lost in translation – excerpted parts

… due to travelling: … less time in blogging, … some time to read essays, … some excerpts to blog relating to an earlier post on Eva Hofman’s ‘Lost in translation’:

The gap has also become a chink, a window thrugh which I can observe the diversity of the world. The apertures of perception have widened because they were once pried apart. Just as the number “2” implies all other numbers, so a bivalent conciousness is necessarily a multivalent conciousness.

Multivalence is no more than the condition of a contemporary awareness, and no more than the contemporary world demands. The weight of the world used to be vertical: it used to come from the past, or from the hierachy of heaven and earth and hell; now it’s horizontal, made up of the endless multiplicity of events going on at once and pressing at each moment on our minds and our living rooms. Dislocation is the norm rather than the aberration in our time, but even in the unlikely event that we spend an entire lifetime in one place, the fabulous diverseness with which we live reminds us constantly that we are no longer the norm or the center, that there is no one geographic center pulling the world together and glowing with the allure of the real thing; there are, instead, scattered nodules competing for our attention. New York, Warsaw, Teheran, Tokyo, Kabul – they all make claims on our imaginations, all remind us that in a decentered world we are always simultaneously in the center and on the periphery, that every competing center makes us marginal.

It may be only in my daily conciousness of this that the residue of my sudden expulsion remains. All immigrants and exiles know the peculiar restlessness of an imagination that can never again have faith in its own absoluteness. “Only exiles are truly irreligious, ” a contemporary philosopher has said. Because I have learned the relativity of cultural meanings on my skin, I can never take any one set of meanings as final. I doubt that I’ll ever become an ideologue of any stripe; I doubt that I’ll become an avid acolyte of any school of thought. I know that I’ve been written in a variety of languages; I know to what extent I’m a script. In my public group life, I’ll probably always find myself in the chinks between cultures and subcultures; between the scenerios of political beliefs and aesthetic credos. It’s not the worst place to live; it gives you an Archimedean leverage from which to see the world.

I am writing a story in my journal, and I’m searching for a true voice. I make my way through layers of acquired voices, silly voices, sententious voices, voices that are too cool and too over heated. Then they all quiet down, and I reach what I’m searching for: silence. I hold still to steady myself in it. This is the white blank center, the level ground that was there before Babel was built, that is always there before the Babel of our multiple selves is constructed. From this white plentitude, a voice begins to emerge: it’s an even voice, and it’s capable os saying things straight, without exaggeration or trivality. As the story progresses, the voice grows and diverges into different tonalities and timbres: sometimes spontaneously, the force of feeling or of thought compresses language into metapher, or an image, in which words and conciousness are magically fused. But the voice always returns to its point of departure, to ground zero.

This is the point to which I have tried to triangulate, this private place, this unassimilable part of myself. We all need to find this place in order to know that we exist not only within culture but also outside it. We need to triangulate to something – the past, the future, our own untamed perceptions, another place – if we’re not to be subsumedby the temporal and temporary ideas of our time, if we’re not to become creatures of ephermeral fashion. Perhaps finding such a point of calibration is particularly difficult now, when our collective air is oversaturated with trivial and important and contradictionary and mutually canceling messages. And yet, I could not have found this true axis, could not have made my way trough the maze, if I had not assimilated and mastered the voices of my time and place – the only language through which we can learn to think and speak. The silence that comes out of inarticulateness is the inchoate and desperate silence of chaos. The silence that comes after words is the fullness from which the truth of our perceptions can crystallize ….

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