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

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The Empties

It has been a long time since I’ve participated in the stellar Friday Fictioneers writing challenge and consortium, hosted and enabled by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Phriday Phictioneers Phone

In many times of my life, this simple challenge has kept my creative writing inertia active when seemingly the rest of my life-world was mitigating against it (such as currently).  I am happy to join this group again, and hopefully contribute small pieces of worth… and ensure my pen stays active.  Thank you Friday Fictioneers!

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The Empties

For ages, they spoke about ‘the Empties.’  Of everything, they said.  No emotion, no perception, no experience, or meaning.  No one would know.  Even absence would be left behind.  We imagined, but really hadn’t.  It must have come.  If/then occurred.  This be ‘the Empties.’  There is no knowing.  There is no happens.  There is no history or time.  Perhaps no space.  A strange again of Only Things.

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

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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

“Machines alone have realized that sleep is no longer permitted”

Machine

“machines alone have realized that sleep is no longer permitted”

– W. G. Sebald –

I haven’t slept.

Sometimes, in a dream, it feels like “it occurs to me.”

Trying to create a lesson plan for graduate students in the College of Education, I want to tell them why internet research / database searching / source evaluation seems so complex.  I take a hammer, a wrench, a tomahawk.  I bring a plow, a harness, a sewing machine.  I show a steam engine, a telegraph.  I think about them.

Hold them.  Turn them about.  Consider what you can do with them (if you know how).  Surmise what you can do with them (if you don’t know how).  Lots of things.

Humans devise stuff in concord with their environment.  Stones to stumble on, to throw, to hunt with, to pound.  Sticks to slap, clack, burn, poke.  Maybe carve.  Maybe paint.  Maybe write.

What we devise have certain rules, operations, constraints.  Remember the first time you wielded a hammer?  Learned to turn a doorknob?  Fitted a screwdriver to screw?

There’s a learning curve.  Adaptation.  Practice.  Change.

Try archery.  A piano.  Knit something.

Simple tools.  Fire.  Rock.  Wood.

Mud.  Sand.  Clay.

Try them.

So we figure out things that might be done with them.  Things to do, make, say, or think.  Certain things are more efficient.  Certain ways.  Certain hows.

We practice and experiment.  Devise.

I am 45.  Until I was in my teens, my fingers had not touched a lettered keyboard.  In high school I had a class for typing (on manual typewriters).  As a pianist I excelled.  My homework depended on the legibility of my handwriting through graduate school.  By 1993 there were computers in the “typing room.”

You don’t have to know how to write now.

I watch the pencil or pen move along lined paper.  What do I have to know in order to do this?  How can I make the marks turn out like this?  Dexterity, control, care, effort.

Handwriting

Alphabetic literacy, knowledge, craft, semantics, semiotics, grammar and so forth…

Turn the hammer in your hand.  Tighten the wrench.  Use a pushpin. Take up a fork.  Operate a knife with steak.  Raise the glass.

“Tools,” perhaps, technologies – technics and techniques – with their own sets of rules for our cognizant bodies.

Pull out your phone.  A swipe, some taps, a certain way of holding.  Understanding icons, visual literacies, kinetic craft, operational knowledge.  Know-how.  Complex.  Astounding.  Dexterous.  Intelligent.  Think of all the things you need to know to work that small device.

We devise.

And then adapt.

Diagram the innards of a personal computer, a Smartphone, a tablet, a scanner.  Imagine the adaptation required to operate that machine.

SOC

Think networked information.  Big Data.  If all our images, texts, conversations, correspondences, budgets, ledgers, laws, entertainments, plans, designs, models, experiments, applications, programs, art…(and so on) are DIGITAL / digitized… then algorithm’d and interfaced, softwared and connected… NONE OF US KNOW WHAT IS THERE.

The machines to which we dump, turn-over, DEVISE, inform, enTRUST – the artifacts of our living – because it is too much – no ONE (person or institution) catalogs, lists, calculates, organizes, arranges, assigns – THE MACHINES MUST DO IT BECAUSE OF THE SCALE and PACE…

NOBODY KNOWS WHAT IS THERE

Stacked algorithms and protocols select relevancy and value; similarity and related; significance and import; primacy and rank.  We operate.  And barely.  How do we guess the coding of its imputing?  How do we wrangle the keywords?  Information coming from anywhere at anytime into any port…what are the techniques, dexterity, knowledge, grammars, semantics, decoding, crafts – analytics?? – (at least as complex as the machine we diagrammed – times powers of 10 for all the machines involved!!) in order to locate our NEED; QUALITY; ESSENTIAL…?

In other words – we turn over.  We devise these concords of things – and revise ourselves according to them.

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Internet map

You’re guess may be as good as mine.  What is in there, where it is, and how to access it.  We use a Smartphone for many more things (at once) than a hammer or pen – while we and it are being used by systems larger than any of us altogether.

Systems of devised systems – we have no hope of controlling.  NONE of us.  Nor all of us.  We are entangled: mutually dependent – and subordinate.  We DON’T KNOW.  We DON’T KNOW.  We don’t know.  We’re IN the weather completely.

This is rough, when you also have a propensity, passion, or interest to know.  Subordinating oneself to a system is hard with a developed desire for autonomy, freedom, liberty.  As far as I know, at the mercy of was not a Sapient evolutionary goal.  Yet here we are.

How shall we adapt to these devices?

How shall we then live?

The ’45: Considering Complexities – On Plasticity of Identity

floyd merrell diagram

On Plasticity: Being Ourselves, Able to be Ourselves

 

My birthday recurred.  Post-40 in a thriving family of 6, there are not many days deemed “special” that end up being about oneself as the father, caretaker, partner, provider, no matter how small the scope of the surround.  Soccer games and music lessons; feeding times and laundering; all keep going on – birthday or no.  The exhaustion continuous activity and felt responsibility breeds seems to increase in proportion to the numbers signifying one’s years upon earth.

But there are flourishes and touchings – like small miracles – proffered patience, generosity and deference gifted one’s way as the children mature.  I received momentously considered and thoughtfully creative presents and offerings from my brood, including the effort of travel (a 5-hour drive for a 3-hour meal), some self-deferrals of wants and demands for a day, shared and repurposed objects and much love and affection.

In the midst of which my brother-in-law texted: “And what have YOU done for YOU today?”

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Isn’t nearly everything we do for ourselves in some way? I thought.  Caring for those we love, providing for their needs and responding to their living feeds our hope that we might be valuable partners and parents.  Enabling others’ satisfactions or play, achievements or events provides a goodness and gladness to our sense of identity.  WHAT DO I (or would I) WANT?  [If things revolved around ME? – What would I select for MYSELF, my TIME, my ACTIVITIES, were my surround and environment conducive, supportive, adaptive and compliant – attuned to MY wishes and feelings, desires and preferences – as its Center and Hub?]

This engendered heavy pause.  Followed by weeping.  Since my youth I’ve pleased people.  Especially those I crave being pleasing to.  Ever considering: if I find them, serve them, fuel them, tend to their whims and their moods and their wants and don’t fail them – they’ll have NO REASON not to accept and acknowledge me, enjoy and delight in me…perhaps even come to NEED and to LOVE me!

Still most of these persons have come and then gone – not needing an enthusiastic audience-of-me, my support systems or enthralled amour, cooking skills, cab driving, housekeeping, therapeutic attunement, nursing or cock…so much as an “Other,” I suppose.  An other alike with mixed needs, wants and cares, fears, doubts and preferences…uncertainties.

WHAT WOULD I WANT?

Being malleable, self-deprecating, at-your-service and adaptive in order to eventuate my longed-for (but not fully realized) purposes of belonging, chosenness, appreciation, acceptance and love, predisposed me to the Phenomena of Plasticity.

That organisms jostle and interact, adjust, emerge, revise and alter in accord with their environments and one another toward an imagined maximum survivability came as no surprise to me.

That my brain and body bend and twist, reconfigure and rework themselves toward perceived pleasures, building likewise to avoid potentially death-dealing pains, forms an accurate metaphor of my experience.

Do this, try to be that, retrain the brain, assimilate languages, nuances, behaviors and tastes, become parent and scholar, musician and lover, friend and coworker to an enormous variety of persons, places, and things (or situations).

Sounds desirable!  After all, we’re fascinated and entangled in networks and viruses, Renaissance-personages and extensive applications and sites – world seems participatory, fluid, collaborative and self-responsive – play-doh, silly putty, plastics, rubber and earth.  Water, air, flesh and fire.  Living would seem to be a plastic rather than static affair – examine a corpse! (and observed long enough, even then we’re not done and prove pliable and transforming).

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Yet for me came a hitch as I pondered all this.  A lifetime spent adapting, responding and recursiving change for results that never quite arrive in a reality where even those chances will cease…

WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOURSELF?

When the question is put to me:  “What is it, right now, you prefer?” it turns out, among many acknowledgedly diverse and contradictorily complex cognitive-affective responses – I USUALLY KNOW WHAT I’D PREFER.  Very few options taste best to me in any given moment, and their range and scope are slim!

And then there’s the fact that I feel great admiration towards those who speak their mind and express their desires in a direct manner!  They still may compromise and adapt, but both adults and children who proclaim what they feel and want, prefer or need, ever impress me.  I (on the other hand) tend to try constantly to guess and anticipate what those around me prefer or desire before asking into my own – as if to say – if there’s room or time after all of you…I’d sure like to…but by then I’m too tired.

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So how plastic are we?  How multiple, really?  Since age 7 or 8, 12 or 15, my core desires have been pretty consistent:  Read.  Write.  Love.  Sex.  Explore.  Make.  At any given moment, regardless of conditions or surround, regardless of the options even, my litany of WHAT I WOULD DO FOR MYSELF usually boils down to this brief list.  In addition to which, I usually have a good idea of who, where, what, when, and sometimes how I’d go about each of the same – if conditions, environment and possibilities were dependent on ME.

I’ve definite tastes and predilections, ways I like to feel in what venues, activity-biases and condition proclivities (even though those nearest me often say they’d never know it by my choices).

Maybe the Phenomenon of Plasticity hypothesis runneling its now-scientific way through the cosmos and further than cells is a living CAPACITY but not necessarily a QUALITY?  Accident not essence?  Perhaps plasticity suits the powers-that-be, our politico-socio-cultural nowthen (STEM disciplines, Markets, Politics & Capital, Networks & Technologies) that would love for us adapt and adjust, go-along and “flow” as if its “natural,” “observable” and “scientific fact”?  (At the moment).

I’m not disputing it’s COOL – our abilities to change and flex, evolve and habituate, refashion and conform – and indeed it’s often necessary for our survival – but there’s a gap, hesitation, incompleteness to the story.  It doesn’t “FIT” to experience, or only partially so.  Something’s being assumed underneath.

And what is that?  Why have I preferred preferring others to my own, yet not ceased having my own all these years?

How would I be if I believed ALL were equally plastic?  That it wasn’t my job to adjust to everyone, remake to everything around me, instead insisting upon their/its relative capacity to reshape and orient to me as well?

WHAT WOULD I WANT if I could “be myself” (express my consistent biases and longings, behaviors and thought-trajectories, mood-palette and drives) in environments in which I was enabled/able to be/do so?  A surround that exercised the capacity of plasticity in relation to ME?

NOT EITHER/OR

Granted, some do, (those that stick around or don’t realize a choice) and in varying degrees, but I seldomly bank on that and announce or convey myself…usually I hedge against abandonment or rejection – fear of pains winning out over hopes of pleasure.

That’s “natural” too, the disciplines say – but there are so many counter-examples: ones who openly state their “I would prefer not tos” or “I would prefers…”  What have they got on me in this plasticized universe?

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There’s expression:  I prefer finding questions.  Ferreting unknowns.

FOR myself – there, I’ve done it.  At least once today.

09.22.2015