhaps all anxiety might derive from a fixation on moments – an inability to accept life as ongoing.. t

80

once i spent 2 yrs hobbled by an impaired memory, i worried less about everything i was forgetting..

so maybe back to p 66 – memory is natural.. worrying about what you forget .. not natural..

i believed i was trying to remind myself of how it had felt to be wordless, completely of the physical world – that even before my body was an instrument for language it had been an instrument for memory

perhaps not memory like we think of it now (perhaps less about worrying what we forget and more about living so much you grok/remember what’s important).. more like what james bach talked about in regard to making lists.. James‘s advice – that if it’s important enough – you’ll remember it. and we think we won’t – but that’s because we’re so clogged up with lists and dead ness – that currently in our toxicated state – maybe we do need lists/diaries.. we need a jumpstart back to us

perhaps 2 convers as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convers that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

81

the best thing about time passing is the privilege of running out of it, of watching the wave of mortality break over me and everyone i know. no more time, o more potential. the privilege of ruling things out. finishing. knowing i’m finished. and knowing time will go on w/o me

look at me, dancing my little dance for a few moments against the background of eternity

(earlier said mom was background of infant son)

82

why then should i continue writing the diary?.. in it i digest the time that passes, file it away so i no longer need to think about it, and if i spent all my time thinking about the past i’d stop moving in to the future, i began to write, but no- i’d keep moving. how ridiculous to believe myself powerful enough to stop time just by thinking..

there’s no reason to continue writing other than that i started writing at some point – and that, at some other point, i’ll stop

83

often i believe i’m working toward a result, but always once i reach the result, i realize all the pleasure was in planning and executing the path to that result

it comforts me that endings are thus formally unappealing to me – that more than beginning or ending, i enjoy continuing.. t

84

before the baby was born, the diary allowed me to continue existing. it literally constituted me. if i didn’t write it, i wasn’t anything, but then the baby became a little boy who needed me more than i needed to write the diary. he needed me more than i needed to write about him

love

the time i spent sitting and nursing and holding the baby and cleaning up his messes could have borne the worry from me as completely as i bore the baby, which in my experience marked a change of mind that by now seems permanent

85

before i was a mother, i thought i was asking, how then can i survive forgetting so much.. then i came to understand that the forgotten moments are the price of continued participation in life, a force indifferent to time

86

now i consider the diary a compilation of moments i’ll forget.. the experience is no longer experience. it is writing, i am still writing..

and i’m forgetting everything. my goal now is to forget it all so that i’m clean for death. just the vaguest memory of love, of participation in the great unity..t

forget\ting ness

ai humanity needs most – augmenting interconnectedness

87

when i remember how this document began, i remember it as something i used to worry about

88

my son goes happily on.. time passed. he grew accustomed to the world. he learned more words (bamboo).. his bright hair grew long.. everything is new.. his first lizard. his first funeral. now we measure his age in years.. the future happens. it keeps happening.. the mans is till alive, but the boy is gone.. the light is out..

his light is out yet it shines triumphant from the next of the living, and when their time is up , their potential spent, the light will move along to the next brightest and the next..

look.. here we are.. even now

afterword – april 2014:

92

(on the terror? of putting her diary out there unedited/unread).. i needed to get my act together.. i had to be sure i wasn’t keeping anything from the world that might help it along. if the point was to write things that prevent people form committing suicide, the least i could do would be to read my own diary. just in case..

ended up reading it on a 6 hr flight.. 23 files .. copied passaged i thought people might find interesting..

93

how to pick.. arbitrarily..? but the even greater problem was that no individual diary entry had been written to make sense by itself..  it led neither away form the previous day nor toward the following day.. it possessed no form separate form the greater form, which itself was almost formless – which itself was just accumulation, just day after day after day after day..

94

i once wrote and believed.. and forgot.. and read again and new believe again.. the only thing i ever wrote that wasn’t for an audience was the diary.. it’s about the diary as a single item

self-talk as data et al

i decided that the only way to represent the diary in the is book would be either to include the entire thing untouched – which would have required an additional 8 000 pages – or to include none of it..

i didn’t know how to present to an audience a document that had been written for no audience .. t.. and i knew i couldn’t ask my editor to edit an almost million words doc possessing no goals regarding coherence or form

(resonations – posted on site) note: this site is part of an ongoing experiment, ie: modeling hosting-life-bitsness (output ness) using my (never just me) brain/idio-jargon/self-talk as data]

95

the only way i could include my diary in this book about my diary, then, was to refer to it and then continue on..

imagine it as dark matter or as one of the 67 confirmed moons of jupiter or whatever real thing you nonetheless must take on faith..

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