responding to question #5

I have not been a very good blogger thus far this semester, and I know that this response is later than my own specified deadline. I'll have to deduct some points from my mid-semester blogging evaluating in a few weeks.

But anyway: my answer to question #5 involves challenging the presumptions of the question itself. The way that the question is phrased suggests that the value of a life precedes any possible autobiographical reflection on it, but (like some of you) I would invert that order: rather than reflecting value that already exists, it is the autobiography itself that imparts value. That said, I would not agree that the value of an autobiography comes from its artistic character, although that is probably an important part of the reader's experience (and presumably why Ms. Cyrus has a ghost-writer: to make the autobiography readable). Rather, I think that augustine is on to something when he regards his autobiographical account to be a "confession": by narrating his life in a particular way he is, in a sense, making it into something else, something that it wasn't when he lived those experiences that he relates, but something that it now can be given his present-day perspective on what he previously experienced. Obviously, for Augustine, this is about making his life into a particular kind of offering or testimony to God, but I don't think that's essential to the exercise -- what is essential is the notion of a summary meaning or plot, whether that involves divinity or not.

In other words, I would say that it is the performative act of writing an autobiography in the first place that produces -- the convoluted grammar in this next bit of the sentence is important -- a life that is worth having lived, at least from the vantage-point of having lived it if not from the vantage-point of actually living it. And this is a scalable process, I think: aren't the downtown memorials in some ways examples of the same kind of process, but often on a national rather than an individual level? "Why was it worth having died in this conflict? Oh, right, now we understand why they died, even if they didn't understand that themselves."

I wonder what a memorial to the "war on terror(ism)" might look like -- what stories it might tell, what experiences it might recollect, what meaning it might impart.

No comments: