When one finds himself unable to think of anything to write about; or rather when all thoughts worth writing about seem to slip away, perhaps all that’s left is to think about writing itself. The greatness of writing is that it allows us to think things that would be impossible for the meat of our brains and the sonic vibrations of our respiratory system (speech) to think. One really must be a student of Ong, McLuhan, Kittler, Derrida, and Andy Clark to understand this point. Writing in its sheer materiality, as an inscription on paper or in zeros and ones is not simply a representation of inner thought in the meat of our nervous system, it is not simply the externalization of something that has already been thought; it contributes to thought. Like any processor, our meat-minds can only process and operate on so many bits of information at any given moment. Worse yet, thoughts slip away as we think them, lost forever in the stream of consciousness. Writing preserves that which is thought, allowing us to both to return to that which we had earlier thought and expand upon it, but also freeing us from continuing to think this so that we can now think of something else. For example, the paper remembers the earlier steps of a complex mathematical derivation, allowing me to focus on the step that I’m now engaged with.
Moreover, is there anything more posthuman for the human than writing? Embodied cognition focuses on rhyme, plot, and personification as mnemonic devices. If it rhymes I can recite it because the rhythm of language draws me to the next moment in the sequence. If it has a plot involving personified entities, I can remember it because it is interpersonal relations that define me most fundamentally in my day to day thought. Yet with writing, abstraction becomes possible. I can think of simple marks like “1” or “**” and the relations that obtain between them. I depart from narrative, plot, personification, rhyme to enter the realm of abstractions, of that which is beyond the human. It is impossible to conceive of philosophy, of science, of law, of mathematics without writing. These things simply aren’t possible for flesh memory. Inscription is required so that we might surmount the limitations of our flesh. And who knows, perhaps even the fantasy of the soul as that which survives death is something that arises specifically from writing, from that which preserves in the inscription and that reifies a thought allowing us to say something like “being” where everywhere there is really only becoming.
In this regard, it could be said that writing is a perfect example of what Bergson calls “extension” or “spatialization”. Writing is the spatialization of thought. Bergson is hard on spatialization, seeing it as a betrayal of being’s true nature as duration or becoming, as flow. For Bergson, spatialization is death for it is that which halts and fixes the flow of becoming. Perhaps there’s a death in the tattoo, for the tattoo is certainly a monument. Perhaps every writing is a bit of a corpse. Yet as the above attests, there is a poet and productivity in the corpse that isn’t to be found in flow. Or rather there’s a specific flow that takes place in extensity, in spatialization, that isn’t otherwise possible. It’s impossible to imagine Newton’s Principia, Hegel’s Logic, Spinoza’s Ethics, or, ironically, Bergson’s Matter and Memory, without spatialization. The flesh alone simply isn’t capable of such thought and as a consequence writing, inscription, is central to the ecology of all contemporary thought.