A Walk Through H

The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist.

I had to show you this. Usually I like to refrain from consecutive blog posts, spacing them with time, at least a few days, sometimes weeks, it has been known to be months. The desire for such a gap is acting upon my fingers as I type, no, give it a few days, let your ideas settle... Then again I have been known to do that as well; let them settle, get all dusty, covered in hair and tiny fragments of skin until I think, I cannot be bothered cleaning that one up... So this is a little 'half baked', but I had to share it with you. It couldn't wait.

A Walk Through H is a a short 1978 film by Peter Greenaway. I finished watching it about an hour ago. I am urging you to watch it too (although you probably already have, in which case watch it again). Firstly I was dumbfounded at the apparent similarities between this film and a short fiction that I wrote a few months back, one that I have been hung up on ever since. Common themes include cartography, migrating birds, obscurity, and an obsessive air. So naturally I felt a little riled that this idea has been done so much better already. But I kept watching. Becoming more and more tense and feeling a little obsessed by the unconventional maps and the directions in which our narrator took their intent. And the more I watched, the less I knew, about the story - the less it drew parallels with my own story of a migrating bird - the less I knew about the narrator, of the elusive Tulse Luper, of the maps themselves.

It plays with the memory; the narrator's memory,  and journeys, journeys you yourself may have also ventured. It's plot is buried within a landscape - a landscape drawn out through cartography, so abstracted you can't help but then freely associate any cognition; which I began to associate more and more with the styling of (some) sketches within Tom Phillips' The Humument (later delighted to discover a colloboration between the two - I am yet to watch). And you reach the end of this journey, 92 maps 1,418 miles and 41 minutes and you realise, as you look back over your life, so far, that, no, I can't remember it all. 

I can't remember how that scar appeared on the cap of my right knee, why it so neatly matches the one on my left. No I can't remember which of these books were gifts and which were acquired and which I sought. But I do recall which ones fell into my lap as if fate herself had placed them there, (I'm looking at you A Lover's Discourse, and you Nausea, and you Hangover Square.) And of all these papers scattered before me, I have no idea which one I will run with, which ones will materialise into some... thing, which ones will find their way to the bin, which ones I will keep with me. I do remember who I lifted the term 'half baked' from, that it desperately offended me at the time, then made me laugh a few weeks later - but no recollection of the journey connecting the offense to the chuckle, just a vague sketchy line.  And I do remember the one path that so definitely crossed with another, then I must have strayed because I can't recall having left it, but bizarrely, when I turn back, all there is is a sort of cross, or a blank signpost, or a skeleton of a windmill which blocks my entry. Crossroads, very strange occurrences!

And just when I'm through appropriating this very mis-structured journey, this birds eye view seen through the abstracted gaze of the narrator, (the man always keeping something just out of view,) we are handed a surreal twist. As if Tulse himself was always the key to this puzzle. As if it was Tulse's journey, or perhaps it was his decoy. After all that we have been through! But you'll have to watch it to see what I mean. 

"I've always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you've been, where you are, and where you're going - in a sense it's three tenses in one... My father had recently died, and the subtitle of the film was 'The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist' - my father was one. Through his life he had amassed an extraordinary amount of information about bird study, and I was very aware that with his death - as indeed with any death - a vast amount of very personalized information had gone missing, was totally irrecoverable. The film is on the journey a soul takes at the moment of death, to whatever other place it ends up - H being either Heaven or Hell. I devised 92 maps to help this particular character get there. The whole film was divided into five sections that represented movement from a very urban landscape to a wilderness landscape, and there were references and cross-references to all sorts of systems." 

Greenaway added the subtitle as a memoir to his father, perhaps this walk through H is inability to understand all his father's 'stuff' - one has a tendency to loot for memories once someone important has died, perhaps sentiment is displaced only in death. This film is a tribute then, a memoir to something of which he has no direct memory. A something. A possibility. A reincarnation.

A very engaging, surreal, and wonderful account of a journey that was worth the voyage. It's such a shame that you cannot engage with these maps in reality. They seem well structured and thought through - all 92 of them, baring resemblances, carrying with them meanings, associations. Crammed (lovingly) into 41minutes of film, doomed to be lost in the landscape of my memory as I desperately attempt to recall it, to retell it to you. I suppose I failed: I just ended up talking a heap about myself... Well it is my blog. All is not lost, you can still watch it. Here's the link:

You + I = You + I

You and I are clearly quite different. It is good grammar,  not courtesy,  that places the You before I,  places unto You some air of greater importance.  The importance of the both of Us is completely unknown to each other,  after all,  who am I to say that You are more important than I;  that I am more important than You.  It is an non-entity else completely subjective.  It is something that we can never be sure of.  All that is known is that I am inside this body and You are inside that one;  that I can never be in your body and You never in mine.  The euphemism here was unintentional but let Us run with it for a moment.  We all desire the Other.  If I were to place that desire in my (Lacanian non-physical) phallus, I would want to be inside You.  The discovery of the Other.  To know that which I am not sure even exists.  All I know is all I am and there is a longing to step outside of that and to step inside of You;  for how can I ever truly connect with You if I cannot know You. This drive I now have is also the Other, it comes from an unknown entity within. So my desire for the external unknown stems from an internal unknown; if I do not know that, how will I ever truly connect with myself? It is enough to drive one crazy.

"We are first of all, as friends, the friends of solitude, and we are calling on you to share what cannot be shared: solitude" -- Nietzsche

But what of You and I.  How will We ever combine?  How do We take the You and the I and bring them into matrimony?  How can We transform our respective singularities into, not necessarily a universality, but a connectivity, a relation, a singular duality.  Watch as these words fall through my body,  to my fingers,  onto a keyboard,  through binary,  onto the screen of my computer,  into the ether of the internet where,  hopefully (although dependent on blog popularity and further than that, whether I am holding your attention),  You have received it.  Notice as the words enter your body through the retina of the eyes,  You begin to interpret and understand.  Have I made a connection? Are we in some form of exchange where in you somehow gain knowledge of me through the words I write? Perhaps. But is that a connection? Are you not in fact understanding this based on a system You have within yourself, a system of knowledge, a system of semiotics, a system of experiences - experience that I can only tap accidentally. It is my belief that it is only when you hit that latter raw nerve that connectivity becomes aflame. We are no longer a You and a I, We are now a 'We', an 'Us' - Or we are somehow more than that, maybe friends, maybe lovers, maybe enemies, but We are still separate.

On conversing:
"the relation whereby the one whom I cannot reach becomes present in his inaccessible truth" -- Blanchot

If You and I begin to engage in conversation, or interact, then You and I become a We/Us. See how those two words "We" and "Us" are formed. Two letters. One for the Other (You) and one for the I. Two, a duo. They are still unconnected, they are still a duality; although condensed they remain You and I.  The 'U' and the 'S' do not merge and conceive a new letter, a singularity, they still signify two separate letters, only now in union through the mode of a word*. The only place that a connection has been formed is the space between those letters, the space in which we converse.

"[A]s long as 'we' are engaged in conversation...'I' can't get a fix on 'you'; 'you' remain both unbearably close and inaccessible." -- Dianne Davis

The word 'I', in reference to the self, (myself or whatever Other self chooses it) is in fact the only personal pronoun which signifies a singularity. A One. An 'I'. And 'You' further signifies our relationship to the Other. Three letters. No longer a duo in conversation. The letter 'Y' touches the 'O' but never the 'U', the 'U' touches the 'O' but never the 'Y', and the 'O' acts as a mediator between the 'Y' and the 'U', keeping them separate, ensuring they do not interact.

Perhaps then this psychological business of the Other of mental and physical distance is not what separates You and I. Perhaps it is nothing more than letters, words, conversations organised into systems. Something that may or may not be innate, that has developed in order to unite Us, but so far has only heightened the differences and mis-communication between Us.

I'm sorry that it had to end this way. In fact I didn't want it to end at all. But now that it is over, know that You are still embedded within I and occasionally it rises to interrupt my discourse, only to be swallowed back down, hard. The OtherYou.

*A thought that needs developing: The connectivity we achieve through love is still a desperate act to become the Other, to gain knowledge of the Other. Perhaps the act of love making is as close as humanity can get to transcending a two to become a one. This is perhaps where 'Jouissance' (mentioned in a previous post) leads in it's displacement. Sexual intercourse is perhaps the most effective form of relief for the exploration of the unknown Other. Two combine to form a one - the conception of a child. However, if this is blocked via contraception then merge is unsuccessful and 'jouissance' can only be relieved temporarily through orgasm, which leads back down to the Cat and Mouse scenario.

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