A MATRIMONIAL METAPHOR

_ Dalia Staponkute


You said: “…I thought our relationship’s deep meaning was concealed in the letters... you appeared to be special... it seemed that I was the one-and-only, irreplaceable, eternal one...”(The language of emotion is banal, though, in language, there is nothing more human than banality). Later on you understood that you trust texts more than you do people. A text is immutable; people – the opposite. A person changes while the text remains the same. A letter’s text. A document. A promise. An effect. A fact. A witness. When two people relate through letters, a sort-of third body takes up residence between them – a seducer and a traitor. Letters as go-betweens – letters between. Letters join souls but separate bodies. Letters are a way of life and death, a personal platform, an invisible stage, and essay, an inability to write otherwise, an inability to speak otherwise. Letters can create a person, though saying nothing about him. A magical epistolary genre that influenced the Russian romantic period thoroughly. That heady Russian romanticism. If not for those studies in Russia, there would be no letters, no texts of essay length. There would be only sort of haiku...

Everything in a person’s life is explainable and logical. The longer one spends writing letters, the more one becomes nothing other than a ‘letterer’. One needs to apply the name ‘letterer’ not to those who transport letters, but to those who perform them. A singer sings songs – half are borrowed, half are one’s own. Lyrics, notes, the voice – half are borrowed, half are one’s own. It’s a halfway relation leading to halfway relationships. Distance, at first, is the norm, gradually it becomes the necessity, and, in the end, it is our guarantee of survival.

You said: “…ifnot for the letters, there wouldn’t be an ‘us’…” The soul is capricious. It likes poetic words above all else (the body loathes them). When language is short on poetics, a couple’s intimacy is disturbed; along with its purpose (the body cannot rescue it). For devoted letterers, the body always remains in parentheses, even if it finds itself right next to the recipient. We are together because there were letters. There were letters, this is why we’re halfway together. Because of the letters our actual being in each other’s company has become unusual, and has caused us to be impermeable to each other’s waves.
From early on, letters neutralized our relationship just as earth neutralizes conductors of electricity.

We were as long as there were letters, in which we thought through our being together. Letters, especially when abundant, teach us not how to live, but how to ponder life.
There is a certain type of person, who rather than living and acting prefers to mull everything and write it down. Though it’s true – writing is also an action. It’s a halfway action. Just as riding a bicycle is a halfway pondering. A relationship matured in letters is more pondered than tested. If the relationship is crowned by a life together, then life becomes ponderous.
Half one’s own, half another’s. Life transforms into a letter, in which everything is fitted together by selection.

You said: “...I came across your files containing the letters in the PC... you just can’t do without the letters...”And who doesn’t use computers for writing letters these days, doesn’t travel, doesn’t live in mixed marriages and doesn’t speak several languages.
Letters in the PC are contemporary technologies’ production for the past. Production – because letters found in the PC can be duplicated infinitely, copied and saved into files. Letters such as those don’t go anywhere, they pile up and multiply. Production for the past – because letters always move in the direction of the past, regardless of the speed of technological change. Don’t grieve: letters in the PC aren’t really letters. They are texts in the form of letters written in a language you don’t understand. When someone doesn’t understand language, he is like a small child who apprehends the world through forms. Though, not all that is sharp cuts.

Texts written using a computer – whether sent or not – faithfully remain. The monitor quickly takes on your features, and in the end, no one knows better than it does how you truly feel. No one has spoken yet, in as visionary a manner as technology has, about a person’s deep-seated necessity for intimacy.
No one has expressed more clearly than technology the human goal of globalisation and expansion: “let’s be together, it’s just so simple.” We were protagonists of globalization. We were the protagonists of the distance game. When the PC was only knocking at our door, we were whirling in the heat of the game. We ignored borders, played with more than just letters, but with languages, homelands and careers. We chose that which was not ‘mine’, not ‘yours’, but that belonged to third parties. We believed in the magic of no-man’s space.

We wrote letters to one another in a foreign language. Our feelings had many go-betweens and spaces, many codes and signs. A lot of impossibility.

The impossible is always suffused with fringe romance. It inspires protagonists and kills them off. The fate of all protagonists is to be beheaded. Do you remember a biblical narrative about beheaded protagonist John? Without a head, the heart also goes, because there is no one left to understand it. Anyway, I thought the heart doesn’t belong in the breast, but in the head. Whatever the case may be, the heart is closer to the head than we imagine. So, if one was to lose the head, the heart too would not remain. What is a use of the heart when there is no one to understand it? The Bible’s wise metaphors speak to this assertion. Biblical metaphors are eternal. If you want to become immortal, become a metaphor. This is how Salomes went about seeking immortality--by beheading protagonists. They succeeded half way. Poets inevitably appear to block the Salomes’ paths. As I’ve said there is nothing more powerful than poetic words (the body loathes them). The poet said: you will not be an eternal metaphor, you will be ‘consumer(s’) goods’. The poet Constantine Cavafy forced Salome to fall in love with a witty young philosopher. Salome was forthright in affirming her love for the philosopher, but he answered: give me then as a gift, my love, your head, since you are so undaunted. The following day the philosopher received his gift. Salome’s servant brought he head on a platter. Absorbed in reading Plato, the young philosopher had forgotten the previous day’s joke. He looked at the platter and grimaced, yuck, remove that bloody thing from my view. A head for a head – this is the savage manner in which poets treat their Salomes. Letters in the PC exist because we haven’t ceased to live amid metaphors. We have become used to them. Metaphors give birth to metaphors as hunger leads to greater hunger. A metaphor has neither head nor heart. Metaphors don’t suffer pain. They have no bodies and live in the plane of movement. Greek metafero means I carry across. Having ceased writing to you, I write to others.

You said: “...Strange, why haven’t I thrown your letters away until now? ...” They haven’t been thrown because we are their creations. In my letters, you are clear, whole, and legible to yourself. All that I write is understandable to you. Our epistolary side is what most clear we had between us. After all, you wouldn’t conserve and cherish lack of clarity, just as you wouldn’t an unclear partner or text. The aim of clarity is a meaningful path. Letters without a clear subtext intended for you are as unreliable as diplomatic abstractions. You cherish only what is intended for you personally. You preserve not the letters but the genre. Personal genres are not perfect; however they bribe us with their promise of fidelity and all-inclusiveness. Fidelity to the genre is more important than perfection. You don’t throw away letters as you don’t toss aside a genre, in which every one of us is the personal author of the other. Even those writers who have forgotten the mission of ‘personal writer’ are hard to read. In our epoch, as during the age of the ancient Greeks, there is nothing impersonal. Culture suffers a not-insignificant loss if it requires from writing more than the personal. Worldliness… Worldliness comes down to us from the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks represent what it most clear about us. It’s logical that culture seeks clarity. But the ancient Greeks’ worldliness was born out of that which is personal. Up to the present, we envy them their lives in which the letter was a form of pleasure. You don’t throw away letters as you do a pleasure intended for you. The epistolary genre is a pleasure of a relationship that you were fated to experience. We live once only, and because of this singularity, it is possible to stay faithful to only one genre. Fidelity to one means going down to defeat before the others. On the other, no one can feel secure among several genres. As long as you keep the letters, you will feel secure – as behind a closed door. As long as there are the letters, the door will remain closed. The letters are a door that separates us; the genre of our relationship; an inability to live otherwise; an inability to speak to one another in a way, so that the utterance stings deeper than writing.


 

Dalia Staponkute