The Lonely Letters

March 7, 2018


Ashon Crawley

Ashon Crawley is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. His research and teaching experiences are in the areas of Black Studies, Performance Theory and Sound Studies, Philosophy and Theology, Black Feminist, and Queer theories. His first book, Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (Fordham University Press), is an investigation of aesthetics and performance as modes of collective, social imaginings otherwise.

“The Lonely Letters” is an autobiofiction in which I attempt to think the relationship of quantum theory, mysticism, relationality, and blackness together by considering the sound and noise of Blackpentecostal spaces. Building on the work in Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility—as the project began before and was written during and after the academic book project—the “The Lonely Letters” attempts to think together what might seem to be disparate ways of thinking worlds known and unknown, the religious and the scientific, the noisy and the musical, with hopes of considering the epistemologies of quantum physics as Blackpentecostal. It is about love and heartbreak and hope and joy. It is about sound and subjectivity, about desire and movement. It’s about the sociality of life against the repressions of anti-black, anti-queer violence and violation.


Letters to Moth I

One hundred trillion neutrinos pass through each square inch of matter every second, though it is presumed to be the case that human flesh cannot feel them with sensual registers already discovered. Quantum physics verifies what we have always known, what black folks and indigenous folks and queer folks have known for such a long time: there are things that happen in the world, in the universe, that are not easily perceptible to human flesh.

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Letters to Moth II

I’m into this, writing and study about loneliness, aloneness. But, I guess, I’m also bothered by it. It is perhaps why I have been writing you letters, why I have been reading letters – James Baldwin to his nephew, Celie to God and Nettie, N to Angel of Dust, M NourbeSe Philip to the dead who are yet with us.

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Letters to Moth III

It’s been years, yes, but it feels like yesterday. It wasn’t so much that I thought you the most beautiful thing in the world – I did – and it wasn’t that I thought our conversation was so wonderful – it was – that did it for me.

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Letters to Moth IV

Remember when I showed you the paintings I’d make when I was just a kid, maybe twelve or thirteen years old when I had dreams of becoming the black Bob Ross, afro and all? And remember how I told you my father had a couple of the paintings in his office when I was young and you said that you wanted them too?

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Letters to Moth V

It’s also to think the audio and visual together, to make apparent the fact of the movement of air and space displacement through paint, through the line of flight any particular drop of paint takes before it reaches its destination. My friend Emma said it best, that it’s about “the way this one calls attention to what the instrument does as an instrument between flesh and trace.”

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Letters to Moth VI

What can be made in absence of the center, the concept of centering? What can be produced, what kind of relations can flower and flourish in such a case? If there is no center of the universe, what does this mean for how we can relate to the natural world? Whiteness is dependent on centering as its logic and ground of operation.

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6 thoughts on “The Lonely Letters

  1. also…bruh…this is hot, flattering, hilarious, and confusing af all at once…but, these days, I’m learning to just appreciate new experiences, count them all joy, even if the shit is in my mind. This made me blush..and giggle..and laugh..and, in the morning, I was lighter. I And, for that, I’m grateful. Peace.

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