Ghosting the ghosts

Gustave Doré, The vision of Purgatory and Paradise by Dante Alighieri (London and New York: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin [1868?]

What is writing if not a congregation of ghosts, a reunion of traces? Disembodied presence, tangible absence, the past peeking and claiming underdetermined time.

Every text is new, but every word is old. Some are newly coined, freshly recomposed, but their parts are old and must be old. Meaning depends on wear and tear. The new is always confusing, borderline nonsensical. The challenge with the old is that it’s complacent, worshipping its own shadow. Old words are venerable, but they can easily become hackneyed. Use runs the risk of overuse.

We need as many ghosts as we can get. When a word dies, it goes to Humdrum Plains, where the land is flat to the point of platitude. There are no ghosts in this wordly Inferno, only discarded images and repudiated signs. Before they reach the Plains, they take a detour via social media. There they metastasize into clichés, formulaic disembodied and disemboweled smudges on the face of texts.

But the ghosts are what makes up the land of living words. Ghosts of transformed language, of evolved meaning, of rhetorical acrobatic, of compassionate connotation. These ghosts run in the machine of language-making. No living idiom can do without them. They come from afar, they come slowly and they come in pairs, the sign and its meaning. Sometime they become estranged, but in the end they find each other.

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