WORDS & MATTER / & NO MATTER (a gleaning, from 1988(?), & a meme, from today

words matter meme.jpg


Words are things, as material things are things; words can be objects, of our thoughts or our actions, as can material things, but whatever matter is, words are not matter. You could say, like numbers, but numbers are also words, a certain kind or class of words. Like thoughts, then? Thoughts are immaterial, but in a different way: every thought is, unique, it passes through the mind and is gone, if it comes again, as a memory, it is part of a new thought, or if you think the same thought at a different time and recognize it, it’s still another thought though its content seems the same. And thoughts are composed of words. You might have a non-verbal thought, but you mightn’t call it a thought, and when you do you use words. Thoughts also involve action, and so material things like electricity and chemicals in the brain are part of the process of thinking.

Words are like works of art, though also not like them. People say words are signs, but they can be more than signs, and can also not be signs. Every word was once invented by someone, whether as a sign or something else, and that invention is always a creation like a work of art. And if you say you don’t use works of art as you do words, think again, because there’s a sense in which you do, and artworks do too when they quote other artworks.

But you don’t ordinarily just contemplate a word like you do an artwork, and that’s the major difference: the artwork was created for contemplation, the word was generally intended for communication. And when a word was created for contemplation, it was no longer just a word, it was an artwork, a poem, or a mantra, which are other immaterial things in the world apart from words, but are also dependent on words. Even the most non-verbal humanly produced artifact, even if created by a deaf-mute never exposed to words who produces it by imitation, was once thought of and planned and brought to execution and public sharing by the mediation of words. And to this day no artist who is not spoken and written about in words can expect to be known as an artist.

So what is not material in our reality is dependent on words for our recognition and our relating to it. Words themselves do not invent all that is immaterial: the musician composes or plays, the sculptor and painter make forms and like the poet but without words, images; the dancer dances. What matter words?

But then, all that is material in our reality we relate to through words. Or the words are the accompaniment to the music of our perceptions and sensations and emotions, we use the words to organize or to believe we organize these experiences. What do words matter?

The words we have, and the ways we have of putting words together create the parameters of the reality we can relate to and the ways we have of relating to it. In optics, it is apparently known that because of the lattice-work of blood-vessels that veils our sight, we actually see perhaps 5% of what there is to be seen, and we put together a whole picture with our imaginations, and we believe that picture is what is there to be seen. That may be what we do with what we think we know through words.

The word is neither the written sign or the spoken sound. We write it, we speak it, but what we write is not it. We can’t use it up. It? I write its sign, you read its sign, but where is it?

The word, all the words there are so far, all those I know and those I don’t know, some of which I might learn and some of which never, are always “there”, and also “here” in my mind as long as I’ll be around. The words are untouched by my use of them, I think, but that needn’t be so. Perhaps I work a subtle change in the scent of each.

As words, all words are equal. There seems to be no single word that is radically primal, so one could say that all words, and the very existence of words and such, derive from it. If there is or ever was a language that began out of someone simultaneously speaking and inventing a single word and someone else hearing it and understanding it as what it was, that word is unknown. There are radical words, that a number of words may derive from. Like in English you have words made from radicals with prefixes or suffixes. Have you ever thought of all the words that are made by putting prefixes before -cept or -ceive or -ception, or before -vert or -verse or -version?

No matter, words matter.


Some poetry gleaned while Collating Smatterings of Memoirings (1) / From 1987: “For Nitza”

spg from1987


“What’s this? A poem?
“You’re working much too hard.”
“This isn’t work, it’s poetry.”
“I hope you’re writing about me.”
“Not tonight, my dear.
“Well, now you’ve asked, maybe I will.”

Thank you for the hot tea on your way to bed thank you for
my electric blanket thank you for being there, loving,

mother dove
girlfriend love

you know: though all my memories
of scenes do blank
this I joyingly know

you are around me inside me beside me
also when I don’t remember


soft crystal
warm diamond
earth of my tree, tree of my earth
tho not
sea of my sky, nor sky of my sea

for my sea is humanity & my sky is its sky
as they’re yours,

in this cell
of the world to come.


let me tell you about the world to come let me
the world to come is the world that’s coming
now. Ev
ry now.
It star
ts with
& not
looking                        here
back in                        we’re
anger or
in angst
or seek
ing the A
lpha or O
mega. It
begins with the closed beginning open ended B_e_t_h of B_e_r_e_i_s_h_i_t_h_, G_e_n_e_s_i_s
which we’ve turned around, heading east as the earth rolls
westward, ho!

is where

going into
the world
that’s coming

& that’s all
I want to say
about it


I don’t want to be in cyber-activist mode all the time, responding here or on Facebook to each new report of another atrocity here, another atrocity there, rebuffing false historical claims by apologists for oppressive regimes, supporting the struggles of the oppressed, collating & disseminating the stories of the expelled, dispossessed, marginalized, etc , etc, all of which I do when I do it because of my feelings for & with them, but I can’t & don’t want that to be the focus of my “spare” time, the time I have left, each day of the days I have left, between things I need to do for my & our physical & economic etc maintenance & the time I spend with family &/or friends &/or on a nightly episode or two of a good tv series… I want some of that for this, just blogging, & some of it for just being, being with, whatever I’m with at that moment, something like what I found this morning on pages 14–15 of the 1976 Folio 1 I started copying from yesterday.


with c2

p. 14

He sat cross-legged by the lake, gazing at the gently moving ceaselessly reflecting surface. The joint, rolled in the lavatory at the printing works before the lunchbreak, and smoked while driving thru Albert Park to the lakeside, was working on him already, opening him to seeing and hearing and sensing what had always been there to be seen and heard and sensed though he’d been to closed off in thought to notice. It was all so – beautiful, no other word would serve, and beautiful in no abstract sense; it was like, no, not like, it was, being in love, though this was crazy, to love the face (as it were) of the earth, of its seemingly unbounded body beautiful with all its febrile strands and tendrils in motion, fine-pointed blades of grass bursting from small stems, patterns of stones down to the rippling water reflecting blue, the sky not a dome of empty air but a fullness of patterned motion, watching all this seated here in love with the beauty, a plenitude that asked nothing and in this too was a secret of its love-inspiring power.

This was the third time he had turned on, the third time he had felt anything like this in his life. Not like any memory of childhood, either, but new – and yet, real, right, realer and righter (he KNEW) than anything he’d known. The first time, the effects had lasted all the way into the next day. After the evening, at home… he had taken the next day off, and gone to the Alexandra Gardens, mostly to lie on the grass & gaze & absorb in always new wonder & love every detail of everything that his attention turned to in the constantly changing sphere of all he could sense or perceive…


p. 15

This, this kind of being contains everything else, he thought. Even if it’s not time-controlled. Here: imagine a writer trying to grasp it all. But a writer has to limit himself to one stream. Here: who will contain what? Will this kind of being contain that of the writer, or the other way around? Will I be doing it for what I can later report about it, my attitude that of an investigator, or will I go in all the way, not even for the sake of discoveries, but to be this way for the sake of being this way, because it’s the best way to be. with

From 1976 Folio 1 p. 15 (click to enlarge)

From 1976 Folio 1 p. 15 (click to enlarge)


i think “a new way…

… for me, starting today,
just sit to blog a bit each day
with no idea what i’ll say”

easy to say, yet the confidence came only after i realized i have a back-up:
the idea that came before that thought, the blog piece I thought I’d do today:
SUW (Selections from Unpublished Writings) 1: Folio (foolscap-size notebook) 1, 1976, pp. 2–4

& that’s what i’ll start with. First scan the epigraphs on p. 2 (p. 1 is blank)

folio1 p2

1976 Folio 1 p. 2 (click to enlarge)

… but such a felyship of good knyghtes
shall never be togydirs in so company…


And for to pass the time this book shall be pleasant
to read in; but for to give faith and believe all is
true that is contained herein, ye be at your liberty.
But all is written for our doctrine, that we fall
not to vice ne sin, but to exercise and follow virtue…


… but thou art but a fool to take thought,
for it will not amend thee…


me repenteth … that ever I came within this country, but I
may not turn now again for shame, and what adventure shall
fall to me, be it life or death, I will take the adventure
that shall come to me.


I didn’t remember where these quotes were from, or why I’d chosen to use them as epigraphs. For a moment I thought the first one might have been form Chaucer. Then I googled. Turned out it was from Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, first published in 1485 by William Caxton, & the second one turned out to be from Caxton’s Preface, & the third & fourth also from other parts of Malory’s book, which I must have been reading at the time, maybe wondering if I might want to use it in one of my university literature classes, or maybe just because it interested me at the time. I can’t make out right now what this selection says about the state I was in when I started this new folio after a period of little or occasional scattered writing. I may have thought of the “good knyghtes” of the first epigraph as metaphors for the writings that would accumulate in the folio; I can understand how I liked the first three lines of the Caxton quote, but don’t know why I copied the next two, unless as irony; the third may have made sense to me when contrasted with actual doing, while the fourth, well, maybe I identified somehow with the stoicism it expresses. I don’t think I related consciously to the contexts of each passage from Malory (which I’ve rediscovered by googling), & can’t see today how Arthur’s thoughts about Guinevere, or Merlin’s reasons for saying what he says to Arthur, or Balin’s situation in which he voices these feelings relate to who I was then & what I was feeling. I may learn more from the facing page:


I stopped, feeling how weak it was, and, with so much effort needed to keep going, what was the point. So many other things need doing. they too decisions once made and not completed.
But stopping’s no good either. Call it circles, spinning or vicious, cycles or spirals, it doesn’t matter – now no matter child the name, a Burgess could make it funny at leat, but this is what there is. And Teacher’s whiskey – no shit.
I don’t have a single goal, that’s my trouble. Too skeptical. Or a single trouble. But to do at least one thing well, like the circus people. I read poetry passing well. And other things. But that changes very little in my circumstances, or anywhere else. A grown man reading the exploits of the knights of the Round Table, or the Fatah. And you can’t get away, or into something else, because that’s always too minor or minute or something.
Once, during one period of my life, everything […] not only fitted together, but, I believed, was moving things forward the way they had to be moved. And much more so than when I’d been in the youth movement and the kibbutz. For then, on the one hand there’d been some skepticism at least, some doubt and reasoning, especially after the 20th Congress – and, on the other hand, sacrrifices: things you didn’t do or shouldn’t ot mustn’t do, and things one just didn’t have time for. But this period was different: I did everything I wanted when I wanted, and in doing so felt the world being changed. It may not have been the sanest period of my life, but it felt – the rightest…
[…] write about it now? […] Like: it’s no good keeping cards in your hand, you can get caught with them – the way I did this afternoon playing rummy with N and J. I could have put down three color cards on their builds, and I didn’t, thinking I’d finish quicker if I kept them.
But I’d have to change the names. It’s not that I’m afraid of libel suits: it’s that I don’t thin it’s fair to expose the lives of others, or of what I know of others, to public view. If i’m willing to expose mysekf, that’s something else. And not just names – beause then I still won’t be free enough to say what I know, it’ll be too easy foor some people at least to convert the names back again. And since what I’d be writing would be based on my limited knowledge, distortions would be inevitable, meaking it even less fair. Here, then, is a motive for fiction.
What will I call the place? …] And how? A number of ways, as Durrell did in the Alexandria Quartet? Why? They must grow out of the conception.
Play the cards you have.


I didn’t. Without looking through the rest of this folio, or the others, I know I didn’t. I’ve never written a truly fictional story, let alone a novel. I just don’t have that kind of imagination. Beneath that writing, which was in pen, are lines of verse, in pencil:


Rain on the pane, drops
like plummeting me-
teors, like longtailed tad-
poles, spermatozoa
downward plunging to ex-
tinction, listen to the fall-
ing rain, sings felici-
ano on the voice
of peace, the fyrside
warms the room with the desk
piled with students’ ex-
plications of my love
is like to ice and I
to fire, thunder under
my thoughts, over my head,
the cat’s mewing to go
outside and not going
when I open the door
many songs later, music
instead of news of wars
and politics.
raindrops unseen
as receiver, O, of all,
I complain of nothing
and comprehend less.
I know I can’t take the
framed pane and hang it
in a gallery with the roundhead
longtails squiggling past each
other down to nothing and only
occasionally swallowing
other drops on their path.

So that was the adventure that came that day, about 38 years ago, to 40-year-old me, in our apartment facing Napoleon Hill in Ramat Gan, in NYC terms the western borough of Greater Tel Aviv.

& this is the adventure that came to me today, in our home on this hillock in a valley west-south-west of Mullumbimby in north-eastern New South Wales, after a day and a half of almost ceaseless rain, welcome after a long dry, but it has stopped for some hours now…