Dingman's Pond —James Carrick

While gliding o'er the fair expanse
And gazing at the shore beyond,
What simple joys the soul entrance
Evoked by crossing Dingman's Pond.1

The joy2 I here have found shall be
Dear to my heart till life forsake,
And often shall I think of thee,
Thou mildly3 beauteous Dingman's Lake

Winsome and wise in water's lore
We see with wondrous eyes,
I set my sights for yonder shore
Where nature's secret lies.


1. crossing Dingman's Pond

The pathos of Dingman is by definition the pathos of the self-defeated. By self-defeated I mean Kristeva’s principle abjection, Self-defeat, which arises out of the province of the inexpressible (ergo: un-accomplishable). In this Hell, or most precisely, in the purgatory of a crossing, defeat (failure) defines the perimeter of the realm; it is a pre-condition; as shoreline to a pond, perpetual crossing is a prior establishment, a foregone conclusion. If it were not thus, Logos, in this province, this twilight zone of non-being, would not fashion art nor the substance of the effort evoke beauty or attraction, because it is precisely this state of crossing that defines one pole of the pathology and extrapolates the other in the process as Christ, Oedipus, etc.. This is why there are so many, like Carrick, for surely his speaker is self-referential, who never attain (or deeply, truly) even want to attain their Dingman's shore in the conclusion of an artwork's work. To be a Balzac or a Dickens or a Dostoevsky or a Kipling is to write for one’s own life, and sometimes even this is not enough; very often indeed one must be in the position of writing for the lives of family or community as well, such that the sway of an ultimate ‘end’—death—can be used productively to overcome the fundamental need/pre-condition of endlessness, and thereby topple the Romantic barrier, allowing one to escape one’s enclosing pathology and emerge free on the other side, complete in one’s completion, as it were.

The clearest precursor we have of such a border-crossing is Salvador Dalí. The Spanish Master has made clear through his own voluminous writings that an artist in any medium must possess two attributes in order to create lasting order in the face of modern chaos. These attributes are craftsmanship and ‘quintessence’. By the latter Dalí means the heightened or crystallized vision of life often associated with Romantic art. By the former Dalí means the tools of any period or style. Thus the principle work of post modern artist ('art' by Dalí's definition is that which rises up from the modern chaos) involves his much discussed paranoid critical method wherein one subverts intellect, turning the mind against itself through a forced rationalization of disparate elements (q.v. Raymond Roussell). Turning logic against logic Dalí creates, as it were, success out of failure, or at least a path for the post-modern artist who subsequently advances through self-denial and self-destruction, though to be sure it is no ordinary self-abasement; in these forced rationalizations, Dalí achieves ‘quintessence’ in what he calls 'Hyper-Dalínian' space. Daring to shed his own psychic chaff, he prunes away the parts of modern consciousness that limits his creative capacity for illogical rationalizations (recall Dalí’s love of Nietzsche, and of course the subsequent ghastly illogical results when the political sphere is thus aestheticized) at the expense of the rational, fundamental, basic, orderly, and commonsense. Gradually he increases his waking access to his mind's deepest, most unregulated, imaginative dream-capacity by systematically destroying his own super-ego. These barriers, in theory, form the protections of the Self, but they also deny the artist special access to his quintessence, so they must be crossed. Thus Dalí wakes in the morning and exclaims at the top of his lungs: Dalí is the greatest genius on the face of the earth! Dalí does not mis-take! Thus Dalí rises above the self-limitations of ordinary men, who’s unmodified psyches will not allow themselves to perceive and imagine visions of dreaming-God. To understand Dingman's Pond, and thus what happened to James Carrick, we too must now make this crossing.

Consider the following precedent in light of Carrick’s most recent disappearance. Wearing a blue cape, with a red design and white detailing, in the image of Evel Kneival, stood James Carrick on August 14, 1989.

Wind hustled and tugged at the cape, and he pulled the string tighter around his throat. “With no hope of rescuing Solitude,” Carrick writes in his journal (C.J.I #326.5), “from such a height the city expands, escapes.” He paced and leaned deeply on the railing, wondering if the gathering momentum of that unraveling formulae would push him around like the wind throw him around until he was transmogrified by friction or killed rocketing off roof railings. With the desperation of unexpressed energy, with no evaluation and no outlet Carrick has only the warm night air, the cool warmth of a light night breeze.

i'm concerned i'm concerned and i want
the warm night air around me
not this up here in the guarantee of solitude
in the dizzy depth of a city with a thousand flags flapping
in the distance and i want into the orange decline
into grey and the lights warm glow but i want
patience for that; i know if i stay i will jump will want
to jump: rigor-marole, flim, flam, flop

In bed the silence of the house is precarious in contrast with the Cal Train whistles and ships’ horns reverberate from the bay. Carrick searches for a way out, trying to find the hole he’d woken up in with the four walls behind his building breathing like a living above a pit dug from the hillside. I was there. Nothing meant anything to him: not his work, nor his friends. How alone. I can’t even imagine a way to convey it in writing. I sat up wherever the light came on from his apartment at that hour. There was no light before sunrise. Yet it was there; a spot on the wall, light enough to make a greenish spot of blur soak into the paint. A bleed. I leaned my face to the window to steady myself and turned my cheeks to the coldness of the plaster. A soft buzz of the generator, the color image of a hypodermic needle. So many years now that I have almost forgotten how desperate he was. I didn’t realize all the trouble he went through to make it happen, and I slept through as he slipped out of bed.

Standing on his chosen rooftop, on the wonderful roof of the Flat Iron building, he prepared for his free fall… .

Now, in these equations, y is geographic latitude and G prime is commonly referred to as theoretical gravity or normal gravity, but first, history: In 1930, the world accepted International Gravity Formula (IGF) was:

g0 = 9.78049(1+0.0052884sin2 y-0.0000059sin2 2y)

Tragically, at the expense of several expensive balloons, this was found to be in error by about 13 mgals. Nonetheless, with advent of satellite technology, much improved values were obtained, the consequence of which being the Geodetic Reference System that in the summer of ‘67 lovingly provided the new IGF:

g0 =9.78031846(1 + 0.0053024sin2 y-0.0000058sin2 2y)

As recently as 1984, however, IAG developed a more comprehensive Geodetic Reference System, leading to World Geodetic System (WGS84) making absolutely certain-sure that no one, no matter who or how sneaky, could ever escape the wax-melting, pride shattering, ineluctable traction of gravity unclothed by the formula:

g0 =9.7803267714 (1 + 00193185138639sin2 y / √1-0.00669437999013sin2 y)

Such that the IGF value is subtracted from observed (absolute) gravity data, thus correcting for the variation of gravity with latitude. As it happened James Carrick being no slouch in mathematics had considered the latitude of the Flatiron Building on Market Street in San Francisco is 37.775 N. and the “rest assured’ value of G prime acting on the roof to floor of the Flat Iron building was 979973.24 mgals—meaning the force of acceleration due to gravity is close enough to 9.8 meters per second squared, for a person standing on the roof of an 11 story building 48.3597390509776 m, or, 158.6683038262575 feet from the lip of the cornice including the thickness of his boots and standard issue cotton tube socks down to the thickness of the coat of paint of the bull’s-eye painted on the meniscus of the taut skin of the mini-tramp waiting below. Standing there surging through the certain knowledge that he truly was the failure his father proclaimed him to be, believing that he could never face him/them or expect anyone to understand his passion, having no idea what to do when faced with human gatherings or how to say those self-betraying words of love, instead opting more or less volitionally to pass completely into the shiftless, careless dodge of the beaten, he crawls from nothingness to nothingness not able to think of anything, to finish anything, to write anything or to conjure anything, in short from one unfinished, hare-lipped scheme to the next.

As Baxter confirms, trauma cannot speak of itself, for if it could, in the air-conditioned language of chalked proofs, it would not be trauma but trauma-transformed. This is the core principle and geometric telemetry behind the ‘seen and not heard’ curriculum dictus of all 1950s American parents.

Carrick calculated his 50 meters divided by half the unstoppable force of gravity and square rooted again; to cancel out those rushing meters with the addled mind of psychotic poet and bet that his own flung body caped in blue and flung from the edge would enter a vortex at the nexus of theory and practice as the formulae concluded with the miraculous unending number of 3.1415926— seconds to earth, or PI seconds as his exact longitude and height. Mathematically proven, he believed he would never hit the ground, given the exactness of his measurements. And so he gathered himself there, wondering no doubt: will I fall in a circle? Not even the fastest computer could tell him. The circle, the end unreachable. But who can accept that their goal is unreachable?

True it is as hard just to put one’s faith in math, in numeric proofs. In the age of unbelievable belief, numbers? Why did he go through with it? The preparations, the re-checking of the math, the check summing of the graph, all the anxiety, all the depression and mania. He worked himself up into such a fit such that every one around him almost wished he would take one of his perfect leaps, though it had the foul odor of a suicide attempt. The readings aren’t what they used to be. People used to come out for things, but not anymore. The San Francisco scene is dead. Art is dead.

No graceful rainbows. Straight down, the undeniable, the absolute. Truth’s dive, he called it. The straight man caught with a penis is his mouth and no hope, no grandiosity, no fashion, no fabulosity and no potential for floating away in some pre-1930 fairy tale version of gravity.

His dive is WBS-1984 certified.

The question of course: should one have measured from one’s head or one’s feet or perhaps one’s center of mass? Was it in error to include the thickness of the tube socks? Perhaps the boots, being fixed to their frame of reference should have been excluded from the formulae? That was vanity. Sheer vanity.

To speak of such early stunts as juvenile theatrics, mere thrill seeking or even calculated publicity, however, is to ignore the greater context of Carrick's life. Recent developments in the field have brought to life previously undisclosed facts, including the bombshell revelation that Carrick spent the better part of his undergraduate career as an intern in a top secret primate research facility in Menlo Park. As his diary entries from that period indicate, profound existential notions were implicit in his work. Consider the following excerpt from a recently de-classified government report of unknown authorship believed issued by Carrick's facility at the time of his employment:

… Delgado concludes that “there are no detectable sings of mental activity at birth and that human beings are born without minds” thus arguing that ‘extra-cerebral elements’ combine with organic process manifest from the genetic endowments of the individual to create the mind. In other words it takes something from outside the body to complete the being. The extra-uterine stimulus after birth being the key.

The baby itself is not unique; rather external experiences define, shape and control the processes of individuation. The channels and volume of a television set can be adjusted by depressing corresponding nubs of a small telecommand instrument. These accomplishments should familiarize us with the idea that we can also control the biological functions of living organisms from a distance.

Stimo-ceivers for radio transmission and reception of electrical messages to and from the brain, allow Monkey Paddy, while free in her cage to telemeter the brain activity of her right and left amygdaloid nuclei to scientists in an adjacent facility. Instructions can be implanted ‘subcutaneously’ via the solid state instrumentation, which requiring no batteries or internal power source can work indefinitely. Necessary electrical energy and choice of channels are provided with a transdermal coupling using a small coil activated by frequency modulated radio signals.

A child-volunteer has been instrumented with 28 neuronic electrodes, a two channel telemetric unit on top of the head, and a three channel radio stimulator around the neck. The animal has learned to press a lever to obtain food.

Some of the female patients have shown their natural adaptability to circumstances by wearing attractive hats or wigs to conceal their electrical headgear, and many such creative solutions allow them to enjoy a virtually normal life as outpatients.

The direct interface between brains and machines makes operation of TV Guide literally second nature.

Meanwhile we can induce pleasure or punishment and therefore the motivation to act in a desirable manner, but we cannot, however, control the sequence of movements necessary for the act. If we should ever rise beyond this limitation or whether our current functionality is sufficient to our purposes is the source of great internal debate.

Neuronal pathways only transmit patterns of electrical activity which constitutes a message that like a telegraph must be deciphered by the central nervous system. Through these and other experimentations we have learned that so-called normalcy and deviancy depend on how these messages are transmitted. Given slight fluctuations we can engender various libidinal fluctuations. For instance, frigid patients can in a matter of moments come to enjoy vigorous spankings and other kinds of formerly unthinkable demonstrative foreplay.

Naturally, it goes without saying that the chronicle of human civilization is the story of a cooperative venture consistently marred by self-destruction, in which every advance is accompanied by equal and opposite increase in the efficiency of a violent corollary, yielding more and better means of self-destruction. Induced narcolepsy is a favorite prank of the stimo-ceiver operator. Nonetheless we have many safeguards in place.

In some patients electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe has produced the perception of music. In others, a kaleidoscopic symphony of color and light. Occasionally these tunes or images can be hummed or otherwise reproduced by the subjects. The sound/colors do not seem to be recollections but resemble a more closely actual experiences in which the instruments or patterns must have existed. We must remember the only way to be in touch with external reality is by transducing physical and chemical sequences at the sensory receptor level. The brain is not in touch with experiential reality but with a symbolic code transmitted by neuronal pathways.

The old dream of an individual overpowering the strength of a dictator by remote control has been fulfilled in the laboratory several times over by our Monkey test colonies. As a caveat however, one does well to note that inexpert electro-stimulation produces little that resembles the normal. Voluntary methods (or control) are to be preferred but only if they work, if they do not, then involuntary controls must be imposed.

For this purpose, a substance closely related to peyote alkaloids in LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is carefully employed. As the UNESCO Constitution reminds us, war begins in the minds of men, and it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. The sheer modesty of spaceship earth, or Winnebago Earth, as we refer good-naturedly to it around here, is a reality; one we must accept. Only then can we understand our universe and start planning to conquer the stars.

All the machines we build are copies of some part of ourselves. Self-destruction is the process by which we go back to the drawing board and redesign what are we preparing for. What fulfillment when we insert the plug in the last sliver of liquid crystal and control a human brain!

Man has always embellished on his fantasies of uniqueness: descendant of the gods, center of the universe, god-authorized overseer and master of a planet for his enjoyment. Freud has exposed the great myth of our uniqueness. We are all just reflex driven electro-stim machines, who repeat the same actions in the face of the same stimuli. Floating in the immensity of sidereal space; time and distance have lost their former absolute values and taken on different meanings to difference observers. In rejecting the immutability of our values and (oneness), we reject Fate, the fatal, and the determination of a single destiny.

The individual may think that the most important fact of reality is his own existence; however the feedback loop of reason and experience is the means by which we modify our behavior and self-direct our careening course through space. This existential flow cannot occur without a continual and a priori flowing in of electrical stimuli, made not by the efforts of one man or even a hundred, but millions most of men, dead but accumulated through the avatars of thousands of years graciously given us by the coincidence of resemblance that human blood shares with sea water.

2. joy

The joy of Dingman is the joy of the self-constructed. For Symbolists, like Carrick, language above all is a mysterious medium in which meaning increases with the number of different directions each word points—that is, inversely with utility. Notwithstanding the now well-known and highly utilitarian syllabic decoding given by The Utterance Army in which the numerologic occurrance of repeating phenomic variations of "joy" (from O.Fr. joie, from L. gaudia, pl. of gaudium "joy," from gaudere "rejoice," from PIE base *gau- (cf. Gk. gaio "I rejoice," M.Ir. guaire "noble") joy-riding is Amer.Eng., 1908; joy stick is 1910, aviators' slang for the control lever of an airplane; etc) the 'jo' of joy also appears in significant iteration of Carrick's [jo]urney and attainment of a transubstantive 'end' in the ephemera of his work (see note 1). Robert W. Chambers observes in The Gay Rebellion (1951) "May 8th, 1942, James Carrick, a minor poet, young, well built, handsome, and in excellent physical condition, disappeared from a boat on Dingman's Pond." And so it happened (almost without the need of saying) upon its recovery by a group of passersby that the boat was found to contain a 400 page hand-written note-book, including as frontispiece, the preceding and assumed legitimate version of the poem at issue. As Apollinaire, the albeit often apocryphal biographer of Henri Rousseau, has stated, the artist’s sense of the real, even with most fantastic subjects, becomes at times so profoundly overwhelming that, as in Rousseau’s case, a true genius may in the most childish of happenstance become frightened to look upon his own canvas, tremble all over, and rush to the window. Rousseau himself had at all times while painting to sing the songs of his youth and of the time he spent in state service in order to keep his spirits up and his mind calm. [Apollinaire:II:y:a] However, we can be reasonably sure that accidental virtue is not the cause of Carrick's transposition of poetry upon his own life’s canvas, at least insofar as regards his disappearance under the surface of a) the lake and/or b) his own poem. Indeed with Carrick we are dealing with an altogether Modernist and satiric figure of the avant-garde. Of course on one hand it is widely fashionable to observe that the avant-garde flourished principally in France in the years between 1885 and 1915, where, like the profound stability of the ocean beneath its waves and storms a great reservoir of indifference and conservatism in the French culture sustained a uniquely French period of dynamic eclecticism. At the same, such observers are wont to note that the great French tradition of aesthetic defiance known as avant-gardism has equivalent in the United States nor could it where the climate of consumption renders any active avant-garde so rapidly into the maw of the cultural market that it scarcely has time to form and find its name before it is digested and squeezed out the other end. This is precisely the attitude or bias form which we must rid ourselves as regards Carrick, where in the metaphysical descent of this author into and through his own poem’s surface—by which act he obliterates the barrier between life and art—we see on one hand the historical origins of a true American avant-garde (even some two years before Duchamp expatriated French avant-gardism to New York's Armory Show) and on the other profound empirical evidence of the paradoxical means through which any artist may free her/himself from the very pre-conditions that define his spiritual and psychic being by the cross-rendering of those self-same barricades.

3. Thou mildly beauteous

All known hand-written Fair Copies and publisher's galleys of the poem indicate "Humidly beauteous". Thus the agency which purported to bring, at some dark and seedy printer's hour, the extra-literation "Thou mildly" is at present one of the great unsolved mysteries of Carrickology. How Carrick, at some unseen and apocalyptic last minute, could have made an undocumented change to the Fair Copy of the poem, after having personally and at no small expense pressed a vanity run of 1022 copies, from hand-engraved plates which express a "Humidly beauteous" lake, is a mystery par excellence and certainly worth our time and effort to unravel.a Of course, there is the possibility that the agent of change was not Carrick at all, rather some other malevolent actor.
… . .Previous commentators in this area, such as Matthew Morris-Cook,b have tended to conclude that the goodness or evilness of the extra-literation, resolves absolutely under the aegis of authorial wisdom, with scant acknowledgment of the possibility that Carrick himself willfully occupies the role of malevolent force acting destructively upon his own creation (see Note 1 and Note 2)—and/or: that the extra-literation (should it be shown to have originated elsewhere) could have no probative value to the poem proper and by virtue of its definition as "alien" or "foreign" to the original text would therefore be inoperate, incohesive or without affect, in the Aristotlean sense, vis a vis the original schema of the poem. Of course, the range of problems leading out from the readers and critics who would transpose a subjective predilection for Aristotlean wholeness onto Carrick the Modernist, Carrick the Symbolist, Carrick the Colorist are simply too numerous and problematic to deal with in this arena. Further still, the rather primitive notion held by the present faculty of the Institute for Carrickology in the pursuit of what can only be considered, upon reflection, as a binary mode of thought in a line of inquiry that depends wholly on the distinction of goodness or evilness in absolute degrees is indeed perplexing. Nonetheless, it is these errant notions of error that we must eschew in order that we may review the most basic of clues and deduce the likely scenarios, which once unfolded, will like a map reflect the topography of a singularly important moment in the history of American letters.
… . .Few would argue that James Carrick, by virtue of his corpus, if not his locality, qualifies as a latter-day Lake Poet, and that his work as such is at once infused with the ethos of the Modern and the Romantic. Seemingly he functions in relation to his native Ireland as Chopin to his native Poland: expatriate, ex-nationalist and yet nostaglic and patriotic to the extreme; post-oedipal and yet torn between gender-identifications as between historical eras. Indeed, his work sits upon the very fault lines that threaten to tear apart at the least approbation of discovery the very canons of history.
… . .Without doubt the reader will recall the main figures of the Lake School, who are of course are the Wordsworths (William & Dorothy), the Coleridges (Sam & Hartley), Southey, Wilson, and De Quincey; and in turn their heirs to whom the legacy now extends via Payne, Procter, Hemans and even (sigh) Walter Scott. For what is the essence of Lake Poetry? Let us simply say, without equivocation, it is nothing other than naturalistic perambulations on the beauty of lakes. For a Lake Poet, lake-ness requires only two attributes, which may be expressed through an infinite number of variances: water and beauty. Thus, in our investigation of the the first mystery of Carrick's extra-literation, we cannot fail to observe that the change in text over time—that is, the calculus of his revision—points startlingly toward a decreasing appreciation for the titular body of water. In its retrograde from celebratory cry ("humidly beauteous") to a grudging adjective ("mildly" beauteous) the adaptation fain would herald itself specious.

… . .
… . .

Annotations To The Notes

… . .a. Of course my esteemed colleagues at the Institute for Carrickology, Professors Hall and Hergenrader, deign see no vagary about it. Instead they advance a thesis of auto-intertextual-eroticism, which holds that Carrick and/or his readers derive a sexual pleasure in the release, interplay and "violation" of a presumed single text at the hands of its unsanctioned and competing Other, in this case, the fallen self-image mirrored in the text. While I will not indulge that line of reasoning here, I merely point out an hypothesis notwithstanding.

… . .b. See Morris-Cook, Matthew. "?: Accommodation in the Realm of the Apostles" Poesie. 23:2 (Spring 1987): 325-67.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License