The Futility of My Life

My third favorite word in the English language is “error”. This word suggests (1) a precise encounter with another or the past and (2) the correcting of that moment. This is almost like a moment of rewriting history. There are many ways to encounter the past, error suggests a very “precise” encounter. One avoids romanticizing or alienating oneself but rather sees in the earlier moment almost a repetition of the current one, to the extent that one can almost speak with the past. There is then an incredible optimism to this word, “error” — the ability to reconnect with and change the past. The ability to speak about one’s own errors — not sins, failings, lapses in judgment, etc., is a point of great pride for many. There is nothing paradoxical, really, about the expression “inevitable errors”.

… I have the feeling that anyone who understands what this word suggests will use it at every opportunity, and with pride, because it is linked to clarity, it is a point of pride or pretension. It’s certainly a point that is over-dramatized in this blog.

It is incredibly hard, I feel, if you’re really attentive to this sort of thing, to have an encounter with the past, a few minutes ago, an hour ago, years ago — the actual stretch of time doesn’t matter a great deal. What’s important that one has an image of the past. As a personal example, the method that I’ve settled on for thinking is built up around this, I use a smartphone (a droid 3) and write everything down. I tell people I’ve written about 20,000 pages but this is number is really misleading because I write whenever I think, so that every hour or so of thinking I have about 2 or 3 pages. But I write in complete sentences, I don’t really “take notes” or use abbreviations — and this is because, so the feeling is, that only the complete sentence can capture that moment of thinking. If I were to go back and read something I’ve written (I almost never do), then I have to try to capture the moment, what seemed only tangentially related back then or of minor importance could be of the central point upon rereading — and this is not because we get out of the past whatever we need, but because of the nature of  at the true image of the past.

But error also suggests some kind of goal oriented activity, the attempt to readjust my life towards that goal. But I abandon everything I write. The most exciting moments are moments when I am able to talk to my past or when I am able to interact with images of the past, but I can never save the past because I can never save myself.

The only difference between aid and violence is failure. Error suggests the possibility of aiding someone, of helping the world in a far more useful (lowly is the word we’ve been using) way then ever imagined. The word “error”, we said, was a point of pride or pretension, but one based on being able to help others (or oneself). This is related to our claim with Kant that the conventional conception of materialism and idealism was in fact “backwards”, that it was idealism, and not materialism, that was always the more precise, more careful, more analytic, more “humble”, etc. — or rather, we should probably be saying “critical” rather than “idealism”, as in “critical philosophy”. But what if error cannot help? What if this word error, as we had been suspecting all along, was violent?

(In a sense we are dealing “only with definitions” here, since if we are to assume the universality of violence than nothing ever helps. The concept of error might make us better writers, or writers more like myself, but it does so only via a kind of destruction — and is that really even “help”? If something can “build a community” and make people happy, is that even help?)

This sounds pretentious, well, it is pretentious, but we are basically talking about our death bed. It’s not even that we’re dying penniless or anything, but really — well, there’s a bitterness towards the world — like we said with Kant, we may not really like the world all that much, and we are certainly not content with being remembered for merely being minor help here and there. Because we’ve never reached our goal and that we have is a collection of errors or attempts. But in our final moments of vanity, our life is reconcieved as the violence of error, where these moments of error are not really “corrections” but rather something done to the world.

TBC — The materiality of error


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