morphe

12:02 PM Posted by James Owens



There is a wonderful page early in Sartre’s La Nausée when the narrator describes his love of finding discarded scraps of paper in the street. (Well … understand, I am saying I remember this page … I can’t promise that it is really there, or that it is as I remember.…) It is one of my favorite passages in modern literature, even though it comes from this writer who is not one of my favorite writers, because I recognize myself with an unsteady little smile. I cannot walk past a stray piece of paper blowing across the sidewalk in the winter breeze without trapping it under my shoe and stooping over to investigate. Grocery lists, some child’s lost homework, a lover’s desperate postcard sent from Prague and asking her to remember a kiss in a park under frozen trees, a page torn from the Book of Ecclesiastes with underlining in red and Chinese marginalia, a suicide note.

Last Saturday I found the note card above, wet and muddy and lying in the street in South Bend, Indiana. I carried it home and dried it under a lamp. Black marks on gray paper. Someone wrote these words and stared at this rectangle of paper for a while, her mind taking this shape. Such evocative words. Are they not, themselves, about the experience of finding this note card, the mysteries that step shyly out of the shadows, into the light, for a moment? I say nothing more.

--------------------------------------

1) If can then x
2) If cannot then x

~ (1.)
~ (2.)

morphe = shape

eidos = form

character = trait / portrait

schema = outline / appearance



grammar of assent


19 comments:

S. Etole said...

quite a fascinating find ... leads the mind on

Lady Jo said...

quel hasard as tu vraiment trouvé cette page ????
bonne nuit, il se fait tard !

lissa said...

interesting find, I wonder if the person who wrote it is a scientist trying to find the formula for love

Anna said...

James, this note reminded me a movie Beautiful Mind. It will be interesting when one day some one will recognize their note. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, such a wonderful post, and btw thank you so much for visiting my blog. Anna :)

James Owens said...

Susan: I think so, too :-) Isn’t it strange, the trajectory that objects can follow after they leave our grasp? She who wrote this (I think of the writer as “she,” maybe because there is some inevitable sense of the erotic in such an encounter with this irretrievable other’s thoughts…) --- she continues her life somewhere, never imagining that you and I are discussing this paper where she once wrote a few notes…..


Lady Jo: Oui, je l’ai trouvée dans la rue, je le jure! J’admets volontiers que je serais capable d‘inventer une chose comme cela --- mais ce n‘est pas le cas ici :-)


Lissa: I think you may be right The first two lines certainly seem paradoxical and mysterious enough to figure in a formula for love … and the rest of it, yes “the grammar of assent”….


Anna: Yes, that would be the best thing, wouldn’t it? If the owner of this page should, somehow, stumble across this blog and recognize it…. Thanks for visiting. I will be coming back to your blog….

Martin H. said...

James

Thank you for dropping by. What a pleasant surprise to find, on my return visit, just the kind of thing I like. You refer to "..her mind taking this shape." Even more intriguing.

James Owens said...

Martin: Thank you for coming by and for your comment. Her mind ... yes, it seems so ... She lost this...

Oxygène said...

Bonsoir James, j'ai utilisé "Google traduction" (qui n'est pas parfait) pour traduire ton texte. Cela m'a bien aidée ensuite à le lire (et à le comprendre) en anglais. C'est un très bon exercice de révision pour moi... :-)

J'aime beaucoup l'idée de ces feuilles que tu arrêtes du pied et qui te dévoilent de petites tranches de vie de personnes qui te sont inconnues. C'est plein de poésie et de mystère et ce sont de jolies histoires que tu dois imaginer quand le vent place ces feuilles sous tes pieds : listes de courses ou autres comme tu le dis si bien...

Bonne soirée James !

Roxana said...

i have fallen in love with her, through you. you show me the world that i have always had in my head.

Sorlil said...

It's funny how one looks for relative meaning, that a piece of paper blowing in the wind in Indiana could hold a coded message / sign specifically for me here in Scotland. But then I think we are predisposed to look for such signs! What it really looks like is someone's Logic lecture notes :)

Andrea said...

What a beautiful post,James.
About my Elephants:
time ago I red these words:
"When you look into Elephants eyes,
you understand they know Something,
Something you knew too,
but you forgot it,
maybe forever."

Dianne said...

Found poetry.
Someday, I worry someone I know will pick up a half-scrap of my poetry-exercise and think I've lost my mind!

James Owens said...

Oxygène: Après que j’ai lu ton commentaire, j’ai essayé “google translate” pour la première fois --- et j’étais surpris en effet. La traduction n’était pas mauvaise, pour la plupart! Ces rencontres fortuites que le vent nous apporte par de petits bouts de papier --- c’est une façon parmi d’autres d’imaginer plus qu’une seule vie … peu importe si la vie qo’on se figure ressemble à la vie de celle qui a perdu une quelconque page :-) …. Belle journée à toi!

James Owens said...

Roxana: Me, too :-) I have fallen for her. I love her soft eyes that get wide and shine when flocks of little black birds take off from an empty field, moving all together … and her hands with their long slender fingers (even with the little crescent scar just below her left thumb, where she cut herself on a broken bottle when she was eight years old) … the way she goes out in just a t-shirt and her coat, and tugs the coat tightly around her shoulders when she walks down the street where she lost this note card … etc….

James Owens said...

Sorlil: Yes -- evolutionary psychologists talk about this predisposition as a survival mechanism. If you are programmed to look for significance and pattern in the welter of otherwise random scraps and orts of the world around you, then you are more likely to detect a predator slipping up in the underbrush, or find concealed food. And really, aren’t all the arts basically adaptations of this instinct -- the search for form in the chaos? … Of course, you’re probably right about the logic notes … but where’s the fun in that, lol!

James Owens said...

Dianne: That would be scary, all right :-) I think any poet would seem mad under those conditions….

James Owens said...

Andrea: Thank you for this quotation. It’s true about elephants. I’ve experienced just that, looking into their faces. And I have always felt (seriously) that there is something … if I could only remember it … that was the key … lost …

Anne said...

This is very interesting, as in a contemporary exploration of human thoughts. Collecting regularly this sort of papers may let you learn a lot on human beings and give you a portrait of people during a period in a certain space. Do you think to go on collecting papers or was it just a singular experience?
Anne

James Owens said...

Anne: I will certainly keep on picking up bits of paper -- it is a reflex, a habit, endless curiosity about the little traces of human passage through the world....