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“It is a strange phenomenon, how absence is the only authentic vessel of the past, how otherwise it is forgotten, overlooked for its continuity and perdurability—every sensory detail of the past breathes through its emptiness the way the light of a match illuminates the darkness; otherwise all is darkness, all is presence, everything in its place and thus unnoticed, whereas the past is missing, the part cut out of the photograph, the part the present attempts to seal over with the future, seeking to close the hole, pandering to the illusion of movement and change when in reality all of life is in flux, particle for particle, atom for atom, void for void, thought for thought.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
“Globalization has shipped products at a faster rate than anything else; it’s moved English into schools all over the world so that now there is Dutch English and Filipino English and Japanese English. But the ideologies stay in their places. They do not spread like the swine flu, or through sexual contact. They spread through books and films and things of that nature. The dictatorships of Latin America used to ban books, they used to burn them, just like Franco did, like Pope Gregory IX and Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Now they don’t have to because the best place to hide ideologies is in books. The dictatorships are mostly gone—Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay. The military juntas. Our ideologies are not secrets. Even the Ku Klux Klan holds open meetings in Alabama like a church. None of the Communists are still in jail. You can buy Mao’s red book at the gift shop at the Museum of Communism. I will die soon, in the next five to ten years. I have not seen progress during my lifetime. Our lives are too short and disposable. If we had longer life expectancies, if we lived to 200, would we work harder to preserve life or, do you think that when Borges said, ‘Jews, Christians, and Muslims all profess belief in immortality, but the veneration paid to the first century of life is proof that they truly believe in only those hundred years, for they destine all the rest, throughout eternity, to rewarding or punishing what one did when alive,’ we would simply alter it to say ‘first two centuries’? I have heard people say we are living in a golden age, but the golden age has passed—I’ve seen it in the churches all over Latin America where the gold is like glue. The Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages but only because they are forgotten, because the past is shrouded in darkness, because as we lay one century of life on top of the next, everything that has come before seems old and dark—technological advances provide the illusion of progress. The most horrendous tortures carried out in the past are still carried out today, only today the soldiers don’t meet face to face, no one is drawn and quartered, they take a pill and silently hope a heart attack doesn’t strike them first. We are living in the age of dissociation, speaking a government-patented language of innocence—technology is neither good nor evil, neither progress nor regress, but the more advanced it becomes, the more we will define this era as the one of transparent secrets, of people living in a world of open, agile knowledge, oceans unpoliced—all blank faces, blank minds, blank computers, filled with our native programming, using electronic appliances with enough memory to store everything ever written invented at precisely the same moment we no longer have the desire to read a word of it.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
“Speculation was now news. News had been confused with fact. Fact had been replaced by expert opinion. People had been replaced by their biographies. Ability had been replaced by disability. Thinking had been replaced by psychology. History had been reduced to story. And while the news media pumped out a new story every week on things that could kill you, Hollywood simultaneously created stories that showed that everything could be prevailed over. Meaning, he said, was so malleable that it could be turned inside out, and no one would know the difference—and it would—and, just like the universe that had expanded to its maximum size, everything that had ever been would happen in reverse and revert back to its original form until existence would disappear without leaving a trace of itself as the Big Bang backfired.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
“The beauty of theatre was that it was a moving, changing art form—only those who watch the same performance night in after night out see the real naturalistic drama at work—the small changes, adjustments, changes in articulation or intonation, the addition of a cough or hiccup, a longer pause rife with more (or less) meaning, the character’s movement across the stage a step slower, a step closer to the audience, the change of a word here and there, an overall change in mood and tone, the actors becoming (or not) the characters more fully, blending in with them, losing themselves in the lines, in the characterizations, in a drama that is simultaneously unfolding and becoming more and more verisimilitudinous as time marches on. This is the real narrative—while the character changes on stage in an instant, the play changes slowly, unnoticeably (unnoticeable to those closest to it perhaps), like the face of a man in his thirties, like his beliefs about life, his motives, all slowly as if duplicating itself day by day, filling itself and becoming more and more itself, the rehearsal of Self, the dress rehearsal of Self, the performance of Self, the extended performance of Self, the encore…—it appears to be the same show, played over and over again with the same details to different crowds, and yet something happens. Something changes. It is not the same show.”
John M. Keller
“Globalization has shipped products at a faster rate than anything else; it’s moved English into schools all over the world so that now there is Dutch English and Filipino English and Japanese English. But the ideologies stay in their places. They do not spread like the swine flu, or through sexual contact. They spread through books and films and things of that nature. The dictatorships of Latin America used to ban books, they used to burn them, just like Franco did, like Pope Gregory IX and Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Now they don’t have to because the best place to hide ideologies is in books. The dictatorships are mostly gone—Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay. The military juntas. Our ideologies are not secrets. Even the Ku Klux Klan holds open meetings in Alabama like a church. None of the Communists are still in jail. You can buy Mao’s red book at the gift shop at the Museum of Communism. I will die soon, in the next five to ten years. I have not seen progress during my lifetime. Our lives are too short and disposable. If we had longer life expectancies, if we lived to 200, would we work harder to preserve life or, do you think that when Borges said, ‘Jews, Christians, and Muslims all profess belief in immortality, but the veneration paid to the first century of life is proof that they truly believe in only those hundred years, for they destine all the rest, throughout eternity, to rewarding or punishing what one did when alive,’ we would simply alter it to say ‘first two centuries’? I have heard people say we are living in a golden age, but the golden age has passed—I’ve seen it in the churches all over Latin America where the gold is like glue. The Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages but only because they are forgotten, because the past is shrouded in darkness, because as we lay one century of life on top of the next, everything that has come before seems old and dark—technological advances provide the illusion of progress. The most horrendous tortures carried out in the past are still carried out today, only today the soldiers don’t meet face to face, no one is drawn and quartered, they take a pill and silently hope a heart attack doesn’t strike them first. We are living in the age of dissociation, speaking a government-patented language of innocence—technology is neither good nor evil, neither progress nor regress, but the more advanced it becomes, the more we will define this era as the one of transparent secrets, of people living in a world of open, agile knowledge, oceans unpoliced—all blank faces, blank minds, blank computers, filled with our native programming, using electronic appliances with enough memory to store everything ever written invented at precisely the same moment we no longer have the desire to read a word of it.”
― John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque”
John M. Keller
“Truth filters itself into our perception through our experiences and is mired by our preconceptions; the true revelation of truth is the elimination of itself in the solvent of experience, its dregs floating to the top, where they can be skimmed out with a ladle and discarded, leaving us only with the marinade, the whole no longer existing, only something of its essence remnant in the taste.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
tags: truth
“But now books and men had gone their separate ways. Who has the patience for a book? Only a book.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
“In literature, the reader standing at the threshold of the end of a book harbors no illusion that the end has not come—he or she can see where it finishes, the abyss the other side of the last chunk of text. Which means that the writer is never in danger of ending too soon—or if he does the reader has been so forewarned. This is the advantage a book has over a film—it is the brain that marshals forward the text and controls the precise moment of conclusion of the book, as the density of the pages thins. A film can end without you if you’ve fallen asleep or, because you can’t wait any longer to use the bathroom, slipped out of the darkness of the theatre salon, and missed it. There will never be a form more perfect than the book, which always moves at your pace, that sits waiting for you exactly where you’ve left it and never goes on without you.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
“We had traveled far and long to get here but were still the same still-born, unreconstructed people who had once met on this landscape that began somewhere not too far south of the south and ended all the way up in the northernmost extremes of the north, and every soul begotten upon this land was a bastard child of that interminable human equation: colonizer and colony, slave and master, rapist and victim, and any pledge to loyalty and patriotism was an oath to both parts of this equation—we were the seconds obliviously turned up on the old, unregenerate battlefield, here to fight in history’s redundant, never-ending duel, always carrying someone else’s sword and flag in the name of the myth.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque
“Fear finds its prey in adolescents for the exact same reason fearlessness does. Every cut, scrape, broken arm or cancer is a cut, scrape, broken arm or cancer that has yet to arrive, that is on the sidelines waiting, along with fate and the story of your life, of everything bad that can happen, some of which will happen—but right now, they’re purely theoretical. It is up to the adolescent’s imagination to make them bleed, to make them hurt.”
John M. Keller, Abracadabrantesque


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