I am writing to tell you that I love you and I am already scared of losing you. That does not mean I like you, but I do love you and I don’t want to lose you. I don’t know what love is or what exactly people mean by it, but that is almost certainly what I wish to say. More and more I grow convinced that I know less and less, which is disappointing not least because I’ve always expected the opposite, that I would learn more and more as I go. But I also understand this would seem to bode very poorly for you, my dear reader, given our society’s widespread prejudice in favor of smart writers. In fact, I know with certainty that I have nothing to offer you which you do not already have, because despite the exuberance and intensity you’ll find in some of these pages, I have not the slightest idea what I am talking about. I wrote this book not because I had any great ideas or imaginative plots to share with with the world; quite the opposite, I set about writing this book almost to atone for the indecency of having nothing at all to share. If, in the end, I have atoned for nothing, I hope these pages will at least help you understand one human life. Lest, in the end, you still do not understand me, I write you this present message directly and up front, in order that you might at least understand my intentions. I do not really recall if I began this book with the present passage or if I have only recollected it as that good old bugger Plato might have put it, but either way, in the end, it seems sensible to place this here in the beginning.
I don’t really know what I originally wanted to accomplish relating all of these experiences, observations, and fabrications. But I now believe, after reviewing these pages, that I’ve been trying to express what people mean when they say “I love you,” rather than just saying it. Saying “I love you,” just doesn’t do the trick so I’ve had to approach it in a very roundabout way with all kinds of misfirings and false alarms. And my tone and composure are already slipping…
When I see you in person, I say things I do not really want to say and I want to say things I do not or cannot say; and every time, immediately afterwards, I try to think about how to do it better and then I think I will do it better the next time and sometimes I do, but that’s rare and now with this run-on sentence but my God, I am just tired of editing! My edited formal English always sounds just as stupid as my stupid English so it just doesn’t matter to me anymore. Think the thing, chop it up, say the damn things and just stick periods and commas and all sorts of marks wherever they work. No originality or intelligence or even creativity, it’s actually stupidity and laziness because it’s just easier to say the damn things however. It’s more beautiful, too, of course, but that’s an effect and certainly not a cause of modern stylistic currents.
I thought that if I “wrote a book” then I would find the best way to say the things I want to say and avoid or delete the things I don’t really want to say. Well, that whole idea is a sham: it doesn’t work, you face all the same problems you’ve always faced trying to communicate, the failure just takes longer. Then I thought I could atone for the failure of this book by appending this letter to the beginning. Well, I can’t, and so what? Am I supposed to feel sorry? Am I supposed to shred all of these pages, these pages that I have become? Should I apologize ad nauseum for even the failure of this idiotic apology-in-advance, with another apology that would probably fail just as well? (If I had any consistency, which I don’t, thankfully). Rich people like to say things like “the buck stops here,” which is exactly how I feel, except I despise the rich. The rich have enough bucks to make it stop wherever they want, so it’s interesting that when they say the “buck stops here”, “here” always seems to mean “somewhere else, later” because the buck never seems to stop. But my total store of bucks is negative, so I can confirm that indeed the buck stops here.
Whatever people mean when they say I love you, that’s what I’m trying to say, that’s it and I’m not promising you anything else. I just don’t know. I want you to do everything you want to do and nothing you don’t want to do. Everyone gets to dawdle along as they please but there is a thing that happens when you are writing something about something or to somebody and then at the last minute it somehow swerves toward something else because it’s like a rule of language that you’re not really allowed to just say something true about something directly to someone. Language isn’t necessarily a prison-house as Heidegger said, it’s just illegal to say what you think.
But what an awful book, they’ll say! I would be very satisfied with that, given that one of my chief curiosities has always been the question of why everybody does not write their own book–everybody having their own style of speaking and failing. I would be quite happy to write a terrible book, given that all the “good” books I’ve ever read were written by perfect idiots; and that most of the really smart people I know, who could write excellent books, never have. That’s always perplexed me and if my book is deemed awful, I would be all the happier to be a bad writer who nonetheless wrote a book. That is beautiful, that is something, I think.
Nothing recommends this book other than the intensities which were strong enough to produce it, intensities which had and continue to have nowhere else to go. Failure though it may be, failure at even being a failure though it may be, this book is my failure and I’m quite happy with it. Everyone deserves their own failure. And ultimately if one is honest about one’s failures, in the exactitude of expressing what is absolutely singular in one’s personal failures, it turns out you can write a pretty decent book if I do say so myself! And even if it’s as awful as this one, you’ve at least written a book. And then, if only you keep going–why not?–cultivating a little garden of failures that are at least your failures which you have worked so hard to earn, well then things begin to look pretty okay and a very different place far from here and later also where the buck never stops even for the poor and then you sort of _get how this writing thing works _but only for a second and then you just feel stupid and scared and you would suddenly feel more than happy if you only sold one article to one magazine but then you realize that that would ruin everything and eveything would be lost and that bad books are the only real books because at least they’re bad and at least they’re true and at least nobody wants to buy them and least you get to keep them for you and your friends, just like my favorite garden of all the gardens I’ve ever had, which is none, is the big idiotic dirt lot on the side of our house–because nobody ever wants to walk in it with me, nobody ever wants to walk in that lot with me, nobody even wants to sit in that lot with me because I never even ask them because it’s just not good as far as gardens go–and so it just sits there, empty, ugly, stupid, a waste of space. But what this means is that if our fence gets smashed down by some random person then we don’t have to worry about our beautiful garden being destroyed by some idiot and instead we can just be happy that someone honored our lot.
I want to walk through a dirt lot with you because then you would know for sure that I’m not walking with you because the garden is beautiful, but because you are beautiful and you make the dirt lot beautiful and I only want to write bad books because if any single person ever actually likes one, then I’ll know I must have done something right.
Whatever people mean when they say I love you, that is what I am trying to express here, no matter how hard it is to find on any one particular page. I’m sorry that things might not work out between us forever but if you like this book and sort of “get it” then let’s just spend time whenever we both want to and just be really honest and caring no matter how stupid and obscene that is in real life and destroy the things that get in our way, although the difficulty is destroying what deserves to be destroyed rather than what most people destroy even in equally good-spirited pursuits, namely each other. We might never know what to do or say but if you read this book and even sort of “get it” then as long as we are really, truly trying to get to the bottom of things together, with no ulterior motives hiding in the wings, if there’s nothing else to gain then there’s nothing to fear and we can just laugh when we’re not sure and keep going regardless because the only way to lose is to stop.
Even if you leave me one day for good, that would be fine because I am trying, and I trust that you are trying, and everyone has the right to dawdle along as they see fit. We can all do everything we want if we just let each other and this is not issuing from the perspective of poorly digested religions imported from the East or New Age spiritualism or the Christian heritage of the United States or the teachings of the great Rabbis or Marx or Lenin—fuck them all for they have all failed us so far—but from the patient and rigorous experiences, observations, and fabrications that I am. What else do we have left? Whatever people mean when they say I love you, that is what I’m trying to say, and why not?
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Murphy, Justin. 2013. "Chapter 1," https://jmrphy.net/blog/2013/03/14/1/ (November 19, 2018).