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A Personal Aegypt

On the one hand anything we can conceive of is, by definition, at an initial level, already described, and yet, paradoxically, we seem to be able to begin to talk of things just beyond what we can
describe. This game of mental gesturing (call it poetry?) may result in allowing new things to come into being, or at least to be drawn within the scope of things that can be named.

What I am concerned with is the human grasp of the universe through knowing words, through naming.  I also wonder then, if in the very act of creating fiction, new universes are described, emerge, bloom, implying infinities in themselves, though they are but tiny subsets of another universe-- that of our day to day experience. 

What eventually overcomes my desire to have actual facts, actual closure, after reading John Crowley's cycle known as Aegypt, is the knowledge that the "altered reality" of the story will not leave me.  I am still at liberty to explore its lands.  There is more to know, to see, to experience there. This is not like a case I can imagine where you will have no more of the "experience" unless an author writes more. This is more like having a pass with no expiration date.

There is enough of a universe suggested in the cycle that a critical mass is reached allowing one to go farther into the world(s), in fact-- far beyond the text.  Its web of multiple realities easily accepts the reality of the reader as just another story line in its universal web.

The first brilliancy was in the naming:  Aegypt-- not Egypt.  That says everything in the smallest coding imaginable!  That very naming adds a heightened oddity to every normal experience that causes one to look for the difference.  We seek to find evidence of Aegypt in the mundane. What a wonderful quest!

For myself ( and for many others I might imagine),  is not my quest to find tools that make life numinous? To make life pregant with meaning, emotion, consequence?  Crowley generously leaves the reader room to make his own names in this altered world. Through suggestion, through nuance, through descriptions without hard boundaries, our minds are freed to create our own connecting bits. Lovecraftian in a sense, but Lovecraft does not give us as much shape behind his nameless things.  Crowley describes and teases the reader's mind to name, and thus create a personalized syntax, an Aegypt refuge within our own personal world.

JC gives you the rule, but one does not have, cannot possibly have, the same mind as Pierce Moffett, and so perhaps Aegypt will not really do. Perhaps it provisional until the story, like a cat, reveals to you it's own secret name,  that is also your own secret name for it.

Look thou not upon the ashes of Egypt!  Look deeper, it is really Aegypt you seek!  Then deeper still,  to your own Aegypt!


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Nov. 15th, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)
Perhaps what I am talking needs to reference the difference between names as "subject" and names as a catalog of objects, noting that the former is intended and the deeper of the two. My apologies for what seems to be checking for micro-cracks in the ground of some rather heavily explored territory. That's ok for me, but it might bore the heck out of everybody else.

It is the impulse behind this personal quest that syncs me so strongly to the Aegypt cycle. It mirrors two tenets of my creative belief. 1) push a fact, or some common belief, or detail, "or thing thought to be understood," and you will continue to find more complicated universes within. 2) every time you begin talking about a perceived void, about "nothing" if you will, that void begins filling with complexity that did not previously exit.

So, this is a way of finding edges and wondering whether there is anything there I care about enough to explore further.

Path 1 may be the norm, and actually the most practiced. But I think path 2 was perhaps what made Andy Warhol a genius, after Shakespeare's definition of artist "To give to airy nothingness, a local habitation and a name."

Digression alert! I am not a Warhol fan except philosophically. I love the idea of the adoption of iconography from the sacred to pop culture. But as to the work itself, I find that, for me: Warhol is to art, as cheese-puff is to food. And yet I am intellectually staggered by the societal savvy that creates the "minimal but sufficient art" of that equation. But Warhol did not "name" Marilyn the old-timey way a former artist might attempt. Instead he used Marilyn to name, to create, "Pop Art"(as subject). Only then did we realize this new school of art had been invisibly with us in America all along. So pop art was the "airy nothing," and Marilyn the "local habitation and a name."

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Cydonia photo: ESA

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