The mouth of duality
That we are all free beings
In need of a cage.
Lose the words
In a fit of rage,
Stunned by what
They know is true.
By reading the contents of these two poems, you notice they seem to complement one another as though the two poems are responding to the other. This complementation is made even clearer by the image invoked: mouths speaking.
One thing I plan to do in this post is to explain exactly why these poems are prophetic (as I have failed to do so in past posts—why do these poems look toward the future and make a guess?) Firstly, I believe these poems draw from a profound interest in psychology, meaning these poems are not concerned with different actors, but rather the same actor. Put in another way, these are prophetic because the mouths (“mouth of duality” [7th; ln. 1]; “single mouths” [8th; ln. 1) belong to mental states—repressive or active, respectively—and not just individuals: they warn us of what we might become.
Unlike most of Moss’ poems, I do not like these two complementary prophecies. While the point of this poem (as I have conflated the two) is that we do suffer from cognitive dissonance of some kind (not necessarily limited to words, but to thoughts and to actions), the way Moss executes such a theory lacks an affirmation of multiple truths. Moreover, Moss seems to prematurely reject passion as a form of truth-bearing since the single mouth “lose[s its] words” (ln. 2) and is “stunned by what [it] know[s] as true” (ln. 4-5). This may seem contradictory since the loss of words occurs “in a fit of rage” (ln. 3). The single form of truth is apparent to the single mouth which, blocked by its passions, cannot articulate some crime against it. The shortcoming is passion.
But why a single mouth? What makes it prone to passions and, more importantly, what makes it the perceiver of truths (over the multiple mouth)? Truth, as used popularly and as the basis of much of western philosophy, is a singular concept. It does not have multiple facets nor even contradictory elements within it: it simply is and unchanging.
Interpretations of this kind are, on the whole, naïve conceptions of truth since a singular, permanent concept must be universal(ized). This truth is discovered possibly through observation, possibly through thought purely. As noted above, this pure thought or pure observation is obscured and contradicted at the location of the passion-prone single mouth. Moss presents this as a problem which he expands on in the 7th poem: the multiple mouth speaks “side-by-side” (ln. 2). Passions, while it is true, do feel in different directions and for different reasons on occasion desiring that which maligns truth or reason, purely. But, passions are reactions to material changes, reactions to intensities of objects. Intensities and the human’s propensity to react to objects are not qualities inherent to the object—rather, to the relation of the subject to the object. (I don’t want to use this model of describing how the object comes to the subject; but, it is a fallacy in this poem Moss employs. No, the object becomes known to the subject through the subject, but the subject is likewise an object to the object. The two perspectives become interchangeable at the moment of approach). The qualities—made perceptible to the subject only by interaction (and not through intuition)—of objects are reduced by the perceptive machine of the brain, the eyes, the senses. Reduced to what qualities are most significant—or most intense—to the perceiver. Since the perceiver cannot process ALL qualities of the object at hand it can only process, by its biological limitation, those aspects which are the most important in any given situation. As the material world changes our interactions with it change based on the material conditions at the time—this means our faculty for perceiving the material world (I argue the conditions necessary for “truth”) changes, resulting in a corresponding change in truth. The material world is ‘all’ which is itself truth. The consequence of this statement, of truth subordinated to the everchanging material world, is that what is true (or present, perceptible) must also contain the possibility that that material will one day cease to exist in its familiar form (liken to death: a person is ‘gone’ only because their body does not react as a human would as it is familiar to us; but, the body is still a complex amalgam of different chemicals that will rot eventually and become soil—the chemical makeup of the body, however, does not change: carbon is still carbon). Therefore, in order to understand truth, must also understand that things will not be as they are—the potential for radical change (like death) is a property of all material. However, perception of ‘all’ is not possible with the human body. But, this limitation is not special to humans—in fact this limitation is a quality inherent in all material: ‘all’ cannot be perceived from a single proximity. “Truth” is based off those intensities which change with the material world without ever expanding further beyond the material limitations of the perceiving organ. So, the only truth perceiving organs have access to is the intensity of the object perceived—thus, the “passion” of the singular mouth. Truth, I argue, can be articulated because that truth is necessarily passionate, intense, and perception-specific.
This may ring as idealism to some, but I am not claiming that perceiving organs create the world—they interpret the world and allow us to interact with it. Human reason, or material reason broadly speaking, is not the only truth, but rather one of many truths. If truths clash, they do not destroy one another—as would be the case with dialectics. Rather, when truths clash, they merely juxtapose—for both are fictions.
In the recent election, we’ve been inundated with claims of fake news while actual fake news is being disseminated to people. Take PizzaGate: a sensational fabrication with no basis in reality. This claim is false for I would argue that, yes, PizzaGate has truth to it because it is believed. There is a material explanation for it (existing in words). I am not justifying this fabrication but rather using it to show how, even though it is a total fabrication, it can’t be brushed off as simply false nor could the “truth” behind it be intuited. That material conditions were set in place irresponsibly (words spoken) with only pure intensity as their material. Because the PizzaGate fiction—along with the other fictions of our world: everything—is a fiction, it should be treated as such. However, like books, there are “good” books and “bad” books: books people enjoy over books people don’t. The fictions we enjoy contribute to our overall being (as with the ones we despise, but negatively) and can benefit us: climate change. I, for one, believe climate change is occurring (and not to the benefit of humanity, certainly) but I cannot be a hypocrite and say that climate is real while PizzaGate is not. Climate change, or rather reversing it, is a fiction that benefits humans. We must acknowledge the inherently anthropocentric character of ecocentrism—and thus, the fiction of climate change. Why do we want to stop dumping pollution into the environment? Why do we want to reduce carbon emissions? Why do we want to stray from fossil fuels? It’s not because those things are inherently bad for the environment—no, the environment will change and adapt to the poisons; it will continue on even with those conditions. Rather, we as humans want to combat climate change because we want to combat the effects which make the environment hostile to humans (or life in general). I look to Venus when we start talking about climate change—it’s doing just fine, but it’s not habitable by humans since the atmosphere is fucking poisonous (to humans). Where this contrasts with PizzaGate is that PizzaGate benefits no one and was employed to do reputational damage to someone—as a reactionary stunt. But, we cannot forget that both PizzaGate and climate change are fictions—which fictions benefit us, that is the essential question.
Likely what Moss means by the mouth of duality is a mouth that speaks of these is a person who intentionally misleads, drawing from the idiom, “speaking from both sides of your mouth.” But, looking to the critique above, we must be aware that the multiple mouth is the one that more accurately captures truth (in ‘all’) when it creates its fiction. Moss’ mouth of duality, I believe, comments on the state in which institutions or people create fictions and for what reasons: to make people claim freedom but desire a “cage” (ln. 4). While these dual mouths are indeed lying (or creating a mismatch between the effort put in to the reward derived, if any) it is because they believe their truths to be truths above other truths. There is a falsified discourse which assumes its own premises to be correct and unquestionable and that other premises are flatly wrong (since they do not line up with the dual-mouth’s premises and for no other reason). I look to religion or to patriotism which are unabashedly arbitrary but still hold themselves true (over other truths). This is the single mouth. However, we need to differentiate my multiple mouth from the mouth of duality. The multiple mouth recognizes its own fiction and the fictions of others (since the perceiving organ operates solely on passions and intensities); it affirms them, to use Nietzschean language. The single mouth and the dual-mouth, however, deny other truths, especially truths which are passionate.