Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Fragments On life, death, suffering, and becoming art.

By Sascha Idakaar

The past two weeks I've been moving. Now I'm surrounded by boxes.

I wanted to pen a few of the thoughts that have occurred to me over those two weeks, in no particular order, although I think they overall present some kind of fractured picture of the thought process that is overlaid atop hidden experience. I don't mean any of this to be abstract. I don't mean it to be anything at all, they are just the things I have been wrestling with and thinking about these past weeks, so it's a series of mental snapshots. I'd like to think this will be useful or at least entertaining or informative for some of you, but that is for you, and not me, to say...

On the Ocean. 
Life is always swimming against the current. That's its defining characteristic. When it is full of vitality, we can even swim upstream. What progress we're making! Eventually that vitality flags, and all we can do is maintain. Then, either all at once or very gradually, we are slipping backwards and the current fully overtakes us. We are swept out to sea.

That is beautiful or terrible, depending on how you feel about what was left behind, depending on how attached you are to you. But this is all we know: we came from the sea, and we return. It is inevitable.

On the myth of The Story. 
Even the words we use mean different things to each of us. A story is not a story, singular. It is, potentially, as many stories as there are readers breathing life into those dead husks.

On Language and Representation. 
It is through the relationship between words that meaning becomes abstracted or overlaid. (Which is it? Does it matter?) This gets back at the idea that distributed networks are a fundamental structure by which the universe self organizes. It is the counter-force of entropy. Nervous systems, societies, matter itself. This poses a little problem for individualism.

Words require other words, recursively these require still more, spinning round and round, permutating like the great wheel in the Sefer Yetzirah, with the hope that some sense or context can be yanked from that dancing, whirling chaos by our nervous systems.

In terms of the statement and the verse sense of expression in the first place, I recognize the problem of this idea as it opposes singularity (of meaning, of the universe, of the super-positional electron). I am dubious of singularity in a fundamental way. It seems to be a modern re-capitulation off that noble but seemingly futile gnostic hope for Unity; the closest we can experience is a feeling of dissolving into the sea -- birth and death, as we move toward these states by inexorable current they present themselves to our mind as singularities within multiplicity. (The metaphor of a black hole, a singularity, was used in Apocalyptic Imaginary in the article "Living Your Myth.")

But where is the real world context to unpack these ideas into, to make them meaningful, something that anyone can grasp? This is essential, or else we risk counter-examples of, for instance, bare gedanken, "we had experience but no words until this one now."

Such thought experiments ("we had experience but no words until this one now") don't seem to strike at how language developed, hand-in-hand with mercantile necessity and over a long period of time, nor does it provide a realistic example of how it is used now.

Admittedly our focus these past years have been on myth/narrative and an almost compulsive analysis of our own personal experience and how it fits into this bigger picture -- the personal myth as modern myth -- and my experience with formal linguistics is rudimentary or just in passing. But it occurs to me that Wittgenstein's "language games," his emphasis on language as we use it rather than the metaphysical iea of what it represents seems the most accurate example of the role language plays.

We must beware false metaphysics, pleasurable as they may be. Such metaphysics also reside in philosophical concepts like the singular perceiver/subject and singular object relationship. Anyone with even the most preliminary experience with Western philosophy should know what I am getting at here. As a student I too worked from premises such as these, the dialectic and metaphysic of transcendental systems like Esoteric Qabbalah appealed to me most of all because I wanted to escape this world and at once make sense of it. Eventually reality had its say. Let's look instead at the contexts we are actually immersed in, a multiplicity (of scales, of objects, of relations) where nothing is simple or algebraic, and there are no perceived singularities of beginning or end, only the movement toward the event horizon of these imagined singularities (such as the ocean of birthdeath). Our lives are instead the messy middles in-between, and that is what we rightfully call life.

This is all dangerously abstract as well. What is the "that" or specific cases we are talking about? Is this sense, or another layer of metaphysic?

On Philosophy.
Philosophy for me is not an interest. It is not even an obsession like writing or women or music or chocolate. It is an ever-present annoyance; the best metaphor for our relationship calls to mind an oyster, perpetually irritated by the sand particles that get sucked in as it tries to get on with its little life. Maybe it has produced pearls, and maybe not. (But I do wonder if this is a new life we can give to the dead idiom "pearls of wisdom.")

On Reality. 
Fiction and reality are not opposites. They are related, and like all siblings, hate being told they look alike.

On Suffering. 
I was tasked by a group with building a new lamentation configuration. Instead of a box, I have built a configuration out of bone, sinew, and hope. You are welcome.

Birthing and dying are both painful, messy. The "box" is this faulty flesh. Must it break itself open to be revealed?

Suffering is not the same as pain. Suffering is transmuted into art, religion, or it kills the host. Pain is without meaning. Long live the new flesh.

On Choice.
Deciding what to invest yourself in, and what to let slip by, is a very tricky thing. All the chance occurrences are often the most significant. If you think about this, you might become completely paralyzed. Sometimes I feel it. My head, my arms, my legs may as well be cast of lead and iron. I can't think, I can't choose. The only way to break out is to just choose something, anything at random. These decisions define us, and they are in the end defined not by free choice but by identity: our choices become us, and so, at the same time, they are as static or fluid as our Self is...

Never forget: The number of moments we have is fixed.


On Choice (#2)
The babies aboard this subway are screaming in unison. It is creating an interference pulse, like how tuvan throat singers create pulse beats and chords. Their parents are trying to shove food in their faces, they want nothing to do with it. I know what their parents don't know. They are saying: I didn't ask for any of this. None of us asked to be born. This become sublimated, but it is a secret narrative that lies under all of our pain. None of us asked for any of this. I hear you, baby. Now shut up before you learn the meaning of pain.


"To Thine Own Self Be True." 
Being genuine is a great problem for the genuine. It is fashion for everyone else. For Polonius, it was sophistry. Genuine in this sense demands a Self, something that reaches beyond each moment or act in time, or a purely materialistic, neurological perspective of identity.

I hold being true to ones self as a high virtue, but what does that mean? So many self help gurus spout platitudes along these lines: listen to your heart, they say, and everything will fall into place. Their hand is outstretched for your donation or reverence. Hearts don't speak, and nothing in this world moves because we have listened to some inner voice. Most importantly, why should we listen to it above any other thought or voice we may hear?

We know an ingenuine person who is so by design, and we know one who is so because they always listened to what they were told. There are some quandaries posed by personalities like those that we might consider, but they aren't central because we want o understand the Self that values the genuine, and want to ask if that is a for of delusion. Neither of these people would even understand such a question. It'd be a waste of time, or too scary to ponder.

We must admit some basis for the Self in biology, on outside experience, etc ... it isn't as if we spring out of nothing.

But consider this situation: where you would gain a personal, social benefit by being ingenuine to your Self, or alternately, you can be punished, perhaps even killed, for being "true" to it.  (Consider the story of the Christ, and how many Christians would never consider death as an alternative to listening to what comes from within -- not that we've established the value of that "inner voice.")

It is a secondary problem how we know what "comes from within, " from whence it comes, and how this kind of directive conveys a special authority.

The fundamental problem remains -- what is a Self?

How much better to "know thyself" as Polonius but really just be a series of masks. The genuine Self is more like Hamlet, who is compelled to be true to what he is, and what he knows, even when it is, quite literally, in conflict with King and Country. We know how that play ends. And I think within it we find a glimmering of this interplay between the genuine self that must listen to itself despite the odds, and the varying shades of concession which others make who thereby become less genuine.

On Self-loathing
If we wanted to expand this inquiry, I'd propose: what is the the thing in yourself that you hate, that you think is your chief personality flaw? What if in that was contained a part of our core identity (or Self), trapped and sickened as it were by your aversion. This is the most evident in those who listen most to the criticism and advice of others without also listening to themselves. But even the most stubborn individualist secretly is trapped with a head full of critical voices that tell us our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses. (And vice versa?)

Turn toward that weakness.

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