Beyond Meta-Dialogism

Among the possible phenomenological circumstances meta-dialogism must account for— when a distinct, cohesive voice within an individual’s consciousness manifests, but the voice is (here) of an Other. If the voice is not the voice of the subject, credibility becomes an issue, and with it a relevant phenomenological inquiry— can a given subject channel the voice of an Other with accuracy, so that a distinct “Other” voice is also a credible one within his/her consciousness? Elegy 268 posits this inquiry without offering an answer:

Satin blouses, trinkets (some kind of
jade pendant), & the big trinket between
her legs that nobody gets to play with.
Rare meat. She’s been babied by her
parents since her birth (Rabbit year,
a juxtaposition more sad than ironic),
and suddenly I can teach her something?
And I thought of what she was telling
herself in response, and the words came
to me, “I’m doing this because I promised,
my Mom wants me to do this, now I promised, I have to do this.”

This inquiry also sets in place a novel facet of meta-dialogism— distinct, cohesive voices within an individual’s consciousness which are nonetheless generated from without, rather than from within. In practice: when the “words come” to the Elegiac Protagonist in 268 (“I’m doing this because I promised…”), and he (we assume) is channeling the doomed, rich brat who is the subject of the Elegy, where exactly do the words come from? The Elegy does seem to imply that the woman being addressed is simple enough (and a naïf enough) that to channel her voice would not be much of a challenge for the Protagonist. This returns us precisely to a point already made about Elegy 414— the Elegies, as a series, invite us to examine the phenomenological issue of how much, or to what extent, humans can (for want of a more graceful phrase) infiltrate, inhabit, and colonize each other’s brains. Or: to what extent individual consciousness is permeable, both to be assimilated into the consciousness of Others and to assimilate what may hover “in the air,” the consciousness of Others. This takes phenomenology (from the Elegies on out) into a realm of mysticism, possibly against empiricism, its standards of measurement— yet there is nowhere else for the inquiry to go.

However, as seen in 268, the function of meta-dialogism in an individual consciousness is seen to change— rather than being strictly self-contained, it is involved in processes (of assimilation, of imitation) beyond itself, and beyond the boundaries of conventional subjectivity. This perceived mysticism or post-subjectivism, inhering in meta-dialogism, incorporating distinct voices of Others “owned” by the subject as phenomenological “assets,” becomes an intangible force, another way or manner of realizing the reality (mystical or not) of the human world. Significantly, it is a spiritualized world, however elegiac, for the Elegiac Protagonist, multi-dimensional, various, and angled against the “inertness model” which constitutes Cheltenham’s surface of appearances. This, indeed, is what a Cheltenham subject may own, against Cheltenham— the mobility of developed, multifarious consciousness. This consciousness chafes against both the inertness of Cheltenham’s manifested appearances (in 268, a frigid, frozen-into-place family context) and imposes a multi-dimensional perception of human life on Cheltenham’s rigid, mourned-for singularity.

The Cogito in 268 for the Elegiac Protagonist (his “I think”) is exercised for the imaginative purpose of making real to himself seedy, materialistic lives (including, quite possibly, and in part, his own)— and the process of reifying these lives, for the Protagonist, shifts him into the elegiac consciousness-space, the apotheosis of using one’s mind to configure the mindless. The problem with Cheltenham’s mindless, repetitive rituals is that they do involve subtlety, and nuance; it is just that the participants are not supposed to register this. If they do, the hypnotic spell of inert matter dissipates into the nothingness of self-perceived, self-avowed deterioration, decay, and psycho-affective dissolution. Cheltenham’s inert surface is there to be clung to, against sinister under and over-currents, and, as a physical/metaphysical site, is its own nothingness place. Both dialogism and meta-dialogism are enemies to this surface, as is any sense of cognitive discipline in any inhabitant at all. Everything in Cheltenham has been established to isolate the individual, and consolidate inert depths with inert surfaces, both in individual and in group (often family) contexts. The nuances and subtleties of Cheltenham-as-system are all sophisticated, established routines towards homogenization, surface maintenance, and eventual decimation of individual human lives. So seems the routine in 268— a set of issues raised, and a context generated, to humiliate many parties at once. Still: if the Elegiac Protagonist is able to add another voice to his repertoire, the game is not necessarily completely a nothingness game for him.