Word of the Year, 2023

John invites us to
"revisit last year's word (which, I'm sure, we all remember clearly!),
and see what word emerges for the coming year."

My first thought is to stick with Narrative, a subject I continue to discover more facets to as I sort through old materials and discover new ones. My yellow pads


are evidence of the year's work, pretty much a day-to-day log of my explorations and discoveries, my own Narrative of doings, and of how I got to now.

  1. That archive of rabbit holes is primarily for me, the Story I tell myself, and star in, and draw upon whenever somebody asks me what/how I'm doing. And I'm pretty much focused on curating the elaboration of that Story. Not that many people do ask, but I'm ready if and when.

    Part of why I'm sticking with Narrative is that very little in the way of personal circumstances, material and otherwise, has changed in the last year—which might seem like a rut, but doesn't feel that there's nothing happening: progress is measurable in books read, photographs taken and thought about, musical explorations as listener and player. There are hardly any new faces in the acquaintanceship.

    Narrative in that sense is me-centered, so I ask myself: what other people's Narratives have I involved myself with in this last year? Quite a few, really; and I've been conscious of attending to the matter of how people's lives unfold. I don't read a lot of biography, but I do /collect/ life stories when they're included with other material I work with, and there's plenty to be fascinated by in the lives of people like Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock. And I do like to listen to other people's tellings of their life stories, just as I enjoy following the fictional and dramatized Tales of Netflix and Amazon video episodes.

    I think of the range of British and other European cop series, in which the nominal hero is more or less a flawed character, but good at what they do in the Profession, and in dramatic tension with other characters.

  2. Another Narrative engagement is the making up of backstories: my rock photography is pretty much an exercise in Narrative construction, elucidating character and personality as observed in portraits, fitting them into larger frames. Like, I swear this one is Spiro Agnew:


    and this one is a meditation on epidemiology
    (infection inhaled, cough expectorated...)


  3. Another facet of the Narrative is found via novels in which I am drawn into the Story: Elizabeth Strout's Lucy Barton series, Elena Ferrante's Neapolitans, Olga Tokarczuk's protagonists, the ragtag characters of Arundhati Roy, and various characters with whom I become embroiled in sci-fi and fantasy. Partly this is a matter of enjoying the craft of fiction, and the art of explication of why characters do what they do.

  4. Another Narrative I've been curating (by reading about, gathering up resources, sorting out) is Terrestrial history: Gaia and the geology and atmosphere that Life is entangled with. That line of inquiry continues to spawn new book orders, and is chronicled in my 'benevolent universe' page (still Under Construction...)

  5. And another Narrative is gradually emerging in the rapidly-developing world of 'Artificial Intelligence', mostly gathering up web references on a tracking AI page, and working with that corpus of links: extracting trenchant passages, bolding juicy parts.

  6. There are probably other examples of Narratives I'm actively engaged with that should also be in this list. One is surely the annual State of the World discussion on The WELL, hosted by Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowski, an almost indescribably broad forum now in its 23rd iteration, and always a potent source of yet more fascinating rabbit holes.

...but the point is, these are all campaigns to learn more, to put together pieces, and to construct an informed and continuously updated picture of what's out there that contributes to my understanding. The why? question still lurks behind such enterprises, and curiosity is my primary motivation in these essays and assays to know more, to assemble a broader understanding. And I'm quite consciously at work on the process of BEING sui generis, one's own person. James Thurber to the rescue:

"I am the Golux," said the Golux proudly, "the only Golux in the world, and not a mere Device."

Perhaps I should affect an indescribable hat...

On Monday night, as Betsy was finishing Rebecca Mead's wonderful My Life in Middlemarch, she ran across this marvelous quote from the agéd George Eliot, than which nothing seems more trenchant and à propos:

In fact, my mind is embarrassed by
the number and wide variety of subjects that attract me,
and the enlarging vista that each brings with it.