Sunday, September 21, 2008

D.F.W.-The Twelve (XII)

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: A fellow of Infinite Jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!" --Shakespeare: Hamlet

The Hanged Man (XII) is the twelfth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination. It may also be known as The Traitor, particularly in older decks. . .wikipedia

Serenely dangling upside-down, the Hanged Man has let go of worldly attachments. He has sacrificed a desire for control over his circumstances in order to gain an understanding of, and communion with, creative energies far greater than his individual self. In letting go, the hero gains a profound perspective accessible only to someone free from everyday conceptual, dualistic reality. . .wikipedia

David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer as well as a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Wallace was best known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest,[1][2] which Time included in its All-Time 100 Greatest Novels (1923-2006). --wikipedia
So it was last weekend that we learned that David Foster Wallace had hanged himself. I've been thinking on this for a week and have a thought and a response:

I want to meditate on the last name of the protagonist from Infinite Jest: "Incandenza". It makes me think of "cadence" or "cadenza", thus in-cadenza. And what exactly is a cadence or a cadenza? Let's turn to my Apple (Oxford American) Dictionary to unveil this:

cadence |ˈkādns|
1 a modulation or inflection of the voice : the measured cadences that he employed in the Senate.
such a modulation in reading aloud as implied by the structure and ordering of words and phrases in written text : the dry cadences of the essay.
a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase or sentence.
rhythm : the thumping cadence of the engines | try to vary your cadence during a run.
2 Music a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase : the final cadences of the Prelude.
cadenced adjective
ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [rhythm or metrical beat] ): via Old French from Italian cadenza, based on Latin cadere 'to fall.'
cadenza |kəˈdenzə|

noun Music
a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end.
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Italian (see cadence ).

So, we arrive at a virtuosic fall. Indeed! You'll recall that the father of the protagonist, James Orin Incandenza, killed himself by placing his head in a microwave. James, like D.F.W., was the creator of the Infinite Jest.

My response then to these suicides is a question: Does a highly activated, genius-intellect automatically yield one of two life outcomes? Tinfoil hat, or suicide? There is of course, a middle way: numbed to Oblivion by one's drug of choice.

Who has ever returned from the mountaintop whole? Life is definitely hard on our shamans. The idea of the artist in touch with something that undoes their ability to face the real--something that is deeper than what the populace at large is privy too--merits more thought. Life is hard on the populace at large too though. They are pretty fond of the "middle way" as well.

In the meantime, here is some encouragement from a former Prince.

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