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…the thing itself…


There is beating in my chest a muscle that, until nine weeks ago, had not been well. Now, when I am lying quite still on my pillow, it beats with such vigor that I actually vibrate. I resonate.

I have asked my doctor about this and he tells me that this is the new normal. So, my new old heart has caused me to reëvaluate much that had been the way things were.


The connection here is tenuous, whispy, but as I have lain awake most nights thinking of the life that was and that which lies ahead of me, a phrase has wafted in and out of consciousness: “the thing itself”. It offered no connection with recollected experience, so I had to look it up. “The thing in itself” or Noumenon comes from Immanuel Kant, who I cannot recall reading—ever—and if I had, his words would have passed before my eyes like bad 19th century wallpaper. Now I vaguely understand it to be the difference between the object in your hand—your hand itself, even—and the English word “hand” that you and I have agreed to call it for useful, productive conversation.

Imagine we have met for the first time. We have each come from separate worlds, lacking any common experience. My culture was unknown to you; and yours, to me. We had no shared frame of reference. There existed no Berlitz travel dictionary of useful phrases to enable even the most rudimentary exchange. We must begin with the thing itself, each thing, and build a new relationship.

So we stand on the beach where one of our ships has crashed; perhaps both of us are castaways. You pick up an object—a recently caught fish that had been flopping on the shore when we first met—and hold it out to me, seeking a name for the thing itself. “Fish” I say, and you cock your head to the side in consideration, responding “Glorb” as our shared view begins to take shape. But what I took to be a creature that lives in water, you took to mean a thing that we might now enjoy, roasted with herbs over a fire of brush gathered from the beach, as our first meal. What I had taken to be the thing, you saw not for itself but as an experience that we might enjoy together, because you were hungry and I was not. You meant “Food”.

A third alien had been observing from behind a shrub and stepped forward at that moment, offering “Bleth” as a contribution to the dialogue, not because he saw a sea creature, nor even the potential main course of a meal, but because it had been flopping about on the beach and was now quite still. Our mutual friend was observing that the fish had once been alive and was no longer. Bleth = Dead. The thing in itself had not changed but each of us had construed it differently: a thing; a commodity; a state of being.

My purpose here is private for the time being; it is for you to take as you see fit, not necessarily as the thing itself. It does, however (and as you might imagine), have everything to do with Agincourt; with the game we play of offering and naming and altering one another’s consciousness and being changed. A few have come to the sandbox with the innocent intent of strangers on a beach and I am glad for that.

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