Archive for January 2010

Ineffability

January 24, 2010

Anytime one sits to type words there is this strange moment when words are crowding and jostling to jump out of the mind’s cluster into the stream of a legible sentence. This is especially more when one starts to make those floating thoughts a written word after a long gap. It has been six months since I have written a paragraph in English and the inaction did make me wonder if there would be any ‘disuse atrophy’ in my language. I had forcibly made my English into Tamil in my effort to improve my speed and standard of Tamil writing, and now that I have released myself from that self-imposed sentence of writing only Tamil sentences, I feel more free and comfortable, though I do not have any particular topic in mind when I begin writing this post.

To define or discuss words are needed as much as they are needed to describe, and every definition and discussion do in a subtle way tend to be descriptions, of something definite or something that is going to be defined!

To describe something is easy because there is that something, but to describe the inability to describe, brings many thoughts. William James ( in his book titled varieties of religious experience) has mentioned ineffability as one of the qualities of mystic experience. Groping for words and the incompetence of spoken or written language does not constitute ineffability.  It is an awe filled with empathy. It is the silent admiration of silence. Silence is not ineffable, ineffability is silence.

Encountering silence is the beginning of a mystic monologue in which there need not be a listener.

In silence do I speak. What if to myself, I still speak. And, I talk about mysticism and masonry, crime novels and Kafka. Is my silence ever silent and vacant, devoid of thoughts that albeit with variations, come as words?

Often when I slouch on my couch in ‘vacant’ mood, silence slouches along too, keeping a half-shut eye on me, awaiting his master’s voice, even if it were to just utter an idiotic grunt of irrelevance. Speech, not hearing or being heard is primary, for in silence the tongue does shudder imperceptibly, unlike in conversations and declarations where it wags dutifully like a social dog’s tail.

Is soliloquy a search for or a declaration of identity? What is a soliloquy and what is an identity?

And what indeed is silence, just the absence of sounds, or words or thoughts? Or is it an emptiness that encompasses everything in its nothingness? Is every question the womb of silence that awaits the delivery of an answer? Or is a question by nature silent, with words framing the empty canvass?

Objective questions that do not infringe the boundaries of self’s secret abode always provide interesting avenues for the written and spoken word. Though the word is always the golden hued offspring for the utterer,  when the one who utters becomes the one who receives the same through the senses, objectivity very sublimely blends into subjectivity. The Indian philosophical tradition of advaita is convenient in that no guilt needs to be carried as all is because of one, the indivisible, and the ineffable. Random thoughts may someday assemble themselves into coherence.

Till then, I do rejoice in the meta-ineffability of the multitude of words.

There is profit in writing. Tangible economic and intangible social profits were always there and the writers were consciously or subconsciously aware of the gains. In fact, they worked for these gains. Writing was as much a social as it was a personal necessity. The art was a catharsis for the performer as well as the audience. It is this cathartic element that will create a mystic empathy which defines any art form.

The profits are still sought, perhaps more consciously and with more meticulous planning. Every prize carries a selling assurance. It is not like those days when the prize winner was generally left for the intellectuals – real and pretentious. The serious reader in my younger days was not always having the money to buy the books he wanted. I, who wanted to read serious stuff and who loved to pose as a serious literature reader, never had the money to buy a Camus or a Hesse, in my youth. But now I find the Pulitzer, booker and other winners being bought by a large number of youth. It is hard to find out who reads. The reader is no more distinct with a carefree (perhaps the only affordable) attire.

With these little and loosely connected thoughts I begin to write, unknowing where the tide shall take me.

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