Notational, No. 23

But Hamlet does not like matter. He wants it to melt, resolve into a dew—even the matter of spirits should do so—and yet that dew is matter too. He likes nothing, absence, zero, vacancy, all of which “Nature” abhors and her Law forbids—as we still believe. The word “O,” newly ambiguous with the importation of “𝚘” from Arab mathematics, is uttered more in Hamlet than in any play but Othello. And Hamlet says “no” more than any character in Shakespeare. This hatred of matter on Hamlet’s part is shocking: it measures the greatest imaginable despair. For even the dead are matter. (Is this what generates a ghost in place of the corpse of his father?)

✧ Mary Baine Campbell,Shakespeare and Modern Science”

Matter is the remnants of a bright occasion stashed in the basement. The bits and pieces of something so promising and full of unfettered expectation have been packed up and sealed into crates, boxes that are only moved by the forces of necessity. From one end of a darkened chasm to the other: rearranged perhaps, reorganized, recombined; but still, there will never be tinsel in the hot furnace of an anticipated revelation for these things again. Nor the gasp of connection and release that flies out from a compression that has made new beginnings possible.

This so often feels like what lies at the end of what I find when I contemplate the terrible renunciation of freedom that comes from existing in a world that—so often—feels like the product of solitary limits. Of boundaries. Of facts organized around principles that assert that most of what we know is composed of space. That being is lonely in the sense that nothing is really in contact. That we cannot be anywhere doing anything at any moment.

Hamlet says “no” so much because he voices the denial that begs to be vocalized when you encounter a hard “no” yourself. Or a “yes” that means “no” when you hear it. Assertions and negations are flying about us all the time, and a lot of the time these beg a denial from something deep and steadfast within. When something is not possible, when something is asserted in our world and we are forced to contend with that thing, and that thing amounts to being a being, which we must grapple with—but maybe do not accept no matter how reasonable or graceful it might be to do so—”no” is sometimes the only sane thing to say about it. The matter of articulating the rejection of a fact that makes everything harder. What do you want to say, without deception, when your options, defined by matter, are worse or worst?

We are confined. These atoms do not prevaricate the way we would like them to. We are packed up. You can say “no” to matter, but at its most fundamental, it does not hear—it only moves.