Sunday, February 1, 2015

In Significance.

I have lost all sense of perspective.

I am hanging on here by the grace of...?

My skin is all that counts.

I am in significance.

A fearful drop is shrouded in swirling cloud.

I am thankful for this.

My attention is focussed on this micro-universe of slanting holds, loose bulging rock, dank cracks.

I am hyperaware of my fraility, of my insecurity.

My breathing is drowned out by deadening roar.

What monsters hide in those mountain gulleys?

Time seems to have stopped.

Heroic odyssey.

The line dangling down, is my only connection to my climbing companion.

The distance between us and the noise of the mountain-side, has cut off any reassuring communication.

I try calling out.

I hear my cries swallowed up in the mist.

"Hello! Can you hear me?"


I am effectively alone.

For what seems like hours, I dust grit off potential points of purchase with my finger tips..

I am stretching out blindly above my head, while adjusting balance on my toes.

I feel the gravity of my position, my body-weight pulling me downwards.

"Fucking idiot."

There is nobody here to hear my cursing.

I am my own best and my own worst company.

"Fucking idiot."

There is noone here to hear my cursing.

Time seems to be on pause.

"So, what next?"

I overhear myself discussing aloud my plans of action.

"If I were to put my hand there?"

"No, it's unsafe, there's a loose block."

"If that were to come off, that's a bloody big block."

"What if I moved my foot up a bit."

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck."


I abandon myself to instinct.

I have somehow moved to a higher position.

"Yes, that seems better."

I am clinging onto what appears to be a solid hold.

I have a future now.

This is some sort of minor triumph.

I am alive.

My story continues...


I am sitting here on a sofa, with a lap-top, a few tabs open on the browser, feeling around for the next move.

It comes from a friend of mine, from back then, at university.

Johnny Dawes was the greatest, bravest, rock-climber of his generation, likely unknown to anyone outside this marginal fraternity.

His first ascent of what he named "The Indian Face", up on  Clogwyn Du'r Arddu in North Wales, was, at the time, the hardest, certainly the riskiest route ever attempted.

I was, and now I am again, struck by the intensity of his description of this climb which concentrates on just a few metres of blank rock.

It owes its existence to his improbable, youthful, sense of survival.

"I went for the crux, the motion startling me like a car unexpectedly in gear in a crowded parking lot. I swarm through the roundness of the bulge to a crank on a brittle spike for a cluster of three crystals on the right; each finger crucial and separate like the keys for a piano chord. I change feet three times to rest my lower legs, each time having to jump my foot out to put the other in. The finger-holds are too poor to hang on should the toes catch on each other. All those foot-changing mistakes on easy moves by runners come to mind. There is no resting. I must go and climb for the top. I swarm up towards the sunlight, gasping for air. A brittle hold stays under mistreatment and then I really blow it. Fearful of a smear on now-non-sticky boots I use an edge and move up, a fall fatal, but the automaton stabs back through, wobbling, but giving its all and I grasp a large sidepull and tube upward. The ropes dangle uselessly from my waist. Arthur Birtwhistle on Diagonal, I grasp incuts and the tight movement swerves to a glide as gravity swings skyward."

Johnny Dawes 


My desire to write this post, the discovery of the title: "In significance" , my recounting of these moments of life captured on pieces of blank rock came to me on reading a post by Keith Hamon entitled Deleuze, Serres, and the Desires of Prepositions.

In the article he charts his emerging exploration of prepositions in blog posts over a period of a year.

He structures his article as a travelog, following the flow of his reflection, as if it is flowing down the Chattooga river.

There is a moment where he talks of river noise:

"there is no position outside the noise, no objective stance away that says the noise is over there apart from me, and I can assess it and judge it from over here apart from over there. If you've ever run a wild river such as the Chattooga, then you understand noise. On the Chattooga, you are always inside the noise, part of the noise. The noise flows through and around you. There is no transcending the noise of the river, nor is the noise transcendent. The noise is always immanent. Actually, transcendent as something beyond and immanent as something inherent mean nothing in the noise. The noise simply is, and you are simply in it, differentiated more or less at different times, but never distanced. Your own noise is included in the noise but not inclusive of it."

Keith Hamon

It was these lines which brought me back with a jolt to a precarious stance on the South Pillar of the Mont Aiguille which I climbed twenty years ago.

I heard again the noise of the wind blowing through the gulleys, ducked again on hearing the terrifying whoosh of dropping boulders.

I was reminded of Johnny Dawes.  

We are as one, humbled, in our insignificant significance.

"You fucking idiot."
"Fuck, fuck, fuck."

There we are at a crux again.

"My God, oh my God , why have you forsaken me?"

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34


"I  thirst"

John 19:28

Momentary points of connection...

We, myself, Keith, Johnny..., reach out to tangible features for purchase, engage dialogue with ourselves, with others...

"Dialogue is an open-ended engagement in that zone between order and chaos, and while we want the dialogue to end in order (a meaningful consensus), chaos is always at hand and possible. Dialogue, then, is dynamically poised between promise and terror, meaning and nonsense, consensus and strife, resolution and dissolution." 

Keith Hamon

There are moments where we grasp preposterous solidity.

I am reminded of Keith's description of seizing on prepositions.

I am reminded of Johnny's description of  holding onto 'a cluster of three crystals'.

"I really had no idea how to proceed, but I had an intuition based on Serres' "argument for considering prepositions, rather than the conventionally emphasized verbs and substantives, as the linguistic keys to understanding human interactions." To my mind, "prepositions are the connective, connecting tissue that connects this to that in a pattern that works and makes sense." If I could follow the prepositions in the CAE, then I was certain that they would tell me something I might not otherwise learn."

Keith Hamon 

I am struck by, what I sense instinctively to be, the expression of elemental emotivity, through our relationships with prepositions. 

  • Thirst.
  • Hunger.
  • Longing.
  • Belonging.
  • Curiosity.
  • Self-realisation.
I am not sure how far I will be able to map out these instincts.

Before any act, we are assailed by conflicting desires for sustenance, for security, for movement, for companionship... 

I am struck by Johnny Dawes's description of a survival instinct.

"I swarm up towards the sunlight, gasping for air."

Johnny Dawes

At each crossroads,  at each intersection, dynamic, emotive force becomes multiplied, unitary being disintegrates into swarm, we become irrational automaton.

Individual stories are reduced to a "smear."

We hold out for rational explanation of our acts.

We hold onto a/our?/their? storyline.

There are times when this will suffice.

I return to Keith's descent of the Chattooga:

"At last, I thought I knew what I was doing, and I could get on with the business of doing rather than just surviving. Now I merely had to learn how to follow prepositions and note where they might lead." 

Keith Hamon.

As Keith continues this study of prepositions, he experiences disintegration into "iSwarm."

There appears throughout his reflection a desire for grasping meaning, a frantic attempt to orientate, to map a sure route, to connect. 

I am flung back to either ors, to dichotomies.

I am alive, I am apart, I am found, I am lost, We are together, I am dead.

Desire to be 'one with nature' to be one 'with a crowd', to belong, to be apart, speak to me of survival, of  hearts beating, of lungs breathing, of search for recognisable limits, of struggle for place, of play, of our attempts to define our unique silhouettes in the shadows of others, to make a unique smear.

We are, I sense, touching on the essence of what gives life, what drives life, what contains life. 

We are, indeed, in significance.

We are one, we are all, we are nothing.

We are story.

There is no story.

This makes enough sense to me.

I am content with company.

There is no more to me.

"It is finished."

John 19:29-30

Image credits

Mont Aiguille in Winter Michel

World's busiest intersection.


  1. Embodied knowing, tacit in the rockface, alive but always mortal.

    Here is an annotated link with some dialogue and some OED and some dialogue in the OED and one big fat ambiguous quote from Charles Sander Peirce:

  2. I guess I lost it. A concrete example of insignificance.