2 min read

Lack of narrative meaning

I read David Chapman's latest post on No extra-special fancy meanings this morning and ended up having some thoughts. I haven't engaged much with his nihilism stuff because I don't feel very prone to it, but I have noticed a similar thing I sometimes feel 'very, very sad' about the lack of. Which is something like a lack of narrative coherence to life. As in, I've moved cities a few times, lost touch with some friends, had various interests for a while that I dropped later... nothing unusual here, but I really don't like it in some sense, because it means that life doesn't make any sort of global sense.

I'm not sure whether this sort of  yearning for 'narrative meaning' fits here because it's not made out of 'special stuff', it's the ordinary meaning that normal life has, but in an unrealistic intensity and concentration, like a film script where everything is reincorporated neatly by the end. But maybe it has its roots in one of these special meanings? I don't know. Also, of course, modernity increases the amount of narrative breakdown by throwing you into so many situations that there's no hope of reincorporating the threads. I'm adapted for a world that isn't as narratively fragmented as this one.

A few posts ago I quoted this poem by William Empson, 'Missing Dates', which has a lot of miserable nihilist energy and is specifically about this accumulated unintegrated narrative detritus. Here's the end of it:

Not to have fire is to be a skin that shrills.
The complete fire is death. From partial fires
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is the poems you have lost, the ills
From missing dates, at which the heart expires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills

I think some part of me literally believes in this, like that the accreted psychic weight of all the narrative loose ends 'gets you in the end' in some sinister unspecified way... I don't know, hard to put into words.

Obvious thing to do: concentrate on actually available, realistic kinds of reincorporation. Another obvious thing to do: somehow get more comfortable with the fact I'm going to drop so many threads whatever I do.

My current Marie Kondo obsession (which I'll probably write about here soon) is kind of helping anyway by making me pick up every object I own and think about it, renew the meaning of some, send others on their way. Probably many other things I could do too.