Learning-With, Working In-Between

I found the following paper when cleaning up our dining room table to prepare for dinner:

Ida_Blog

What I learn from the inscriptions of my freshly teenaged/screenaged daughter is this:  POWERFUL WRITING CAN BE ABOUT ANYTHING.  Which inspires me, and supports a potent hunch I’ve been harboring over recent years and studies: that writing that works on or in us, that gnaws at us, strikes or challenges us, perhaps even changes or ‘enlightens’ us, nourishes or crushes us (as the human species we happen to be – capable of participating, communicating, coordinating variously fabricated scales of signification from the organismal, cell-based to communal (‘personal,’ ‘social,’ ‘political’-based) tends to be concocted up out from textures and materials of authentic self-report and confusion or lack [wonder? – our ability to ‘put-into-question’?].

That we make effort, perhaps progress, are sustained or contained, constrained or extended by core curiosity (query, investigation, inquiry, desire) around perceived conundrums, or LACK.

“This in-between feeling”: self-report (authentic within constrained conventions, perception, culture) + confusion, curiosity, a questioning, experimentation, conundrum = an access to the uncertain, the open, the unknown.

“If it is true that there is (in the Chinese language) a written character that means both ‘man’ and ‘two,’ it is easy to recognize in man he who is always himself and the other, the happy duality of dialogue and the possibility of communication. But it is less easy, more important perhaps, to think ‘man,’ that is to say, also ‘two,’ as separation that lacks unity, the leap from 0 to duality, the 1 thus giving itself as the forbidden, the between-the-two [l’entre-deux]”

– Maurice Blanchot, The Step Not Beyond

 

Human scientists, when they’re ‘successful,’ or ‘good’ combine observation / passion / desire / perception (experiment + experience) as authentic self-reports in a conventionalized constraint PLUS putting the conundrum or confusion (joining-with beyond-certainty) into question… open… ‘What Is…?’ ‘What If…?’ WHAT MIGHT MY HUNCHES, TROUBLES, EXPERIENCE, SENSES, DESIRES indicate?  Anything?  No-thing?

The litterateur, artist, therapist, musician – what COM-PELS us (pushes us forward-with-world, with-being) seems to be a kind and variation, repetition and difference of this experience + experiment – attempt at authentic self-report wedded to curiosity/wonder/or the putting-into-question of it.

Some empty set.

So Cantor’s infinity.  Einstein’s relativity.  Godel and undecidability.  Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger’s existentialism or phenomenology, Wittgenstein’s language and forms of life, Beckett, Joyce, Blanchot, Wallace proliferating or desiccating sentences – all seem to be appropriately tied, threaded and submerged in Experience + Lack, Perception + Desire, what we do not, perhaps can not, know.

When William James delivers a cumulative, culminative authentic and conventionalized self-report, a curious address called “Is Life Worth Living?”, or Socrates-Augustine-Leibniz-Nietzsche-Shakespeare-Kierkegaard [substitute names at will – Dante, Darwin, Dostoevsky, Proust, Sartre, Peirce, Melville, Dickens…] inquire “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or “Why is there anything at all?”… Why this!? We’re hovering about a lack – of understanding, apparent meaning, dissatisfaction, perhaps frustration, an emptiness, a hole in things we’re troubling, questioning.

‘Scientists,’ ‘psychologists,’ ‘poets,’ ‘lovers,’ ‘activists,’ ‘parents,’ and ‘priests’ are all pushed forward in these questions… core-conundrums, felt-vacuums, hitches, indications of LACK.

Resulting in remarkable attempts at authentic self-report coupled to curiosity / questioning / doubt.

Inquiry is effort.

In-between: knowing/experiencing and unknowing/confusion – experience and experiment.

“The center…[does] not hold”

Lacks.

We are not-yet-one (self-sufficient) and less-than-two (self and other).  Not an observer or experiencer without something observed/experienced.  Not a language or emotion without a group or felt-with or in-relation-to.  Not a happening without a happening-in, a happening-here, a happening-to.  Not a sound without a hearing.  A cell without surround, a border and environment.  No self without an other and all incomplete, undecidable, in flux and underdetermined.

ALWAYS IN-BETWEEN AND UNCERTAIN

An adolescent is able to capture and confess this…that alone tells me nothing together might do.

No “what if?” without something to work with.  No awareness without awareness-of.

And so “I,” her progenitor-father, study NOTHING.  The “what if nots?”  Incomprehensible, inexistent, perhaps inconceivable questions… indeterminable, indecipherable, perhaps unexperiencable and irrational.

At breakfast we speak of it.  Curiously, we authentically self-report our wonder, confusion and conundrums – our LACK – of understanding, of method, of language, of expression, experience… our limitations we might call ‘impossibility…’

That nothing is only possible when nothing is NOT.  That if we are able in relation to nothing… ‘we’ can not be there, or ‘be’ at all.  Nothing not even itself, not even an absence… to speak or think of it is to rush it away…

These are things I learn from my children – that our questions go unanswered, are (perhaps) unanswerable, that attempting authentic reportage (communicating) experience coupled to wonder, and putting-it-to-question, with humility, then, in doubt… perhaps drives our systems, our logics, our literatures, arts, sciences, and love… LACK that we do not know, can not (perhaps) know, are participants-at-scale – finite and fragile – and have our limits, open and undecided…

Without which…nothing?

Thank you dear children.

I am comforted almost to imagine you might be driven on…

…by your lack, your honest confusion, unsettledness, and authenticity.

Funny enough, the following short piece arrived in my email the same day…

Buechner_blog

Seasons

What’s happening now…and why I’m not writing much – reading, teaching, librarying, parenting…

Mappa Mundi

mappemundi

The key question is not what a given sentence means but what it does, especially how it does whatever it does…to know is by definition to say that something is something else and be believed when one says it – Gunnar Olsson, Abysmal

Whatever we might say, we see in all that we say. – Sophocles

Only apparently is it a ‘presentation.’ – Martin Heidegger

It follows that in the world of humans any mark is better than no mark, for without categorization there is nothing at all, not even nothing at all. – Olsson, Abysmal

How small life is here / and how big nothingness.  – Robert Walser, Oppressive Light

Meaning-Making in Living Systems, or, 15,000 Things

subatomic

is a phrase and a theory I have queried, contemplated, spelunked and pursued for the past few decades of my “living.”  Since (apparently) before I can remember, I’ve been addicted to a kind of figuring-out – some offspring of “understanding,” any concept / idea / or belief-faith – that might elucidate to me my (experienced) compulsion to “meaning” or “significance” – to matter as matter-in-relation.

I’ve encountered many gurus (preachers, priests, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, mathematicians and artists, farmers and engineers, poets = “people”) along the way who have sent, directed, swerved, commanded, troubled, commended, interrogated, suggested and questioned this impulse of mine.  From sarcasm to scholarship I’ve been told I will not find that which I seek.  Or recommended resolutions that don’t withstand my particular scrutiny and skepticism.

It is sunny and light, Spring-y and gentle in Kansas today.  I took my lunch, after a walk, at a table among trees.  Birds were active, dogs ambling by, flowers in bloom, and a breeze.

For the most part I “eat” cause I’ve believed that otherwise I would fail (as a being) and die.  I like to enjoy food, but most often it’s presumed “preparation” falls to me, and therefore becomes a complication of time I would prefer not to.

So I sat and I drank (so much easier).  Water & coffee & other things to my pleasure.  And “pondered,” I guess – what I do, when (apparently) no one requires immediate need of me.

I was alone, in a way.

And thinking of “meaning-making,” and “knowledge,” “belief” and “desire” – human shit.  (It’s what I do – that compulsion).

*** As I was contesting people’s behaviors and language recently in my home, my unanticipated fortune of something like a life-partner offered the response “there are 15,000 things it could be.”  Which struck hold and has become something of a cliché in short order in our home.  Imponderables, indefinables, indescribabilities.  For any action any thing might perform – there are nigh infinite possible “reasons” (most likely irrational) – these courses are taken.  “Personal knowledge” is not something we have.  Systems do what they do – what is done is what’s done – and the likelihood of our assessments being correct is near null.*** [that’s all an aside]

I can be critical.

And quite gracious and kind.

“Depending.”

On what?

15,000 things.

I am rambling.  And have decided to do so.  Readers, you must know, I don’t write because I have something to say.  (15,000 things).  I have drives to express (inexplicably) – and most often what I write is precisely a declaration of what I don’t know.

“The more we know, the more exposed we are to our ignorance, and the more we know to ask”

– Marcelo Gleiser, The Island of Knowledge

Well that’s a positivist view.

When I write, I expose all my ignorance.  Compose hunches and urges, fascinations and fears.  Ache to pull my ineffables toward tongues.  Talking’s the same.  I don’t know what I’m saying – just hoping experience finds text.  Immaterial materializing.  We might get “something to work with.”  I don’t understand any of it.

Sitting then, in the sweet Kansas day, 20/30 years of my life gained a traction.  “Meaning-making,” to make meaning, was obscuring infinite unknowns.  Underlying such a contention – that meaning is made – swum its absence = there’s no meaning “there.”

“Person-hood” aptly decreed – “person” a “hood” that we wear.  “Person-ality” – some ability we possess to appear as in situations.  “Meaning” – a something we might craft to suit our unaccountable occurrences.  I don’t mean anything, significance is made.  If I’m lucky the people around me choose to do so with my existence.  Otherwise it’s matter of course.  We’re Matter…of course.  But who knows?  Also the problem of “knowledge” – the only “knowledge” we have is our own and some idiosyncratic communal bastardization of what our Species has MADE.

Not quite nihilism.  Just meaninglessness.

I like the idea of “meaning-making” – finding it in the relation of atoms, of stars, of humans and beasts.  Of dreams and delusions, of science.  I like “knowledge” – created cultural artifacts and residue, flotsam & jetsam, structures and practical theories.  AND it would seem it obscures what surrounds.  For every academic discipline that drills its way into a world we experience (as humans) and stacks up hypotheses and –pedias…there’s still the wide world there from every other perspective and experience – the ant, paramecium, subatomic particle, sky.  Your spouse or your child, parent or friend, or the foreign, the stranger, the Other, the “them.”

Myopia.  Perception.  The experience of meaning.  Attribution of significance.  What matters in matter to ME.  IF matter – for even matter’s a human contribution to what seems to be.

Perhaps it comes down to particularized –“hoods” and “-abilities” – “each one’s” momentary personhood and personality – whether experience is an occasion to “make meaning” or glide on in its unnecessary meaninglessness.  I don’t know.

What remains is my deranged and crazy compulsion – my “hood” I guess, and ability.

So many words come to mind.

Ouroboros, or Autophagia

Ouroboros

I often feel that I’m dying.  Killing myself with disease. Killing myself via the activities of my “mind.”  Killing myself with alcohol.  Killing myself by over-extension, -exertion, lack of self-regard.    Worry.  Anxiety.  Perfectionism.  Wishes.  Desires.  Dying from the absence of sex (and yet orgasm is also a breathless ‘little death’).  Dying from lack of joy.  Dying of disuse, depletion, or disregard.  Dying of my own engulfing life.

Which only emphasizes the insistent FACT.  One thing we know, perhaps the ONLY certainty we’ve understood in the thousands or millions or billions of years we’ve been species-al (spec-ial) and aware of such information…is that we are dying.  Constantly.  Continuously.  Unstoppably.  Irrefutably and inescapably.  Inevitably.

Whether we do it to ourselves – amplify or expedite its course – or are at the mercies and whims of some enormous cosmic complex entanglement; whether our cells turn against “us,” or we turn our “selves” against our cells; excruciating or peaceful, ecstatic or terrifying – WE DIE.  ARE DYING.  WILL DIE.

For some, this undeniable evidence and unstoppable knowledge instigates a kind of “dead-already” worldview or perspective…a nihilism for some.  A not-ness.  A foregoing of LIVING, a preemptive attack, or some strange passion of alignment with the TRUTH – some subversion of the FACT (at the same time true, and as certain) – that a DYING thing MUST be LIVING.

An “it doesn’t matter.”  Usually tacked on with an “ultimately.”  Meaninglessness.  Pointlessness.  Purposelessness.  Something some supposed “scientist” (devoted to “objective” observable “truths”) like a psychologist, biologist or physicist; doctor or therapist or mathematician – might call “depression,” “skepticism,” “cynicism,” – when in FACT it is adherence to one of the ONLY FACTs we’ve described or descried that has held TRUE while all of our tools, technologies, expansions of knowledges and theories, inventions, medicines and so on carry on their wars against it.  A veritable CERTAINTY (indeed, perhaps the only occurrence in which a human being accords with reality).

DYING.  From there – who knows?  “At one’s own hand/operations” or “at the mercy of” environments, situations, circumstances, world… who knows?  No one.  Uncertainty.  The process of being-alive to being-dead is fraught with everything else we are able to imagine.  And almost entirely UNCERTAIN.

It happens.  Living.  Then Dead.  Each one.  Every one.  “Me,” “You,” “I’s,” “They’s,” “We’s,” “Those” and “These.”  Whatever begins…ends (in some form).  Whatever emerges, converges and devolves.  Whatever occurs…deceases.  Ceases “to Be.”

And so what do we do…what do “I” do…with this LIVING?  In full awareness of the synonymity – LIVING/DYING – why is the awareness of dying and depletion of a potency that oft outstrips its necessary , indeed indubitable counterfactual?  LIVING.  LIVING.  LIVING…

Who now, what now, where and for why?

reading dead profile

Meta-Recursion: Some thoughts on the task of writing

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Life becomes ideas, and ideas come to life

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Metacognition is a buzzword these days – as contemporary sciences dive in to the neuro, neuron, chemistry and activity of bodily systems, we get to “see” our activities and “think” about them in different possible ways.  Our sciences concoct novel theories and processes, instruments and concepts and categories with regularity, and then our cultures absorb and incorporate these beliefs into our self-understanding and relating.  Metacognition “the awareness or understanding [ha!] of one’s own thought processes” is just such a theory – one writers have long thought about and acted as if, never without problematics.

Recursion, or, “the repeated application of a recursive procedure or definition,” is another one – looped and locked in repetitive activities in which our procedures and language “relate to or involve a program or routine of which a part requires the application of the whole, so that its explicit interpretation requires in general many successive executions,” each successive stage affected by the previous and effecting the following, the inside / the outside, the near / the far, the experienced & imaginary, the art / the life.  Endless recursion within a reigning myth of metacognition…and I am writing.

A writer knowing that I’m (a shifting pronoun) writing so also knowing that I’m writing about knowing that I’m writing (yet uncertain or finitely unable to ascertain all that entails) while I’m writing and therefore writing about that as well as what I’m writing, and so on…pertains to language, truthfulness, reason, perception, behavior and any other human activity…complex and recursive in a culture professing metacognition as a possibility.

This complicates writing in tremendous ways.  It becomes very difficult when composing letters and spaces to evaluate anything as “impossible.”

Quantum sciences, computer technologies, object-oriented ontologies and anthropocenes – complexity, indeterminateness, and relativity all serve as a soup in which we simmer, constraining and affording us opportunities that usher us right up to the edges of our finitude.  The interconnections (internet) of things (or not!) reminds us we cannot understand or know enough to write knowledgeably about even our own organisms, and also expose us billions of encounters and experiences per day that recursively become within our systems.  I spread wider and decenter as the membranes that compose me increasingly appear as sieves.

The larger and smaller scales of life may not be operating like our daily experience, yet we often refer to our lives as “daily rounds.”  Relativity and indeterminateness and reversals of such equations, undo previous comprehensions of the filters of space and time, even as the Western ‘historical’ sense of narrativity and order comes undone, tangling in its possible untangling as potentially ‘solved’ in multiple directions at once…leaving us directionless and indeterminate per any ‘correspondence to reality or ‘truth.’”  Selah.

We must have experienced by now toggling between subject and object in any situation, and to whatever degrees our systems are genetically alike they are multitudinously variant as well.  We are currently aware that our perceptive calculations of our contexts are hypothetical or apply in very limited specificities…i.e., ONCE.  So our taxonomies flux, our histories alter, our cognition and perception get meta-statized, and language becomes a wobbling sign in Big Weather.  Waves and warps, folds and possible interjections.

Apparently it might all be in-formation, movements accessible through relation for operationalizing.

Our “subject matter” dissolves since we no longer have a subject acting through a predicate, but all matter interacting in theorized randomness and happenstance with nary a drive to avoid extinction.  Hosts of events (plot?) with endless extrapolations or interpretations, wherein things long distant and disparately far might “fold in” or “warp past” or correlate via some vibration – and perhaps they do? (memory as a pass of ‘reversal’ in subjective time?)

I am writing.  And so all this must be written, in our stories and imaginary objects, holding nothing, requiring application of the whole and very many successive executions.  Sounds ominous, but the terminus thusfar we can still count on.  It will end (for us, as we experience it).  It must be written – increasingly aware of all I do not / most likely cannot know or understand, and that nothing experienced “fits together” while belonging together in ways we haven’t been able to imagine, fragments fed by fragments feeding fragments inseparably fluid…and I write, I try to write it, in channels of existent vocabularies and beliefs inaccurately scoped.

I (whatever that means) seem to be writing with an awareness that I-am-more-not-I-than-I or I is tenuously distinguishable or occasional, and am writing that I am writing while I am writing that I am thinking about writing which thinking is happening through various media like paper and pen and keyboard and digital text and electricity and air and an incalculable and miniscule trajectory of experience waving particles undone and mutated, I adapt, to no purpose (it is theorized) and go on or along and keep writing unaware even of what I am aware of and operationalize a tiny selection of language flooded with other usages and contexts and I write we write it writes as its writing.

“it is through my writing that I keep a hold on life” – Franz Kafka

And, holding nothing, I am unable to stop.

You must go on.  I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.

Samuel Beckett

Interconnection and Autonomy

a personal note

I have long disliked and had an intense aversion to telephone calls.  Like televisions transmitting in shared or public spaces, they present inescapable interruption and intrusion.  One could be in thought, repose, intimacy, conversation, activity — in fact, whatever one is about when one is not on the telephone – and then suddenly must react to a demand.  A call.  But WHO is calling?  WHY?  Why now?  When my attention is demanded through interruption or intrusion, my body anticipates emergency.

Disembodied conversation shifts the burden of dialogue to the voice.  Therefore the natural indicators for “I’m thinking…” or “give me a moment,” nods, smiles, frowns or gestures that flow in face-to-face interaction, offering wholistic responses, are all pressured onto the mind and voice – forcing incessant reports and the trickiness and difficulty of translating bodily experience into language.  I require time to listen, consider, and respond.  Movement.  Silence.  Whether it’s a simple invitation, business matter, question or request – it always emerges as demand on the telephone.  Respond to this NOW.  (public or shared-space televisions – SEE this NOW).  You cannot escape, select, regulate or direct such importunities.

Global Communication Technologies, – our networks, internetworks and their myriad machines and devices – have provided some enormous benefits toward expanding our social lives outside of limited demographics and cultures, opening realms of activities and artifacts, information and resources that in any other time-period we may never have known about or encountered.  As these technologies proliferate into internets of thingsubiquitous (or pervasive / invasive) computing, and manifest the inherently linked realities of our world…simultaneously providing ambient findability (all of these terms and phrases as easily interpreted as violence or intrusion as well as opportunities or boon).

I’ve long preferred face-to-face interaction (in spare doses, they are taxing & rewarding) and textual communications (obviously, but also texting, emails, postal correspondence), because in the F2F we are offered and allowed appropriate cues to follow and respond to one another, and in textual discourse we are allowed the time and distance to craft and dictate our translations of experience, messaging intentions, and terminological tones.

Of late, however, I have noted a convergence of Call-Anxiety and Pervasive-Communications.  And am wondering about our levels of autonomy (if there even is such a thing for the human) or self-direction, any amount of governance we might preserve over our lives and activities and choices in a world populated with linked devices?

How much of our days – work time, supposedly “personal”/private time, play time, labor time, interpersonal time, family time, meal-times, chore-times, reading times, creative times, necessity times, and so on…- are steered and directed, controlled and dictated by the consistent, persistent, pervasive and invasive thoroughfare of MESSAGES from OUTSIDE?  If we consult our devices upon waking – how often are that day’s events passively designed around what we receive?  If we respond to text vibrations / updates / posts / SMS or IMs / emails – how much are they eroding self-governance and discipline or choice and instead simply ANNOUNCING (demanding?) direction and response?

How many swerves do we make in our causeways of living by our over-saturation with “friends,” our communicative reach far beyond our communities, our global information system versus our local work offices or families or few (actual) friends?  There have been plenty of studies from nearly every field of inquiry reporting that our safe or thrivable social capacities are quite limited – most studies indicate humans do best in consistent contact with 30 or less others.  Proffering sufficient opportunities to know, understand, interact and relate.  Yet any given Facebooker or tweeter or snappy-chatter may have exponentially larger engagements nearly every minute of their lives.

How different would my relationships with co-workers,  children, family, friends, BE if we weren’t including thousands of others in remote places, professional connections throughout the world, images and language and emotional reports and happenstances flooding like telephone calls and tele-visions and noise into our domains, habitats, domiciles, studies?  What might i NOT buy if it weren’t so easy?  How differently might I know books, movies, music, animals, persons – if they weren’t in virtually infinite supply?Do we preserve moments of choice and connection, safe from Call-demands or Pervasive/Invasive-communication-technologies?  Or do we simply escape or take breaks from time to time?  Going for a walk or having a dinner, camping, hiking or traveling once in a while without our devices?  What would it be like to lose them?  What would we know?  What kinds of knowing would we produce?  What sorts of makings?   What might be drawn or composed, felt or engaged, seen or heard if we were DISconnected to the hive of activity and input? How might we relate to those around us?  Where might we go?  Who might we be?

Well, that’s what I’m thinking about.  Pondering.  Wondering.  Queries of value and quality and meaning.  Stress-levels, anxiety, physical wear of being “on alert,” alarm, reactive, responsive to ubiquitous “Calls.”  Demands.  Invasions.

What if we saved intrusions for emergencies?  Took time to send only specific, relational-oriented, relevant and appropriate information to one another?  Thought critically?  Reflected?  Looked, touched, listened, and managed more wholistic presence with our immediate surrounds?

I don’t know.  I’m just wondering.

[The lucky piece for us at present is that, like pulling the phone line from the wall, our technologies are remarkably easy to dismantle and turn OFF, should we CHOOSE to]

Librarian & Litterateur…

Makeover Day

I am not a scholar.  I know that now.

I am middle-aged.

I have pursued no discipline, field, or “area of knowledge” to its limits.

“Core literature.”

Librarian.  “Litterateur” (awful sound).  These.

Exploring fields: science, literature, philosophy, history, critical thought – through the “core literature” – the Canons of the Field.

Only so far.

Not to the ends.

What a novelist needs.  Knowledge a little beyond average, a little obsessive, a little “never satisfied.”

A librarian: able to discourse with “Scholars” in any field – enough terminology, vocabulary, “core knowledge.”

“Jack of all trades, king of none.”

Yes, that.

Librarian.  Litterateur.  (I don’t know what else to call it).

Me.

Degrees in Classical Music, Theology, Philosophy, Information Science, Art & Critical Thought.

It’s something.

But not “scholarship”.

Core Knowledge.

Trying to be human.

Trying to know what I need to know to be that.

Trying to be.