Building a better heffalump trap

When you are hidden, count me among the infidels;
When you appear, count me among the faithful.
What possessions do I have, apart from what you have given?
What are you after, thrusting your hands in my pockets?


Writing about it – even just thinking about it – chases it away. That’s the problem. And there’s nothing you can say that hasn’t been said countless times before, sometimes even by people who knew what they were talking about. The only way to get at it in a halfway authentic manner is to approach it obliquely, without trying – hell, without meaning to. Write about something you saw on a walk, the lint in your own or somebody else’s navel, or maybe the idea of redemption – pretty much anything, so long as it isn’t self-indulgent. Because if this is going to work, you have to care about these things for their own sake, both in an aesthetic and an ethical way (where “ethical” means “hospitable and respectful”).

–Can’t I just issue a blanket repudiation of everything I have written and will ever write?

–Sure, but this is America. People expect other people to say what they mean and mean what they say. 1 If you keep going the way you’re going, by far the largest proportion of Via Negativa’s readers will forever continue to be transients, people who drop in from god knows where, read for a few minutes or a couple weeks and leave again, vowing never to come back. Can you blame them for feeling used? I mean, what the fuck?!

–Okay, so I’d better just keep the link to that so-called Apologia in place. I mean, I haven’t read it in many months. I don’t want to. I’m sure it’s a whole lot of nothing. But at least it’s there, so people who like to think of themselves as smart and reasonably well-educated can read it and say “Ho-ho!” in a knowing sort of way, like Piglet’s imagined Heffalump, and proceed to plow through a number of posts with relative equanimity, secure in the belief that they know where this is all trending.

Remember, Small was only found after they gave up looking. He ended up somehow in the Heffalump Trap. 2

1. Which somehow makes us the most gullible people on the planet, not only tolerating the pitch and the spin, but actually begging to be lied to and happily paying for the privilege. But that’s a topic for another day.

2. Only the illustration leads us, rather arbitrarily, to believe that Small was a large beetle. Nowhere in the text is his identity spelled out, beyond saying that he was one of Rabbit’s innumerable friends-and-relations. Which is, of course, tantamount to saying that he is that Friend who stands in the same relation to every seeker.

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