“And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.” — William Shakespeare
“His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself . . . it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest night or day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written.” — Mark Twain
“It is only the language of another that I can master, my own does with me whatever it wants.” — Karl Kraus
“We are continually living a solution of problems that reflection cannot hope to solve.” — J. H. Van den Berg
“I think we have two lives: the life we learn with, and the life we live with after that.” –Iris’s line from the film based on Bernard Malamud‘s novel The Natural.
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One notion above all else remains abidingly clear: It is our words that define the experiential realm in which we continually dwell. Without them what we live would simply not be there. It would be replaced by an unimaginable existence in an altogether unrecognizable world, something unutterable, indescribable, and even inconceivable. In other words, it would not be and could not be anything we know.
So, before the conductor shouts “All Aboard” and the train pulls out of the station, it’s worth taking a few minutes to make certain everything is ready and at hand for this undertaking. It’s purpose is not to “wrap things up” but to open them up. Were that not so we would be finished before we start. And no use going on a trip that doesn’t actually travel anywhere, right? What thing or things are we talking about here? Life . . . that stuff you and I are living all the time, have been since our first moments ever, and will continue to right on up to the last breath of us both.
There are three aspects of life to keep in mind throughout this venture. First, that any life is unlike any other to be found anywhere. Second, it isn’t something “in general” but something “in particular.” It is specific, unique, and individual. It exists as something real, one of a kind, and finite — which means it has limits, an outer edge, within which it exists and outside of which it doesn’t. Third, and where is the whole of this reality of which we are speaking? It is in your body — within the boundaries of your own skin — the outer perimeter of your very self. For whatever affects your body also affects your soul. What happens to one happens to the other, for as long as you live you are both. Whoever wants to know you must deal with your body — for your identity lives and breathes there — just as that of anyone you want to know can only be fully found in their body. And these boundaries and limits permeate life, so that to simply to live involves one in dealing with both of these, and with the endings and beginnings that all life inevitably entails.