Work, work, work. Trope, trope, trope. Blog, blog, blog. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
All the world’s a blogosphere,
And all the men and women merely bloggers.
They have their endings and their beginnings;
And one may in his time blog in many voices ….
What is a poem or a story or a book or a blog or any saying, really? Any verbal simulacrum? Anything constructed of words?
Isn’t it our contribution to the conversation? The long story of our manifold conversations?
One of the striking things Christopher Tietjens—the protagonist of Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End (an excellent novel, by the way)—says is that a relationship is really a conversation. A relationship between a man and a woman, in the context of this particular novel, is principally thought about by Tietjens as a conversation. But I think we can abstract this to all relationships.
So, for example. The simulacra that we know as Aristotle’s Poetics and Moses’s Torah and Aristophanes’s The Birds, down to. Oh. W.D. Snodgrass’s Heart’s Needle and Annie Dillard’s Holy The Firm and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. And…. And…. And…. And all the blogs out there today on the Web. Are all contributions to the relationship. The relationship that people have with one another in a common attempt to understand things. To come to terms with things. To represent what happens—what is and what was and what is to come—and to turn it this way and that until it reveals itself. Until the truth of it steps more fully out from behind the curtain. Until the truth of things becomes more fully known. Until we can make something of it!
And this conversation takes place across the ages. Oh, it is contemporaneous among the living. But there is a store-and-forward kind of thing going on with the moribund. They have made their blogs and left their blogs—their simulacra—to the generations that have followed them. And we. Well. We first of all read their simulacra. We attempt to form a shape of the world they see in our own minds and then look out of ourselves at the world as though we were in fact, in some sense, them.
Then we ramify them. We add the shape of the world that they have articulated to us to the other shapes we have been given and invent a new shape that takes into account all that we understand from all of the other simulacra we have inherited and then reshape everything to take account of our own particular experience as well.
And then we create our own simulacra. And these. Well. These articulate pieces of the shape that has formed and is forming as we speak in our minds of what the world is, was, and is yet to be. And we exchange these among the living, each of us reshaping what we know or think we know with the shapes provided by our contemporaries.
So, yes. What happens among contemporaries is most appropriately called a conversation because only this is a bidirectional interchange. A bidirectional contemporaneous reshaping of the known universe. The one verse.
But this shape—this making—that emerges in contemporaneous discussion and debate and the sharing of simulacra has within it the shape of the world that has been handed to us by our ancestors, our literary forebears. Our linguistics masters. Our philological and philosophical progenitors.
One might almost think of this as a process of passing, combining, and recombining spiritual DNA. Words and combinations of words are our spiritual DNA. Just as physical DNA is used to determine the shape and characteristics and operating modalities of our bodies, so is spiritual DNA used to determine the shape and characteristics and operating modalities of our souls. Of our minds and hearts.
And so those who came before deposit their spiritual DNA in us, which is recombined with the spiritual DNA of those around us. Inevitably there will be differences in what we have read and with whom we have conversed, and the conditions of all this will of course be slightly different and will have an influence. And so each of us will end up with slightly different spiritual DNA. One result is that each of us has a somewhat different shape of the world in mind as we go about our business.
And just as it might be said with justification that our role biologically is to reproduce imperfect physical copies of ourselves, so it might also be said that our role spiritually is to provide our spiritual DNA to our descendents as well. Descendents taken both biologically and spiritually.
One of the upshots of all this is that the world model that we have in us. The made shape that we have come to concerning the way the world was and is and is yet to be may be something like biological DNA—there may be something in us that urgently wants us to share this. In other words, we may be designed and built in such a way that forming spiritual DNA may all be very well, but there is a spiritual imperative for many of us that it be passed along for the making and use by contemporaneous others and future others.
So what is required is relationship. The foundational concept for any of this to happen is relationship. And relationship requires—in the spiritual realm—the ability to look at the world through the other’s simulacra. To see the model or shape of the world constructed by the words of another. To make of things, at least provisionally and hypothetically, what the other person makes of things.
If we cannot do this, we are strangers inhabiting different galaxies that are billions of light-years apart.