Words Are Not Wind: Sandbox Writing (Channeling Michel Foucault)
This will not be an academic response. There is no argument here. Rather, it’s an “artistic playing-around-with” some of the thinkers we’ve been reading. Think of it like a sandbox. Someone painted some letters in the sand last night, and I’ve sat down and now I’m reading them and considering them and perhaps moving some of them around and soon I’ll grab a branch from a tree and write some letters of my own. But for now, we’ll submerge our toy shovels and dig them into the dirt…
A spectre is haunting language. The spectre has been haunting language always, before its inception, since the first energy went unsaid prior to the first being’s venture into language: it was there (but not) when the first bacteria commenced breathing in the world’s oceans three billion years ago. It is not what we hear, but rather the ghost beside it, the shadow it casts, the trace and vestige lingering behind the word. When humanity came around, grew up and stood up, communication did not ever get stronger, but only stranger. Gorgias was perhaps the first to hear the echo of the unsaid; he was at least the first to write about it, the first to funnel that echo to the generations beyond his village in Leontinoi, his ships he watched the Mediterranean waves crest against when sailing to Athens. Michel Foucault heard it too, on the streets of France or on the highways of the US, where the taught for a time… he heard, in his 1972 book The Archaeology of Knowledge, the absences in language, the gaps, the hollows, the breaks, the voids, chasms, caverns, fissures, vacuums, the void.
Foucault was well aware of the silences within the said: the ways in which enunciations and statements voiced by human beings secreted not only an already-said but also a never-said that rings loud to the right ears, to the third ears. It is a “voice as silent as a breath” that follows the words spoken or etched into the sand or onto the paper, a repressive presencing in the manifest discoursing that haunts it from within and from without (25). It is the latent hollow from within that undermines all that is said. There is, in Foucault’s thinking, a perpetual presence of an “interplay of constantly recurring absence,” the not-present howling vociferously from behind the letter hear me, hear me, I am here. We would hear from a more academic essay how the rules and codes of discourse are formed for Foucault, how the statement and the discursive formation breathe and come alive, but we would not be seized by the logos in that case, we would not be wrapped up and taken in by the words painted by our fingers or by our tongues. Words are not wind, as Foucault tells us… (209).
It is as if it is straight (or zig-zagged) right out of Heidegger’s typewriter (it is not), the thinker who in What Are Poets For? edges a thread of his discussion right to the absolute limit by applauding the most venturesome languagers to dive into the enterprise of the enunciative word, those who most daringly wade into speech, fall into the sign. Heidegger lionizes the languagers of the most hallowed difference, “those who are more daring by a breath,” who “dare the venture with language,” those speakers and writers and languagers who “are the sayers who more sayingly say” (137). He applauds the speakers, the writers, the languages willing to say other than the rest of human saying: he knows, as Nietzsche says, that the philosopher is timely by being untimely. Heidegger knows that truths are always provisional, always temporary, always invocations, always a sermon to a crowd, and the very real risk involved in the act to more sayingly say.
And this is where I find my brain, my heart, the whole of my mind today.
There is an abyss to speak of, an abyss not to bridge but to wade in to, perhaps to another world, an under-world. It is not the abyss Heidegger brings to language when he discusses what separates the internal contents of one language from another (from one realm of discoveries, experiments, trials and ventures to another, other realm of discoveries, experiments, trials and ventures), but rather something else entirely offbeat and peculiar. What I’m reading, what I’m hearing, is difference. Not differance, but difference. I am reading the “leap into irreducible difference” that Foucault finds not in the already said, but in the “point of rupture,” in the other that hides behind all (142). Difference is change; it is something else; it is a turn and a translation and a diversion of the flows. It is a revolution, big or small. Foucault broaches the subject in The Archaeology of Knowledge. He develops it in his lectures titled Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia. Foucault’s concern is not with truth itself, which is beyond our grasp and that of language too, but with the act of speaking out with a truth, bringing to language, leaping into difference, the political (Foucault can only be political here) enunciation of speaking out to power: parrhesia. Heidegger tell us that truth is unconcealed only in language, and only at the polis, the center, the core, speaking out to the center and to the core (114). And the unconcealed is the only place in which language languages: words are not wind, as Foucault so aptly calls out (209). Words are not wind.
Foucault, Michel. “The Archaeology of Knowledge.” Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. Vintage Books, 1972. Print.
Foucault, Michel. “Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia: 6 Lectures given by Michel Foucault at the University of California at Berkeley, Oct-Nov. 1983.” Michel Foucault, Info. https://foucault.info/. Web.
Heidegger, Martin. “What Are Poets For?” Poetry, Language, Thought. Harper Collins, 2013. Print.
Heidegger, Martin. “Parmenides.” Trans. Andre Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz. Indiana University Press, 1992. Print.