A tale of two texts

Text is like skin. There is one on the outer surface, the epidermis, and another, the dermis, lying underneath. The two layers may be perfectly connected and aligned, limpid and percolative, or they might get in another one’s way, blocking each other.

There is the text on the surface, on the hair side, so to speak, like the side of a piece of animal parchment. As you run your hand over it, you can feel the gentle bristle of where the hair used to be.

This text is superficial, lending itself to the easiest reading, always in contact with air, waterproof or porous, compelling us to engage with what lies beneath or leaving us indifferent. This is the text of the first interpretative act, the initial contact, the physical encounter, the bewitching foreplay.

The other text lies deep beneath the first one, occupying the flesh side of the parchment, smooth and creamy. It is the text of the connective tissue of meaning, never exposed, never vulnerable, but fertile in meaning, fed by the undercurrents of deep significance. This is the text that matters, protected by the integument of the first.

The second is also a trace of the first, the indelible vestige of a knocked-down temple. Shoshana Zuboff alludes to this when she writes about the problem of the two texts in the digital world: the text of our online presence, the tracks in the snow, the crumbs we leave behind; and the ghost-like text which remains after we’ve long gone, the illegible cipher of our former circumstance. Illegible by us, but not by those who built the online agora of our lonely steps. The first text may fade out, but the second is beyond our control, doomed to stand against us, scrawled in the strange cacography of our digital panopticon.

Just like skin, text can get bruised, bleed and lacerate.

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