By Heart

In German, to know by heart translates as auswendig, aus- meaning out, and suggesting that learnt knowledge is something we grow to know externally. When we know something so well, we don’t think of it any longer: we sing a song we know by heart thinking nothing of the words or tune; indeed, our minds have moved ‘out’ and are elsewhere altogether. As children we often learn a prayer by heart only to discover in adulthood that the words we’d always chanted were wrong. We and the meaning have both moved out from our original encounter, distancing on different trajectories. 

Performing an action on autopilot mode separates us from that action, but it also leaves us free. We maintain the form, or sign, like a husk, and the content slips, empties, refills again or moves somewhere else. 

While singing in the shower, my mind was on the other side of town. 

notes from listening to Diedrich Diedrichsen ‘How to Get Rid of Value: By Heart, Free, Classical’ 
[talk, Goldsmiths, University of London 07/02/11]