Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Early morning poem

Traffic beaten black and blue.
This tarpaulin sky. This tongue-red
pillar box in amongst the grey.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007


Darwin gets the popular-culture credit for slaying the serpent, or at least for unsettling the grounds for belief in God. But if the Intelligent Design kerfuffle shows anything it's that Darwinism only needs to be bent a very little way out of shape for it to become not only compatible with, but actively supportive of, religious dogma. Wouldn't a better hero figure be the equally bearded John Venn? For much more corrosive of the metallic supports of religious belief is a proper understanding of frequency probability. Or to put it another way; if God does not play dice, and if it turns out that the cosmos does play dice, actually; then the only logical conclusion is ...

Monday, 29 January 2007

The water-surface dwellers

Life developed in the water in the forms both of grazers and predators-upon-grazers. When life developed on land, it took the form of both plant-eating and planteating-eating creatures. In the air there are birds that eat insects, and there are hawks and kites that eat birds-that-eat-insects. We might say, indeed, that wherever life evolves it takes this form of beast and predator.

It's true also of liminal places: the beach, half-land, half-sea; the treetops, half-land-half air, both territories with their specific inhabitants and specific predators. But, wait: what about the surface of the water? That interface between water and air? All those ducks and swans and geese ... why is there no hawk-swan, or falcon-duck? Why, of all the animals adapted for life on the surface of the water, are none of them predators? What makes that environment so special?

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Why is there something rather than nothing?

It's always seemed to me that this philosophical chesnut isn't a wff. For to ask 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' presupposes that there is, actually, something rather than nothing. In fact, if we're going to pose a question with two terms ('something', 'nothing') then we have to ready ourselves for the inevitable two-by-two matrix:

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why is there nothing rather than something?
Why is there both something and nothing?
Why is there neither something nor nothing?

Now in two of these cases (the first and third) the somethingness of something clearly trumps the nothingness of nothing; or to put it another way: what would the cosmos look like if there were something rather than nothing? [answer: pretty much as it does now.] And what would the cosmos look like if there were both something and nothing? [answer: pretty much as it does now]. And four reveals two in its true light; not as the exclusion of something, but as the dialectical balance of nothingness (ground) and somethingness (relief), which leads back to the same question-and-answer. what would the cosmos look like if there were nothing rather than something? [answer: pretty much as it does now]

The only question that does not lead us to the cosmos pretty much as it is now is four. And this is a problem. But it is a differently weighted problem than the one implied in the usual formulation of the question: not a 50-50 mystery 'something? nothing?' (which balances ontologically on the knife-edge) but a 75-25 split, weighted heavily on the former term, 'something'. Which in turn suggests one possible answer to the question.

Q: Why is there something rather than nothing?
A: Well, it's not a necessary state of affairs, but it is the more probable one (three times as probable as the alternative). Therefore, as water runs downhill, the cosmos just happened to slide into the probability declivity and here we are.

But how satisfying an answer is that?

Saturday, 27 January 2007

L'Oedipe de Goux

"Oedipus before the Sphinx. In the confrontation between the obscure monster who poses riddles and the person who victoriously replies “man” we have the condensation of a decisive historical step, a threshold of thought, a turning point of the spirit. Man is finally at the centre. That is why Hegel made this mythic episode the primitive scene of philosophy." Jean-Joseph Goux, Oedipus, Philosopher, p.163

Fair enough, we might say. But then again: the actual Sphinx, the cosmos, asks no questions of man. The actual Sphinx is perfectly indifferent to us. The only being that asks questions of man is man; and when we think of the cosmos as a questioning entity (‘what is my universal law of gravitation? What is my dark matter? What is my end and origin?') we are of course only projecting ourselves, gassy and vague, upon the enormous screen of uncaring materiality. In effect there is no ‘between’ for the Sphinx and man. There is only man. Man is not so much 'finally at the centre', as finally the centre, margins and everything else too. It would be better to say not Oedipus, philosopher, but Oedipus, solipsizer.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Preferring animals to people

This is supposed to be a peculiarly English trait, but I do wonder. There are any number of horse-loving men called Philip and women called Philippa, but I don't know anybody called Philander or Philgynos. Indeed 'philander', as a word rather than a name, has only negative connotations ...

Thursday, 25 January 2007

North wind poem

North wind hisses on
the water, silk-on-silk,
airborne promises
men and women,

of light going her to him
passing on to
where the north wind
hisses colder blue.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Hamlet, advise

Dear Critic
Is it really possible to kill somebody by pouring poison into their ear?

Dear Concerned.
Physiologically, no: it would be very difficult for a poisonous material to enter the bloodstream in sufficient quantities through the ear, unless there were extensive lacerations on the inside of the ear canal. But this is not what Shakespeare is getting at. The notion of Claudius pouring poison into Old Hamlet’s ears actually invokes the ancient trope of the Bad Advisor—the monarch’s councillor who offers bad advice, of the sort that might well prove fatal to the King. This character, the Bad Advisor pouring metaphorical, verbal ‘poison’ in a King’s ear is something that retains its potency in modern times. Think of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the damage wrought by the evil advisor Wormtongue. Think of the anxiety generated in the popular press by contemporary political advisors, the Alastair Campbells and spin doctors—unelected, unaccountable, yet capable of influencing Prime Ministers and Presidents to good or ill with their advice. How can we be sure whether the advice they are giving our leaders is good or bad?

Dear Critic
I’m a student (a reader, an actor) and I have to study/read/perform Hamlet—and so I want to try to understand what’s going on in it. But it’s such a famous play, the most famous play of all; and there are so many layers upon layers of critical interpretation wrapped around it, much of it rebarbatively difficult, that I don’t know where to start. What is it about? Can you help me?

Dear Student/Reader/Actor
When a play has accreted as much commentary and analysis as Hamlet it does tend to become barnacled-over so thoroughly that it can barely sail any more—and yet the ‘proper’ critical answer to your question (which would go something like: ‘what is Hamlet about? It’s far too complex and enormous a text to be summarised in a brief sentence!) surely underplays precisely the power and immediacy of dramatic achievement that made the play a classic in the first place …

Hamlet is about many things: the situation in the Court at Elsinore is ‘about’ politics and the protocols of social interaction; the scenes with the ghost are ‘about’ the relations between the living and the dead; the main character is somebody who isn’t quite sure what he should do, and who is surrounded by people happy to offer him all sorts of, usually conflicting, advice. Indeed, it is advice in the broadest sense that is the heart of this play; the role of official political ‘advisors’; the advice offered to people in more general senses; by the ghost to the living Hamlet; by Hamlet to the players; by Laertes to Ophelia; by Polonius to anybody prepared to listen.

Advice is a strange thing. If you are in an undoubted position of authority you can command; but if you are not—and that’s most of us—then the best you can do is advise, and people can choose to follow your advice or not. Unsolicited advice is particularly problematic (Polonius has become a byword for offering tedious and unwanted advice), as is advice from those who don’t really know what they’re talking about offered to those who do (what right has Hamlet, who isn’t—after all—a professional actor, to advise the players—who are—on how to perform?). How often do we regard the advice we receive in our day-to-day as helpful, and act upon it? How often do we think of those who offer us advice as meddlesome, tiresome, intrusive and worse? How coercive is advice? How pertinent? These are the things that, in a deep way, Hamlet is ‘about’.

At the end of your query you ask ‘can I help you’. Is it really an academic critic’s job to be helpful? What a revolutionary notion! Some might say that it is rather to serve a higher hermeneutic truth; to excavate original critical perspectives, to make, as official academic rubrics put it, ‘a positive contribution to world knowledge.’ What this tends to boil down to is: to demonstrate how very clever and very advanced the particular academic’s critical intelligence is. You may read contemporary academic criticism and think ‘but that’s too arcane and puzzling for me to understand’ … yet would you expect to pick up and read the professional writings of an advanced mathematician, a geologist, a physicist? Why should the professional idiom of an academic literary critic be any less specialised and difficult?

Because (the retort seems obvious) whilst not just anybody can understand the higher mathematics, almost anyone can watch Hamlet with pleasure and benefit. The best literature helps us life; it offers us advice on our own lives. And what of the critic? The critic cannot command you to read a play in a certain way, and nor should s/he. The critic is the reader’s advisor, not commander, after all.

Dear Critic
I am an Elizabethan living in the last years of the sixteenth-century. Do not misunderstand me—for I love and reverence my Queen—when I say that I have certain anxieties in being ruled by a female monarch. I remember still the words of John Knox, in his First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstruous Regiment [ie Rule] of Women of 1558 that monarchs ‘oght to be constant, stable, prudent and doing euerie thing with discretion and reason, whiche vertues women can not haue in equalitie with men … Nature doth paint [women] furthe to be weake, fraile, impacient, feble, foolishe: and experience hath declared them to be vnconstant, variable, cruell and lacking the spirit of counsell and regiment’. Women are not made for governance; and for a Queen to refuse to take a husband leaves the sacred Authority ambiguous and fearful.

I am content that God hath anointed Elizabeth as Queen, but I fear that actual governance is performed by her advisors, those in the shadows behind the throne, men I know not, nor are they appointed to their role by divine grace. Is there a work that expresses these anxieties, that works through the subtle channels of advice and the way that advisors operate in the social and political world?
Elizabethan Everyman.

Dear Elizabethan Everyman
The work you want is Hamlet by William Shakespeare, which dramatises precisely your concerns, and expands its meditations on the nature and range of Advice in an extraordinary number of ways.

The anxieties you talk about are present today, although perhaps less specifically gendered. But when the last Pope, suffering in the last stages of Parkinson’s disease, is widely thought incompetent to offer spiritual authority, some Catholics worry ‘but who, then, is commanding the Church? Which shadowy advisor is the real power behind the Papal throne?’ The American President Ronald Reagan occupied his office whilst suffering from the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and contemporaries joked that it was his wife, and her astrologer, were the ones really running the world: but these were jokes that betrayed their anxieties. Increasingly today the model for political authority adheres to that dramatised in Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: the notional President is a charismatic but ineffectual figure, an actor whose job is to distract attention; real power if wielded from behind the scenes, the hidden figure, the advisor; and because Power is perceived as hidden, as advising rather than commanding, as oblique rather than direct, then it becomes the locus for cultural anxieties. But of course I cannot expect you to know who these people are of whom I speak.

Dear Critic
I’m concerned about the trivialisation of contemporary culture—which is to say, our early twenty-first century culture—and in particular the cancerous metastisation of Advice as a discursive category. It’s as if we can’t make up our minds any more without writing to a magazine agony aunt, or tuning into to a TV show on which an ‘expert’ offers us advice on living, loving and everything else, or a newspaper astrology column advising us about our coming day without knowing anything about us—everywhere we turn, some self-appointed advisor is spouting some pious sententious cliché. It infuriates me. I appreciate the irony of writing to you, asking your advice on what to do about advice, but—what can I do? Can you help?

Dear Angered
But this is not a new thing: the discourse of Advice has been a cultural dominant since before Shakespeare’s day: homilies, sermons, books of precepts—via the conduct manuals of the Victorian age—to magazine articles today offering ‘ten ways to keep your marriage fresh’ and ‘fifteen routes to a younger you’ … offering advice to readers has been one of the most important facets of print culture. It is surprising, in fact, that nobody has yet written a cultural history of advice, from Greek sybils to modern-day pundits, experts, agony aunts and advisors.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The house near the sea

I was certain it was Seferis who called the human head 'the house near the sea'; but I can't seem to find it anywhere in his writing. My misremembrance, maybe.

Monday, 22 January 2007


There may or may not be power in the more familiar forms of secretive behaviour. But what about the public secrecy? Getting married, wearing a ring, but telling nobody that you've gotten married; a public blog where nobody is given the url; that sort of thing. Is there power in that, or is it a self-delusion?

Sunday, 21 January 2007


‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken,’ says Stephen. Which, I suppose, speaks to some buried human presentist belief that we awake in the morning once and for all, the dawn that gleams around us will never depart. Nietzsche might say: ‘wake from history’s nightmare, if you like; have a day in which you banish it from your mind; but you’ll go to sleep again, and the nightmare will recommence, and again the night after, and after that, until you begin to understand that it’s not a nightmare, or more precisely that nightmare and pleasant dream are both to be joyously willed, as the necessary and eternal return.

The whole eternal return thing is the acid test for readers of Nietzsche, of course. If you come across somebody who says ‘well, of course he can’t have meant that doctrine literally’, then you know you’re dealing with somebody who hasn’t understood what Nietzsche meant at all…

Saturday, 20 January 2007


It is interesting to see a word shift meanings before, as it were, our very eyes. Trangression and transgressive are a long way on the way to acquiring wholly positive meanings (something like 'liberatory', 'unconstrained', 'life-affirming', 'joyous'). Which is to say, although murder, rape, violence, imperialism and so on are still strictly speaking transgressive, they're no longer what people think of when they use that word.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Crumple zones, foam insulation

The gap between "this is more than I can understand..." and "this is more than any human brain can understand ..." The elision between those two things.

Because we grow up inbetween the two, with that comforting crumple-zone around our childish consciousnesses (there's a great deal we don't understand, but, hey, we're alright, because somebody somewhere does) -- we miss it when we find ourselves, stranded, in adulthood. Hence many of us react to the loss of that particular foam insulation by doing all we can to reinsulate ourselves. Hence: aporia, mysterium tremendum, God ...

Hey! we're alright again.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Music and deafness

We find an enchanting irony and a delight in the thought of a deaf composer, like Beethoven. But does this translate into the other senses? A blind painter? A chef with no tongue? A dumb orator? A leprous Casanova? What is it about music that makes it special in this way?

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Comet poem

That's no tail, but a root;
the bright bulb fixed in the sky;
the sky moving.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007


The conclusion to Pater's The Renaissance--which is where most of the famous quotations from the book are to be found--begins with a footnote. 'This brief "Conclusion" was omitted in the second edition of this book,' says Pater, 'as I conceived it might mislead some of those young men into who hands it might fall.' Obviously he changed his mind; and I love the 'those young men', as if he has particular young men in mind ...

Monday, 15 January 2007


The more I listen, the more I go back ...

Sunday, 14 January 2007

"I live in Trafalgar Square, four lions to guard me ..."

‘The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million,' says Henry James. That's a cunning little saw, don't you think? It seems to suggest that art requires a (what we might nowadays call) Heideggerean solidity and archictectural heft in order to accomodate its truth. But a million windows is actually a way of saying 'a house that is all window, nothing but window': in other words no house at all, just the open air. The house of art, in other words, is that place where tramps and vagrants live. And quite right too.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Apple poem

Branches do their actorly
melodramatic reaching-for-the-sky.
Nettles ruff the base of the trunks.
The apples have not altogether

gone from this orchard:
a cidery scent or tang is
somehow in the wet moss,
and the grass. Crimson

Queen, Early Bower, Green
Cornish Longstem Pippin.
Cobwebs strung with
all those clear globes.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Civil wars

In our age of globalisation the world becomes a country. This is not to say that everybody in the world lives in harmony under the logic of the free trade and freedom of religion. On the contrary; we are exactly as quarrelsome a species as we have ever been. But it does mean that from now on all wars are, in effect, civil wars. And, indeed, more than this: for the new media mean that most of us are as easily familiar with the Serengetti, with the Taj Mahal, with the mountains of Nepal and Mongolia, with the north and south poles, as any worldspanning explorer from the past centuries. In the Crimean War dispatches (including the first ever war photographs for newspaper publication) took days to arrive in Britain. In the American War of Independence news took weeks to get back to London. Nowadays we can watch war literally as it happens. We are all of us citizens of the world; most of us wouldn’t think twice about literally flying halfway round the globe; most of us take it for granted that we can pick up a phone and immediately speak to people in any and all of the world’s countries. It’s an extraordinary thing when you come to think of it, except that, like Jack, we’re mostly too busy to think about it.

There’s a weird blindness amongst many historians and commentators about civil war. Lucan put it well, ‘most uncivil civil war’: as if the pun involved in the title touches on anxieties about intrafamilial violence. But whatever the reason, we tend to forget about them. Take, for instance, the following piece of received wisdom:

“No two democracies have ever gone to war together.”

This is a very striking statement, even if we modify it as its advocates usually do (no two properly functioning democracies have ever gone to war together: for there have been countries, like the People’s Republic of North Korea or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that have been at war with democracies). Actually, say the commentators, there is one trivial exception to this statement. During the Second World War Great Britain (a democracy) went to war with Nazi Germany (a dictatorship). In the early stages of that War the Soviet Union (a dictatorship) signed a pact with Hitler, They later broke this pact, and went to war against Germany themselves. But whilst the pact held Russia and its satellite states—including Finland—were technically ‘at war’ with Britain. Finland at this time was a democracy, so although no actual hostilities broke out between these two countries there was a brief period when two democracies were at war. In name alone. But apart from this, no two democracies have ever gone to war together.

This is quite an important piece of received wisdom in the circles of Power. It underpins, for instance, the belief that by bringing democracy to the former dictatorships of Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA will be ensuring peace in the future. The idea is that democracies are somehow allergic to war; it’s too disruptive, to expensive. It may not personally cost a dictator very much to go to war, sitting in his luxury bunker; but going to war kills ordinary people, and in a democracy ordinary people are the Boss.

But is it true? No, it’s not true. There are so many counter examples that it’s embarrassing that this doctrine is so widely believed. Ancient Greece, for instance—which is, after all, where the term ‘democracy’ comes from—was composed of warring cities, many of which were ruled along democratic lines. (On the one hand cities like Ancient Athens were perhaps less democratic than modern states, because women and slaves had no representation; but in another sense they were more democratic, since the citizens did not elect representatives to govern on their behalf, but actually governed themselves, gathering in assemblies to which everybody was invited to make decisions).

But put Ancient Greece on the side for one moment. There are two absolutely central counterexamples that mark precisely the blind-spot in contemporary monopower-superpower thinking. Those two counterexamples are, exactly, the two defining wars of American history, the two conflicts that still shape US attitudes about war, and which feed into war-shows like 24. The American War of Independence. The American Civil War. Both these conflicts were wars between functioning democracies. After all it was not George III—a mentally unstable and merely constitutional monarch—who prosecuted the war on American soil; it was a series of Parliamentary Prime Ministers. And the Confederate States of America, despite their shameful commitment to slavery, were federated according to exactly the same democratically representative principles as the United States.

The logic of this dangerous piece of foreign-policy received wisdom (‘No two democracies have ever gone to war together’) is that wars are fought by enemies—by unlike peoples, by nations, tribes or religious that are alien to one another. I think a historian from the future will be astonished that anybody could have thought this at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Nowadays wars are fought by friends: by people who are similar to one another. It was a monotheistic Presidential fundamentalist, George Bush, who took his nation to war against a large group of monotheist fundamentalists; something in which he was supported by a monotheistically devout Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Secular, liberal Continental Europe largely declined to send its people to die in that war.

Thursday, 11 January 2007


George Eliot writes: ‘If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence'. Middlemarch (London: Penguin, 2003), p.194.

Isn’t it a striking phrase? What do you think she means by ‘roar’ here? In other words: is it, say, the sound of a waterfall continually tumulting in the background, because we're living unawares alongside Niagara, if only we could clear our heads of chatter and noise, and hear it? The sound of Lucretius’s trillion trillion atoms waterfalling forever through space? Or is it the roar or a lion or a monster, Grendel shouting into the storm outside our fastness? Something to scare us into dying, if we could only hear it?

If the former, then maybe it's the very familiarity and ubiquity of the sound that has silenced it in our ears. And maybe it needn't be so fatal to open our ears.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007


Nobody who has pressed their thumb to the bright glass eye of a flashlight, and seen the photons that have shot right through glowing pink-orange flesh like bullets through jelly, could ever be amazed at the invention of X-Ray.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007


What Frank Kermode brilliantly diagnoses as 'the permanent need to live by the pattern rather than the fact' [Sense of an Ending, p.11] itself expresses a will-to-pattern ... I mean in the qualification of the need as 'permanent'. Whose to say that need may not alternate with a joy in pattern-disrupting indeterminancy, and do so with no more regularity than is seen in, say, the distribution of primes?

Monday, 8 January 2007


As Nietzsche might say: 'that the terms duty, doubt and debt are all derived from the same indoEuropean root reveals something profound and interrelated about the nature of these three concepts ...'

Sunday, 7 January 2007


Of all the components of our bodies, it's our own sinews that seem most alien to us. They’re plastic cables, they’re metal-braided, not like the other stuff out of which we are made. It’s they that make us cyborgs. You seem we are comfortable with the idea that we’re from blood and flesh and bone, and we can see (and so have become used to) hair and skin. But sinews don’t seem, somehow, to belong. We are soft, or bone-hard; but we are not these control wires stretched taut throughout our airframe.

I think an apperception something like this is present in my favourite Dylan Thomas poem, ‘And death shall have no dominion’
And death shall have no dominion
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way.
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break
Faith in their hands shall snap in two
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

Such gloriously, stubbornly tough writing. Thomas’s penetrating sense of bodies acquiring an unbodily toughness in death—those sinews snapping, like faith itself, a similarly durable strand; except in the poet’s beloved republic where this cracking, severing power no longer obtains.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Driving west along the M3, Sunbury, dusk

One stammering indicator light in all the flow of red rear lamps. Overhead every metre-long streetlight-casing is the perch to a dozen birds, silhouetted upright and looking exactly like eyelashes against the apricot sky.

Friday, 5 January 2007


It is possible to die and be born again; just not as the same person. Rebirth yourself, yes, why not? -- but be sure you aren't deluding yourself, that it's not a cosmetic overhaul or make-over restyling. Change your name; leave your old life and country; speak a new language; do a new job; swap-about your previous political and cultural beliefs. This is what being born again entails; and if they were to look it hard in the face six-hundred-and-ninety-nine out of every seven hundred people who think they want to be born again would think again.

Thursday, 4 January 2007


People distinguish between 'freedom to' and 'freedom from'. But this is barely to scratch the adpositional surface. What about 'freedom of, in, for, on, with, as, by, at, against...'? 'Freedom in spite of'? 'Freedom with respect to...'? 'Freedom except for …'?

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

On 9-11

Slavoj Zizek argues that the Sept 11th terrorist attack on the New York Twin Towers ‘recalled the other defining catastrophe from the beginning of the twentieth century, the sinking of the Titanic’ [Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, p.15]. One interesting feature of the comparison is precisely the way it focuses our attention on the airborne nature of the collision: instead of the (mobile) embodiment of Western technical/ideological triumph crashing into the (unyielding) Natural Necessity, Sept 11th gave us the reverse. The iceberg flew suddenly into frame and collided with the titanic towers. It recalls Malcolm X’s famous interpretation of black America history, about not landing on Plymouth rock, but having the rock land on us. In other words, the striking thing about the Sept 11th catastrophe was our atonished realisation that an iceberg, as it were, could fly.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

A question about obviousness

What’s so wrong with being obvious? I ask because I'm starting to get a better (a less illusioned, I think) perspective on, oh, myself; and it may be that I'm one one of those people whose allergy to the obvious and fondness for the oblique runs smack-bang-ouch into the brute fact that I possess a mind and imagination that are both, as it happens, rather obvious. So I'm wondering why the allergy? And exactly in what ways, and to what extent, does the wrongness of the obviousness inhere?

I ask. I don't answer.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Death, life

‘Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through’ [Wittgenstein, Tractatus 6.4311]. But what a strangely instantaneous notion of death! And wouldn’t it be better to say that death is something we begin to live through; and that whilst we can't of course complete the ‘living through’ of death, this matters much less than you might think. Stitching full-bodied constellations out of discrete and few stars is what human beings do, after all. We all can piece together a whole play from a suitably full fragment, or extrapolate a whole statue from a trunk. Bodying forth the shape death takes as a lived event is what we start to do as soon as we start out dying; which is to say, from our youth onwards.