The Ruricolist is now available in print.


Ideas are the smallest units of thought that can be communicated. In its native context, an idea may be an infinitesimally subtle inflection. When ideas may run to many words in expression, it is because they require a structure of words to reproduce that native context. At the right time, a few gestures, indeterminate in themselves, totally dependent on context for their meaning, may express all that a treatise can tell.

The constituents of the minimum unit of communicable thought must be units of incommunicable thought. I call these units of incommunicable thought evocations. They are what we recognize when we call something evocative. The mind cannot make its own evocations; it must collect them, as a bird must collect grit for its gizzard. And like a gizzard stone a single evocation may remain in use for a long time, with a valency that internally and unconsciously parallels the external and conscious use of a tool.

Being incommunicable, evocations cannot be defined. Yet they can be traced. What is it that the mind seeks out, hoards, counts over? What mental experiences, without uses of their own, are approached with the same gravity as the most useful tasks? Review the mind’s senses: how an image burns into the mind’s eye; how a word echoes and echoes in the mind’s ear.

Victims of trauma are at the mercy of recurrence and flashback – at the mercy of the little things, the little fragments of experience, the mere reminders that reel them backwards into memory. This is a warped mirror and retrogradation of a healthy movement of the mind. Reminders drag us backwards into memory; evocations lead us forward to ideas.

Evocations are usually single words or images, but they need not be. Some evocations are ideas in themselves, constituent to more complex ideas. Whole works of art, whole journeys, whole friendships may be valent as evocations. In certain moods the whole world seems to me the evocation of some superb and singular idea I would lose my soul to enphrase – like an utterer of God’s true name, a seraph would circle me to either side, declaring that I had gained the world, and lost the world to come.