Friday, December 30, 2005

A lingering love of language.

Language is a stone cold bitch.

I want to say something. Here. Now. I want to say something on a subject that is meaningful, to my me, my myself, and my I. But for some reason…during some moments, it seems like I get the ability to prattle on about nothing of consequence for pages at a time. It all flows out, guano pools that rival the stockpiles of Dr. No, a swirling mass of whatever-the-shites that gets the job down, in some capacity. But right now?

I want to write about language. About its truths, its lies, its flaws and its gems. I want to write about the root of the thing that means more to me then just about anything else on the planet. The words that make up the rambling. My deus, for the writing’s machina.

And…shit. I got nothin’.

But for the sake of starting somewhere:

It’s only a matter of looking hard enough.
Riddle me this, Riddle me that, what the fuck is this jive all about?

I could tell you. I could lay it down on the line, toss it unceremoniously like a it were a sizable helping of beef plooping down onto that snapcracklePOPPING third rail. I could watch that wad of muscle get its final, pleadingly futile attempt at life, as it dances away, burns away, goes away.

That was a simile.
But I was talking about metaphor.

It’s only a matter of looking hard enough. Or, more importantly, of thing hard enough. And, as it sometimes happens, a matter of simply not looking at all. The way things work. The way they were. The way they just fucking are. Look around, and you might see. Maybe.
What the fuck is this here jive-turkey jammin’ on about?

A lot of things. But we shall see how many of them finally end up bringing themselves around. And how many voices end up lost in the periodic bursts of static that frequent the inside of my own damn head.
If you wanted to, you could find a metaphor walking down the street beside you, a somnambulist just passing on by through the mechanism that is your thoughts, oblivious to what he is becoming as he looks at his watch, as he quietly yearns for the burning kiss of a hand rolled cigarette.

You could find one. Anywhere, everywhere, whereverwhere. But why would you? Why would you even bother, to think, to look, to care? Why on Earth would you even give a piss?

Because our language - the ripe ol’ fucker that it is - our language demands it. Look at the languages of the world. Go ahead. Look at them, I’ll wait, I’ve got nothing better to do than to sit in the dark at 2 AM, rambling on for the amusement of none. So go. Just remember, that when you look, you must remember what it is that you are seeing. Remember whatever it is that you know about it. After that’s done, try and remember all that anyone else might know about it as well. Okay then.

Remember Latin, with its complex affixes, a language with enough depth to be split into half a dozen others.

Remember French, with its complicated accents, its endless fluidity, its ability to shift and move throughout the recesses of ones imagination.

Remember Italian, with its base of boiling down the intrinsic complexities of Latin into an altogether more interesting form, being to the point and elegant.

Remember Japanese, with its stoic and structured syllables, based on heavy tradition but holding within it a capacity for amalgamation that most languages could never even manage.

And now, remember English. Our English. Brutish and complicated, convoluted and vulgar, a bastard son created through centuries of oafish sass-back and pissed off rampages, a creation borne of fucking and laughing and drinking and smoking and living and moving and thinking and dancing, and yes, singing. Always singing. Always.

The English language. My language.

I love it so.

I love it enough to try and understand it, even as I tear apart the basic rules which I have come to know by instinct alone. Which brings us to a place where our troubles begin. Because when one is presented with such a complex mess to work with, drawing forth a thing with any semblance of sense, intelligence, or, why the fuck not, beauty; becomes all the more difficult. Difficult, to be certain.

But worthwhile.
When this language of ours is properly beaten, tickled, smashed or caressed into the right formation…when the emotion is electrified and the ideas slice like Damascus steel…when those connections take place, you can do nothing else but collapse, as ecstasy bubbles out of each and every one of your pores.

When you reach the well formed logic, piercing rage, and all-encompassing humanity that comprise the Declaration of American Independence.

When you take the time to laugh, to cringe, to think, to live, to love alongside that famed nymphet, Lolita, light of your life, fire of your loins. Lo-lee-ta.

When you read just about anything by William Shakespeare. A wordsmith if there ever was one.

Unfortunately, in regards to Shakespeare, some gents seem to have an issue with the reverence that (former) college-y English major types like myself tend to place upon him. And yes, it is indeed well known that a large number of his plots were full on ripped off from previously produced works. Stolen plots.
But you know what?

Plot is, for the most part, bullshit.
Which is why they are stolen as often as the sun pierces your eyes on a clear summer day.

Hammett’s ‘Red Harvest’ became Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’ which became Leone’s ‘Fistful of Dollars’ which became some Dude’s ‘Last Man Standing‘.

‘A Bug’s Life’ is ‘Shichi-nin no Samurai’, by way of ‘The Three Amigos’.

‘Clueless’ is, at the core, inspired by Austen’s ‘Emma’.

And so on.

Where is it going, where has it been, the skeleton structures on which stories are based. Sure, they have relevance. But the true heart of the piece only comes forth when the words are put on.

When it comes to words, Shakespeare is the fellow who would wander down to the notorious festering perch on the outskirts of town, where the putrid bastard that is English sat, scratching its bloated belly as it roasted in the Sun and chewed on the remnants of those it had torn apart. William Shakespeare is the man who went up to this creature and suddenly swung at it with a cudgel, suddenly, violently, striking it down with his trusty blackjack until the creature could do nothing else but whimper. And Shakespeare then stood above him, his weapon crusting over already with the creature’s inky blood, and looked down at what he had done. He spoke.
“Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

The rest is silence.

Yea, Shakespeare could kick your ass.

It is because of those words of his, of their tendency to hold uncommon wit and intelligence, that lead to him being quoted (well, usually misquoted) as often as he is. And that, all who have stayed on, is where danger begins.

Language, if you were to look at it objectively, amounts to less than nothing. I say the words, I write the words, that much is true. But that doesn’t make them mean anything, it’s simply me calling the whatever it is I’m holding a trumpet. What gives it strength, what gives it hold as an ability for driving the force that is man more than just about anything thing else that we know to exist, is perception. Perception, and intent.

Which is why quotes become so dangerous.

I can easily rattle off words and speeches given by those who are wiser than I, those who have experienced experiences, felt feelings, lived life more than I could ever possibly manage.

I can take the words of Shakespeare, of Sartre, of Nimoy, of Nabokov, of Wilde, of Wilder, of Marx, of a hundred thousand other people who happened to say something that ended up scrawled on a piece of parchment, where it could be displayed to all who desired its wisdom.

I can take the words of another;

Learn your language well and command it well, and you will have the first component to life.”
-Edward R. Murrow, seeing as he’s so popular these days;

And use it in the absence of any words of my own. But these words, this language…if I were to use them without any thoughts of my own to follow, without any real context, the intent would become lost in the shuffle. The perception becomes muddled. And that first component to life? Well, you can figure that part out.

The point is, language is there.

So use it. It’s there, in our heads, in our faces, in our breakfast cereals, in our terribly bad canned Italian foods. It’s there, weaving dreams, tearing our seams, and delighting us with the majesty of delightfully sexy double entendres.

It’s there. Being cold and unforgiving, even as it moves and motivates.

Because sometimes, sometimes, sometimes; things work well that way.



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