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This article is taken from PN Review 245, Volume 45 Number 3, January - February 2019.

On Vision
An Attempt at Reparative Reading
Sasha Dugdale
I THINK ALL THE TIME and I always thought that everyone else did, too. I still assume this is true, because otherwise what would that look like: an absence of thought? A nothing in the mind, perhaps a cognitive vacuum? Wouldn’t a vacuum like that crush the skull from inside? Is that why the ears are placed on either side of the head, two small valves to prevent a vacuum in the event of an absence of thought?

I think all the time, and sometimes I have such great thoughts, they are so intricate and magnificent that they resemble Breughel’s Tower of Babel. But I can’t ever get them out of me intact. The act of birthing them on paper or in speech reduces them to vague shadows of their former glory. The birthing canal snaps the rudimentary structural props. Like a ship in a bottle, they cannot be pulled back out of the bottle’s mouth without splintering and splitting. The rings of Breughel’s tower collapse into a nest of sinister sphincters.

If you can’t communicate your thoughts then there is no point in having them. That was said to me at university and it is quite true, I suppose. This was my coming-of-age: I slowly got used to having humbler thoughts that were expressible, the apprentice thoughts of a beginner draughtsman, thoughts that were the same reasonable size on the outside and on the inside. I began to understand that the other grander thoughts were follies: unrealisable mental architectures with proportions that couldn’t sustain them in the cold world. Slow thoughts! ...

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