Monday, January 02, 2006

Responsibilities and Preoccupations

I am more afraid of becoming confused than of anything else.

Michael Andrews

The epigraph comes from "Notes and Preoccupations", published in X in 1960 (volume 1, number 2, pp. 137-141). I don't know anything about Andrews, but what I've seen of his paintings is interesting. His prose, like the prose of many painters (Albers, for example), is refreshing.

He wrote a paragraph as a preface to his notes, which makes a good deal of sense to me. Here he tells us that

Making notes was a way of forestalling deliberations about distractions which presented themselves as substitute responsibility for what I was doing (for which I really felt responsibility). ... If I had not made notes of them they would have stuck in my mind and would have compelled an interminable familiarisation and analysis and I should have lost my presence of mind in a preoccupation.

I think blogging serves a similar function for me, though the Pangrammaticon itself, at times, becomes a kind of "substitute responsibility". As a philosopher, I feel that my real responsibility is to assist in the presentation of scientific results, and this is in fact what I spend most of my time doing, nine to five. As a poet, my felt responsibilities concern the arrangement of beautiful words in beautiful ways (or variations on this formula). I do that less often than I would like.

I get distracted by the desire to have opinions, to know things. My blogging, though it has at times been misunderstood in terms of this desire, is, as Andrews puts it, really just "a capitulation to the anxiety to be entrenched in a certainty of any kind." That probably accounts for their intermittent air of complete certitude. They are, more accurately, "intuitive approximations I scribbled down when they occurred to me", freeing my mind up to do other more responsible things, like editing. (On the advice of Borges, I try to keep my poems and my editing free of my opinions, "the most trivial things about us.")

Or that is what I like to think is happening.

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