Letter to my Father

Dear Father1,

The language with which I now address you will eventually become a secret thought. These are thoughts I pass along as though a secret, which when disclosed remain undisclosed. Once, you asked me, “so, all you want to do is read and write?” I laughed but you didn’t, and I gave no response. It has been three years since, and I return to that question in this letter, for the first time.

Now I must disclose my vocation. My vocation remains shadowed by a failure to understand. The energies I have expended since you asked your question, and which I now distrust, are energies of comprehension. You understand comprehensibility better than I do. Your work has been to preach Christ’s gospel. I know from watching you – even while washing stains off your white cassock – that preaching is piling logic on logic, like the scaffolding used to build a tower. It’s the same thing with legal practice (the laughable notion that an argument progresses in a linear curve) which I trained for with fees you paid. But what I’m drawn to isn’t the piling of logic, or clarity, or even catharsis. I prefer ineloquence, that moment clarity makes a detour.

The ability to comprehend suggests the fixing of what remains broken. In your sermons you patch up a narrative, making it linear, promising your listeners nothing short of an interpretation. But contradictions emerge in the very act of conveying your thoughts and message. People are listening for meaning through language, but language has never promised meaning, and meaning has never promised it would be properly represented by language. This is where the secret lies, in the coupling of language and meaning to produce incomprehensibility. You might insist otherwise, because you have always felt your dedication is to the translation of God’s word into meaningful and livable principles. Yet I reiterate that these principles would remain indecipherable secrets because they attempt to gain intelligibility through language.

This shadow of ineloquence, as a precursor for my vocation, is double-shadowed by the dissolution of reality. I think often of a worldview that crumbles each time it is created, a world-without-form that God’s hovering spirit didn’t speak life to, humankind remaining clay without the breath of their maker, stasis without logos. This is reality that backtracks constantly, reboots, and reconfigures its own assumptions.

I am always shaken by the suggestion that there is a trajectory of success I must chart. All success is premised on familiarity, but I am not familiar with anything but the dissolution of the real. I write novels because they are works of dissolution, building life by breaking it, breaking life by building it. I do not write novels because I have to respond to the world. The world as-you-know-it dissolves when I write, only because you think of the dissolving world as the real world. But I can promise that this dissolution is nothing in the negative, nothing depressing. It is the affirmation of the world’s dissolution, a yes to the imaginary.

I have decided to practice a vocation that does not keep pace with events, or try to interpret them. My real dream is not to merely become a mailman of truth, hence a conveyer of events, but to always outpace communication. There is no deciphering in my vocation; it is a waste of skill and time. There are people who are committed to analyzing the intellectual situation, or predicting it. But I consider them trapped by the false idea that history is linear. I am engaged in the pursuit of a higher ideal, which is to consider a dialectical contemporary that refuses to name time.

In this sense I refuse to be carried away by the accelerated occurrence of events. (Baudrillard—“In their accelerated occurrence, the events have in a sense swallowed their own interpretation…They are what they are, never too late for their occurrence, but always beyond their meaning.”) I intend to live and write in a way that decouples experiences from meaning, so that what remains are non-interpretable, non-social realistic, a livability that hovers above time. Walter Benjamin would have called this the “Angelus Novus” but I’ll prefer an image having no claim to progression.

The secret thought through which my vocation is borne, dearest father, is this decoupling of occurrence from meaning. And because this secret reinvents itself as a secret, even to me, you will have to ask again what my vocation is.

E.

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  1. In 1919 Franz Kafka wrote a letter to his father, in a sense similar to mine, but also quite different, since I do not assume a prosecutorial stance. My teacher Dejan Lukic pointed it out to me after I turned in this letter as a response to a prompt on “secret thoughts” and “poetic singularity.” I found it strange that Kafka began with “Recently you asked me why I maintain that I’m afraid of you,” which is the same sort of sentiment I evoke at the beginning of mine. Howard Colyer’s 2008 translation of Letter to my Father (Brief an den Vater in German) is a good one []

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