Unreal Nature

July 1, 2017

Tentacles in the Direction of Others

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… It presses against the mouth to be spoken.

This is from the chapter on ‘Speaking’ in Gestures by Vilém Flusser (2014):

… Did the word come from speaking or speaking come from the word?

If you lie in wait for a word at the moment it comes out of the mouth, try to catch it, to chew it before it is spit out (and that would actually be to grasp the gesture of speaking), you notice that you are always a second too late. Somewhere, somehow, before pronunciation and behind the mouth, the word has already been formed, however briefly before or after, and not somewhere, somehow in the broad stretches of eternal ideas or in the history of humanity. Let’s say that the word took shape somewhere in the head, just before the complicated movement of the organs of speech.

[line break added] And so that would be the place to look for the gesture of speaking. The question, about the best point from which to try to catch the word (from science or from experience), is probably not a good one. To be caught, the word itself must rather say where it comes from. Let the word speak, as it takes shape behind the mouth and before it is pronounced, knowing that everything speaks more easily than the word itself.

Rilke says of the prophet that he spits words as Vulcan spits stones and that he does so because the words he pronounces are not his own. But he allows himself the speculation that there is no such thing as one’s “own” words, or hardly any, and that in speaking, one is possessed by the words of others. And because these others are possessed in turn by the words of others when they speak, one could claim simply that one is possessed by words when one speaks.

… word’s pronouncement can of course be scientifically and philosophically refuted, and from the resulting mash, various psychologies, language philosophies, and communication theories can be cooked up (and may taste wonderful). But in this case, the proof of the pudding does not lie in the eating. For if we return to the word, as it speaks, before it is spoken, then it says again and again unmistakably: I am the seat of being, I am the breath of the deity, I am the beginning, logos.

… It presses against the mouth to be spoken. People speak not so much because they “have something to say” as because the word pierces the wall of silence.

… [The] original weight of the gesture of speaking, and not the frivolous gesture of talking, is under consideration here. Not the movement of the mouth organs that occurs everywhere, that sets the air of marketplaces, TVs, and lecture halls in motion, but rather the far rarer gesture that moves words from the realm of observation into the sphere of association with others.

… The speaker does not speak the world but past the world to others. Speaking is an attempt to bypass the world to reach others but in such a way that the world is absorbed, “spoken” in the move. Speaking is not an attempt to bracket out the world to get at something else but rather to catch it in words, to reach another. The speaker grasps the world in words he directs toward others. So the world outside the speaker is a world that can be grasped in words, with other worlds behind it.

… The gesture of speaking shows that this is not about touching problems with words or about the effort to capture problems in wordboxes (“categories”). The speaker is not a hunter of problems, setting up word traps, or a fisher of the world with a net of words, however much the greater part of traditional philosophy may make us want to believe it. On the contrary, the speaker seeks others; his words are tentacles in the direction of others, and although the words are selected in the function of problems, their primary intention is to be understood by others.

My most recent previous post from Flusser’s book is here.




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