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.


Margaret said...

I'm so glad you're back to writing! I need some more ST-wisdom in my life. :)

Eric J. Blommel said...

Glad to see you back also ;-)

Regarding your bike accident: meh. Don't beat yourself up for getting distracted. I don't know about you but I never signed up for the tyranny of physics. Sure I have to deal with it, but I don't have to like it.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...


Stopped checking up on your posts until today. Glad to see that you are back in the blog-o-sphere (I Heideggerianized that word!). Clarification: What do you mean by mindfulness. Phenomenologically speaking, mindfulness could be rendered as circumspect concern for the objects of the world. The environmental complex is such that it renders itself invisible in its practicality. You know all this, so forgive my repetition. However, this notion of mindfulness seems to want to render the environmental context present-at-hand. I could see, however, that there is a deeper theme to this notion, being that mindfulness is resoluteness toward our telos. I am not attempting to say that mindfulness is resolute being-toward-death, but instead as being toward-our-end. Now as temporal beings, our being is such that it is never whole, it is never entirely present to ourselves. So is the present, of the presentation of the our "care", the presencing of our ownmost possibilities? What I mean to as is this: If mindfulness is drawing you more toward the present, it also seems to be drawing you more toward the future, and perhaps this is a neat little knot that needs internal explication (by all daseins). On the one hand, it is an attempt to become whole, to own our ownmost possibilities as possibilities, that is as the not-yet (futural) that we are and that we are projecting ourselves onto. On the other hand, there is this desire to live the moment, to be thoughtfully circumspect, concerned, and caring. I don't want to run out of room so see the next post.

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

Now this becomes a temporal knot. The present is a presentation of something, it presents itself to us. In order for something to be present to us, we have to be separate from what is present to us. This is partially why, when we are thoughtfully concerned, we are so alongside objects within-the-world. Through the world, we present the present. Now this is an idea that I am working on and is not entirely worked out, it is a hybrid of Sartrean, Badiou, and Heideggerian thought.. The angst described in your post, the angst of the immemorable moments, and the desire to get at the larger projects of life, seem to be a yearning-toward-wholeness. Now presentation, (present, being-here-now) is such that there is always something outstanding. Heidegger would call this the not-yet. However, I think that more importantly it is the void as such, the void is the seat of inconsistency of the whole of dasein. Dasein is never wholey presented because in its presentation there is always a void that resists presentation. This is what angst turns in the face of. It is not Dasein's possibilities that angst is turning away from, but the void. And what is the void? The void is the threat of the all of these immemorable and memorable moments losing there unity/continuity. It is the threat of dasein becoming inconsistent, of dasein falling(apart). In order to protect against this threat, dasein re-presents the presentation of the continuum. This re-presentation acts as a seal placed over the void, by staving it off with a story-of-wholeness, that is of a projection of itself on its own possibilities, such that these possibilities re-consist the continuity of the self. While, proximally and the for the most part, dasein is caught up in its presentation, that is in thoughtful concern, it will have a wake-up call of the threat of its own inconsistency, that is the threat of its non-one-self, or of not being its self. Thus it renders a re-presentation of itself. Now this doesn't have to be bad faith, for it is part of the very constitution of the situation of dasein, dasein is an entity such that its being is an issue for it. Neitzsche says that "if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." This is the angst of the void, that which we want to avoid is the void entering (as it has always already done) ourselves. SO we must return to where we have started, is mindfulness a thoughtfull representation of our possibilities to stave off the void that has always-already penetrated our being?

Look forward to your response!

Надежда Αντιγονη said...

Mindfulnes---Holding as present the totality of the not-yet-whole being of ourselves in the world? The dialectic between mindlessness (that is absoprtion in minutia) and mindfulness--is this a bringing into the clearing, the presence, of the forgetting of ourselves? Is mindfulness an attempt to recover that which we have forgotten as being-with-others-in-the-world. Does it attempt to make a totality that would transverse the never-whole of our existence. Does it make sense to make a totality of that which is never total? IS there some regard into which we can never be completely mindful, that it slips from our graps when we attempt it?