Lost and Found Animals Part 10: The Tennessee Wallgroper: Murafactor Fictifiorianaby Sid Gershgoren
No other species except our own has engaged in the construction of walls, no other except the Tennessee Wallgroper, described by now “edge-on” animal “constructivists” as a long-living, non-aquatic, fur-bearing, marsupial-like creature with thick, retractable two-inch claws, a tamandua-like tail and a foreshortened snout (which contains an "under-skin", they say, known to glow in the dark as an “instinct prodded” warning signal).
Out of organic materials birds construct their nests, termites their urban mounds and gorillas their beds made from freshly gathered leaves. Examples of nest building are numerous, but, except for this curious animal, artificial structures, for the most part and with only slight exceptions, are found, and embellished, developed, and commented upon only in our species. Reclusive though it is, The Tennessee Wallgroper spans centuries of parallel, wall building civilizations and yet is represented by only a limited number of seemingly inconsistent observations.
A wall-building animal confronts us with problems which raise more questions than they answer. Why, of course, did this activity develop? What function does it serve? What cultural ethos, if any, does it, or can it, represent? Out of what biological or evolutionary trend did it emerge? How are its actions a response to the various environments in which it has lived? What trends (and there are trends) have developed? Are these “trends” autonomous, or are they responses to biological or climatic shifts or to other factors, like interbreeding, genetic drift, etc.? What meaning can these walls and the very activity of wall building have for our own species? And looked at from an evolutionary perspective, what can this wall-building mean for future generations of our own kind?
These are questions which many who have encountered this animal of ordinary appearance but strange, or rather different animal habits have seriously (or facetiously) attempted to answer, especially within the last two to three hundred years, when Tennessee Wallgroper scholarship has greatly increased. As in the case of so many tangential situations in biological theory, the suggestions may be more revealing than the actual data. A brief sketch will make clear the value and significance of these early encounters with this "semi-artificial" animal.
These early accounts begin with a description of various kinds of stone cairns in a rocky, usually mountainous region. These “lithic heaps” are in the form of what in New England has been called dry wall masonry, ribbons of them, often unenclosed and forming complex patterns of what looks like a kind of shielding or maze, like dominoes as each person sets them up before he enters the game, and containing in the center, a structure which grows shorter and shorter until it finally reaches a dead end. However, although the early sitings have this characteristic, and there are at times subtle variation here too, these wall organizations represent only one kind of structure. The Tennessee Wallgroper has created varieties of constructions, which we have only recently begun to understand and appreciate on the various levels of art, history, culture, and, indeed, religion.
The oldest account comes from central Mesopotamia near the city of Ur (of the Chaldees) around 3,900 BC. In one of the fragments from the newly discovered library of Assurbanipal (clay tablets compiled much later) was discovered one which, when deciphered, revealed what had been thought of as the first real encounter with this animal or, at least, with its artifacts. The account is a straightforward one. A young boy playing in the Zagros mountains, accompanied by a loose herd of other delinquent youngsters, hunting, they thought, for some treasure which was reputed to have been lost in this region, stumbled upon the ruins of an old "wall city", a series of elevated stone structures about three feet high containing ninety-four "walls" arranged in more or less parallel fashion but with significant interruptions. (Unfortunately, these boys never saw the animal itself; they saw only its "artifacts".) The number of walls, so the tablet goes on to state, is made up, even in the twelve-base Babylonian number system, of two squares, nine and four. This fact would later not go unnoticed by others.
Two thousand years were to pass before the next surviving indication of its existence was brought to light, this time from western Anatolia in present day Turkey near the town of Eskifoka at the mouth of the Gediz River. Here, a shepherd not only saw the "wall architecture" but actually observed these animals in the process of building their disjointed structures. Day after day he returned to watch, for who would not be fascinated with such an encounter? At first he saw only irregular, low mounds spread across an area of about one hundred and fifty yards and running, in a twisting fashion, roughly parallel to one another. The Wallgropers brought their “raw” stones to the building site, carrying them in their mouths (like beavers carrying newly timbered trees) and deposited them carefully on each lengthened mound. Each animal was in charge of up to a dozen mounds, on which it would deposit its carefully chosen stones, setting them with great deliberation into the already moist, pre-conditioned earth and then placing, with a precise alignment, other stones on top of them.
The shepherd, who was later able to examine more closely “the city of walls", as he called it, found that the Wallgropers had "pre-cut" each stone with their sharp teeth and, by using other working rocks harder than the actual blocks of stone, shaped each “raw” piece so that it fit exactly within the wall structure. The shepherd recounts that they worked "as fast as beavers" (and in fact compares them to beavers, but terrestrial ones). Their speed, agility, workmanship, and even artistry impressed him a great deal. He dwelt at length on the number of incisions in each block, the cutting edges of the shaping stones, the polishing techniques, and other technical questions. Later discoverers were to mention these and other qualities of workmanship, and the presence of technique; for it was technique, it has been gradually shown through a florescence of Wallgroper scholarship, which has become a major factor in the accurate classification of world-wide Wallgroper structuring.
Once one or two sightings had been reported, others appeared, until, by 842 CE, if one had listed them at that time, he might have found hundreds. From his classic work, Wallgropers of North America, Waya Hedame (wai a hed a mi), the Baltimore authority on the North American varieties, reports dozens of observations from southern Argentina to eastern Baffin Island. However, although the species remains intact in its general characteristics, the structures erected by the Wallgroper prove to be as varied as do the human architectural styles of the New World itself.
Waya Hedame shows, for instance, how, seen from above, wall maze construction provides a variety of interlocking functions. First, there is the matter of protection and, of course, physical and psychic privacy. A predator cannot have the least idea of how to enter this fortress-like, pseudo-monolith. No, the constructions are "pregnable" only from the air. And thus we would expect the survival of the Wallgroper to be greater than that of an animal in the open, protected only by its biological “givens”, for the Wallgroper has, by its building activity, closed off one area of invasion.
Also, there is what the Franco-Mexican-Chinese authority Chacon Asongu (chaconne asongu) calls "the survival value of aesthetics"; for the Wallgroper's constructions have spawned a whole body of textual, structural, historical, religious, anagogical, analogical, metaphysical, and semiotic analyses. Survival hardens into the increasingly dense kernel of this wonderful effulgence of architectural strategy. One might say, with Asongu, that expression is survival, for it calls for predators to remove themselves from the territory of a given species or elaborates itself into an indication that a given species has removed itself from its predators. Some animals have announced themselves by their colors, others by their cries, and still others by their spoor. The Tennessee Wallgroper, in its own right, has chosen to erect structures far more complex and esthetically interesting to advertise itself, equally to predator and non-predator alike.
The construction of walls follows certain cultural-geographical norms, which, in their assorted arrangement, freely provide an astounding variety of expression, while at the same time represent, for each geographical and climatic situation, a response to the “seen and unseen” environment, which takes into account both the climate and the topography of the region and also the range of predators to which the Wallgroper is constantly exposed. Adaptation of structure always overcomes historical inertia—this is the rule of Wallgroper art and architecture—and only on rare, and indeed exceptional, occasions is this rule broken or, when broken, amended.
What kind of walls are we talking about? A brief glance at the literature reveals dozens of styles. There are walls built next to each other, like books on a bookshelf (accounting for 58% of all structures), built so close that only very small animals (certainly not the Tennessee Wallgroper itself) are able to pass between them. The walls are constructed in groups of four or nine, and sometimes of sixteen (all squares, as has been noted before). The size and thickness of these walls may vary, but each group has its uniform height. Exceptions have proven puzzling, but they are almost only found when the wall group exceeds twenty-five and, for some reasons, when the total wall structure faces south. This latter wall type is most common in the temperate and Arctic regions and has caused some commentators to put forth the belief that the walls have somehow been assembled for capturing sunlight. (The white stone walls found on Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island and the Falkland Islands lend some support to this theory.) Also, another group of commentators calls our attention to the narrow space between the walls, allowing only small animals to pass, and therefore, they say, to be easily trapped within the partial enclosure.
In addition, we have come upon a vast and often jumbled variety of wall types: long and short walls, curved walls, buttressed walls, transparent walls, secret walls, soft walls, sculpted walls, walls built to collapse after a certain period of time (“artificially stressed walls”), walls exhibiting stages of roughness or smoothness, pointing and pointed walls, "wailing" walls, underground walls, walls deliberately disconnected, walls with round and square holes in them (built, perhaps, to observe the construction of other walls?), imaginary walls, heavy and light walls, walls built "lying down" (somehow in wall mythology not a good sign), shifting walls, walls with various shapes embedded in them, animal shapes found in walls, walls built of terra cotta, of volcanic ash formed into bricks, of magnesite, of soapstone, mica, or sulphur-bearing ores (easily washed away, like sandstone walls), of granite or gabbro, of easily chipped and worked flinty materials, walls whose convolutions resemble brain coral (called “thinking walls” or “brain walls”), walls recessed within other walls and those walls recessed also, walls carved out of giant basaltic granites (“wall megaliths”) . . . . The list of wall construction could go on for pages.
And it does—in our most comprehensive organization of styles of wall construction, found in the l897 edition of Thomas Sunday's Foundations of Relativistic Evasions. Sunday's three volume work is a masterpiece of organization, listing up to the year of its publication, over 3,000 possible or “likely” sites, along with documents of observation and commentaries by various subsequent scholars and others. Often, it should be added, the now multiplying others—politicos, wandering shepherds, merchants, farmers, con men, etc.—have given rise to more fertile and depth-charged speculation, have "grown more grass in the meadow" than all the all previous scholars and amateur commentators put together. (Indeed, scholars represent only a small proportion of the commentators.)
The title of Sunday's work provides a clue to his general direction of thought, for he saw the vast assemblage of these constructions as a way all living things have of evading the non-living world; in fact, as he developed his theory, life is just that evasion, meaning, of course, our well known (or attempted) evasion of death. Art, for example, becomes a further stage in the growth of complex animals, an extended evasion on the level of ordered complexity, a retraction, through form, from the tangible, the immediate world. Sunday projects, as well, a species beyond our own which evades, not through the concrete products and postures of its expansive industry, but rather through "imaginative productions", holistic worlds with postulated, mathematically precise boundaries.
An imaginatively projected religion becomes first “a vast and then a total illusion”. Sunday sees Buddhism as a movement in this direction, evolution being, in his terms, a progression from the complete bodily response in and for itself to the "projective illusion" which, for protection, thrusts itself into the “ambulatory absolute”. Beyond that no one can say, for there is no way of projecting into a "rapidly fading future". Perhaps there is a Buddhism in the Tennessee Wallgroper, and some observers, namely Cohen Halflight and Roger Millweather Nonpersona have suggested that "wall sitting", observed in some Wallgroper communities, is strikingly reminiscent of the actions of the Buddha himself. However this may be, Sunday's concept of evasion is the hallmark of his scholarly and scientific work.
The Foundations of Relativistic Evasions has created a range of commentary, exposition, artistry, profound tomfoolery, and even potent political satire beyond all proportion to the original document or even to the actual numerous sightings, real or imaginary (which have increased since the publication of his book at least four-fold). At one end of the spectrum we have writers such as McCassidy, Randolph, Perkins and Crasswell, who consider the Wallgroper's productions as the continuation of the work of termites, ants, bees, and other of the "social insects". They argue, much as does Roberta Clutch, in her recently popular book The Layering of the Beyond, that vestiges of the wave-lengthened past cling variously and tenaciously to the shoreline of the “most recent present”. The Wallgroper's productions are the mammalian equivalent of the work of termites, for, they argue, the speed, coordination, communication (on several levels) and protective structure which the Wallgroper brings to bear on its work and world rival in kind and in form the productions of those instinctively organized and tenaciously "social" insects, but, she admits, do not exceed them.
But these writers (especially Crasswell) see evolution moving from less to more generalized forms, to species which, because of a lack of ability to synthesize amino acids, have been led to greater and greater outward expansiveness to balance an inner biological absence (or abstinence). At the same time, they point to a corresponding movement toward "analytical form", echoed among those who show an affinity toward biological, social organization.
These two tendencies, dynamic outward movement and analytical form, exist in all species, but they are particularly apparent in the insects, in man, and in the Tennessee Wallgroper, a mammal in all respects (despite its marsupial characteristics) and one closely related to our species. On the one hand, a movement toward greater generality becomes, as in many other species in their general thrust for survival, a long-term strategy to prolong not individual lives but the life line of the species; and on the other, short-term desire (responding to a scale of environmental difficulty) creates almost instantaneous analytical solutions to immediate problems and encourages the structural reach of integrative and “interpenetrative solutions”. And where these intersect, we have an "event", standing by itself, "indivisible", and stretching from context through context into an infinite “event horizon”. This contrastive and yet cooperative division we find in our own species, of course, integrated into man's social and economic institutions.
The joke (or, at the least, humorous story), for instance, is the response of analytic form, which encapsulates experience in a caccoon of analysis and social interconnectedness just as the caterpillar or wasp or other insects weave a caccoon around themselves or their prey. The energy released by conquest is "dissipated energy" while that released by self-conquest is "stored” or “harvested” energy. For example, the economic institution of capitalism, they point out, "tends toward short term ventures increasingly", to the point of its extinction as an economic system, whereas the system it replaced, feudalism, "moved in the opposite direction, toward stored or harvested energy replaced by dissipated energy, that is, toward the denial of the world and the escape into eternity". And on the basis of their specificity or lack of it, it can be generalized that all species will live either a long life or a short one because their actions toward survival reflect, and encourage, the relation of their short to long term goals.
The Wallgroper, it must be admitted, has many of the elements of these social and economic systems, though these are written at birth into the biology of their species, but there is a kind of complete uselessness to its productions, one which borders on religious frenzy, the result of an economic activity gone out of control, if not gone entirely, irreversibly mad. This movement is not the same as that found in the apparent, and real, trek of the legendary lemmings, for instance, who periodically "seem" to create mass suicide in the Arctic by running off cliffs in great numbers. Nor is it the same as the institution of potlatches among the northwest coast Quakiutl. The latter examples are self-regulatory functions and do not further an unregulated growth.
But the growth in almost all areas of this world-wide species of ornamentation, carried to such an extreme that exact, physical stages in wall construction have had to be created, becomes an "involutionary" progression, only balanced by the ferocity of the animal when the possibility of attack is directly manifested.
Have we not seen this process in other species, who, falling prey to short term gains, turned in upon themselves, so to speak, like that famous mythical American bird (What's it Americanus) who flies in smaller and smaller circles and, ending up flying into its anus, disappears? Perhaps only to re-appear in another dimension, another location, another species? Evolutionary reincarnation. The inverted strategies of survival—inverse arrival.
The fending off of the inanimate is the creative urge of all living things, the banner of their living selves, for how else would we identify the living, if not through their negotiations with the non-living? The inanimate becomes animate, as in many instances of ritual magic and magical ritual, especially in our own species, adorning itself with its varied forms of extravagance. For the worship of the inanimate is also there, its shadow of shadows. The inanimate is the creator, yearning to become life, striving to enter the dance of the living. And the walls of the Wallgroper, are they not also an emblem of the creator, whose greatest desire is to enter the animate, the attempt of the living to bring into life the non-living, through its own will, its own sense of purpose? (And do these walls dance? They do. They do.)
The mention of Potlatch has brought to mind the act of giving, a human activity, of course, that is, as we see it, in order to exclude the other species who do not give but “instinctively exchange”; but is one which, when we wipe away the arrogance, we know can be found in other species as well. Perhaps these walls were created as gifts (McCassity, Forms that Wander Through Eternity), giftings to the mountains, or to the plains, or to the volcanoes in which they are sometimes found as ritual rings. Gifts can be defined as objects or gestures, ideas or words transferred to another or to others but which may not be entirely owned. (They may also, for example, be shared.) Display may be taken as a kind of gift since all or at least some of the activity may be vicariously enjoyed or taken in as a kind of uneaten sustenance by others. In this sense, a dancer gives through the viewer's absorption of the activity. The physical dancer cannot be "taken" by the viewer so that what he has taken can be called a dance. Thus, work is a gift as is art itself or thought or expression of any kind. The context in which the action is thought of “out of the blue fire of synaptic firing” determines whether it is a gift or a self-contained "event".
If, as some have alleged, (Nonpersona, The End of the Universe and its Attendant Ghostly Question Marks) that the Tennessee Wallgropers have created these productions of theirs as gifts, then we are faced with a context of giving which goes beyond the generally accepted human sense of the word. We do not usually give to the sky, the ocean, or the volcano, though we may imaginatively (and perhaps religiously) do so. We may also imagine that the Tennessee Wallgroper does, in fact, do so.
We may further distinguish for our purposes two kinds of gifts, the ornamental and the substantive. The former presupposes an already "given" reality. What follows represents a conclusion (or extra conclusion or “extravaganza”) to a syllogism and is added to the given, though it is implicit in the material from which it came. A substantive gift, on the other hand, presents itself with no explanation, "exhibits" in its whole being and leaves to the recipient the act of interpretation, in this sense, as in the old saying, "giving is the blind absorption of living". At times substantive giving may represent a kind of sacrifice, intentionally or unintentionally, as in fertility religions (Christianity, for example). It follows that only the ornamental gift can be "wrapped" or "need a context".
The ornamental gift, as it has been lifted into its now present context, constitutes an interpretive act, a power-driven strategy radiating out into the possible constitution of self and place as a necessary postulate of being that reaches to the furthest, most distant realms and pulls the whole, now widened world into its counter clock-wise maelstrom. In effect, it needs that maelstrom, for it is "the gift wrapper of the world". It represent the insecurity of the object as a particular—one so defined. Any artifact is so defined, though it may have its being as a result of its "accumulated context". On the other hand, because being exists cumulatively in and for itself, the substantive gift does not need context.
And therefore, are the Tennessee Wallgroper's productions, seemingly without purpose, a "contribution without thought", an instinctive integration given in the nature of its "biological imperative" and mindlessly unknown to itself and its future generations, or is there some sense of conscious purposiveness in its activity? And at the risk of engaging in a projective fantasy of human dimensions, commentators such as Rackman and Hailsherry have suggested that nature itself, or "context" as they call it, provides the "mind" which directs this vast activity. In fact, they suggest further that "nature is mind", an interesting comment in the "light" of over two hundred years of Cartesian and Lockean thought (not to mention that of Spinoza, the “arch wizard” of Amsterdam) a return to a kind of Paleolithic "world mind", “particulate” animation being set in motion by the unbegun and constantly unending motion of the whole being from which each particulate and unity of particulates has come.
There are those who create one object or thing and spend their whole existences contemplating their production, and those whose creations are manifold, who must parcel out attention among their accumulating and almost out of hand productions. Mostly, it is the round ratio of expanding production to individual and social integration which is at stake in our species. The mindless production of objects divorced from integration or integrated less and less as production increases spells the decline of a civilization, a culture, suggests a disappearance into abstraction, as our social world is now quietly effacing itself, the rubbing out of the human and the sweeping away of the tangible. Fragmented as it must become, the whole disappears and discrete subunits shine out with renewed luminosity, a kind of false exactitude displayed on a velvet cushion of sub-created emptiness. Irony replaces mythology; thought replaces integration; skill replaces being or meaning or identity.
And here the Tennessee Wallgroper's productions may cause us to view, as example, another species whose problems of production versus integration so closely resemble our own, as we grow to see giving, either as being in its unexplainable simplicity or as strategy in its devouring complexity. As the "domino theory" of Wallgroper political strategy has pointed out again and again, "the falling of walls is as the wink of any flashing ‘eyelash of eternity’" (Work, The Effectiveness of its After Effects, Reginald Tasking Reach). Or, to put it more simply (as the author continues into greater compression, “nothing fails like success after it has been followed by all its purposely reckless and pursued artists and handmaidens”.
Here, perhaps, (as we are forcing ourselves to remain alert in the face of these “hyperactive contingencies”), we must wonder if this whole, fruitful distinction between substantive and ornamental giving is actually a kind of so-called and so advanced before us “attention trap” or, to borrow broadly from another arcane and quizzical context, a rather “radical, force-fed repetition of delay”. Here is a phenomenon which draws us into itself, causes us to create, indeed forces us to create, whole mythologies of answers in the face of the existence of something which we scarcely, or if at all, understand—the Cheshire Cat whose contours are a lingering question mark (or a marked question?), the suddenly waving road markers which point emphatically toward the cliff head. "Help comes from within" says the analyzer of attention traps in his proper field of marker mayhem management. Level lifting imagination or the correlative co-creation of theories and tropes and recognizable tendencies or the unnecessary multiplication of escape routes into force-fed wildernesses provide the only way we have of turning into something beyond ourselves (turning ourselves inside out twice over?), for the tremendous prohibition against entering the body of an animal or an object or anything beyond the self is species (and individual) preserving—-the possible thought of it is all that may be possible. Yet we do. We do turn ourselves inside out. Why is there this desire to transcend our sensed self of self, to feel that we are also parts or particles of a world that comes together into our midst or sense the whole of it looking at our parts as they prance into appearance? (Or do we swallow wholes whole or wholes only in part or parts?) Faced with the varied productions of the Tennessee Wallgroper, we can only wonder (and in our imaginations, wander at will through our wonder), though according to Bogert's law, "If you give up an illusion, be sure you have another to put in its place."
But what kind of life and under what conception does the Wallgroper sense this imminent present in the structures it so deliberately erects, this identity with and against, this tension of the created moment (which, as many know, is always with us)? Dissatisfied with broad theoretical or philosophical solutions, others have attempted to expose the full spectrum of Wallgroper productions through a rigorous system of classification. A thoroughly expanded analysis, carried out only seventy-five years after the publication of The Foundations of Relativistic Evasions, began to clarify the divisions into which the walls were assorted or at least the divisions into which we humans, projecting ourselves into history, divided them. They are in that basically now universally acceptable classification (and more divisions have followed) the Pre-Hamartian (3647 BCE—ll00 BCE), the Distal Neophoric (l006 BCE—3 BCE), the Uftic (l6 ACE—7l3 ACE), the Reclusive (802 ACE—l75l ACE), the Mesmoric (l75 ACE— l9l3 ACE), and the Futuric (l9l9 ACE—)
Even though some datings have been difficult to establish, these periods actually represent bounded "cultures" in both space and time because they also roughly bridge styles analyzed from disparate parts of the disparate world. The Pre-Hamartian, for example, is confined to only a small area in the Near East while the Mesmoric—perhaps because of the expansion of the Tennessee Wallgroper and the increased interest in it through a growing number of advertised sitings—is certainly world-wide and thickened by advanced communications. The Uftic, on the other hand, as well as the Distal Neophoric, are problematic, and the tendency of commentators to draw distant and distinct and exacting parallels between styles recorded at the far reaches of the globe (such as the almost necessarily invented traits between two repulsive climatic zones) may be a matter of an ambiguous unavailability of evidence rather than a question of any actual material that is or has been present to investigators.
Nevertheless, certain basic patterns of construction, ornamentation, and block shaping, as well as a fair consistence of transportation methods and, perhaps, a correlation of and projection into ultimate purposes can, with appropriate certainty, be assigned and therefore projected onto the playing field of supposition. Other factors, such as those mentioned above—wall weight, design, balance, height, climatic variance, wall relief, invisibility, wall niches, etc.—have, in a rough sense, also been taken into account, weighed in the balance and sometimes probabilistically mutilated or manipulated (“found wanting”). It should be remembered that the inchoate outlines which these periods are meant to represent should be taken, as they are understood to be by knowledgeable sophisticates, merely as guides, rather than, as the ignorant or the unwary understand them, as firmly anchored decisions on the part of their creators and therefore, those doing so are often faulted for having a pre-determined purpose behind their namings or a valued foundation on which to establish their wall of theory.
To begin, the Pre-Hamartian period can be characterized by a "famished" crudity, an undefined suggestiveness which leaves these structures not alone, but rather, as one observer put it, "traveling beyond the space in which they are set down and having affinities to other non-outwardly physical states, bodily processes, movements, overtones, etc.". Down and Kline, in their recent investigations of the Pre-Hamartian evidence in Northwestern Iran (Where are they, The Pre-Hamartian Groundings?) suggest that a prime resonance regularly “sounds and resounds” in the “atomic built” walls which were laid there (fifteen miles southeast of Ardabil) by the kinds of shapings of the stones from both teeth and claws, a vibration which "one feels when he touches each wall in turn, moving from one to the other, listening to the notes and their mathematically tuned overtones, and to the voices which, over an unpredictable lapse of waiting, emerge from the air or circle through the stilled air around them."
The Pre-Hamartian is considered by many (Fillopio Malachite, Rust Goldenrod, Phillipa Flippit, etc.) to be the most profound period in Wallgroper "architectural" history, and for that reason these “delvers and dealers” also refer to it as the "Classical" or "Great" Period or often as “The Primal Foundation”. Here, as many have pointed out, significant themes have been laid in place like foundation stones; immense subjects lie inherent in the stones, and all that has followed from this age has been as an unwinding, an inaccurate ornament, "a footnote to the rock itself."
It will certainly be important to know that both Down and Kline are founders of Dependent Harmonics, a field created only recently from the "scraps and end pieces of the pelts of human anguish", as they have so crudely stated. Dependent Harmonics attempts to listen to the "overtones" of "lithic structure", to enter the rock with a "piece of imagination between the teeth", leaving "lithic crumbs of reason" along the path to guide the researcher back to his own time and place. Yet what can be said, using this method, must require an equal process of imagination. Imagination must be "winnowed from reality" and a "battle of balance" maintained. History, then, becomes a "process of imagination” in which we leap from one foundation stone to another. Perched on the platform of the present (the only foundation stone), we reach out for 'furthering clues' in the "barren wilderness of artifact", comparing, sifting, relating and attempting to avoid the "distortion of an inconclusive future toward which we grope, skinless."
Dependent Harmonics refers to history as a tall tale and evokes the constant ratio in this genre between the extravagance of the narrator (his invisibility, his desire to "tell all", thus, his naiveté) and the trick he plays on his listeners as they are sucked through his imaginary dust devil and disappear for the moment. The deviations are in the subtleties of narration, in a certain slight of hand or head or a wiggle within the eyes. But they cannot totally deceive, just as a joke has to have a punch line or cannot leave the listener totally hanging over the cliff of meaning (with certain exceptions, of course). Yet, as they point out in making this broad parallel between narrative history and historic narrative, the listener must be deceived and enlightened at the same time. Literature, like history, functions as a corrective to reality. It tells us what isn't so we can assert what is.
The Philosophy of Objects has yet to be written, but Down and Kline have come a long way toward its formulation. They have shown that a discussion of artifacts must include the following:
l. where the elements which constitute it come from
2. how it was brought together, assembled or pre-assembled
3. what stages where involved in its assembly
4. where the object "went
5. how it existed in its space or in its various spaces
6. how, and at what rate, it aged
7. how, and at what rate, it fell apart
8. what became of its "parts" (their separate histories)
9. how the object interacted with other objects and with its environment
l0. what has been predicated of the object
ll. how attitudes about the object have changed
l2. how it has been changed throughout history
13. the state of the "ghost" of an object after it has disintegrated or vanished from the landscape of objects
l4. its "pre-creation" and how this stage differs from its other "stages"
l5. the illusion of stages
l6. the value of stages
l7. various prototypes and their relation to the actual object
l8. the object looked at in various lights
l9. various histories of the object and their interactions
20.the projection of an object onto populations, landscapes, futures, ideas, social contexts, etc.
2l. assumptions we make when we constitute a thing as a particular (referring to the idea that we assume the whole in order to talk about any particular)
Without a Philosophy of Objects the study of Wallgroper historiography and typography may flounder and become as "dry as dust storms", return to the mere "tongued ghost in the over-intensified imagination". Down, in particular, has believed that only through a "mythological entrance into the object" can a relationship be established which furthers "the continuity of history." Kline does not so much disagree with Down as emphasize the articulation of "object theory" as a mechanism by which the "imagination may be primed." Music and movement must be coupled with exact, spatial particularity, and discussion of Wallgroper artifact must rest on the horns of this dilemma, articulated so well by Zeno's problem of the arrow, exemplifying the illusory nature of movement and reality.
If several authorities as knowledgeable as Down and Kline have felt that the Pre-Hamartian period's central resonance is musical—the music, as some of them besides Down and Kline say: "dripping from the stones", "eating like acid into the air", "a music of negative dimensions", etc.—those investigators of the next period, the Distal Neophoric, are not so sure, neither of the central nature of the total age and style nor of the various connective links between the geographically distant sites, engorged in the hoarse latitudes or languoring in the distant islands of torpor. The varieties of climatic zones, geographical situations, geologic distributions, tailings, metaphoric considerations, strategic initiatives, dead ends, major disruptions, "pelt middens", Halifax obliterations, dyslectic variations within pre-distributed territorial imperatives, hunched-over magnetic torpor zones, "vaulted" enclosures, post-diuretic intrusions, eclipses of sonorous variants, pell-mell encounters with ghosts of long-dead species whose vapors were disrupted by the Tennessee Wallgroper on their decisions to "build" or "rebuild" on a particular site (still not clear for what reason a site is chosen), angular inconsistencies in the rock faces and in the various facings of the walls, and even of the sitings across the tops of the walls, paranormal ambivalences, dead-accuracy ratings, etc.—these, to mention many contradictory and mutually antagonistic considerations, though only a few of the factors governing the attempts to create an order of orders out of many dozens of scattered, yet to be linked sites, provide both a mystery and a madness to this blurred and buzzing period, the Distal Neophoric, which will take centuries to unravel, if it can be unraveled at all.. (“A hopeless task,” sighs Bernard Bellweathering Halifax, “but there are, you know, plenty of Quixotes”.)
However, one event of this period which all commentators have built their scaffoldings upon (though it is built, so to speak, on a vacuum) is that which places all Wallgroper constructions inside what one writer called (pseudo-redundantly) a "parenthesis of pause" or, to use a more geologically apt term, a "pausality." I am referring to the great Distal Neophoric Discontinuity, a period of seventy-five years (278 BCE—353 BCE) in which no Wallgroper sites have been discovered. Even today, this gap remains with us, like a negative eye of darkness into which we fall, shipwrecked mariners staying afloat by the spars of theories, hope, amazement, denial, facsimile reproductions, annual conventions, siftings of the light of diamonds, and other equally useless attempts at shoring up what cannot be placed into any system of historical or logical analysis. The experience is compared to that moment out of time (cf. Laps Panic, c. 1906) when the chiropractor snaps our neck and we feel for that instant—nowhere, or that obliteration of time between the first photon striking the eye—and sight, sight again. Perhaps, if we could leap with our whole selves into that strange seventy-five year deep (in fact, deepening) hole, we would find, in the deepest, most distressful pockets of our apportioned beings, the feeling, not the answer, to the mystery of the Distal Neophoric Discontinuity. “The Black Whole”, “The Spectral Ocean”, all logical inconsistencies of statements about themselves (like "the beyond within”)—all words which shore up the nothingness we find there.
One site contains something of what could be called “a positive mystery” within the Distal Neophoric--a "wall repetition" found in 1731 in eastern Patagonia by an extremely derelict sailor. It consists of three-foot walls, hundreds of them, all slanting at the same angle, upward toward a particular point in the sky. Later investigators, in attempting to calculate the exact point toward which these Wallgroper structures had been aimed, could discern nothing. However, recently, with the aid of the giant radio telescope at Arecibo in Puerto Rico and its counterpart the Jordrel Bank radio telescope in Great Britain, through a process of long based interferometry, astronomers have found a blue-white star in the constellation of Cygnus, now called NCC 911-911 toward which these walls seem to lean or lean into, suggesting some kind of monument to an unknown star or a radio telescope which antedates the concept of radio or telescope.
The exactitude of the calculations is astounding. How the Tennessee Wallgroper, previously only considered an "advanced mammal", could have calculated the exact position of this star (June 22, l2:03 a.m. to be exact, and the walls do not lie) is staggering beyond belief. Here, the positioning of the stones out-rivals that of Cheops or Stonehenge, whose accuracies are legendary, but a star beyond sight, and every stone wall pointing to it, leaves us empty of answers but filled with theories and conjectures. The only comparable situation in human terms is found in West Africa among the Dagon, who have worshiped a star whose periodic occurrence they have accurately calculated. (And almost as an aside to the reader, they also have known, for a very long time, the star toward which they had turned their attention is, moreover, a binary star.) Only recently have we been able to confirm their beliefs. Perhaps more connections between wall structures and stellar objects lie in wait for us as we pursue the structural side of Wallgroper architecture.
There is, however, one clue in the vast, empty regions of that part of our planet. From there, on the clearest of nights, the wind rages around us, blowing up from the Antarctic its powerful blasts of air and the stones almost lightened by the cold. The earth seems to sway under our feet, the stars move back and forth through the powerful, electric sky, and we are left with a feeling that space and time, the planets and the constellations have been distributed, somehow, not so many light years from us, but rather deposited within our eyes, have crept into that visual mansion, unknown to our conscious selves, and found a home, a small fiery home, within the bosom of our very existences. The cold, the desolation, the vastness of the Patagonian landscape and the barrenness of the mountains rise up to claim another distance, "the star as near as the eye", the frosty and the fiery lands in one.
This stone city is a monument, visited by stray travelers, bicyclists touring the Americas, passenger pigeons with ghostly destinations, pilgrims of all kinds, including the historian and architect of history and the philosopher-pilgrim rolling within us.
The Uftic (l6 ACE—7l3 ACE) which is also defined by its multitudes of contradictions, contains at least one event worthy of its being stamped as a period of Wallgroper development and change. Near Caltanisetta in Sicily in 499 ACE, a shepherd of some note as a wandering teller of tall tales came upon another Wallgroper site. Angelo Fictifioria, who described himself (loosely translated) as "a graphic equalizer of meadows" spent ten years grazing his sheep in the area, living, eating, and sleeping in the midst of these "sudden walls". In the sixth year, one of his sheepdogs died and Fictifioria decided to bury him under one of the walls. After digging down a few feet, much to his surprise, he found a whole group of bones which did not fit any animal he had been acquainted with. To disturb the bones of the dead was dangerous, and therefore he hastily buried them but left an account of his discovery years later with a friend, drinking with him in his old age in a tavern in what is now Catania.
Again, his story was thought of as a tall tale and almost forgotten, except that someone had composed a humorous account of his accidental discovery, and the story had become popular. In l887 a Sicilian scholar, whose name was also Fictifioria, happened to chance upon it and was struck by a story going round about the meadow described by his namesake. The latter Fictifioria, returning to the exact place, digging under one of the stone walls, found an identical group of bones wrapped, as the former gentleman had noticed, in a "blanket of clay." Our contemporary, who had dabbled in Wallgroper "lore" for some time now, discovered that these were the bones, not of animals who had been buried at the time the walls were constructed, but of an older species of Wallgroper, who have subsequently been named Muros Criptohermanos.
No other Wallgroper site has yielded any bones whatsoever. In fact, the burial grounds of the Wallgroper have remained a mystery ever since. Where did they die? Of course, we have contemporary bones of dead Wallgropers; we have had them for the last ninety years. But beyond l887 we have not turned up a single bone at a single site from the distant past, except for this one place in the Sicilian meadow. Perhaps (perhaps, ah, perhaps is the theme, the anthem, in fact, of Wallgroper wall gropers) these bones, some have surmised, represent the ancestors of all Wallgropers, and this site, found in a volcanic region, might have been, they surmise, the original home of all of this species until the giant volcanic explosion of "Hera" blew up whole civilizations, whole species, and tore in shreds the story of this part of the world and its animals. No animals bury their dead, except humans, but here we have clear evidence that the Wallgroper had provided for burial as we do. Perhaps the walls of this one site were tombstones of their ancestors (an unfounded but possible conjecture), but on further search there were only these bones and no others. A special case? An example of a mystery deliberately slipped from the past into the future? A case, not of an atavism, but of its opposite? A little gray and brown substance, akin to a slightly hardened and clouded saliva, has held them together for centuries. And we have completed the picture by our quest to know.
Now, in the Uftic, a refinement of carving techniques occurred, and a movement, at times, to something akin to bricks began to appear. Happily, these "bricks", red sandstone carved into the shapes of what look to us like terra cotta of about nine inches square, had been "quarried" from large cliff heads in the dryer North African deserts or at times, in other areas of Africa, less dry, had been shaped from partially dried mud after brief but sudden rainstorms, having been mixed with long abandoned and desiccated grasses and small twigs. How the brick making had come about we do not know, but we know from carbon dated evidence that it appeared around 479 A.D. in several sites in and around the upper Nile in what is now the Sudan.
Stonework in other areas further north, in northern Turkey, Poland and Lithuania, in Wales and in Belgium, grew in sophistication. Quarrying was pursued as almost an end in itself. At first, minute carvings of abstract designs begin to appear, and by the end of the Uftic we see whole friezes of plant figures, still abstracted, but recognizable as plant shapes, leaf shapes, and even underground root designs. Here was the first link to the organic (besides the organic materials placed in the bricks of their southern relatives). The carving of the friezes was done, we think, with a small, flat pick of stone held between the teeth and/or the claws and scraped or pounded into the rock. With magnificent patience, these forms, lithic imitations of the vegetable world, came into being, friezes which must have taken years to complete.
Also, the fitting of stones had improved. By the end of our period, walls felt like one stone, so tightly were they joined. These, it was sensed quickly, could only have been produced by a deliberate communication network of vast extent. We have found rare stones of chalcedony and various schists abandoned in great numbers near the walls, and there is even evidence of low grade metallic ores. The smoothing of rocks was done, we believe, through rubbing them over granite shelves for days until they had achieved the proper texture.
Perhaps now we can begin to glimpse a kind of work culture which was evolving. We can imagine two Wallgropers moving a rock back and forth across a granite shelf for several days, or months, even years. Here the eyes of the animals must meet and the boredom of the process must produce a growing sense of communication, for was it not perhaps the boredom of repetitive work which produced our own cultural beginnings—language, ritual, and art? A glance or a gesture is refined through being placed in a limited context, and the activity of wall building—repetitive, long-ranged, almost punitive—must, in the course of time, have brought about its own artificiality in the animal which engaged in it, however reluctantly. "The decline into artificiality", one author points out, "has parallels in our own species."
Suddenly, in 7l3 A.D. all new traces of wall friezes, of sandstone or mud brickwork disappear. There somehow had occurred one of those constant effulgences of consciousness which plague the living, a kind of movement too quickly into the light, a dazzling vision and then a temporary blindness in which touch or sound, rather than sight, becomes the dominant sense. The Reclusive period, lasting until l75l, had opened, and for seven centuries the evidence of wall structures is scanty, poor when discovered, and crudely enigmatic. The values and labor of the past are discarded, the excellence of workmanship is overthrown, and a brazen emptiness reveals itself, even from the first stonework in 802 A.D. The elegance of frieze design is replaced by walls which are almost "natural" in construction, so much do they resemble actual, unworked rocks. Petris (“A Deliberated Decadence?”) feels that this "imitation" was not wholly accidental. He states right out that it is "a deliberate retreat from elegance." Perhaps—surely—there were other things on the Wallgroper's minds? Had progress become too rapid? Had the instinct revolted at the new cultural, though still inchoate, world? Had there been some other force which had called them "home" to their instinctive nests?
The last question seems more fruitful. We have accumulated (Passingtone and Roughshod) some evidence that a migration toward an area in Central Asia, just north of Tashkent, had begun. Those who made the migration—and the two major authors of the Recluse Period estimate that about 47.05% had gone, after constructing a few walls, quarrying a few stones, and putting together a few bricks.
But perhaps as Zzyzl has suggested somewhat gingerly, the primitive levels of communication had reached such a point and technological workmanship had become so refined that rapid displacement from the instinctive had produced a reaction akin to fear, and a "huddling of the species" took place or had to take place, a "meeting of the clan", a hunkering for the old and the “rock” bottom primitive, an implosion toward the past in the biological displacement of centerless energy, psychic and physical, in what would be called in physics a "conservation of angular momentum". So Zzyzl has stated and so many have argued.
And perhaps this trend exists in all living things, a pull toward earlier forms of life, toward the wisdom of the cell, the compactness and efficiency of its achievement as an energy source and ultimately a source of ancient wisdom. The Law of Large Bodied Animals (LLBA) implies a decrease in efficiency, and within the social matrix it implies the same decrease, for information over larger distances requires more time, and greater units require far greater amounts of structured communication to maintain cohesion and the structured energy that accompanies it.
Thus, the instinct bred in all living things, when it begins to touch a cultural context—and in present day man even beyond the cultural, the mechanical—results in a loss of efficiency, a decrease in direct neural connections, a dislocation from the world to which the creature had been so admirably fitted. We can see this in stars as well. As we gaze intently into the voluminous well of their being, their disappearance becomes the exact physically over-painted darkness around them, and they are absorbed into the confusing, loosened whirlpool of the already mesmerized optic nerve. The outward expression of energy must be balanced by the mutual cohesion of atoms, or else the star will either implode or explode or, as in its later stages, do both.
It seems to follow as a universal law of nature that affirmation leads to, or is a kind of, delusion or attempt at dissolution. Our next period, the Mesmoric (l75l ACE—l9l3 ACE), is aptly named in reference to this psychic act of implosion. From the delusion of crowds and from the attempt to return to the primal unity of the species, comes a corresponding explosion, each constituent of the whole carrying with it what he thinks of as a precious piece of the true, tried essence of his kind, his portable kindled and kindred spirit. But the further he moves from the center, the more distorted his conception of that "original" state becomes. So it is with our idea of the expanding universe, which as it is assumed by many, must return to its origins, given a large enough critical mass. (But, as recently shown, it will expand, alas, forever.) Thus, as one writer has, with momentum-laden logic, stated for the “unqualifiable akashic record”, "All consciousness since the big bang has been, and will continue to be, the recognition of an unopposed gradient of expansion." However, this may have been a partial illusion caused by a selective gathering of information. We may be exposed to other forces, and to these forces the commonly immediate is not an active recipe for any over-enlarging truth. In fact, the truth remains silently behind (whistling to itself) while the illusion runs ahead into the abyss.
The delusions of the Mesmoric showed themselves as a greatly renewed interest in the erection of all kinds of wall structures, going beyond even the wildest conceptions of those builders of the Uftic period. But though exciting in a kind of Rococo style (and mannerized, distorted expression) and exhibiting even at times a flowery baroque grandeur and regularized, wavelike cadence in their productions (and there were many of these), the Wallgroper sites were thin, that is, thin in both senses of the word, thin in emotional-artistic depth and thin in actual, physical structure. "Their aim seems to have been," speaks Harumphrix, the major authority on the Mesmoric, "to create walls and feelings so evanescent they had only one side to them." This attempted reduction to nothing, ("like gold to airy thinness beat," as the poet John Donne rolled it out on his poetic tongue), goes fancifully beyond refinement, drives full force into the supernatural, opens itself into the doom-darkened arcane, confesses itself as the trance-like evanescence of an existence haunted by ghosts of a soothing, softening, immediate past, like an insistently persistent feather, whose presence has been too much of everything for the heart’s memory to absorb. Living in that shadow can only produce a flight into the delusive landscaping of desire and with it its necessary retrenchment, not any movement toward a clearly founded realism of emboldened spirit and spaciously clarified intent. Sometimes, these sites seem to rise up into our lives as manifold mirages, almost shimmering in arcane deserts, gigantic uplands or deserted terminal moraines of the soul, half-decaying images that wrinkle and shrink as we approach them, that exist in a state of statelessness between something and nothing, that is to say, a state of “blinking ambiguity”. "From a distance they are gorgeous, but up close they are nothing," says Harumphrix, (sighing through his pores as he writes).
When the building was completed, the foundation collapsed", he states. This is the message that flows slowly out of a disturbed and disturbing period of Wallgroper architectural production. Yet something of the beauty of a tissue thin, translucent sheet of paper, a kind of onion skin through which consciousness looks out at itself, remains, a way of capturing the filtered, fragmented and delicate light, a final pronouncement of a final beauty, a palimpsest whose threads, thin and delicate as they are, we must assemble from the scent of another epoch.
The present period, the Futuric (l9l9ACE—) has certainly presented us with a changed landscape, whose arrival was predicted from the suggestive diminutions of the previous age and has yet to fulfill itself, striving for an indeterminate number of years to achieve its destruction through a saturation of its as yet unknown essence. But signs have been posted for over seventy years, signs which point clearly in one direction, toward an integration of cultural interaction with artifact.
And today, as we observe the Tennessee Wallgroper at its work (its now primary work, so we think), we can see, far more clearly than past observers, the immense social effort involved in the constructions and—something which had hitherto received scant attention—the immense "time of the rituals" preceding the actual building of the walls. Also, a major category of study has developed which has given us a glimpse of the ritual after the walls had been completed. Some of the mystery has been cleared up. And it is toward these “formal actions of intent” that students of Wallgroper construction have devoted their most earnest attentions, their most filigreed projections, their most apt exclamation points.
This animal, who is first and foremost a builder of structures according to its own instinctive nature, has wired within its electrically nervous skeleton the curious habit of socially palpating the things it creates, as if it were blind to its creations and had to use its touch (and probably its senses of smell and hearing) to understand what it had done. The walls are felt along their entire lengths, like Wailing Walls (indeed, the association is apt), by everyone, even by infants, the sick, the dying, the elderly, the misplaced, the insane, the leaders and the followers. Every piece of the wall, from its foundations to its upper ridges, through its cracks and crannies, every accidental "mistake", every flaw in the rock, every curve and every mineral "quirk" is fingered (clawed) as if memory were embedded in the very construction and that memory transmitted to all through the feeling and the hearing and the smelling out of the entire, now multi-sensorial structure—a kind of ritual in "living Braille".
The walls are groped (hence our name for this most elusive animal); they are scraped and caressed by the claws and the heels of the paws, and they are struck with the legs and sometimes with the head, and at times they are struck with selected pieces of wood (usually hardwoods like mahogany) for the resonances inside them (inside both wood and stone). They are sidled up to, leaned against, kissed; they are sat in front of for hours, days, sometimes for months, silently, as the Wallgropers touch and listen while the wind blows at its variable speeds and sonic slopes, blows up, on, and through their works (telling of the woken wisdom of their works, played out as the voice and command of some inner structure of developmental consequences); and as the rain, through its own frequencies, falls on them and on their productions, it sings of what it has found.
The old saying from the Gautama, "Buddha's wall, Buddha's window", applies to these animals, almost to the sacred and the transcendent. For their walls, it seems, are a kind of speech developed after the diaspora of the Mesmoric period, learned through the Mesmoric, as if there were required an opening into and beyond them, allowing the light and the light of time and the falling back of the animal or the "human/animal dialogue" to return something which had been lost in the labor, not lost labor but lost growth through disconnected labor. Now in the Futuric the connection and the work have returned from a "far country", walking together as the sum of all periods and the sum of their expressions, surrounded by an infinite ocean of contagious connection, the stretched out space in which the stars breathe and puff out their almost constant light, and the ocean runs horizontally like a curtain through time without losing its voice or its history.
Ritual had preceded the work, and work preceded the creation; it had provided the invisible yet ever present "horizon of activity" toward which The Tennessee Wallgroper had expanded and were expanding. For the end was in the procession of integration, not in the targeted image of the goal itself, and every new beginning was an illusion of an ending, every opening a completion, every triumph another eye hammered into the history of the earth out of which these wraith-like creatures had come and to which they would return. Magic and science, production and song, the particularity of the senses and their flowing and flowering out of a central task had brought them to this point, this orange wharf at the edge of a radiolarian sea more brilliant than the sense-laden oceans and one into which they would plunge with any sniffing of the air, with any wink of the breath of yet another species of wonder.
And the appellation "Tennessee", how did that appear? For Tennessee is a long way from Ur of the Chaldees, from Patagonia, from Central Asia. It was in Tennessee in l873 that an itinerant, freelance composer (of no fame whatsoever) had observed the Wallgropers at their ritual "ablutions" on several occasions and begun to relate the movements of the ritual with the music produced in the groping, for in the most basic of correlations they were directly parallel. He realized as he watched them during the expanding springtime on a slightly rising slope between Red Boiling Springs and Lafayette on the western border of the state and close to the curling Mississippi, that they were groping for something beyond, reaching for the tactile revelation into the intangible beyond, groping so that the intangible would gradually transform itself into the tangible, creating in their movements a kind of ecstatic vision in which, he thought, and gradually came to know, that the imagination, in all its tangible qualities, played an important role in visualizing the unknown, yet to be born, products of its activities.
Nothing appeared that was wholly expected, wholly resolved; but with persistence, as he watched and waited, for weeks (for the rituals often lasted that long) he began to notice, in himself, a similar movement, as images came into and out of his head, not fully formed and fully transformed, but growing from the unformed activity within the formal movement of The Tennessee Wallgroper. Thus, he began, slowly, out of his own groping, to imitate their ritually and organically absorbed actions and reactions, and after several ritual sessions, “feeling his way into the stones”, so to speak, he began to descend into their midst, moving his body, as well as he could manage, in coordination with theirs, and quickly then, over the next few days, entered into their tactile visions, now his own, which came to him, powerfully, peacefully, like a fume of color, like clouds of sulfur mixed into and among the rising curls of the hillsides. And as the bodies of the Wallgropers among the stones moved and as his body moved with theirs (with them and among them), the visions came to him, in fact, came for him also, moving like an endless parade of form-released cloudscapes, and, as he had expected, they came with their scent and silence to both release and envelop the task-based Wallgropers.
There were visions of locomotives breaking apart in slow motion, clouds in the forms of parachutes, visions also of elephants drinking up whole ponds and then leaking their water back into the earth in great fountains arching from their backs and sides. There were visions of cars growling at one another, of sisters hissing sideways, of yellow mellow cellos hollowed out of holes in the oaks, of transparent ghosts, mastodons rising from the groaning remains of the glaciers and dropping the older, remembered green that clung to their inner histories, expanded visions of tiny Portuguese fishermen wandering in an enormous sea of tears, of empty garbage pails which danced on the sidewalks of New York, of newspapers become butterflies, of chalk that wrote on an abrasive air the prophetic words "the beginning turns to us always", of oranges transformed into purely luscious lips, of medicine that cured itself, of tigers who growled inwardly from indigestion and belched it out into their homeward howling, of sailors who walked on the surface of the sea upside down and pissed in clarified rainbows, of homes in which the conversation was music calling in rustic overtones, of presidents who listened to the crowd giving their own speeches, of migrating peoples spreading their blankets of grass on the plains for a “gathered” picnic, of beer and summer and baseball, of crumbling statues eaten in slow motion by the air, of children bouncing three feet off the ground as they walked over the trampoline of the earth, laughing, of daffodils that sighed into the heat until their out-breathings glittered in a suspended block of ice, of houses split in half down the middle and the inhabitants going about their business unconscious of their exposure, of cernuous migrations, of halfway houses for sentences which didn't quite make sense (or savor) and were lost in childhood, of raspberry stains hovering, like kisses, in the back-grounded air, of hands given to others, feet given to mountains, arms given to pendulums, of Christ winking from the cross and blood oozing out of the sunset in deeply red streams, of cooled composite blocks of butter emerging from the anuses of cows, of miniature heavens sold as souvenirs and returned to their remembrance, of conversations full of static like hardened bread crackling into attempted speech, like abandoned radios transmitting the older broadcast, the comedy hour, the news, like voices divorced from their larynx, of the half-life of a moral act and clothed in cinnamon, of all the dances ever performed on earth—the minuet, the bouree, the sarabande, the swim, the egret, the beaver, the slap, the nod, the "Ballerina of the Sea", of phonic curds and eldritch chirality. The visions went into and out of him, on and on forever, until he forgot himself and became the world.
When they found him, days later, he was still dancing, with a glaze of almost panic in his eyes and his shoes worn to holes and blisters on his feet, slowly sun-burned in the quiet plot of the Wallgroper structure and the Wallgropers gone. He did not know where they had gone. Perhaps they were not there in the beginning, though he thought he saw them dancing, groping for something in the air. But the visions themselves were real. He saw them for years after that; in fact, he continued to see them, walking on roads toward a river in the late afternoon, sitting, almost dozing on his front porch overlooking the folded hills in the distance—except in dreams, where he saw only the Wallgropers dancing, dancing a dance he referred to as The Tennessee Wallgroper, a dance he had not invented but discovered, there in the clearing with the rows on rows of walls and the particulate meaning of motion and structure inherent either in the Wallgropers themselves or in their structures around him or in both—he did not know—but it did not nor could not matter in any isolated sense of reduced awareness, any limited or defended pronouncement; for now, as if from a combined and merged old and new body, a song and a movement released itself in him as he gradually placed his hand and pen onto the mystic music paper of the air in front of him (a music paper which could only be uninventable) and began to write the song for this dance out of himself, the artifact which would reclaim the experience, The Tennessee Wallgroper, danced into the next few years and danced over distances thereafter by everyone, in front of walls and behind them and on top of them, walls constructed for the dance even at the moment of motion, and imaginary projections of walls so the dance could be performed inside the walls or through them, a dance as slow and stately as the images he saw as he danced with them, the makers, the cohesive makers of culture and artifact, of product and integration. And now others danced with him, slow and stately in every motion of the body, holding either hands or arms or shoulders or whole bodies clasped together in dim sunlight or in violent shade, dancing with each other and lost in the dancing. The long life of Michael Fictifioria, his many adventures and his numerous compositions, all of them performed today every first of March, is another story which shall not be told here, for there is more to tell before the first part of this account of the Tennessee Wallgroper will be completed.
Through the thin tissue of transmitted folklore and over the hypothesized foggy “universal whisper of gossip” which inhabits the planet (and inhabits the beyond within it) and over its “gravity-loosed and suspended afterimage”, we know now that the existence of the Wallgroper and its productions remains, unconsciously, even today, in people’s thoughts and actions and has remained in them throughout the globe and imprinted on the actions and reactions of whole cultures. Since 20 BCE we have had stories, poems, jokes, ritual journeys, songs, and dances by various passing, half-seen personalities which have given us a glimpse of the profound effect which the Wallgropers have had on our own human cultures. The Chukchi's of Siberia, before they were “discovered” and then taken over by the Russians in their eastward migrations and conquests, recall how they used to sit behind the walls to protect themselves from the Arctic winds and in the summers use them as sunlight reflectors or sunlight amplifiers. Their shamans ingested the hallucinogenic mushroom amanita mascaria “without breathing”, and from it, the visions they describe, in words and the pantomime of “bodily” words, have to do with mythical animals, which they consider the ancestors of the Wallgropers. The Arctic fox, the ermine, and the polar bear are the three most prominent. They are usually found arguing with one another about the ice caribou, an animal whose droppings are placed in long mounds to be eaten by their enemies, who will dissolve in a flash of sunlight in the midst of an Arctic snowstorm and reappear in the spring, protecting the ice caribou from its natural predators, at least for a while.
The Australian Aborigines also have absorbed various stories about the Wallgroper and integrated them into their world-visions. These stories, or vision stories, come from that other realm which they call the "dream time". There is "the invisible wall which one cannot cross, just west of
Alice Springs, Australia. This wall requires the proper music (Songlines) played on that extension of the voice, the didgeridoo, a music in which the overtones begin to dance "like the tops of mountains". The negative space of the sky formed by the peaks of these visionary mountains appears like the upper teeth of a gigantic mouth, gnawing a long, invisible roll of time (like the music of a player piano) through its vast portals. Anyone trying to cross this wall must speak the words which "he himself has not yet learned" and walk backwards, uttering them as slowly as possible. Only then will he have (unknown to himself) entered "the other kingdom". Travelers journeying west from Alice Springs have noticed something they have taken for a mirage but which is really, so the Aborigines say, the collective ghosts of those who have crossed over and who are unable to return until they have "invented" this world and forgotten the other. They attribute the birth of this great wall to the ancient Wallgropers and their attempts to bring the inhabitants of the other world back to this one.
Another case of human Wallgroper mythology is that of the Kintik peoples of New Guinea. There are really no walls to speak of in the whole island, so we would expect these people to have no knowledge of the Wallgroper. However, shortly before the arrival of westerners to New Guinea and to the Kintik people, one of the indigenous peoples of that fertile island, a story had been passed around from hand to hand or from ear to ear, one not yet raised to the level of mythology.
As told by the Kintik, a lyrebird, who every morning in the world of eternity, deposited his iridescent droppings on an immense wall which stretched the whole length of the island. When the wall began to glow more and more brightly, the trees and flowers around it began in one breath to absorb a spectrum of colors which they had never had or known before. They spread over the whole forest, developing all the colors found in the original droppings. When this absorption was completed and the wall emptied of its color, the lyrebird disappeared. He is expected to return when needed and not before. The "uncolored" wall is thought to have been created by The Tennessee Wallgroper.
The Western Facsimile Association has reproduced the famous "Wall Desecrations" of the Oromo of Ethiopia. These people, who feel they must "fill in the landscape" in order to complete themselves, are notorious "graffitists". They will decorate anything, if given a tool, paint or charcoal or brush. All over the landscape they casually leave their marks on the natural world and also on their own productions. Their "toothbrushes", for example, are decorated with extremely minute designs within designs and their bodies are periodically covered with "expendable" tattoos, which wash off, fortunately, in the first rainstorm. Their myths about walls are numerous because they continually create them in their heads and then proceed to "desecrate" them at will. When they come upon a real wall, like the ones built by The Tennessee Wallgroper in the Highlands, they begin, individually and in groups, to assign to these structures an "index of desecration." First-level desecration involves painting over the whole wall in a color totally foreign to the landscape, literally, to make it an “outstanding statement of re-statement” (a brown wall painted orange, for example). Second-level desecration involves covering the wall with minute patterns so fine that they have to be produced with a magnifying glass (which sometimes burns the rock on which they are working and, because the paint is flammable, causes parts of the wall to be unintentionally blackened). Third-level desecration involves washing down the whole wall and starting again from scratch. At each level of desecration the Oromo create different colors and abstract patterns based somehow on the "demons of dissolution", who are always thought of as the Wallgropers themselves.
Far off, among the Coast Salish of British Columbia these hunting and fishing people engage in the ancient custom of "wall giving". This cultural activity involves building small walls of mud or clay, painting them with a substance made from a mixture of bird droppings and minerals, and spraying this mixture on the walls, even flinging whole pots of it on them. Then, when the desired effect is achieved, the wall is removed from its foundation and, with great ceremony, given to someone, never in a deliberate manner, however, but to the first person one finds in the forest and whom people have deliberately avoided.
This custom, or at least parts of it, the Coast Salish state, had come from their observations of the Wallgroper. They say that this animal is always a "wall giver" but never a "wall receiver." Those who give walls, they believe, have broken down the barrier between people and animals, between the animate and the inanimate world, and those who receive them may hide them wherever they wish, gaining a kind of power by so called “social” theft. Unlike the old New England belief that "good fences make good neighbors" (Robert Frost), the Salish feel that no fences (or walls) make friends, though, oddly enough, the "wall of the air" is an ancient matrimonial god created to produce change in the weather if things become too unstable (or too boring). "The wall has no limits," they say, or "one way or two is all the same."
European peoples have had both a veneration and a fear of walls. On coming upon a Wallgroper construction, the Romanians are said to utter the imprecation "stand in the air and walk through walls." The Blisht, an Albanian people in southwestern Yugoslavia, on finding a Wallgroper construction, exclaim, "Without you I'd be dead", or use it to sit upon while they defecate. "Cold weather brings cold walls," say the Macedonians, who take the Wallgroper's appearance as a sign of spring.
In China, the Great Wall is not that built, or rather completed, by the First Emperor Si Wang Ti Chin, but rather the Great Wallgroper Wall of Wu, revealed in the cave paintings of Dunhuang in northwestern China, from which the idea of the Great Wallgroper Wall had come.
Among the Tuareg in the deserts of Morocco, the Wallgroper emblem on their tents is that of a blue and white wall with dozens of feet beneath. "The wall moves with the people," they say when they greet each other. Passing references to Wallgroper constructions are found among the Cree in central Canada, who have the saying, "Never break down a wall to open a door," though, oddly enough, they have had neither walls nor doors. The Copper Eskimo are reputed to have been fashioning a thousand-mile wall of ice to compete with the Wallgroper. They have stated on many occasions that their activity represents only friendly competition, but others disagree, feeling that the Copper Eskimo are engaged in a further “enrichment” of Wallgroper activity. Wall viewing in Japan is next to cherry blossom viewing. Wall connoisseurs and wall paintings have existed there for a long time, says Yon Ichifoto, a noted expert on ancient Japanese "scratch photography". Caribou organ transplants may be performed only near a Wallgroper construction, according to the Inuit of northeastern Canada. "Walls are the people," say the Hopi, whose walls are legendary and who further add that walls are the hardened physical and cultural remains of the ancestors, protecting them day and night from “the winds of lonely ghosts”. (And the recently discovered Hopi sundial may have come from a Wallgroper construction near the original site.)
More examples, some in their absolutely clarified simplicity (like walls of air) and some in their loud, baroque grandeur (like the loud walls of Jericho), could be presented. The world, it seems, is filled (and filling also as I speak these words) with our subtle, momentum-based reactions (and quietly-placed, absorptive actions) to and toward this now wholly integrated animal and its almost mind-structured actions to the very language, or syntax, of walls. "If there is grief in heaven, the walls may descend upon you," the Shakers have reported from the Penobscot Indians. "Judging on a wall" is an ancient custom in Patagonia, as it is in New South Wales and in Scotland. Walled cities, Roman walls and aqueducts of all kinds, Wailing Walls, Great Walls, stage walls—all have direct routes traced, with the logic of a pointed finger, relentlessly back to the Tennessee Wallgroper, who has given wall building (and wall destruction) "a local habitation and a name."
What then is the future of these walls, the rites which attend them and the music (all of a tactile resonance) which echoes from these stones? Judging from the extensive (and extending) list of human interactions, it seems there is no doubt that humans and Wallgropers have found much in common and are both proceeding toward a common but unknowable mythology with the wall as a basic symbol.
"But," say the wise, "beware the metaphor. It is the ignuis fatuis of the mind." Metaphors open opaque caverns in the hands, in the breath, in the heart and in other organs as well, caverns which, once opened, cannot be closed again, an action which is called by those merchants of metaphor “the lockjaw of the intentional mind”. And it is the metaphor of the wall which must both aid and hinder. "Buddha's wall, Buddha's window" seems the slogan of those who would salvage this "ancient relic", endowing it with cosmic meaning. The realists, on the other hand, believe that "a wall is a wall", a "useful impediment", for division recognizes privacy, allows life to the world and which cannot be explained, being, as it is, beyond society's always limited and often faulty communication. To tear down those walls would be to leave us naked, vulnerable. "Society builds walls," they say, "so that all its members can transcend them." But their opponents believe that this belief is hypocritical or, at best, optimistic. You cannot live in society and live beyond it at the same time without paying your dues to the institution which safeguards your existence. "Hard walls, divided hearts," they say, for with the erection of walls comes the erection of the laws or the erection of “the intangible walls”.
Are we to believe the Tennessee Wallgroper's solution, the total integration of the social within the ritual framework of ritual work, pushing life onward inward outward toward the social insects (an idea we have run across before)? Entomologists believe that that integration, achieved so almost inconceivably long ago, was a triumph of the species and for them a gathering of the species mind into its collective salvation. However, as some have suggested, this was only one side of the not yet minted coin (or not yet constructed wall). But social cohesion brought about a separation of the species from nature, and this lack of contact may bring about a drying up of the wellsprings of creation, for creation may be the handmaiden of nature. We must consider our own species when we assess the value of this last stage of Wallgroper development, for more than any other species it is deeply faced with this dilemma, which cries out to be absorbed through such blended activities as the tactile ritual of the emerging Wallgroper within us, and the observers, indeed, say it is within us.
But what are the walls ultimately for? What purpose did they initially serve? And what, if any, were their predecessors? Also, the future of Wallgroper technology looms like a dark wall before us. To these questions the yawning chasm of perhaps presents itself fully naked and with all its possibilities, and theory rushes in again and again to feed the ancient maw of a more ancient ignorance.
Sid Gershgoren has published six books of poetry and prose: The books of poetry: Negative Space, Mutual Breath (a book of 65 villanelles), Symphony (a medium long poem in a "symphonic" form), Through the Sky in the Lake (a book of "lines"), The Wandering Heron (a book of haiku), and two prose works, Past Rentals (a fictional "catalog" of a company that rent its "customers" space, place, and situation in a particular area of the past within a particular time, place, and situation), and The Extended Words (an imaginary dictionary). Sid Gershgoren has published widely in various magazines and anthologies.