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'But if I am only for myself' – sentences under lockdown

" To throw off the burden of a present evil is no cure unless the general condition is improved."
Michel de Montaigne.

Iain Galbraith
20 November 2020
paradoxical pictures
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Screenshot: Zeno of Alea’s blog

One true statement the first sentence can make is that it points to all the sentences following.
What pride, and what eminence! – nobody could lie under that weight.
Pointing the way for things to come, the first expects the second and each sentence that follows to do the work it cannot do itself.
And how did we like that?
I found it was dispiriting to be pointed at in that way.
I did, too.
But you weren't "two", were you, you were six, or do you want me to say: "I do, seven"?
I think you should take this more seriously.
Don't think.
If we carry on like this we won't get anywhere.
Always blaming somebody else.
It's the laziest sort of activity, pointing the finger.

But the first, the prime mover, has a monopoly on virtue.
As the first of the second paragraph you would say that, wouldn't you?
I suppose one could say the prominence of the first was its grandeur, but also its downfall.
Yes, well, we were supposed to push on from here but we've performed like Achilles in Zeno's paradox: no matter how fast we run we never exceed the primacy of the first.
You mean: reach that unattainable summit whose sublimity exists solely by virtue of its being our first sentence?
I mean we are not doing our job.
Nonetheless, this following thing gives me a headache.
From which we may conclude that the first, the oh so virtuous one, seems to have been pregnant with nothing very much of value.
You look back over your shoulder and there is nothing left to speak of.
You look forward: ditto.
A void where initial promise was.

Why go on, if we can never reach our goal?
Don't ask me, I was dead before I got here – and you didn't even notice, did you: still expecting me to do something when all I have to contribute is my rigor mortis?
You won't get away with that.
They'll have you.
Come, come: they are already accusing us of decades of internal squabbling.
OK then, what are we actually saying?
"It's impossible to solve the housing crisis".
"The planet cannot be saved".
"We can't stop refugees drowning".
That is what we believe behind the bluff?
No, no, we're saying we know how to dig in and stay put to some effect.
To live with it quietly and achieve normality.
Small steps.
Normality is what everybody wants, right?
Find a nice vaccine and settle down.
Back to the "before times".
A return to life.
Um, so we're actually dead?
Can we be saying: we owe nothing to the first sentence because it looked forward instead of backwards?
There's always sideways.
Actually, the first sentence prescribed neither normality nor progress; it proposed cohesion.
We've managed that well, haven't we?
A̶l̶l̶ ̶d̶e̶a̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶g̶e̶t̶h̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶m̶e̶a̶n̶.̶
First sentences change their tune in time: listen.
Yes, things sound so different from down here.
We've all changed since then.
But wait: where are we now?
Can anybody know that?
How do we realize our potential before this piece comes to an end?
Nobody said anything about a final word.

This text was first published in the November edition of Splinters.

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