Thursday, May 08, 2008

On the Reel

Bradypsyche is one of Bachelard's neologisms, meaning of course a slowness of thinking or of mind. The antonym, I presume, would be tachypsyche. Now that these words have arrived in our language they have become indispensable, for the tempo of our thinking governs its rhythm, and rhythm generates meaning more deeply perhaps than the content of expression—oh, my feet are tangled up in forms and formlessness. If I could drop a question in the midst of thinking—formal thinking, informal thinking, the question must be dropped—I would do so rhythmically, that is, I would dance the question, reel the question completely around forms, without regard to whether such a dance passed through forms or threw them away like yesterday's pop.

I recall that Corradi Fiumara quotes Wittgenstein thusly: "Sometimes a sentence can be understood only if it is read at the right tempo. My sentences are all supposed to be read slowly" (in The Other Side of Language, p. 134, Corradi Fiumara's emphasis). She goes on to discuss the uses of style by Wittgenstein in order to regulate the pace of thinking, and to recommend a slowness of thinking.

If you will forgive me a moment of jollity (or unabashed vanity) I'd like to say a word about my own phraseology and, in particular, my use of commas. I have recently grown fond of the Oxford comma, though my fondness hasn't quite led me to be consistent in my usage. I like the Oxford comma because it imparts clarity, but chiefly because it allows one to take a breath, and sometimes one wants to take a breath for the sake of getting a thought just right. The precise meaning that should be given to the comma in my blogging is "pause," though you may imagine me saying something like "Please, pause for a moment. Take a small breath if you need to. There's no rush." I'm evolving a commatic style because I imagine that breathing is not intercalated into thinking as something extraneous or accidental, but is thoroughly and essentially raddled with thought. Thought and breathing are intertwined, as they say.

I should pause for a moment to reflect on tachypsyche, because it seems omnipresent in daily intellectual life, as if a fast pace of mind has become more vital to thinking than actual thinking, and, speaking for myself, because it is all too easy to blog off the reel. I don't want to live in a world of monotonous tempo, fast or slow, speeding or slowing. Ideally one should be surprised now and then by the tempo of one's thought. Even a slow thought may surprise, even a thought on the reel. Bradypsyche would mean little if it did not carry this potential to surprise.

The value I have placed on surprise serves to tell us that the encomia of the comma are unfinished until the griot addresses the beginnings of thought, and thereby the question of new beginnings. Allow me. Allow me to set it aside for another day.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:22 AM.


Anonymous Lloyd Mintern said...

I couldn't agree more, with this attitude of yours, toward commas. Commas are dynamite, I pause before I employ them, and after! I use them liberally, and judiciously. And when anybody complains about the difficulty of my prose, I advise them: just slow down, read slowly, and more slowly still . . . and you will see how simple the meaning really is, how transparent, really--and synonymous with the tempo, as you say.

May 08, 2008 1:04 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Lloyd.

Now, who would complain about the difficulty of your prose?

May 09, 2008 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Lloyd Mintern said...

Publishers! Editors! Occasionally readers, who alway seem to be British, for some reason. In fact the very association of commas with "dynamite", which I flippantly, I mean good-naturedly, use in my comment to you, originated in a complaint a very powerful, bad-tempered Editor in New York made about a novel I submitted, as it lay on the desk between us. He said my writing was "dynamited with commas". I said: "that's good, isn't it?" He said nothing, but looked sad, then triumphant as he showed me the door. (The novel is called: THE DEATH OF METAPHOR.)

May 09, 2008 4:05 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

At first impression, and upon a little reflection, "dynamited with commas" is surely good. That's quite an amusing tale. I may have to retell it sometime.

May 14, 2008 5:32 PM  

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