Chiasmic Apposition

by johannespunkt

by your secret accomplice, Johannes Punkt

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This is a tweet that we read, which traps us in a room. The first thing that strikes us upon reading it is that it starts out full of hope, which soon diminishes until nothing is left but despair. The appositives, a certain grammatical stucture, are stretched almost to the limit. We read the tweet again, for we are trapped in this room and the key is elsewhere, if existent at all.

The second reading lets us understand that the things which at first sound hopeful aren’t intrinsically imbued with hope, but the memory of the first reading overwrites their naïveté. This underlying shadow-meaning is even more clearly pronounced upon reading the Lockean “blank slate” again – we know that the tabula rasa is a palimpsest. This idea, traced out by the palimpsest, of retaining dead patterns from old lives, in turn brings us to the Groundhog Day nature in which we read the tweet:

We read the tweet again, the third time. In the movie Groundhog Day, as you know, Bill Murray can’t escape a time loop until he does it all just right (after a long hard look at his life). So too it is for us as we read Amos’ tweet again & again, or when we just live in general. To our great frustration, every day we live our life the “tomorrow” moves apace with us and displaces itself when we arduously climb the midnight threshold. Reincarnation, of course, is the same thing but on a grander scale. At the same time, we know that all life ends –

When upon another reading and another reading and another reading the meaning dies down to a dull hum, the shrill sound of form is heard. We can now see that the appositives from earlier are not the only form in need of analysis. The strucutre of Amos’ appositions is, chiasmic. Chiasmatic. Some such thing. (A chiasmus is, essentially, an X structure, that goes AB then BA, or ABC then CBA, &c.) The first 4 elements of the sentence are hopeful, the latter 4 are hopeless. Observe: [A|Tomorrow] is [B|another day], [C|full of possibilities], [D|a blank slate], [D|completely empty], [C|a void], [B|a deep abyss], [A|a cold and unforgiving waste]. (With four on each side, if you draw lines between the same letters, you will see the multiple X-shape.)

The “blank slate” and “completely empty” are two ways of saying the same thing, though their connotations are the opposite. (A “blank slate” has to be hopeful, for it is contrasted with original sin.) The same is true for the next, a void full of possibilities. Trickier to figure out are the next 2: how is “another day” opposite “a deep abyss”? The answer, as with many things, lies in Shakespeare. In The Tempest, one can hear Prospero ask: “What seest thou else / In the dark backward and abysm of time?” The abysm of time is present. I’ve explained why “tomorrow” represents the lies of time – a cold and unforgiving waste, by contrast, is the only thing time can promise:

When we read the tweet one last time we realize how we can make everything right again and stop reading the tweet: we step out of the microcosmos built up by his tweet, walk away from the internet into the larger chiasmos surrounding it, trusting that when our semantic structures are gravestones in the universe’s zero-k night we can step out of even this reality.

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