Full of nothing, or: There is only everything – .

I watched this video-poem by Aaron Fagan:

which I really liked, and so I did some googling, to find out a bit more about its author. Here is what Fagan has to say about his own poetry – and poetry in general:

The fact people hate poetry so much is part of why I love it so much. Saying to someone that you write poetry, feels like you’ve casually admitted you’re a Satanist, it just doesn’t go over well—you can see and hear the needle scratch across the record in their mind.


When I read in public, it’s in a pretty calm and neutral way. For me it feels like blowing into a balloon, one breath at a time, filling it with pressure and tension to the point where it could explode at any moment but doesn’t. That could be taken as saying my poems are “full of nothing” which is fine. I like the idea of saying “nothing” in a beautiful and horrifying way.

Here is a text version of the video-poem:

No Black Scorpion is Falling Upon This Table

There is only everything.
Each morning I ask if it’s the same
At different times and if it’s time
To go. Empty the self of self.
Such are the perverse incentives
Of cognitive dissonance. There
She is, silent in a dream I keep
Having where she does this
Elaborate dance number
With a batch of tuxedoed men.
It goes on for hours. Days pass.
I do what I can to not be a danger
To myself and other strangers.
Watch as the world and everything
You love to hate falls away. Way up
High in the sky, no black scorpion
Is falling upon this table. A month
Passes. Like the legal status of a snail,
Number is the ruler of all forms.
I try to teach my children there are
Different kinds of infinity.
Ideas, language, and, of course,
Cogito ergo sum don’t make sense
Anymore. Who would have thought
We could make it rich just for liking things.
It’s the aspect I fail to consider that rules me.
Spacetime is only very slightly curved,
Except near a black hole. So in practice
You would be swimming for billions
Of years before you moved a millimeter.
I feel and imagine without time, but
Damned myself to a language that demands
I express it there. Backscattered light created
A halo around the shadow of the photographer.
We stand out in the crowd, grabbing
At straws to get it done. The witless
Luck of the periphery. We or I
(Should I feel compelled to say “I”)
Bend down on one knee and say,
“Same here, same here. I dream only
Of faceless people, too.” And all the
Monkeys are healthy now and do not
Glow under normal light. I dropped
My phone in the river today, but
At least I was at the river. Deep within
The idea of good and evil, there is
A magnetism that cancels us out.
When the soul draws near that void,
Life is too empty to talk about.

In 1934, at the age of 30, B. F. Skinner found himself at a dinner sitting next to Professor Alfred North Whitehead. Never one to lose an opportunity to promote behaviorism, Skinner expounded its main tenets to the distinguished philosopher. Whitehead acknowledged that science might account for most of human behavior but he would not include verbal behavior. He ended the discussion with a challenge: “Let me see you,” he said, “account for my behaviour as I sit here saying, ‘No black scorpion is falling upon this table.’”

The next morning Skinner began his book Verbal Behavior, which it took him over twenty years to complete. Skinner argues that verbal behavior requires a separate analysis because it does not operate on the environment directly, but rather through the behavior of other people in a verbal community. He illustrates his thesis with examples from literature, the arts, and the sciences, as well as from his own verbal behavior and that of his colleagues and children. Perhaps it is because this theoretical work provides a way to approach that most human of human behavior that Skinner often called Verbal Behavior his most important work.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow! Interesting. I did not know that anecdote about Skinner and Whitehead. Thanks!

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