Saturday, January 16, 2010

Year End / Begin

Having been stuck in the strange removal of reflecting on 2009 personally and projecting into 2010, also personally, for the last two weeks in their near entirety (of course, not in bondage but stuck of my own choosing), I am ripe for temporal musings. This is a practice that I began in its initial form in the handing off of 2006 into 2007’s embrace. Not that these four-digit numbers have relational ties, or even immovable reality for that matter. They are human contrivance. There may be cosmic significance in the completion of a year, a perfect ellipse of our large abode around its nourishing light source, but there really is nothing special about late December’s passing into early January, sorry Jesus. Despite all of this, and the call to move such a transition to an astronomically-relevant marker, such as a solstice (which, is obviously close and conspicuously close at that, here), we are caught up in a tradition that places an end and a beginning, once more, in an endless sequence, a few weeks back. So the creator and publisher of my traveling journal where all my insights, notes, perceived developments, vented frustrations, and half-baked renderings placed its ending on December 31st, 2009 and a new one commenced: I became lost in-between.

I saw myself perched, precariously yet balanced in utter symmetry, between the vastness of years, and the present seduced me. Frozen, I seemed to not age or regress, I occupied peaceful present-centered nirvana. Although technically I wasn’t present-minded, that seemingly Eastern buzzword of enlightened being, as I spanned impossible mental distances that strained my comprehending abilities of understanding the breadth of two years. I should back up here:

This whole undertaking, bordering neurotic in unwavering discipline to capturing scope and detail, was birthed of a terror given to me by my mother. It was some time prior to 2006, when the massive cataloguing and rendering myself in time became imperative, when I nonchalantly asked her to recall the summer of her 20th year, the very season I found myself so vibrantly in, so wrapped up in, as we all are, in its fine-grained concerns and matters: the thick reverberations of a summer courses’ texts and online discussions (and the sweltering afternoons attempting - for the last time in my albinic life - sunbathing, ruining those summer course texts as the electromagnetic blare melted binding glue), the near daily there-and-back along the corridor of Frontage Road to-and-from my retail job, where I stood outside next to a rounder of last month’s color schema of sale t-shirts to prevent passerby theft, the rocky streamsides and graded hillsides and narrow roadsides my sister and I found ourselves on as we tried encapsulating songs into images that interwove the ambitions and drama of youth and place. My mother manifested a blank, if not curious, stare as she peered in her mind’s eye, back, further back, back some more. Prior to the acclimating gauges of the birth of children. Subsequent to the relative guides of adolescent cyclic school structure. A lost time. Blog-readers, I assure you, if you, like me, find this lack of specificity of an entire season to be off-putting and felt uneasy, I testify my mother’s within-range memorial capacity. Test this yourself with your own mid-lifers and beyond. You will find that they struggle, like she, in placing particular long-ago summers and falls and winters in their nuanced meanings.

I could not conceive that this inevitable elongation of personal time could threaten integral identity within a cruel mind ill-equipped to hold on, would be my fate as I aged into the era of the long adulthood. For what was the purpose of my current enjoyments and ecstasies, frets and strivings, the whole of my lived experience, if unrecallable? Anathema, I declared. Thus I embarked on an involved pursuit I continue to harbor - how to render a life unfolding in time.

Of course, this pursuit could take on unwieldy proportions, and I understand this pitfall, and peel myself away from the tempting process of year end / begin, even as it swells, iteration to iteration. A human life is not entirely factical, until one‘s demise in death, and even that is up for further consideration, as I debated with someone today. We are always, in Sartrean exposition, a unified mixture of facticity and transcendence, and this transcending being means that one’s life project, taken as a whole, can never be neatly summed, packaged in a year as I attempt to do. New importances of 2009 will grow out of a future I cannot now fully anticipate, events matter not solidly, but in an ever-changing fashion. As we remake ourselves, so our years are remade. What is revealed to me in looking back now may become irrelevant, and even things never noted may bear upon me, with insidious foundations in 2009’s basement of undocumented hidden layers. However, I will be armed with material I can speak from: 2009 will not perish in obscurity, bleeding its palpable vitality into the enveloping summers of 27...25...28...24...
Year end / begin is a fascinating tour of a developing personal world and an active attempt to redirect the constant unreflective that produces the current undulations we are so often caught up in, as if our lives were being led by powerful puppeting agents pulling us this way and that. The removal from one’s captivating, regular flow of everyday life helps, but doesn’t entirely, effect a distance from oneself, as in Harry Stack Sullivan’s participant-observer. This is the power behind formats of retreat, a way of getting out and under the weight of one's occupations always already ongoing. Seeing it as a pause for self-in-time-analysis, it takes shape, for me, only through sitting heavily with the data of the year at my disposal and my initial sketches of description. My bulging journal sits there unintelligible, unnavigable, widely intimidating in disperse content and perhaps some nonsense. I begin perusing, then linking, then like the closing of a closely-followed, enrapturing plot line, I suddenly get it. My journal becomes but variations on a theme. Year end / begin enacts a reclaiming of myself. Coming out as of recently, I feel uninterrupted, capable, actively uptaking my world in service of the missions I’ve declared worthy of my limited, and relatively impotent, energies. Galloping headlong into chosen avenues of activity I've seen in ghostly apparition of a possible and wanted 2010.
It may not work in this manner for some. I just describe and encourage because of the wonders of continuity and insight it has provided me.
By no means have I mastered temporality in this little year end / begin undertaking. This is not the secret law of attracting anything possible to my liking. As the ground from which all meaning can spring, time is our fundamental horizon, as Heidegger showed me in Being and Time. It is the interpretation of our being. At every year’s turning, I can mentally imagine and try to enact the ceasing of its relentless march, but it always exceeds my grasp, even in my in-home (and in-coffeehouse) retreats. In this way, our lives exceed our understandings we can have of ourselves. Still, I cannot stand the thought of becoming patchy and vague, so I try. Share please, whoever has found themselves here, the ways in which you see your temporal unfolding, how you make sense (or find yourself at a loss), what a new year means for you.

For those interested, I have posted some (that is, a tiny slice) of the products of year end / begin on the Happiness Project site
(if you can find me by my name given at birth). This is a corresponding blog and website of tools to a new book by Gretchen Rubin, her own temporal project of infusing a year with “the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy--from Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Thoreau to Oprah. As one of the hundreds of happiness experiments I conducted during the research and writing of the book, I started this blog. Here, I recount my daily adventures in pursuit of happiness.”