I’ll make a note of it, I tell myself, and I do that much. So I have built a journal filled with phrases meant to remind me of experiences I had, but those jottings have now become lifeless scratches of ink. Life cannot be contained by memory, and memory in turn is too much for words.
This dilemma could be restated as that of notational sufficiency. Notes weren’t enough, as I neither did justice to my verbal abilities nor my own life. A wager was made some days—was the attention given wholly enough? How should one regard one’s own life, give oneself appropriate attention? I know my typical answer is to become an anxious mess for hours on end, reliving everything I think I’ve done wrong and then some:
notational / sufficiency
Maureen N. McLane
sufficiency: a wager
made some days
despite the danger
of a simplified
syntax, a mere
from the surround—
McLane is far braver than I am. Have her notes ever worked for her? Despite the danger of a simplified syntax, she indicates that they did work. Some days the attention was wholly enough; the simplified syntax did justice to the truth. She didn’t believe that she should have immediately written her autobiography, justifying and finding the greater truth behind everything she did and experienced.
Rather, she’s satisfied with the impossibility of capturing the fullness of experience with words. If you try to write everything out as it happens, you create another reality entirely. It’s not a reality which does justice to anything, it’s simply an attempt to say you have control over your own life.
What can you do with words, using a simplified syntax? Accept a mere gleaning from the surround. You don’t need to capture all of an experience or really any of it. Your life is not meant to have the staying power and profundity of Greek drama through sheer force of will. What you need to know is how you saw, how you reacted—so thought hovered, unstreaming, punctual, rough. Thoughts of yours which don’t quite flow, which sometimes explode like gunshots, need to be allowed to coalesce into thought, a reconstruction of a moment faithful to one’s own veracity. To put it more bluntly: your commitment to honesty is a search for your own honesty.