Wednesday, May 23, 2007


1. strictly, The state of longing for, desiring, craving; appetite, passion. But also used as = APPETENCE. Const. of, for, after.
2. Instinctive inclination or propensity.
3. Of things inanimate: Natural tendency, affinity.
4. Metaph. Suggested term including both desire and volition, as distinguished from cognition and feeling.

--from the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition)

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Internal darkness, deprivation
And destitution of all property,
Desiccation of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.

--from T. S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton"

Oh, dear--a quotation from T. S. Eliot and a definition from the OED? I'm afraid this post might sink under the weight of its own pretensions before it's even begun.

I was tempted to write this without quoting the poem, but for all his over-writing and high-falutin' allusions Eliot captures some of what I've been thinking about lately perfectly. I've quoted this particular passage because it describes better than I could myself the two modes in which I find myself stuck these days: the "tumid apathy with no concentration" in the "twittering world," where I can't seem to manage to string two coherent thoughts together; and the "world of perpetual solitude," where I'm stuck in my own head, incommunicado.

It's not that I lack desire--far from it--or drive. I suspect all this would be easier if I were truly apathetic, and could just curl up in the twilight that is my poor impaired brain. But I'm assailed (an Eliot-worthy word!) by visions I don't have the energy or focus to realize. I can't even describe them. So many things flit through my head that I can't corral them into any sort of coherency.

It's not permanent, I know that; when my energy comes back, so will my brain, more or less. And somewhere, somewhere there must be a balance, a way to reconcile the twittering and the stillness and actually do something useful.