10.13.2002

If I must be the bass player, then let me be Charlie Mingus or Slam Stewart -- someone dangerous; the one who gets the girls (speaking figuratively); one who takes the instrument where it has not gone before. Your thought on how even as we may perceive chaos, a sense of disorder that is utterly palatable, we nevertheless express it in narrative (sometimes fragmented and unchronological). This morning I was listening to a speaker on the radio talking about the opera pieces he has produced with Phillip Glass. This speaker said that he was trying to be courageous in the face of current events: modernity, the impending war, personal mortality, etc. Pessimism is the goal of the courage he is seeking. I'm not sure if I agree that pessimism requires courage, but even if this was the case, courage would not be enough to embrace disorder. What Wittgenstein shows, I think, is that even as we perceive disorder, accept it as liberating, as an opportunity for creativity, we are not built to express disorder in a disorderly way. Call it consciousness, an effect of language, or an external expression of synaptic structures: in any event, we cannot help but to respond to disorder, chaos, with shape. This is the limit of description. We cannot "leave the world as I found it." We change it by adding to disorder by our very existence, and adding to the order by our presentations of what we see and feel.

A question for you, Joe: Who would you regard as an artist (musician, painter, poet) who successfully presents chaos chaotically? Who captures the wildness with the greatest felicity? Would we like what we see or hear? Or would we turn away in fear and disgust? My vote goes to Wittgenstein because of what he suggests, because of the consequences of his conventionalism, and as a consequences of his imaginative use of metaphors. Coltrane came to mind, but his work had religious goals. Ornette Coleman too, but I think his limitations as a musician the secret to his success. Among the many names that swim by as I think are Pollack, Celan, and Heraclitus, but their work is framed, enclosed on a page, structured by time (having a beginning, middle, and end, in terms of duration).

Perhaps the most powerful presentation of the pure presence of chaos is offered by Cynthia Ozick in The Messiah of Stockholm. In this work, Ozick's protagonist, a book reviewer, finds the lost work of Bruno Schultz. This manuscript, titled "The Messiah," was reputed to have been complete at the time of Bruno Schultz's death. The moment when the reviewer opens the manuscript is extraordinary. Pure presence requires no duration. The work is revealed instantaneously in an incendiary "moment". Schultz and Wittgenstein make for quite the pair.

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