Monday, March 10, 2003

known and unknown

"There are known knowns. These are the things we know we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don't know we don't know."

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's canny observation does much to verbalize what we all know but don't concretize. Applied to writing (in the context of the still-continuing conversation triggered by what a writer should write about) we are trapped by the universe of the knowns, with the often accidental discovery of the unknown (or a deliberate search for answers to questions fielded) yielding the most interesting of works. Sometimes, what is revealed or discovered is the unconscious agenda. Sometimes, it is the apparent lack of it.

It would be interesting to posit a method of writing about the unknown, in terms of being free of agenda (unconscious or otherwise). What would it be like? Considering the infinite universe of the unknowns, what would the subject matter be? Sadly, apart from so-called "automatic writing", I know of no such thing.

But if there was a way, could one still claim authorship of the work produced, considering the writer made no conscious decision in terms of topic, style or even format or language (apart from simply deciding to write something)? What I mean is this - I can claim responsbility for something that I write when I am consciously writing, for the act of creation (though sometimes inspired) is deliberate. But while I am the one who dreams when I sleep, the content of my dreams are not under my control - in other words, I do not create my dreams (I am not a lucid dreamer). Are we responsible, in terms of creation, for only the things we are aware of of creating, the known knowns?

The conceit here is the old standing argument of duality between conscious and unconscious. Two sides of the same coin, light and shadow. Of course we are both, a gestalt, but doesn't the very nature of the "unknown unknowns" defy both easy definition and control? Am I the author of my unconscious? Can I claim primary authorship?

I know I do not know, you know?


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