RIP, Stephen Hess (1980 – 2015)


A Discourse of Walking


Stephen Hess

(from Unsaid 5)


As to not frighten them away everything was made narrow and snug and entirely disallowing the so-called “experience of open space” which was to say that, at the time, we could offer no comfort or relief in the openness and vacuousness and depopulatedness in the world as all these things pointed so directly to the vague and often threatening notions of possibility and potentiality.

What could have come up out of the ground; what might have been said; what would amass and muster and form lines and ranks and flock like birds but instead in perfect geometric shapes?

These were the questions of fields and strangers and the newly-born, language-less, wriggling things and, for the time being, there remained this certain them to whom we could not mention any of this due to the general negativity and misanthropy that is so often associated with those who openly discuss the ranknesses which fill in spaces that have yet to be filled in.


At nighttime our arguments were endless; small groups of two or three of four gathering and sometimes from there growing in size but never to more than ten or twenty or thirty or forty because too many of us could not tolerate the idea of groups in and of themselves and had stated on several occasions that “an agreement between any two minds is the seed of fascism, the endogenous and selfish sprouting-from-within of a plant or tree which subjugates and attempts to fill out its boundaries with a potentially perfect and utopian form”; no, the notion of a large group was too much for us to bear so we kept things small and met in outdoor locales where we could walk or – if the weather was not permitting – we would meet in one of our homes, at a bar, or otherwise in one of the many non-descript and institutional buildings around town, but we were always so disappointed by the insubstantial and limpid conversations we had when unable to walk that we realized we could not execute whatever kind of work it was we wanted to execute from a stagnant position within the walled-rooms of the landlords and proprietors and conglomerates that surrounded us.

While walking we had decided it was possible to find a space in which we could, so to speak, bring together everything which we had always wanted to bring together and, thus, we often found the three or four or fives of us to be speaking out loud all at the same time while walking through the woods and continuing on like this beyond dusk and into the night because we were so certain that our ceaseless noise would be enough to repel the animals which – had we been walking alone – would have crippled us with fear.

Walking, we realized, our only goal was to sustain and prolong our condition of being a small group of people taking a walk; as walkers we could only fail upon the occasion we ceased walking and, thus, instead of demanding “quality,” “agreement” and “comprehensive solutions” from ourselves, we only required a base continuation of the status quo: so long as we could keep on walking and speaking and enjoying the well-oiled machine we made when walking together, we remained happy and smug with our tangible and perhaps tautological success (“We successfully walk when we are walking.”); questions and analysis – as we had said before – would have to wait until we had the time to spread out the nets of our experience, arranging bits of garbage and flecked-stone into a more-believable allegory.


The reason why nothing ever happened was because everyone at the time believed too much in dialectics which allowed for a great deal of residua from the original thesis to remain in the mediated, synthesized, and “new” product; we could not predict which vestige of the past would pop up on the other side but it was always there and soon we realized that with this dialectical and sublative approach to things, we could do nothing more than make a toxic atmosphere by constantly re-circulating a group of inert and outdated ideas.

We had to get as far outside of ourselves as we possibly could yet simultaneously, as individuals, we had to be self-aware and cautious to a degree which we had never been before; we had to chastise ourselves for our tendencies to flock and shoal and, perhaps most importantly, we had to see the omnipresent danger in human-pyramids, synchronized-swimming and most other militant and aesthetically pleasing forms.


When the time had come to discuss all the things we had avoided discussing from the outset of our discussions, we realized the effect of our statements was not as strong as we had grandiosely predicted; after presenting our ideas to the so-called public-at-large, we were received with only a few watered-down questions and, afterwards, a vacuous silence which, according to our theories, ought to have been quickly consumed by a hyper-productive rank growth.

We were in a state of vicious re-coil from everyone around us and found that the kind of walking we had done in the past would no longer suffice as all the worth and value in the act had seeped away during that prolonged silence which, afterward, we discovered – with that poisonous experience still coursing through our bodies and waxing and waning with the systoles and diastoles of our hearts – had scarred us; we discovered that everything that had worked in the past no longer worked and we had no choice but to re-group both collectively and as individuals and find some new kind of action and form with which we could express the anger and emptiness we felt due to the silence and the subsequent self-realization that “from the beginning, it was not them but us who were afraid of whatever tired and wound-less gap our efforts had opened up.”


We wanted a wider experience of things which can be seen in the fact that we continued to walk frequently in groups of two or three or four or five, but instead of overflowing with the self-absorbed and many-layered speech that we had become accustomed to in the past, we were silent and listened to the sounds of the animals around us and, after we had studied their distant cries for some time, we admitted that despite our previous fears we wanted to attract them; we knew that we could no longer carry on in these small groups and, even if only to console ourselves, we needed to assimilate into the larger world around us and we thought – from perhaps somewhere in the back of our minds – that animals could help us in remedying this unfortunate situation.

And even after the animals did not come and we found ourselves deep in the woods late at night we did not fall into argument like we would have in the past and instead we remained focused on the situation at hand until we came upon a group of men and women who were wearing gowns so baggy that – lying supine as they did – their skirts were stood up like tents around their bodies, some of them had even hung lanterns inside in order to read or play solitaire and, upon seeing us and how devastated we appeared to be, they invited us to rest with them inside their individual tents which were so warm and made us appear as if fetuses from the outside.

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3 Responses to RIP, Stephen Hess (1980 – 2015)

  1. Van Lewis says:

    How do i unsubscribe?

  2. Alex Mac says:

    Just grab ahold of your digital device and insert it in your cloaca.

  3. Pingback: Pushcart XLII: Stephen Hess, “Act” from Noon, 2016 | A Just Recompense

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