30 July 2015

Hairsplitting & hesitation

My memory is my identity: the reason I identify myself as Bryan Ray is that I awoke with Bryan Ray’s memories. And memory is like the text of a play: my consciousness, my self in the present, is informed that its body—which I am to call my body—did such-and-such in the past: and I am expected to continue behaving along the same lines. Possessing a memory is like being assigned a role to act. Every day, I am handed the same role. It makes me mad.

What is my “self”—what am “I”—before the memory intrudes? I mean, in the blob of text above, I tried to explain that my conscious­ness receives its role from the memory. How and why is this consciousness attached to that which I consider my “self,” before the memory assigns it its working orders? Why am I not ninety zillion different things at once, every morning, before I realize that I am Bryan Ray? How or why does consciousness lock me down to one single being, one single body, even before the memory has its say?

Is what I call “consciousness” another type of memory, a more primitive memory that gives marching orders to something subtler than my fleshy animal? Like: an hypostasis is being told “remember that you are a body” even before it is told “remember that you are the continuing life of Bryan Ray.” I want to know the nature of whatever is being told that it is a body. I want to peel back the layers:

First I subtract from my mind the memories of having lived Bryan Ray’s life, and I find that “underneath” them is a human body reacting to stimuli from within and without, like a border separating hell from hell: this is the thing that I call “my fleshy animal.” Next I subtract the pre-memory stimuli that keeps insisting to my “self” that it is this moving corpse. Having subtracted these elements, what remains is the mist of limitless potential.

But I suspect that this last blob of text is only what my imagination wants to conclude about its “centermost” character. Perhaps at this point language is so helpless that it would be equally true to label the mist as nothing. I mean, you can get to a point where the focus is so delicate that it reconciles the opposition of presence and absence.

The reason I began obsessing in this way is that I wanted to know why it’s so hard to make big changes in life. Why can’t I just wake up and take a bus to New York and get on stage at a club and become a comedian today? I could do it easily—what’s holding me back? Even if I had no time to prepare, I could improvise a set of any duration that would be better than anything anyone had ever performed in the history of stand-up. But my memories seduce me into prudence:

My memories inform me that this body called Bryan is a timid being who keeps to himself and routinely types on a computer—his idea of fun is to watch a movie on disc at home—it would therefore be out of character for him to risk life and limb in the great big city. Plus my fleshy animal warns me with its signature language of pleasure-pain that I am likely to get nervous, hungry, sleepy, etc., etc.… So I decide to remain where I am, to avoid excelling—because I assume that a change in life would mean trouble in life.

Here’s another thing that is stupid about my tendency to heed the advice of my fearful instincts. These memories always claim to be guiding me away from potential trouble. But am I experiencing a trouble-free life at present? Is anyone? It seems that every individual life is fraught with trouble. Trouble is the name of the game. It’s like sin: it’s the condition of existence. If you’re alive, you’re sinning. If you’re living, you’re definitely in trouble.

All of this reminds me of “The Burrow” (“Der Bau”) by Franz Kafka. Please read that text and weep for me, because I am its subject.

5 comments:

Qualo Infinity said...

Yes yes and yes. If you had more boxes to check, I'd check them all, unless one of them said something like 'I don't like it', then I'd have to skip that one. I totally get it, however I have NOT read "The Burrow"... putting that on my reading list right now..

Qualo Infinity said...

However, maybe I'd check that box too, since I'm not such a big fan of trouble! Sometimes it seems that life in just an endless exercise in trouble-shooting strategies..

Qualo Infinity said...

https://vimeo.com/133547455 ..Funny how ever since I started writing an absurdist book about the nature of dreams, I keep running across some really interesting videos, articles, books, comments, and what -have-you about dreams.. Anyway, thought you might enjoy this..

Bryan Ray said...

Ah thanks again Q! Let me stress that my reference to “The Burrow” was just an afterthought—I was writing quickly, and I meant what I said loosely: there’s an overtone of obsession (to put it lightly) that I relate to in that short text; and I’m a Kafka fanatic, so his works are always on my mind. By the way, your dream-themed writings are like daily bread to me, especially since I’m now away from the other social network (which frees up my time), because you’re one of the few people I know who is posting original writings online—I’m always thrilled and eager to read the next installment! ...And just NOW, as I have written this far, I received a notification about your latest comment—by coincidence, I was typing while you posted it—which has the link to the Watts-narrated video... I totally love it!!—& I agree about its pertinence... plus I’m happy that it reminded me of a similar saying from my last book—it was easy to find it by doing a word search on the electronic file, so I’ll quote it to prove, celebrate, and brag about the fact that we’re all on the same page:

From A BOOK ABOUT WHAT:

“When I try to imagine myself enduring a sleep that is forever dreamless and painless, I wonder if at some point I would actually begin to yearn for a dream of pain.”

(Also, I found this extra one while opening at random right before I posted this reply: “Pain and pleasure are two sides of the same thing, which for ages has been shouting to us: Transcend me.”)

Qualo Infinity said...

Yes! Great quotes indeed!

Hey, thanks for your enthusiasm and thanks for reading the new work.. About 4 years went by without writing hardly anything at all, and I just jumped in head first, shooting from the hip, initially planning to work from the rough draft of one of 'those stories from that box' that I spoke of not too long ago, however, I've hardly even looked at that manuscript since I started.. I know it begins at a much later point than where I've begun the novel, so I may end up incorporating some ideas from that story in there yet.

Glad you like that video. That's a very delectable fragment of Mr. Watts' brilliance, and quite an amazing video made by Aaron Paradox as well!

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