Me. We are that we are, how we are, when we are, who.
What has gurgled in me throughout this week, and made it somewhat difficult to post much, is that I ran into these burls. Grief, change, adaptation, struggle – they all push us up against, or cause us to deny or flee from, these knots, these boundaries, thesefabrications of how things ARE, how we’d wish they were, or could be. In myself, these evidence as anxieties, fears, verges of hopelessness. With the help of others – my children and their presentness, their being-into (ecstasy), being-out, unique ways of being-with – my therapist, and many other well-intentioned voices and persons who want good for me… I come to see that MOSTLY it’s ME and these burls, these knots, these imagined borders and boundaries in myself – MY IDEAS OF HOW IT WOULD BE NICE FOR THINGS TO BE, my ideas of my “self/ves,” my organismic survival instincts and ancestral tactics – that dislodge me, silence me, THAT I UTILIZE (choose or select) to withhold and diminish and undo my opportunities to be-in, be-with, be-out, be-for the rest of you – the world, my children, my work, my self/ves.
So I’ve been termiting around in these burls. Wondering how do I undohabit, instinct, ancient patterns of stanching, stoppering, limiting a potential flow of the world and my surround and my relationships and my knowledge and my emotions and my beliefs and my feelings and my thoughts and my dreams and my fears and my anger and my sorrow and my regret and my terror and my joy – work WITH those facts… and begin to erode my selections and choices of UNDOING and LIMITING and FEARING and DIMINISHING and instead tear or leap off these quantitative scales of evaluation, these assessments, these CVs and criteria – and JOIN. JOIN. OFFER. GIVE. BRING. SHOW UP. BE.
CHOOSE – slowly, granularly, deliberately, carefully, wildly – to INVITE the world (as it is) THROUGH, and OFFER the world (as it is) THROUGH…
I don’t even have to reflect to be able to say that Synechdoche, NY – a film by Charlie Kaufman – is my favoritest made movie of my lifetime, or even of all time for my lifetime. And as I burrow in these burls of grinding away at the resistances, the terrors, the wishes, and the ecstasies of being a human alive, stumbling across this short lecture of his has been an invaluable gift. I do not know how to improve on it, so I let it pass THROUGH me… to you…
As I make my way back over the Atlantic from the nominally United Kingdom to the (equally nominally) United States, I am considering what things most prominently infected me. Partly “I think I wanted to get lost to see what happens next” (Deborah Levy, Things I Don’t Want to Know) and partly I wanted to know what to do – my coursework and library visitations – to anchor my lostness while providing anonymity and foreignness in which to search for peace and move through grief.
More and more the invisible was named,
the blind man grew mightier.
How he wandered and called out to his echo!
which called back with the screech of gulls.
He is still searching among flags and vistas
for that same statue.
Sounds blow to the far side of the river.
Nobody is standing there.
Nothing takes shape. Newspapers melt,
photos fade. The stone is made of wax,
the notebook of ash, time takes itself
and repeats the appearance
until his life becomes a mirror
in which he disappears and appears,
but nobody looks at himself,
because nobody can see himself.
my “self” photographed in front of Gerhard Richter’s “painting” Grey Mirror
-Tate Modern, London-
I noted how clear the signage. Clear and direct with no soft-pedaling of consequences stated. Mind the gap, way out (and way in), “moving through these doors may result in death or injury” (on the Underground), smoking kills. The ubiquity of concern for mental health – that Bibliotherapy is not just a bookseller’s or librarians metaphor of expertise – but is in fact a prescriptive cure – scripts are written by doctors for BOOKS! (hundreds a week, one library reported). Along the same culture-historic lines, perhaps influenced by the longevity and prevalence of hundreds to thousands year-old architecture and artefacts, traditions, and tangible evidence of time and identities – the apparent insistence on QUALITY – of life, of drink, of service – of literature and art and purposes. So while everything costs about twice as much as the USA, the options often doubled the quality. A local pub on every corner, small grocers, fresh markets – in the miles I walked I only spotted a handful of McDonald’s, Krispy Kremes or other international chains (and only in heavily touristed areas) – aside from Starbucks. I saw 3 gas stations.
And the bookstores!!! Sometimes 3 or 4 in a block, flush to the gills – but hardly a bestseller, a romance, or fluff! Amazing – perhaps the most profound difference between the USA and UK that I noticed: their stores FEATURED literary quality, and only sometimes provided mass appeal items that could be had anywhere online – in many stores 80% of the stock I encountered did not have an eBook format – the books were books meant to be books in the purpose of books – to be engaged with the body and mind and retained and gone back to – like the architecture, museums and galleries – not disposable pleasures – but necessary cultural artifacts made from the human condition and accessed repeatedly for its benefit.
Of course there are the “places”: Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, the British Library and British Museum, the Tate, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tower of London and on and on…walking over 15 miles a day, finding “oldest churches” in every nook and alley, colleges and universities every other block, London is a place swamped with culture and continuity, the high and the low, and great gaps to mind in between.
So with those great anchors securing me, I tried to see myself. In the reflections of great art and architecture, thousands of years of history and culture, thousands of languages in cosmopolitan streets, thousands of unknown faces and voices, habits and practices and sayings…my “life became a mirror in which he disappears and appears,” but, of course, “nobody looks at himself, because nobody can see himself.”
What did I see? Well by looking through others that I could see, I found “I wasn’t sure my skeletal system had found a way of walking freely in the Societal System” and the need “to find a language that is in part to do with learning how to become a subject rather than a delusion, and in part to do with unknotting the ways in which I have been put together by the Societal System in the first place” including the “many delusions of my own”…”it’s exhausting to learn how to become a subject – it’s hard enough learning how to become a writer” (Deborah Levy).
And I thought of how, like the forest and the trees – it often seems we are unable to see reality for our experiences. So many of us semi-automatically equate our experience with reality – rather than note how small our perceptual bubble really is. Just try using the “Powers of 10” idea – start anywhere – with your pain, your fingernail, your happiness. Now imagine IN a power of 10 – you’re into the cells, into one strand of what’s causing you pain, into a moment eliciting joy. 10x more and you’ve gone beyond atoms and quarks – matter and energy ill-defined and inexplicable and ALWAYS dynamic. Imagine OUT a power of 10 – you’re viewing a street full of private perceptual experiences very different from your own – and trees and birds and squirrels and buildings. X 10 and you see miles and miles of earth – filled up with all kinds of creatures and systems, connectors and wonders and weathers and mountains and rivers – x 10! and you’re out in the galaxy of planets much larger than our own, stars much bigger than our sun, and still more galaxies to go…
Either way you go there is gargantuan forest – and our experience, our body – barely a branch…yet we evaluate so often from that individual outlook – incredibly distorting bubble of lens – with a minimal scope – not engaging the forest, absorbing the forest, wandering and listening and looking and opening – so that “the unanswerable question drifts by” and “unsure of its existence” can “become a new idea…” the beginnings of subject-ivity – a particle in relation from within and without – from mattering energy to butterflied effects…an individual instancing of human.
Be mindful. Be curious. Be patient. Don’t know, and enjoy your hands. Be generous, take refuge, find strength. Be grateful, keep going, be glad. Respond, don’t react. Slow down and forgive. Let go, accept limits, and do what you can. Take in the good, relax, have compassion. Feel safer, fill holes, and love.
-all chapter titles from Rick Hanson’s just one thing
It’s okay. Be human – the extremely hard, most natural thing.
an added and unexpected catharsis – on the night I tried British telly due to trouble falling asleep – Synechdoche, NY – a remarkable example of how complex and generative our perceptive bubble can be…and yet how barrier’d from the world outside of that bubble…forests and trees / reality and personal experiences – beautiful drops in the sea… (and perhaps my favorite movie to date)..
I have recently had the good fortune of correspondence with a tremendous thinker of whose work I have greatly admired and utilized continuously. At some point he queried me as to my central concern or research interest which I pondered over a number of days. About a year ago I recognized that filtering through all of my curiosities and fascinations (passionate inquiries) – in the end they were all about ways that meaning might be made for humans. Thus I figured semiosis or semiotics was my central field of concern. How we forge meaning in our surrounds. As I’ve pursued library and information science I have attuned to the eagerness with which we as a species produce, hoard and waste information. We’ve produced veritable clouds of data/information/knowledge and now it seems as if we swoon and drown in it. For meaning, this cosmos of affordances must be utilized, integrated, incorporated. As technologies explode and become increasingly symbiotic or synergistic with our own bodies and purposes, I have found that my responsive concern is one of remembering that the nexus or filament-combining locus for humans is the body. No meaning can be had without the physical processes on which our being relies. Every think I can think rests on the chemistry and material flows that comprise my organism. It seems that even while we seek to develop intelligent robots and machines, ubiquitous data-recording and instinct-responsive computing, work with data sets increasingly monumental and robust, that a strong percentage of the human populace has the idea that the stigmergy and emergence of virtual social realities construct meaning, promise, potentiality. I am not denying the fascinating quality of our rhizomic replications of our actual interconnectedness, overlap and interdependent influence, but I am committed to the fact that meaning only arises as relations are incorporated. The translation and transformation of continuous relational events whether electronic and virtual or face-to-face and co-present into MEANING only occurs organismically, physically, presently in the knotting of convergences through our embodied existence. Emotion, sensation, cognition, movement all ALWAYS play a part in the construction of meaning. These are my thinkings/feelings.
In keeping with that, serendipitously my wife and I happened to view “The Perfect Sense” – a movie pursued to listen to Max Richter‘s incredible soundtrack in action – but resulting in a sort of visual commentary on my above thoughts. We recommend it! And would love to hear what you think!
although I haven’t viewed the film yet (I fully intend to) – I was unable to wait to acquire the soundtrack, in fact it was a primary plus in returning to Kansas from the Rockies of Colorado (after the books – see prior post).
Beyond that – it would appear the film offers a sympathetic example of quest in another mode – and the soundtrack definitely does… So, entering a new semester, a season of changes and re-established routines – finding our way forward – quest – here is a sampling of the soundtrack: Prince Avalanche by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo:
Greetings all – thanks to the continuous hard work of Lisa Thatcher et. al., the experimental literary-aesthetic new magazine Henry is live! I’m excited about this project, not only because Thatcher’s own work and interests are so astute and lively, but the principle of the thing and the open energy of the legacy of Henry Miller. I invite you all to check it out (helps if you are able to read French), and you will also find a piece of creative writing by myself within. Thanks Lisa & co., thanks Henry for verve and example, thanks writers and readers – it manifests!
I’m in the process of reading Girl Imagined by Chance by Lance Olsen, and I am thinking about how easy it is to make up one’s life. Easy and hard, in different ways. Like making peanut butter-chocolate milkshakes.
We watched “The Joneses” (obviously a mainstream movie, in that way they have of being consistently predictable and disappointing) last night. Internet webs and informational glut, the redolence of media – its imagery and imaginings – makes lying very easy, and “soft.” In the sense of “white lies,” or possibly not malicious, not evil. Rather “stealthy,” “clever,” and “creative” manipulations, representations, (e.g. marketing).
I remember when Western Culture (particularly United-States-North-American) synonymed carpe diem with “invent yourself,” i.e. the militaries “be all you can be.” I was younger then.
Lying requires duplicity, which requires attention, which requires energy. Much like working outside of one’s home and having a family. Or some other role(s). What is called “position,” formerly called a “point-of-view.” Often borrowed from corporations or governments, churches or markets, movements or customers, and so forth. “White” lies. Duplicities. Now this, now that. Positioning.
Already multiple (syn. plural), our selves find it natural to lie and adapt and yet not to believe that it is lying. First one thing, then another; everything changes while remaining so similar. Enough. Apparently. In other words, subtle repositioning / shape-shifting: therapist foreground, wife background. Grunt foreground, husband back. Student, son, father, friend. Subtle shifts. Highlights. First one thing, then another, not exclusive (syn. deception).
Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Who associated these terms (“lie,” “deception,” “manipulation,” “duplicitous” and so forth) with something negative in the first place? Our histories, sciences, civilizations, arts, militaries, governments, religions, families and businesses are all based on them. At some point along every route, things are contradictory, duplicitous, compromised, untrue. What is evil about error? Efficiency? Multiplicity? Complexity?
So if an image suits your message, whatever claims necessity, doesn’t it belong? Whether “yours” or not, it’s resonant, it “fits.” Illustrates the story. Well, part of it, at least as viewed from this position, this point-of-view, whichever wherever whomever is being highlighted NOW.
It is as easy to invent yourself as to paste a collage or learn your native language. Complex organisms utilizing contexts for their survival and adapting (sort of thing). Lizards do it, plants do it, animals and insects do it – all stay alive by subtle shifts and adaptations, presenting themselves as somethings they’re not (perhaps) – representation, quotation, mimicry – all situationally based…
We tell each other certain things (stories altering emphases with each recounting, each invention), behave in particular ways in particular environs, accept and follow various rules at various times of our days, because we have no consistent center, we are relative – relatives all of us – one to another, to our world – shifting, adapting, multiplicitous…each lie leading toward some aspect of what we name truth, like sides of a liquid coin.
Our trouble is that we are unable to be there and not be there, as we’d like to think. It’s all responsibility. Our flexibility, agility, ability to respond…organism to context like a movie screen flickering now this, now that, hold focus, here blur, this angle, these lights, little more information, tone down the emotion, play up the cheer, empathize, stand firm, show authority, be gentle, shift shift shift shift…perspective position your point-of-view. Highlight, accent, select…
Carpe Diem. Seize this moment, this day, be all that you can be (you’ve no idea how expansive and various that is! Well, you must have some idea as we watch you change, grow, reveal, conceal, suppress, express, etc…) duplicitously, positionally, shiftily. It’s easy to make up our own lives, to invent ourselves…
…we’re doing it all the time, everywhere.
‘Tis merely act-ing (being/doing/living) in the world!