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A Twitch of the Writer’s Hand: The Horror of Perpetual Motion

It might also be said: “Meaning moves, whereas a process stands still.”

— Ludwig Wittgenstein

Twice a day, every day, the tide ebbs and flows, sometimes leaving the bay a barren mess of rocks and seaweed. When the Moon abides, the sea spills into the little patch of earth that is my backyard and even tempts the backdoor. Before I lived here, Hurricane Sandy filled the entirety of the bottom floor of this raised house, a former fisherman’s shack from the 1920’s, a place where rum-running once filled in the gaps of fishing seasons. There’s even a lead-heavy wooden hatch above the stairs that used to look down on the bay — in another time and island across the bay — a testament to changing times, like a tooth hanging on in a mummified mouth. Even though the sea is mighty and unpredictable, only so much water can pour in and out in a given time, even if the force of a storm visible from space is looming. Just as the sea floods and recedes, according to certain limits drawn by the Earth and Moon, so the storms of creativity have their limits, as well. To have everything, all at once, is to have nothing, shortly.

Still runs the water where the brook is deep

— Shakespeare’s, Henry VI part 2

Wittgenstein once remarked in a Taoist tone: ‘A teacup will only hold a teacup’s full of water, even if I pour a whole gallon over it.’ While there are certainly bountiful times of creating, as surely as there are barren Winters, the limits of the mind do more than reach that limit and stop. Consider a shark chasing after a school of fish, only to find itself suddenly beached and without the power of its eons-perfected form, reaching a melodramatic and frothy limit. Then the wind sends a wave tumbling onto the beached shark, disrupting the sand beneath its bulk enough to reinvigorate its mighty tail, catapulting it back into the top of the food chain. Limits are more than walls or limits of language and thought, limits are the beautiful impediments that seem to confound. Insomnia will drain short-term memory, but might invigorate a necessary descent into the elder memories, ones that have been drifting in the ether of the mind, waiting for an interruption in the creator’s process, not unlike the bedridden Proust was cursed and gifted with limits and thrust into Lost Time.

I to the world am like a drop of water

That in the ocean seeks another drop,

Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,

Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.

— Shakespeare’s, The Comedy of Errors

Even though the shark reached a limit on the shore, the experience of that limit fundamentally changes the way in which the shark will navigate what once might have seemed boundless. Whether it’s mental or physical impairments, or both, a return to ‘status quo’ is never the same. There are episodes of fear that such a state of affairs will someday return, a fear far more specific than Death. In that fear, a creator might find a blast of chilling truth, one that transforms what had been an environment of relative stasis, like perpetual smoke on the glowing horizon. Despite this change, only so much can ever be done at once. The twitch of the hand to play or write can only play one note at a time, begin to write or type a single letter. Songs and stories follow, slowly. We are all drops of water in the ocean of existence. While that often evokes fear, there is something inherently beautiful in that. The ocean is nothing but a multitudinous body of drops, those drops, dizzying in the multitudes of molecules they contain. If the ocean were a singular mind, that mind would have gone made long before there were drops to try and fathom it.

Hayden Moore

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