A New Kind of Language December 19, 2010Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language—a language of the heart, a language, as in the Polish forest, where language wasn’t needed. Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception where you have that sense of being united to all things, and, suddenly, you understand everything.
— Andre in Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre, written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn
Perhaps this quote loses something outside of the context of the film My Dinner with Andre which I just saw for the first time, but someone I know walked up to me not long ago and made a similar assertion. Perhaps he had just watched My Dinner with Andre and as a poet and artist was struck by this speech. Or perhaps more and more of us are in coming to our senses, would agree with Malle’s Andre that we have in fact built the prisons in which we live as warder and prisoner, that the perfection of the Orwellian vision does not require a two-way teleplate but only two hundred channels of choices and all of them just the same, the clever narratives of the advertisements indistinguishable from the programing. It is Christmas and how many of us will watch Its A Wonderful Life and never once stop to ask: how little the world has changed since then. And where is our angel? And if there is no angel, then: what about my dynamite? What will it take to reach the realization that your angel is the great spotted fish that devoured your friend?
Language so much more important that you may realize, and that is the first part of construction of the world Andre describes. I’ve worked on Capital Hill as a press secretary and the people who run your governments and corporations understand the importance and power of language very well, or you would have lined the streets with their spitted heads a long time ago. Orwell understood this, and we can’t escape high school without reading him but most of us dismiss it as just another fiction, and head to the mall to meet our friends and immerse ourselves in the romantic illusion of car chase, R-rated nudity and happily-ever-after.
There is a synchronicity, something at this exact moment in my life that led TheRumpus.net to post the Priest’s Monologue from Synecdoche, NY and a friend to forward the link which lead me to watch the film, something that placed a copy of My Dinner with Andre in my hands just at this time only days later, something that lead me to pause and capture the quote, to write these worlds and realize the completion of circle, that the third thing we always look for (knock wood) was one of the few serious films I have watched in the last few years that resonated deeply with me. And yes, to a man at my stage in life The Life Aquatic is as serious as Shakespeare. For all of human kind only the Fool and the Mad (and the poet the acme of that class, having been granted their madness as a gift of the gods) have been allowed to speak the truth, because their words are easily dismissed, do not disturb the delicate balance of illusions, do not break the fourth wall and lead to knowledge, the first step out of the Garden and into the slow heat death of the creation.
To wonder if the first film might contain the answer to the questions posed by the second and third watched years later, to wonder if in fact the future isn’t sending messages into the past in a way, is at least partially an answer to the question posed by Malle and his writers: to consider that we live in a universe that may be susceptible to magic or explanation by magic, or at least in one postulated by the theory which the Google will not surrender to me but which is summarized as: the universe, all the laws of physics from macro of galaxies down to the strangest of quarks cannot exist for us in any other form than the one it takes because otherwise we would not be her to perceive it. It is a mutually sustaining creation and possibly an illusion. Magic, maya and science all begin to blur but in that smeary rainscape there is a window with a sign flashing Look Here.
Whether magic or synchronicity or dialectic, each is just a convenient name for whatever leads us out of the camps we have constructed for ourselves, and perhaps a better word than magic is mystery, the impulse mystery gives to our lives that discovers gods and quarks alike. And language: language has the power to control or create greater than any other machine we have invented, and if something so seemingly tenuous and elusive can do this what better word is there for its power than magic?