After many years spent reading, writing, and studying, it happens at times that we understand what is our special way – if there is one – of proceeding in thought and research.  In my case, it is a matter of perceiving what Feuerbach called the “capacity for development” contained in the work of the authors I love.  The genuinely philosophical element contained by a work – be it an artistic, scientific, or theoretical work – is its capacity to be developed; something that has remained – or has willingly been left – unspoken and that needs to be found and seized.  Why does this search for the element liable to be developed fascinate me?  Because if we follow this methodological principle all the way, we inevitably end up at a point where it is not possible to distinguish between what is ours and what belongs to the author we are reading.  Reaching this impersonal zone of indifference, in which every proper name, every copyright, and every claim to originality fades away, fills me with joy.

–Giorgio Agamben, The Fire and The Tale 34

Where language stops is not where the unsayable occurs, but rather where the matter of words begins.  Those who have not reached, as in a dream, this woody substance of language, which the ancients called silva (wildwood), are prisoners of representations, even when they keep silent.

–Giorgio Agamben, The Idea of Prose 37

If a writer reads for the same reason that a painter collects paints, to have with him materials to work, then what a writer reads forecasts what he will have written, as the painter’s palate provides his painting. If the painter buys commercially, we know to manage expectations. If he apprentices under master paint-makers, we should expect surprise. When he ventures past the cottage industries, into the wildwood itself, to collect bark and bug shells, pigments and fluid, following his attention, he initiates himself into that “impersonal zone of indifference,” where it becomes impossible to distinguish his prayer from the windfalls on his precarious advance. Moving over the faults and wounds in the matter of words, he will confront beasties, snakes in wait, poisons, pests – there will unfold the consequences of mistakes, accidents, thoughtlessness, foolishness, precipitousness, false-floor… Before these effects he faces a choice, retreat for the supermarket — and give up the bargain — or advance, trusting himself to be up to calamities, if for no benefit past moments filled with joy, when he can give up worrying if what comes belongs to him or to what once we called “nature”…


…you take one part or another, and so, a little bricolage there.  But as we know through Levi-Strauss, bricolage is as rational as the scientific method.

–Wolfgang Schirmacher, “Love and Community”


Solitude – soul.étude – soul study…

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Can one manage to be “alone” except in an “absolitude” that would mean “solitude absolutely exposed to the other solitude?”

–Jean-Luc Nancy, Coming 26

…in the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him.  Never mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat; up again, old hear? – it seems to say – there is victory yet for all justice; and the true romance which the world exists to realize will be the transformation of genius into practical power.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

To strip ourselves of the imaginary royalty of the world.  Absolute solitude.  Then we possess the truth of the world.

–Simon Weil, Gravity and Grace 12

Solitude has the peculiar and original power not of isolating us, but of projecting our whole existence out into the vast nearness of the essence of all things.

–Heidegger, “Why I say in the Provinces,”

I never found the companion that was as companionable as solitude.

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?  Am I not partly leaves and vegetables and mould myself?

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Solitude”

I tie my hat – I crease my Shawl –

Life’s little duties do – precisely –

As the very least

Were infinite – to me –

–Emily Dickinson





Bricolage #2: Memory

Now, the characteristic feature of mythical thought, as of “bricolage” on the practical plane, is that it builds up structured sets, not directly with other structured sets, but by using the remains and debris of events: in French “des bribes et des morceaux”, or odds and ends in English, fossilized evidence of the history of an individual or a society.

–Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind 14


At the time when heaven still embraced the earth, when Uranus still lay with full-hipped Gaia, an aeon before the Olympian gods, the Titans were born and with them, memory, or Mnemosyne.  In the Hymns to Hermes, she is called the Mother of the Muses.  She is the earliest of the goddesses, preceding even Apollo with his lyre. –

–Ivan Illich and Barry Sanders, ABC: The Alphabetization of The Popular Mind 14

They remembered, but what they remembered was always less ancient than their memory.

–Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond 80

…entirely traversed by an unwitting memory, almost by a laborious commemoration of illiteracy.

–Giorgio Agamben, The Fire and The Tale 82

…maybe one soliloquy will stick in the ear of a dentist, but he might not hear it till he’s pulled a lot of teeth.  But no matter what your later profession might be, you remember, eventually you remember.

–John Clarke, Tramping The Bulrushes 24-25

I remember, knowing only that it belongs to a memory, this phrase: “I don’t know, but I have the feeling that I’m going to have known.”

–Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond 112

Remembrance is neither what happened nor what did not happen but, rather, their potentialization, their becoming possible again.

–Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities 261

…And in this sense (memory) is linked to the work of the historian… an historian who is not able to give possibility back to the past, but just list facts, is not interesting to us.  So, I mean, this is true for history in the public sense.  But it is true in the personal history as well.  If we are not able to give back possibility to our past, our life is really doomed to a sad necessity.  Because the shame of the facts will insulate you…

–Giorgio Agamben, “Paul, Augustine, and the Will 2011”

Life has no memory.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

…the material present in the shape of memory traces is from time to time subjected to a rearrangement in accordance with fresh circumstances – is, as it were, transcribed.  Thus what is new in my theory is the thesis that memory is present not once but several times over, that it is registered in various species of signs.

–Sigmund Freud, The Origins of Psychoanalysis: Letters to Wilhelm Flies 173

 The city is full of remembrances, the womb of “wisdom” babble.

–John Clarke, “At the Edge of Silence”

Our language can be regarded as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, of houses with extensions from various periods, and all this surrounded by a multitude of new suburbs with straight and regular streets and uniform houses.

–Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Philosophical Investigations P18

The City redefined becomes a church.  A movement of poetry.  Not merely a system of belief but their beliefs and their hearts living together.

–Jack Spicer, “A Textbook of Poetry”

Some men in the presence of considerable stimulus cannot remember owing to disease or age, just as if a stylus or a seal were impressed on flowing water.

–Aristotle, De Memoria et Reminiscentia

Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.

–John Keats, on his tombstone

Each tale – all literature – is, in this sense, a memory of the loss of the fire.

–Giorgio Agamben, The Fire and The Tale 3