1. No Clean Starts

part of a series

1_There is no such thing as a clean start. Start from the mess and move towards something. Something that might be called truth.

This starts as a way to get over the paralysis of starting. The frozen moments of waiting for the right time. There isn’t one, or there is only the right time – to paraphrase any number of philosophies, traditions and productivity websites.

I am terrible at this. I wait to send an email until I have all the things ready - of course there are more things every day - and then am fearful I have waited too long. So this is a start, at least a provocation to myself to get over it - to start moving.

The mess, the complicated mangle of the world and our interactions in and with it, aren’t going away. And also: I wouldn’t want them to.

The mess is good, it’s where the meat is. It contains the oppression and the resistance and the ways in which it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.

But wallowing or indulging endlessly in the mess doesn’t work for me either. Pointing again and again to the mess, to some elements inside the mess, doesn’t satisfy me.

This activity of ceaseless criticism. Criticism is needed and definitely deserved. But I want to move. I want to move towards something that I like - that is still messy and maybe even impossible.

This movement can (should) (must) contain criticism, of course, but it is first movement. Maybe this ordering is what separates curiosity from criticality?

What then are we moving towards? Theory and philosophy have done huge amounts to trouble notions of truth. Especially notions of Truth. I’m really happy about that. The postmodern turn was underway by the time I was born and I was raised to question the truth claims of power (¿all truth claims are “of power”?) Those claiming to know or create or own The Good, The True and The Beautiful are so often producing absolute and “universal” images that discount and wipe out difference. That try to discount and wipe out the mess.

And yet, there is something that I want to move towards - Hélêne Cixous has given some quotes in Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing that I turn back to – that inspired this starter and finish this post.

Toward what I call: the truth, toward what calls me, attracts me magnetically, irresistibly. Of course, I circle "the truth" with all kinds of signs, quotation marks, and brackets, to protect it from any form of fixation or conceptualization, since it is one of those words that constantly crosses our universe in a dazzling wake, but is also pursued by suspicion. I will talk about truth again, without which (without the word truth, without the mystery truth) there would be no writing. It is what writing wants. But it "(the truth)" is totally below and a long way off. And all the people I love... are beings bent on directing their writing toward this truth-over-there, with unbelievable labour; they are fighting against the elements and principally against the innumerable immediate exterior and interior enemies. The exterior is very powerful at the present time. We are living particles, fireflies in the world, and around us resounds an enormous concert of noise-and-rumour-producing machines, creating a din and rumours destined to ensure we don’t hear the voice of truth. But the interior enemies are just as numerous. It concerns our fear: this is what we are made of: our weakness. Kafka told us: paradise is not lost. We are the ones who haven’t yet regained it, and if we haven’t regained it, it’s because we are suffering from two vices: laziness and impatience. As a result we do nothing and don’t advance, we stop out of laziness and hurry from impatience. Between the two, the work of descending isn’t accomplished. Paradise is down below. According to my people, writing isn’t given. Giving oneself to writing means being in a position to do this work of digging, of unburying... - Hélêne Cixous

I hope you will forgive me if I use the “truth.” The moment I say “truth,” I expect people to ask “What is truth?” “Does truth exist?” Let us imagine that it exists. The word exists, therefore the feeling exists. H. Cixous

What comes back to us, no matter what our place, is a duty to truth, to know what is at stake and not deny it. H. Cixous

quotes included in the 2004 swsWorkbook