Speaking (of) Flowers…

The stone.
The stone in the air, which I followed.
Your eye, as blind as the stone.

We were
hands,
we baled the darkness empty, we found
the word that ascended summer:
flower.

Flower – a blind man’s word.
Your eye and mine:
they see
to water.

Growth.
Heart wall upon heart wall
adds petals to it.

One more word like this word, and the hammers
will swing over open ground.

Paul Celan, “Flower”

Why are you so anxious about what to wear?

Rather, consider the lilies of the field, and how they grow; and that they neither toil nor spin.

Yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory is not like one of these.

The Book of Matthew 6:28-29

The word inflected by accretion is no less a unit than are the different parts of a flower in bloom; and what occurs here in langauge is purely organic in character.

Wilhelm Von Humboldt, On the Diversity of Human Languages 103

Do flowers have language? A flower does not speak — it utters no cries or groans, no sighs or indeed any other audible noise. A flower does not issue its inner cognitions in sonorous expression. Yet flowers have a language.

Even within a purely physical framework, we can speak of a flower signalling in many languages. There are many independent biological networks of signals within which a flower must function in order to survive. Beneath all the networks, however, a strange and more primordial langauge is operating. The langauge of the flower, in this sense, is no longer composed of signs, and doesn’t “mean” anything in terms of any assemblage.

Real language is not constructed of forms and organs but of intensities, forces and durations. Beneath and within the organism, there is a pure machinic order whose functioning assembles the others. A flower is an assemblage in a network both organic and inorganic — each of whose components are part of other assemblages. Thus what occurs in language is not, as Humboldt has said, purely organic — rather, even the flower is assembled by interdependent networks of organic and inorganic life.

A representation is non-living, but may be ‘organic.’ We will not ask in isolation what the flower means; rather, only to what degree it is capable of participating in organic and in-organic networks, to what degree it assembles or functions within an assemblage, that is: how much is it capable of inventing, conjoining and disjoining all varieties of multiplicities?

Flowers exchanges light for breath. A reminder that life, after all, is never completely self-enclosed. Beneath and through the innumerate folds and petals, there is a gateway onto the inside. The organization of a flower is itself expressive. While a flower may not buzz, sigh or grumble, it yet exhibits intelligence and self-direction.

They communicate between themselves. We do not know that they are not depicting images or ideas. We do, however, know that flowers feel and operate upon sounds, air and light, and that, in this sense, they participate in a natural or maternal language of solar-chemical transference. A flower does not speak, it sings as it produces air itself. Flowers are societies, entire universes. They seek neither equilibrium nor chaos, but a fantastically delicate balance between energy and entropy. A flower is already a breath and the very possibility of animal life.

A flower is even, perhaps, always a song.

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Monday, January 21, 2008 at 6:27 pm. It’s filed under breath, celan, expression, flowers, growth, heidegger, humboldt, inorganic life, intensity, language, life, light, organism, speech, spirit. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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