notebook entry 14 Jan 97

Kathy Acker

What does this dream tell me about my school?

Education, or the repetition and internalization of set models and the childhood seen through the lens of this eduation are false. Not just the models taught in class, but all perceptual models made and turned absolute. For instance, when I was a child, I didn’t actually know either St. Pierre or Burpface, yet I defined myself, predicated my identity on how they saw me and how I perceived how they saw me. The above dream has shown me that, since the identity I was taught is false, childhood is a fake.

I just wrote down dreams aren’t fake. I don’t know what this means.

– Kathy Acker, from My Mother, Demonology, 1993.

It is language that tells us about the nature of a thing, provided that we respect language’s own nature. In the meantime, to be sure, there rages around the earth an unbridled yet clever talking, writing and broadcasting of spoken words. Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man. Perhaps it is before all else man’s subversion of this relation of dominance that drives his nature into alienation. That we retain a concern for care in speaking is all to the good, but it is of no help to us as long as language still serves us even then only as a means of expression. Among all the appeals that we human beings, on our part, can help to be voiced, language is the highest and everywhere the first.

– Martin Heidegger, from ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, 1957, in Poetry, Language, Thought

Kathy Acker says she uses language to destroy language (and she does). For her, language forever fails at the unutterable void of Death, or, the void. Well, like everything else, yes, it does. Does this mean language is alive? And if language is alive (as Heidegger seems to assert – if he doesn’t go too far) then how is it alive?

It lives on the breath. It lives as we live – and, we live as it lives. We wouldn’t be, without it. So it makes us as we make it. Rather than a relationship of dominance, one way (Heidegger’s) or another (Acker’s), ideally language-in-relation-to-humans and humans-in-relation-to-language are a relationship of balance.

As Ran had pointed out, juxtaposing two seemingly opposites can yield a quite different point-of-view.

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