Signs Without Arrows: Knowing a Bit of Nowhere
What I have to do then is erect signposts at all the junctions where there are wrong turnings so as to help people past the danger points.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
Language is an inescapable labyrinth, one that bends back upon itself, as surely as it expands with dizzying complexity. We are born into the labyrinth with an exclamatory cry and we die in it, taking our customized version with us. No amount of published writing or film can capture the nature of each person’s labyrinth, just as the the sight of the sea will never allow us to fathom it, let alone, take a water-borne breath. Only the sea knows. Unlike the labyrinth of Daedalus — a labyrinth he nearly lost himself in — there is no thread of Ariadne to guide some heroic interloper through. Every cognitive world is specific to the one who holds it. When a dislodged plot of that world is portrayed through some kind of art, from writing to song, only a glimpse of that world comes through, a fleeting glance through the darkness and the streaks of Dusk, with traces of mountains on the horizon, at best. A labyrinth can be a desert or a subterranean network of false doors, mind-bending walkabouts, free-falls upwards, nightmares, writing this, reading this, this, the human mind or the contemplation of a black hole.
Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.
— Blaise Pascal
Signposts through these detached labyrinths — the works of art — can never point the way, just as signposts in our own minds only mark where you’re not. The space of thoughts is boundless, not in the sense of everything being possible, but in the nature of those thoughts. Last week can be forgotten while twenty years ago, in that same geographical point, can be as seemingly vivid as seven minutes ago. There are no arrows pointing the way, just as these signs have no writing since they lie between the words and notes, the subtext of the subtext, not unlike the magical ore hidden under the mountain. These signposts are the drifting bits of a shipwreck in the expanse of the sea, providing the wave-battered swimmer with something buoyant to hold onto, but no quarter, not when the artwork — like the labyrinth it sprung from — is beyond space, the limited whole of the infinite. If this contained infinitude has no center or circumference, no way but the next way, the metaphorical driftwood in the open sea is nothing more than a moment to think about what has come before and what’s to come, the nature of this labyrinth’s nature, before treading on…
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
Labyrinths conflate with one another, just as this little exploration of the mind’s labyrinth is blurred with that of the work of art. Even to consider the linguistic labyrinth is to feel oneself inside of an imagined one, even if those imaginings are a part of the actual one, no more or less real. To read a book or listen to a song is to absorb traces of someone else’s labyrinth, to add another vault or seascape to the ever-expanding one within, forever furthering the complexity (Nothing vast without a curse). Signposts are indicative of the place they signify, inscrutable, in and of themselves, always wholly original, but useful in their mere existence, just like the driftwood. Blinding light gives way to evening, while darkness is broken by Dawn, just like these signposts break the endless dunes with a wellspring, the silence of the cavernous turns with the grumbling stomach of the Minotaur.