Traces

The Blue Book includes an explanation of why "traces" matter in literary terms, citing Jacques Derrida and his seminal essay, "Signature, Event, Context". By following the etymological roots of our words and tracing the different routes they have taken through various languages and times, we can come to a deeper appreciation of the meaning in[[here]]nt in each utterance, and expand the signification of each sentence.

In modern languages, though, this is a largely intellectual exercise and most people don't like poor Jacques' academic prose. However, older languages - in particular Arabic, Hebrew and Arameic - come with this notion of trace and differance built-in. Each word in these Semitic tongues is made up of a "consonantal root" that it shares with many other words, which often have almost exactly the opposite meaning. The fact that each [[root]] calls to mind so many other meanings simultaneous to the actual utterance itself means that each Semtic word carries a far larger signficatory field than their English (or Latinate) equivalents.

In particular, if one knows this existence to be made up of complementary opposites - where good implies bad; light requires [[shadow]] to be known; attraction necessitates repulsion; pain and pleasure go together - then it becomes obvious just why the Semitic languages serve as vehicles for the direct (and therefore sacred) description of the meaning of this life. The word "Arab" itself means "clear" and it is precisely because of the significatory field depth of each word that the Qur'an can never be fully translated. Arabic remains the most suitable linguistic vessel for the full revelation.

Therefore, I will take just one exemplary ayat from Surah Ya-Sin, also known as the [[Heart]] of the Qur'an, so as to explain more deeply this concept of traces, why I take such care to build them into each piece, and why I encourage you to follow them across our Great Digital Face. I am forever indebted to Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri for the tafsir (Qur'anic commentary) reproduced below.


"Surely, We bring the dead to life, and We record what they have sent ahead, and the traces they have left behind. We have recorded everything in a clear Book." (36:12)


"'And their traces': everything is a trace. We ourselves are traces of the One Reality. Everywhere we look and in everything we see there is a trace or sign of Allah. All has come from Allah, all is absorbed in Allah, and all is sustained by Allah. Everything is saturated with divine essence.

"The Arabic word translated as 'traces' in this verse is āthār, meaning 'what one leaves behind', from the verb meaning 'to draw, effect, to influence'. Through our actions we leave many traces of our passage through life, some of which will enhance other people's passages. If, however, we leave crooked tracks, then whoever comes along behind us will have to cope with them. One description of the men of Allah is that when they leave their places there is nothing other than the smell of sweet perfume.

"We each reproduce the book which is traced within. The more faithful and submissive we are the truer the otuer reproduction of the inner original trace. A physical analogy may be sought in the process of holography, which produces a photographic record called a hologram. Any piece of the hologram will reconstruct the entire image. Similarly, man's self (nafs) is a 'trace', a part of the One Reality.

"'We have recorded everything in a clear Book': everything in the existence of each one of us is already being counted, measured and recorded in a [[book]]. Nothing is lost, everything has its place of manifestation, recording and recycling. Nothing can escape; it may metamorphose from one form to another, from living to dead, from energy to matter, but nothing is ever lost in this cosmos."


There is, of course, much more to say about this notion of an "original trace" or fitrah and the Adamic blueprint, though it is perhaps better left for your own discovery. Meanwhile, please enjoy the next set of musical traces made from a digital book. What a [[time]] to be a[[live]]!