Saturday, October 8, 2011

Welcome to #OccupyTogether

Tonin’s Ideaphoria, created as a platform for sharing whatever churned out of my personal ideaverse, will temporarily transition to a more organized and focused agenda: musings on and another hub for the Occupy Movement. For revolution may be developing out of us. Perhaps I am wrong and the uprisings will be squashed, incorporated, dispersed. But perhaps I am not. The time is too ripe to concentrate on anything else but what is happening. For I have been thinking about this very thing for all of my adult years. Discussing it into late nights. Fantasizing about the new world order. Threads of the occupiers’ complaints weave their way throughout the entire evolution of my thought. This occupation has occupied me and I shall now fully occupy it.

First, a personal rendition of the movement: In September I went through my swelling inbox to inconspicuously find that my two co-conspirators and allies in NYC had sent me a message of great portent. It became the impetus. It was titled “#OccupyWallStreet: A Shift in Revolutionary Tactics”, and was sent by Adbusters, the anti-consumerist activist group from Canada I knew by their monthly ad-free publication:

Alright you 90,000 redeemers, rebels and radicals out there,
A worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics is underway right now that bodes well for the future. The spirit of this fresh tactic, a fusion of Tahrir with the acampadas of Spain, is captured in this quote:

"The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people."
— Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain

The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people's assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.

The time has come to deploy this emerging stratagem against the greatest corrupter of our democracy: Wall Street, the financial Gomorrah of America.

On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.

Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that Mubarak must go – over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?
The most exciting candidate that we've heard so far is one that gets at the core of why the American political establishment is currently unworthy of being called a democracy: we demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY. We're doomed without it.
This demand seems to capture the current national mood because cleaning up corruption in Washington is something all Americans, right and left, yearn for and can stand behind. If we hang in there, 20,000-strong, week after week against every police and National Guard effort to expel us from Wall Street, it would be impossible for Obama to ignore us. Our government would be forced to choose publicly between the will of the people and the lucre of the corporations.

This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you're out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America.
Go to and tell us what you think. Post a comment and help each other zero in on what our one demand will be.

And then let's screw up our courage, pack our tents and head to Wall Street with a vengeance September 17.

#OccupyWallStreet was reported to be composed of a “few hundred neo-hippies” occupying Zuccotti Park, located within the financial district of lower Manhattan, by my NYC allies when I checked in post launch date. Disappointing. I was expecting reports of numbers in droves and representation across demographics. I wrote it off as a false start. The “operation of the machine” continued as always; we, tolerant, participated as we always had. But then something curious began to happen across the rest of the month. Through sources varied and dispersed, I was informed, through an underground conversation of sorts, centered upon not empty criticism as I was used to, but instead operations intended, resistances planned, actions to be taken to directly monkeywrench the empire. What was I amid? I started hunting around, plunging into the media complex I generally avoid, and discovered that something was indeed happening. #OccupyWallStreet had marshaled interest, gained force, and was becoming a presence to be reckoned with. Maybe history is coming to an end. Or if not, I am at least getting excited about overcoming the social order in a new, embodied way: after a decade of adulthood occupying a very small place in the realm of the theoretical, I am becoming praxis! I will occupy as a commitment to such praxis. I will occupy today.

For sixteen days, there has been a local presence, in our own Occupy Wall Street, cleverly consistent, called Occupy Denver. Occupy Together, the movement’s collective name, has captivated over 1000 American cities. Today I go to absorb the cries of the occupiers, clarify what I shall take up in my own activism, and to give my presence, my representation, my contributions in the discourse, my own cries in the collective. I shall soon report back from the frontiers. Until then, please visit

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hazards of the Familiar

I sit and write again – this time writing straight, without much planning for ideas now in a watery mental diffusion. I have to set myself up this way for I’ve identified the weight that accompanies these preparations: the time-intensive yes, but more weighty, the sometimes agonizing gearing-into anticipatory struggles for word and form, an attempt inward, grasping at random bolts of insight until there establishes a cohesive and steady reliable output, an encompassing circle in which my material fills in and completes a naturally-evolved resolution in closing.

A mere introductory musing that may help better define the resistance in the phenomenology of lapse (see entry @) while also providing a handy explanation to my absence! Perhaps all of this phenomenological detail amounts to the fact that I have been lazy in confronting the work of writing. Yes, that sounds like it rings an internal bell. In addition I note the other forms of resistance examined in entry X operating: yes, my cycling once again robbed me of my writing, and also all of this cooking and baking now that I am resorting to bulk ingredients trying to reduce waste...just got done with 60 minutes of chocolate chip banana bread…wow, is it good). Oops, I did it again.

We get caught up in this way, living our everyday, mired in the flare-up concerns of isolated moments in time. I seek the larger projects such as this, the activities that are placed well in my continuum of self: I write today, I have written before, I will write again. These projects oft lie at the fringes as we largely go through the motions of our days. If laziness be the culprit, it follows that attending to the puny island of attention required for most everyday matters permits me off-the-hook for attending to, ahem, my life, that larger edifice that I would never locate in dishes or tidying, or even birthday parties, networking, or emailing. Whole lives can be lived this way. Too much of mine has been sequestered into the narrowness of the daily.

Wake-up calls, though often not very pleasant, allow for this benumbing daily to be ruptured. And so they come as beautiful and worthy messages, something making a little unpleasantry more easily tolerated. Afterward you have to put your daily back in order, and this grants the needed space to not automatically slip into the unmemorable daily, unworthy as appraised by your very own mental faculties to be retained.

I had one recently. It was quite embarrassing in the moment, disorienting me in the near aftermath as to how I could have wound up as I did. Just before the embarrassment, I was in a round of involved and complicated mental hashing of upcoming events and meetings and people I needed to respond to. Oh, these urgencies that consume. So seriously attached I was to my figurings and plan-makings around the minutia of myself, so committed was I to living in a constricted being in the moment, constricted to cognitions, cognitions about such smallness, that I ran my bike at 10mph into a parked car and catapulted over the handlebars, unable to register the impact in time to at least swerve or ricochet. And I was on my block. Someone in hearing the story said in condolence, perhaps that car was parked in a place it normally isn’t? In the days after, I checked out my strong suspicion that indeed this white car chronically parks in the spot I met up with it so intimately. It does. Chronically.

There is a tension in this, the everyday. My first account of the accident (by the way, I am fine – had very minor flesh scrapes and a swollen knee for 2-3 days) was that I was ironically not practicing mindfulness whatsoever. Ironic because I happen to be a mindfulness teacher in my community. The embarrassment of the moment compounded with the embarrassment of hypocrisy. Not being mindful, I concluded, can be dangerous. And I do continue to agree. But there is something more nuanced here than initial considerations and others’ initial feedback suggests.

I critique activity confined in the daily, activity that renders us inept and walled-off in time and from our larger selves. The critique is of attaching too closely to this moment, these concerns, these pressing items of the fleeting and narrow Now. Yet mindfulness-based practice seems to push us into the folds of the present more deeply. Mindfulness, as a fad technique, can leave us not merely isolated in time, but stranded. Appreciating what appears, letting it in, yes, but appreciating in an empty and emptying manner, the annoyingly redundant remarks of sunset-watchers who can only say: “It was amazing.” Perhaps what I label the daily shouldn’t be confused with the opportunities of the day. After all, it is within days that we live; we must live in the houses of days. Paying attention, surely a process I was lacking when I ran myself and my bike asunder, grants a window, a window out of the daily, in opening the daily up from its very own interiors. To pay attention, to “look closer”, perhaps we can free ourselves of the frivolity and wanderings of an overactive mind. Overacting on the daily. To merge a being-orientation of paying attention (allowing the day to unfold before me while on my bike) with my larger temporal self (in the context of my life project(s), I am mindful, I am free.

Friday, February 11, 2011

An Attempt at Social Ecology Praxis

We are assailed by advocate armies of ever-multiplying doctrines, competing for attention, and even more so, adherents - the volume of causes promoted by 7 billion human beings discovering and proclaiming for themselves what holds meaning, what matters. I received a phone call today from a nonprofit foundation asking for $25 which would benefit children with life expectancies between six months to a year in having some decent opportunities for enjoyment in their truncated existence. I am stopped in the street to sign a petition against excessive political campaign spending. I am reported stories of the slum children of India who live in abject poverty on the streets. Stop the injustice! They cry. Within this clamor of competition, I choose to brand myself a social ecologist. Within potentiality for manifested action, I must now choose to advocate for the socially ecological just, wise, and the good (back to the Platonic basics). Wading through many a school of thought dispassionately considered, it flattered me as a well-worn garment tailored to my highly particular body form. A centering connection of disparate realms, an intersection and conceptual house for my concerns, under one totalizing roof. A nexus which acknowledged the braided thread of social organization and an ethic of ecology. This is not a refutation of care for sickly, unfortunately fated children nor an endorsement of seven figure marketing for Senate candidates (oligarchy smuggled in as democracy) nor a dismissal of the suffering people endure when their basic needs go unmet, but a choice of narrowing conscription to make a difference. An attempt to penetrate the complexity of issues to locate the source. Should social ecology be that source, be the answer, if we are to embody it, to unite its theory and praxis, we should no longer have such derivative problems requiring someone to champion their solutions, their alleviation, their reparation.

Social ecology breaks the unhelpful division between the human-made world and the natural world: it brings society into ecology’s fold and ecologizes the social order. Society and Nature are necessarily intertwined, yet our awesomely amazing abstracting powers have created strange contradictions when a total, holistic point-of-view is had. We get caught up utilizing fossil-fuel powered vehicles (planes, trains, automobiles) to save the turtles caught in an oil spill on a remote South American coastal island. The very means by which we try to save is the very cause of their plight. Isolating phenomena and treating them as discrete entities can do more total harm. We are left with iatrogenic complications. Avatar sends a mighty fantastical message, whilst the actual production of the film, the substratum of the realization of its message, is the culprit of flagrant use of resources and therefore habitat destruction, where sympathetic characters are portrayed by our celebrity elite, in which its marketing teams breed all sorts of spin-off material, the litter of Jake Sully dolls and other promotional junk that wind up in the landfills of the world. This is false consciousness: the manifest portrays one reality, the actual material reality involved is its very antithesis. Let’s not assume I have converted my Avatar love here. I continue to love Avatar. But I see that without social ecology, we are doomed to propagate an ecological ethic within a social organization, a way of doing things, which by its very structure undermines our most professed faith in the preservation and nourishment of our home.

Social ecology finds its roots in the radical 60s, its thought originated in and organized by Murray Bookchin, a social philosopher/ libertarian socialist (social anarchist) who wrote and lectured lifelong as an academic and activist. Take any specific cry of environmentalists today, Bookchin I imagine would say, EO Wilson’s call to biodiversity, Gore’s advocacy for climate change, Pollan’s expos√© of industrial food - open your eyes to their collective location: our social order: capitalism. Through extension of Marx’s analysis of society, his critique of capital and the system that embodies it, capitalism, we can find Eco-Marxism, where we not only note, as we do traditionally, that capitalism has destructive control of the mode and relations of production (destructive to human liberty), but that it has destructive control over the all-encompassing environment, increasingly invading every corner of social and natural life as it appropriates everything in its grasp to capital. In Avatar it becomes every corner of galactic social and natural life, as the ever-expanding demon literally exhausts the globe. Marx said the natural limits of an economic system would produce collapse when the carrying capacity of its internal mechanics reaches an upper limit. I fear that we extend that upper limit and that we are nowhere closer a revision based on increasing internal contradiction, despite living 150 years after these predictions.

The problem for me as an individual social ecologist is an extending of myself beyond academics, my usual trade, my training, my type. I must turn toward at least the verge of activism, in an effort of really doing something, becoming a theory-praxis unity (in Bookchin’s likening). Although, as we’ve seen analogically in the unity of social ecology, good academics do change the world, and good activists are usually academics, if but informally, at heart. Okay, as if that wasn’t enough of a personal challenge, beyond this change in the use of myself is the more pervasive problem of full immersion. I work from within an already corrupted working space. My life is already infused with the fettered channels of our economic order. I was birthed and raised in it; I am now cloaked in it. Everywhere I turn, I find it. We are back to the realization already mentioned: I am the commercial plane passenger saving the damn turtles. The disadvantage, and for me, emotionally challenging, fact of our position is that we have to discover these untruths as we live them. Currently I am a torn being: I live out the very practices I find fault with, simply because I cannot immediately and instantaneously refashion my entire lived existence. I have found that biking is a reliable form of commuting, indeed it has become apart of me: I am a cyclist. Yet I haven’t quite figured out how to get groceries home on my bike, nor how to navigate certain weather conditions, like heavy snow and ice, on a bicycle. So I use the convenience of my car on these challenging days. I realized this challenge when a critic asked me, “Do you think you’re really changing the world by using that reusable coffee mug when you want coffee?” I stood there with my stupid little mug and thought of the irony and self-contradictions of which I am apart: the plastic bags of tortilla chips I fill my reusable canvas tote bags with. Sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The way we produce and how we consume is permeated by a waste cycle. I ask of everything now, can I continue using this? Can I morally continue eating these tortilla chips? This week, in an effort of resolve, I purchased chips from a company who used brown paper bags (with a tiny sliver of plastic, of course, to see the contents within) as their packaging. I felt good for a second, but of course I know I am not saving the world with my brown bag tortilla chips. As I attempt zero waste I have to reconceive of how I do everything. And I thought, at the beginning of this declared project (January), that it would involve becoming just a more conscious shopper. Small efforts are wrangled within a system designed for waste. Zero waste requires a self-overcoming of a lifestyle I am embedded in. As an American, I am waste. Parts of the rest of the world see my true colors. Ha, they say in remaining village life, an American of zero waste!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ex Nihilo

The constant receding borders of the limits of possibility sweep the proverbial rug from beneath my feet. Possibility engulfs me. It is not the quality of possibility I have been acquainted with from time to time that I now speak, those welcomed, short bursts which catapult into transcendent vision from my everydayness, a bodily ripple of charge, a fierce exciting vitality and empowerment of personal control, but an endless dark vastness which swallows me entirely, the blackness and disorientation of the expanding universe.

It comes from an environment I have praised and continue to praise, one it took years to generate the courage and resources to enter: one with very little imposed, external structure. The structures of my current life evolve from the inside out. I create my work opportunities, my play opportunities, my projects and my pursuits. I create the time at which I wake, I create the physical and interpersonal spaces I inhabit. I even create the challenges and resistances I intend to work through and overcome. I create my days, thus I create a life, my life. Weeks no longer churn in repetitive motions. Mondays are no longer Mondays, each forward-marching return of the sun holds within it its own signature texture. Welcome to 365 flavors.

I have never been with, or operated out of, this sort of monumental blankness, which requires me to draft the structural and decorative lines and construct the mosaic. Over a half-decade ago I began studying existential claims; some years back, I self-identified as an existentialist; only in very recent months have I begun to live existentially. I once thought about existentialism, caught as I now realize in excessive cognition and bloodless argumentation. Now I care only to embody. I do not intend to mislead that my special new context has allowed me a freedom I was once denied by external force and obligation. No, au contraire: All along I have been and am and will be this free, I am now only beginning to feel it, to acknowledge it, to embrace it as the case. My current environment has functioned as a prism of my basic reality that has always already been operating, beneath serious illusions I had adopted as over and against me: the requirements that I needed to live by. I embark on a lived study of un-programming, suitably at the culmination of my formal studies (a large part of the grand withdrawal of external structure).

Others who have exploded the constructs of obligated living in their lived commitments have provided the pathway to my own avowal of the full creativity of a life, of radical choice. To them I am indebted (but as we know, not in a way that would constrict the abundance of my freedom). When people, in their defense of limitation, caught in the sweet ease of bad faith, smirk and demand from me, “Certainly you are restricted in the fact that you need money to survive,” I simply can give them those who have outgrown humanity into the √úbermensch. McCandless and those who live out his spirit today, e.g. Daniel Suelo. Their particular path I may not personally uptake. Freedom demands I carve out my own rather than follow footsteps, however few. Their centrality to my heart lies in the fact that their lives are the exceptions to necessity. They are the (Lived) Statues of Liberty. Maybe I am not cool enough for others to know me in this way yet, but I feel the sweeping power of a name change, a movement from the given designation of my birth name, a marker and example par excellenece of facticity, to a chosen appelation.

I think I’ll choose Supertonin.

This all may seem a bit grandiose and over the top, which is what possibility tends to do to the spirit, I’ll admit. Yet I do not declare it from an untouchable, holier-than-thou perch. I am learning that in every choice, even a choice to choose from the ground up, ex nihilo, there is a building and a demolition. Advantages and downsides. New openings which close down old avenues. For in freedom I have discovered the dark side of the wide blank canvas, the startling paralysis of emptiness, the burden of every action and every decision as my own, my own alone: I have discovered angst. I continue to act, as I must, but action comes with a crippling doubt and commentary: If nothing holds me to this act, if it must be solely me who affirms, upholds, and does this, should I? What good is it? What will this amount to? Is this really mattering? Is this what I want to do? To be known for? To enjoy? To spend my time developing? In possibility, ironically, I can no longer simply do.

What I am left with is a somewhat disorganized assortment of activity, a distracted flittering of attentions, a drowning sea of choice. I find myself in lecture halls with the definitive world expert on rare mosses, I find myself collecting household supplies with which to repurpose and convert into homemade candles, I find myself in meditation circles, I find myself composting, I find myself trying to refine my palette to discriminate wine fermented in oak-barrels v. stainless steel. I find myself reading 100 different topics at once and when asked what books I’ve recently read, have to confess, well, none really. Where do I find myself?
In the recognition that a) I can never again be told what it is that I should be doing (should this occur again, that I cannot take the necessity of it seriously anymore) and b) that there is no path for me to discover, only those I affirm, I am left with whatever. And whatever is both and at once maximally liberating and maximally daunting, the twin pillars of freedom and responsibility, the silent and boundless human experience that I must, by the sheer fact of existence, fill with sound and form.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Create an Interest Map

Out of the wealth of perceptual data we interact with, certain little tidbits can reach out and intensely and intimately grab my diffuse attentions. Initially they reverberate in my inner chambers as if a koan waiting to be solved. After wrestling with what feels to be this hand-delivered message, I begin to see its implications within the workings of my life. These tidbits are only occasionally cosmologic revelation. Most are revelation of an emerging direction for me to take, a theme bubbling up from beneath conscious awareness, a new personal truth.

One such gripping tidbit came to me during a lecture on alternative methods of bodily health and healing, the tidbit being completely irrelevant to this topic of nutritional supplements and ion cleanses, that is. It was said as a preface, a introductory side note, and yet it was this that I took, like a bright gift, most preciously away from that hour’s time of listening to another. The woman introduced herself, trying to give an appropriate context to house the content she was about to share. Succinctly, and with assurance, she declared, “I am not a master of nutrition nor am I a doctor; I am not a master of physiology, although I do have interest as well as training in these areas. However, I am a master herbalist, and I come from that domain of expertise in talking with you today.” With this tidbit now framing my reference point, I began to see the appeal and advantage of being a master of a domain. It was immediately apparent that I was not a master, not a master of anything -- my intense curiosity, something once uniformly treasured, had prevented me from developing this, this “singularity of purpose” (Bow hunter Cameron Hanes’ phrase – coming to me, again in an unrelated forum –we’re talking bow hunting here, resonating this tidbit). I was in awe of what a master commands, how a master works herself into her field, that a master goes beyond his field and thus can enrich it with his personal contributions. The tidbit evolved into the nagging, as yet unanswered question: What do I want to become a master of?

As a result of this irksome inquiry piercing my thoughts at odd times in all manners of day, I decided to undertake a small project this morning that I called an Interest Map, which I intended to be a visual representation of the web of interests that have developed in recent years, highlighting the ones currently active. I began with my intellectual interests. As an intellectual primarily (although I do affiliate with other identities), I found this an effortless beginning and could easily recall prominent books, classes, and discussion group topics that had a basic theme, easily condensed into a word or two, or at most a phrase. Without too much felt condensation, a whole host of material and thought could be identified simply, as in the Master Herbalist’s summary of herself utilizing one fitting term: Herbalist is all she needs for the no doubt vast array of information, orientation, and experience she has behind her mastery. I found that most interests were evolutionarily linked, meaning I started tracing (usually from the currently active backwards in time) interests in a sort of linkable tree, clearly seeing that my interests held within them a natural order, flow, and sense. This felt really good. Suddenly the chaos of my creativity felt more like a logical flow. Like I was heading toward some master plan. And ‘master plan’ contained the ever-desired root word. Overlaying this skeleton I carved in more word nodes from the non- or somewhat- intellectual of interests: the scope of activities that filled my life, beyond mere reading and its associated ideas. Rather than be adjacent or requiring a second Map, these interests aligned in a great synchrony.
Finally I could relate realms of my life, and deduce the emergence of whole new sectors from previous areas that had been dug around in for a sufficient period of time. Interests do seem botanical (although the metaphor is widely applicable): New shoots seem to necessarily branch off interests that are deeply and thoroughly developed. And I smiled in recollection at the birth of new shoots that came in the form of a tidbit to propel the Interests forward – a two-hour movie, an introductory statement. I began to run this way. About a year ago I saw a runner about my age, female, down a path I was driving along near my home. Very ordinary. We all see runners all the time. This had grazed my retinal impressions countless times. Somehow, that day, it grabbed me intensely and intimately and I immediately knew I needed to do this: My body had this awesome capability within it, without really any outside support, it can run incredibly long distances (well, I did indulge in running shoes and technically as of yet I cannot go very far). I have to be able to do this most human of things, to propel my body forward, to traverse miles and miles without using equipment of any kind. As a book later found says, I was born to run.

Perhaps this will be the tidbit for someone in the virtual ‘out there’.

I share this with you, blog-readers, to encourage you to try out something of an Interest Map of your own as it has revealed to me a great and readable narrative of Interests, a catalog of my first decade of adult years. I will enrich it in days to come, transferring it to a large swath of butcher paper and enlivening it with color and image. Within it, I read off the budding mastery already apparent in my world, as well as relieve myself to pursue whatever mastery I so choose at this particular temporal moment, for all my interests lie in wait, spelled out, on my giant map.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Conditions for the possibility of Procrastination

There is a moment, perhaps not exactly discrete, in which a lapse becomes so … well, lapsed, you start overlaying your now routine concerns over reengaging with the task with actually explaining the lapse itself. The predicament in this added layer, often associated with self-deprecating indictment (the shame, the self-blame, the negative identity labels) is that it extraordinarily prolongs the reengagement. How am I to extract of this lack, now so long in the making? we ask. In paradoxical circles of worry, we fantasize about the reuptake as well as the excuses, which take up as much energy as the would-be itself. It seems this happens quite often to us, unpleasantly enough. Segments of our lives are overdue. Some have gone, both literally and figuratively, to collection agencies. When it’s been that long, ‘just forgot’ doesn’t really cut it anymore. Lapses create ever-deepening trenches requiring taller and sturdier ladders, as well as more and more serious accounting until any narrative of explanation just seems ridiculous, such as justifying lateness in saying you got lost, in your own neighborhood.

Alright, as you may have guessed, all my musings on lengthy lapses do indeed have everything to do with this very enterprise of which you are now engaged, and haven’t seen in quite some time, entries which appear on this very blog. Just think of this entry as an exercise in merging form and content. Or, the act of embodying an idea rather than merely explicating it. This is the reasoning I came up with to lead me on my way out of my own lapse hole. I hope it’s a pretty good line. I philosophize in the transcendental tradition, which is to say, I look ‘to the conditions for the possibility of such’, or in more ordinary parlance, I look to what makes it possible for a phenomenon to present itself, for a phenomenon to be. This is much a cooler, Continental, question, over and above asking, what caused this lapse? There’s been at least a dozen movies viewed in the interim. Perhaps two dozen. Mundane, trivial details in the maintenance of the platform of my life, like freezer cleaning and oil changes have ensued. There’s been international travels and a wedding, completing graduate school and an internship, sending my most treasured away on a cross-continental move. In one sense I have been busy. In another I haven’t. This whole notion of being busy, anyway, has been a noted frustration in its conventional acceptability as well as a catch-all for opting out.

More on the phenomenon of busyness later. What I’m getting at is that anything felt worthy of doing is, simply, done. Feats of production have been accomplished in the most non-conducive and restrictive of situations. Where does that leave me with this blog and you, readers, with all of your own tasks which you sit upon, in a heap of pure intention? Let me at least explore a bit, probe around this lapse, in an effort to assess its preconditions, which ideally, will inspire an inlet to your own personal relevance, and lively dialogue in the comments.

Every lapse is a derailment from a former plan of action. Lapses deactivate what was once ongoing, perhaps even enthusiastic, activity; lapses stagnate a former intention. What inevitably comes to mind is the much discussed, great Fall from fitness and nutritional health Americans suffer sometime in February. Or perhaps late January. Lapses must be frequent, I must not be alone, as this struggle, many, if not most, certainly face. Statistics vary, of course, but my consulted sources cite a resolution failure rate of between 80-90%. Many a lapse has gone on. Many of these lapses are themselves recurrences, a whole layer cake of lapse.

There are shelves of time management strategies, goal-setting gurus, and 10 ways to be productive, useful, and back-on-track. Although I utilize this sector of the library, this is not what I am after here. I am after the phenomenology of the lapse, not the maneuvers to avoid them, assuage them, or fix them. I am after why they are even a concern at all. They are a concern because they are a phenomenon. They happen. As stated, frequently. It is that we suffer our lapses, as if from beyond, yet it was we who cared, sometimes the only being who cared, that we did x in the first place. How can we be so divided? Committing and opposing in our dissonance between intention and action? How can we fail the standards we ourselves alone crafted?

I planned a blog. I “didn’t find time” for five months. I can locate that derailment in resistance. A part of me wants to continue. A part of me doesn’t. The latter is a personally difficult acknowledgement for secretly, I want to believe that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything (thanks McFly). But the way of subconscious resistance is an internal battle waged between parts of oneself. What a wasted relay. I wonder, what if we channeled our various conflicting internal voices and motives into a united front? The darkened corner presence speaks to the one in center light who proclaims a beacon of hopeful willpower. I will do this! I will accomplish! The shadow speaks and negates all her showy stage antics. She says you don’t want this. It is futile. You have no readers. You hold no interest. No one cares to read your musings. Hell, no one can even locate your blog in the blogosphere in order to decide to not invest in reading your musings. I am writing on an infinitesimal shelf in the virtual cornucopia of words. You can spill all of your insecurities and even that won’t matter. Because they’ll remain unwitnessed. Why not continue my traditional private scribblings in journals, notebooks, on random receipt scraps and bits of napkin? At least then I could give up having to render my idiosyncratic symbolism into attempts at coherent communication.

These comprise the barely audible ground upon which I sit down to conjure an entry, shakily, in this project of blog writing. I suspect the quality of this ground as the, or at least a, factor in my lapse. Because the fact is that I do intrinsically enjoy the craft of writing, an entry’s evolving demand to produce a structure readers can inhabit, the working-through of coiled up, often pre-verbal, ideas until they are rendered intelligible. The search for the precise word that embodies the feeling of the concept. I’ve been a writer since I was young. My elementary school teachers had to place upper limits on page lengths for creative writing assignments, not page minimums they coaxed out of other, more reluctant, students.

The paradoxical and annoying lapse. That nagging voice, “well if you love it sooooo much…”. There’s a notion that we hate work. The fantasy of intention, that exciting burgeoning of a new purpose, is the sumptuous cake without the calories. When we get in the thick of it, it just takes too much energy expenditure to want it anymore. In this appraisal, we entertain thoughts and quit at the first sign of sweat. I have a friend who is into “fake hobbies”, in that she gets pumped about a project, invests in needed materials, spends a giddy day in the activity, and then lapses on that hobby indefinitely. My blog turned into a fake hobby. Lapses plague our potentials.

The phenomenology of lapse, however, makes me wonder if we are crowding our lives to the point where lapses create needed room, they, the off-site storage chambers for too much stuff we do with our time. Perhaps we put aside endeavors in a revolving juggling act. Perhaps my cycling robbed me of my writing.

This takes me to a passage from a William Bridges book I’ve recently read, the author and workshop leader on life transitions. “I had moved to the country partly because I had been infatuated with Thoreau’s Walden and its story of living a basic life, close to nature. The heart of that undertaking, he had written, was to simplify your life. Simplify, simplify, simplify! he wrote. In retrospect, I can see that although I thought that this was what I was doing, I was really just trying to add simplicity to my life. In addition to all the old things I had been doing, I started heating the house with a woodstove and chopping wood for fuel and raising as much of the family food as I could and reusing everything over and over. Of course, my life grew more and more complicated in the process” (The Way of Transition, pg. 10). Okay, so if this is the case the quest to leave the lapse unindulged will be about unlearning and undoing to clear an area, to purge in order to make room. The movies are going to have to go.

I invite and encourage you, my readers, to muse on lapses and provide the stories of your own lapses with which to investigate {for the phenomenologists – to move through the ontic lapse toward the grounds for a lapse}. Oh wait. The reminder comes in around the edges of the last sentence, as I type out the period at its end: Don’t kid yourself, there are no readers.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Isolated Connectedness

Many say they wish to slip quietly from life. To go without knowledge of the going, to be struck unaware, or rather not struck at all. I think I understand the grounds, the emanation, of this desire. And it is a deeply individualized desire each must come to terms with for his or her self. They say they want their erasure to be peaceful. To pass suckled in deep sleep’s sweet sublime basement of self. It sure seems to get the job done without active effort, painlessly. This very relief, however reliving it may be, has come to be seen as, under many recent awarenesses and events of mine, duty dismissal, and a very important missed undertaking of responsibility. This is the very tragedy of fast ceasing: bypassing that critical culmination, your very telos, the fulfillment of all of your possibilities and the end of your not-yet, previously undulating before you in complex iterations. What one “gets over quickly” is not a prickly dilemma nor unwieldy mishap – it is your life. Pause on that gravitas. What it means to desperately crave that getting over, that getting over quickly. In certain bodily destructions and dismantlings this must be the here-and-now choice of the one in limbo. Those in these conditions strongly willing to want that Over immediately is a tragic element in our grand tragedy. When dying permits us otherwise, I advocate for a death stance quite opposed to this suppression. For, in the end, this constitutes a looking away, the easy way out of our existence. Do we not owe our existence more than a barely cognizant passive glance?

I am no prophet. This facing-toward of stark mortality I cannot claim to have originated. In one historical instance, it’s called being-towards-death and it’s Heideggerian. Many others, I imagine, have stumbled upon it. Blog-readers, please fill me in on variations. Despite its presence, generally and pervasively it is opposed. This April has enlisted me as a witness. I’ve experienced being with another in his dying moment of stark rage in the night as well as that softly gentle passing. Those abruptly fierce kicks despite last bodily throes, fighting a strictly comfortable oblivion. That contrasting succumbing to endless black. In painful times, survivors put up their shields and invoke a looking away, encouraging their dying to do likewise. Retrospectively I want to rip that breathing tube out and, in all seriousness, face it together. To bolster that facing-toward, however wretchedly true it was, which after unsuccessful fits diminished and evaporated into facing-away. By this time the question was silenced with which I berate myself for in my intolerance and immaturity: What do you have to say? became irrelevant, an inappropriate inquiry, asked too late for the wise man who had lost the battle in knowing in his end that dark is right.

There is something so terrible in it that I cannot shake or ignore. Images of resurrected personhoods, preserved in blissful bioluminescent netherworlds, plaster over the terror of the terrible. We cannot keep this searing fact for but a few moments of bearability, so we soon enough find solace and redemption in fantastical images of our newly deceased in grand, otherworldly Banshee flight. Even I conjured and used it in the rawest nausea of the situation that presented itself. Someone was dying. We rushed to be there in the dying process, to provide warm human companion, a mirage of connectedness in an isolating removal. Damn this requirement to forsake people. If only I could kill the killer.

Let me grant a reprieve and lift you out. However, I must warn you that I will drop you again.

Shortly before this rupture and these personal losses, which dismantled and infused angst into the smallest of the everyday, I had found my new blog content. Andrew Graham. I waited to write it for this platform. Something whispered to wait. Finding Andrew was one of those real moments in an immediate vicinity of placid sleepwalking. As my repetitive metaphors betray, this experience was a parallel form of the bringing back to bear facing-toward death, the tragedy inherent in life, which Andrew Graham did in a whisk of unguarded surprise. The day of his recognition in death was premature. For him as well as for me. It had to settle in, seed the ground, set the perimeter of what I was unforeseeingly about to pass through. His perimeter is a symbolic marker. It is four miles wide, his last four miles. I shall explain this highly idiosyncratic mythical imagery of mine as Andrew walks his perimeter with you, as he did with me.

This boy’s foot mileage, his four miles, came to me strikingly coincidental along multiple unrelated channels, a poignant symbol for me, understandably so much more to some, a full and relatable life, more than a lesson. I came across him alone, sharing his final condition. Caught up in the mode of the everyday, Andrew Graham entered into my world seamlessly, emerging into the middle of the aisle of a light rail train, a setting deeply ordinary and entrenched familiarly for me, my mobile home as I liken it. In this found connection through this video that found me, I saw the trappings of a late night ride to “your destination”, I felt the anticipation of walking over the bumpy yellow rider boarding strip he would cross as he exited, the hazy lights whizzing past reflective windows, a largely empty, jostling train, the inner fidgetiness of adjusting a shoulder bag and waiting hovered over the stairwell for the train to slow, the bright yellow-red spectrum seat stripes leaping at my core as if ingrained as deeply as my baby blanket is in memory.

I saw my being in Andrew as the video unfolded, for these intimate actions in these very intimate surroundings are me. There was a brief relatedness, an identity, with a life I did not know in any personal manner. Over and over I board, and ride, and deboard. I imagine he was used to the same. The video shows Andrew riding the train, prominent in the center of the camera’s view in straight jeans and a black jacket. He deboards.

In a personal journal of mine, I jotted the following, directly after witnessing this three-part video. I violently, and by surprise, wept for this intimate stranger. A life whose culminating offering occurred in the moment and manner of his death for people he would never know. He prepared me for significant losses that swept around me, like an unexpected wave surge or burst of transparent wind. He prepared me for my own nonbeing. How I could not anticipate his offering nor that I would indeed write about Andrew and so many more:

“I follow him off and through the bridge, down the stairs, all the way to the last stride that takes him off the right-hand side of the screen, the edge of the security camera’s field of view. There he embarks on the journey home; he departs from the social sphere of community into an elongated expanse along a four mile trajectory: he is alone and will never return to the world of others, the community. For these four miles are his summation. Our last four miles we cannot know in advance. This is both their tragic ignorance, their blissful ignorance. Staring death in the face, honoring Andrew Graham’s concrete existence, I now have the symbolic power inherent in four miles.”

He swirls around me as an apparition, such an intimate human connection, yet so far removed. Like, and among the ranks of, my personal litany of the heroic.