Tragically Comic

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Matthew 10:39

Imagine affairs that begin only in their end. Imagine states whose possibilities are their impossibilities. Imagine objects that acquire value only when they’re lost. Imagine truths that are known only through falsity. Imagine things that possess us the greater our distance. Imagine actions that are impossible in their eminent possibility. Imagine resolutions that come only through dissonance. Imagine joys that are of, in, and through melancholy. Imagine games that one loses before one begins.

Let’s provisionally call these scenarios tragedies. But imagine that they’re comedies, divine comedies, too. 

As you can see, I was planning to write about this big hairy bulging mess of important stuffs that comes always with their opposites. Things like fiction and reality, truth and falsity, comedy and tragedy, all that interesting shabam. It was, however, aborted like most of my essays. But this abortion, I’ve come to realize, may be the best illustration of this existential catch-22 of the inseparability of failures and successes.

Essay writing is always in a cul-de-sac. I can’t write about what I understand, don’t understand, or half-understand. As you can appreciate, this seems to make it impossible.

Writing about what I understand is a waste of energy. There’s no point to repeat what I already know (at least in an essay—artistic endeavors are more robust to reformulations). The excitement and awe in discovering new stuff disappear, and I’m left half-dreary, half-depressed in the meaningless repetition of the same.

Writing about what I don’t understand is plain impossible. With so many open ends and unfinished businesses, it’s impossible to make this essay the wonderful journey a proper essay is supposed to be, for how can readers have a good time when the guide knows not where he is going? It’d be like doing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas without being Hunter S. Thompson. You, and everyone with you, are fucked.

Writing about what I half-understand is even more frustrating. For there I realize—and this is always the case—that I was deluded, and this subject is so intricate and subtle and just plain hard that I really have no clue at all about it at all. I always fail to tame the unknown in my half-understanding, but it rather tamed by it, left forlorn in the darkness of the wide sea. And if I am not messed around like that, the situation is only worse. It only means that I’ve picked the wrong thing to write about. Something too trivial. Else how can I ever understand it?

An essay, then, as an assay, always fails. Efforts at completing an essay only undermine it by exposing either the triviality or impossibility of its completeness. We can perhaps call this somewhat depressing situation a Tragedy, as I did in the introduction. But here the impasse of the essay fulfills the comic in the tragic, and thus matches the phenomenon that I was trying to describe: The incompleteness of each individual attempt is what makes life so infinitely fascinating, imbuing wonder into, and through, finality. Writing essays would be no fun if I don’t fail all the time. It would be no fun if the subject is always beyond my comprehension. We can do nothing more horrible to a person than to leave them with no problems and troubles, and to leave everything complete. We are creatures of incompleteness and need such lack to be complete. The incompleteness and openness of an essay, whilst it dooms it to failure, also make its success possible. Since we can, at least, talk about this incompleteness, as I’m doing here.

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