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A Question of Being Human (13)









Across the (invisible) membrane of the self…


Not the same as the outer membrane of the body...


The self is everything that is.


The world in us… The interactivity of the parts of the screen (ever-present) before us… the interactivity of the levels, of the senses… an amalgamation of vision and sound (and all the other senses)… the co-ordination of the whole (our consciousness and its object) and the coalescence of (some parts of) the different senses into ‘parts’ (parts that develop a ‘history’, a history ‘for us’, as part of us, as us… that part, their part in our lives). Assemblages. Discrete.


Then the return of (these) parts; their recognition as such, as having been before (this recognition as their coming into being for us), their reappearance in the eternal present, their repetition, at once the birth and end of a cycle, perhaps of the beginning of a series, and so of a rhythm in time… of a temporality. Part (as much cycle as thing, like the quantum indifference of objects as wavelengths). Becoming multiple and interactive, distinct, clashing as well as mutually conditioning; overlaid onto the repeated cycles of time measurement (sun and moon, days, months years, as well as clock time). Not least the time of the stomach, from the rhythm of hunger and its assuagement to the role of gastronomy in a culture. Labour time: our cycle of social reproduction and its timetables – by which we live, and interact with others (and the reproduction of others, another kind of cycle, generational, sexual, with its own rhythms of nurture and responsibility). And of the temporality of addiction, of the required return, of a person, a community, a habitat… a drug. All these lines of time, these timelines, cycles and their rhythmic return, like the clustering of so many wavelengths. Foremost amongst which the grouping of these into two kinds, of time cycles (day/night) and temporal, event cycles (meal times), as well as their cementing, fixing, as justification, in ritual time, in the repeated rituals of our lives, micro (performative acts of recognition) and macro (festivals and ritual exchange) - as well as the ’one-off’ the novum, the ritual that creates or destroys a life or lives, ours or theirs… for better or for worse, the act of charity or the pogrom.


Our linkage with what is ‘outside’ us. The ties and exchanges which regulate and form our sense of in out, and out in… The three relays of commodity, gift and reason… (and their link to hierarchy, to family and work, and to a putative region outside of hierarchy, equality, or friendship). The gift as closest… as proximate to the self, from the most fundamental sense of ‘incoming’ as given, as experience itself as gift… as sense of debt… and so the passage to the unknown, the greater without (the Sublime). This very proximity as constituting identity – as in reality the incoming gift is, it constitutes us, is us. However we in our fantasies attempt to constitute ourselves through ritual exchange, to consolidate (self-) recognition (the collective aspect, again the others as us, constituted inter-subjectively, through the learning of language and culture). Something we try to master, and renew (anti-entropy) through the repeated performance of an sacrificial identity exchange in ritual, with the ‘archaic survival’ of gift as lining to the newly born dominance of the commodity in our current social form, where this aspect, this ‘transaction’ is a sacrifice to our identity, its ‘price’ (writ large, as festive expenditure, or sacrificial pogrom). Present self as self presented to self. Recognition machine; part of us from our infantile reliance on our (m)others. Mark of the world and the others in us. As us. Inseparable (like the temporality we inhabit, as much in us as we in it…). So painting every commodity we buy with the self-reflecting material of the gift (one we offer to ourselves, augmenting our identity). From the most fundamental to the everyday…to the element of choice in the merest commodity. An ‘archaic’, ‘irrational’, ‘primitive’ (etc.) aspect of human existence, a source of enchantment not dispelled by reason or its actualization, bureaucracy and organization, classification and definition. Infinitely adaptable; so fundamental. Hardwired… Recombining in every successive evolution of social forms, of social formation. The force behind the desire for recognition that augments that other desire, the desire for others.


Place in world… Place in space. Our place in the social world (recognition). Understood through a myriad of tiny clues. The daily perception of an ever-present hierarchy (the eradication of which, the oldest ideal and source of the notion of friendship or fraternity) and our place in ‘this'… in actuality, under negotiation. We are (always in) the process of negotiation (often imaginary) of this position (often imaginary). Yet actual in our encounters with others. Along with reason (ever present as rationale, as justification, as self-justification) which recognition accompanies in its crystal actualisation as hierarchy; from the family and by size (generation, gender), to the ordering of society (traditional or liberal, closed or open, by class or caste) not least in the social mound of bureaucracy – uncannily reminding us of our lack of distance from the collectivism of certain insects (the security to be found in hierarchy, contentment with position, the comfort of embeddedness, and the feeling ‘at home’ - or not… that such a placement, such a recognition of placement, brings). ‘Home’ as our first (remembered) room, with self as genius loci. Significant others as the other genii inhabiting the inside of the lamp…


And those other others outside, ‘they’ and ‘them’ (our differences of culture community, religion and ‘race’). Contested identities if only by the claim to priority, priority in the implicit or received hierarchies of the public sphere, as of the public gaze and its implied subject (the big ‘Subject’, always imaginary - but containing the truth of dominance in a given society, institution, space, place). A truth contingent in the present; yet eternally present.


Embodiment and placement, a continuum in recognition and position: identity extended and restricted, inclusive and exclusive, excluding relations, international and national (home/identity); a universal net. Another grid overlaying all (but not coming after, coming with, incoming…). With preference as our very own flavour. The mark of identity.


And if we have our identity forced upon us? The Eternal Present can know many identities, many associations, sympathies. None is ‘natural’ to it (‘authentic’). But ‘we’ often are forced to belong to one or another, to one ‘we’ or another. Even if we not feel the sense of that particular join, the sense of being an element in a greater set (subsumed into a received narrative, taking on received identity propositions ‘we’ must ((ritually)) affirm). The Eternal Present only knows one WE; species-being. Which is not to say that we are all the Same…


Geo-politics as city, abode, place (our associations of home with a given architecture). Geography and the built environment as our cultural ‘room’ (as well as our literal room or habitation). As we have seen it enters us (as we see it: it enters us) (‘we’ are its vision; the vision of ourselves in our imaginary).  So constituting our identity as denizen of ‘this’ place (place in this sense can only be ‘this’…). The dweller in which the dwelling in fact dwells (apologies to Heidegger!). Denizen as the… ‘spirit of the place’… one so occupied, so occupied by place, self as in-dwelling of place… So geo-loyalty… love of ‘home’ (but the extent of this received, as in extended, home of nation and other realms beyond personal experience; globalised as responsibility but also as claim… if restricted then exclusive and liable to political exploitation).


So the search for a beautiful place… a place with a special meaning for us; because we let it in, or rather it constitutes us before we know it… it is part of us already, before we get a chance to get to know it… (it ‘gets’ to us…).


Identity and body. The retreat back to our portable home. The soft shell in which we hide. Our experience of our physical embodiment and other, or received views, of this embodiment and its implications for identity, for behaviour, may differ. Sexed embodiment; physical input (hormonal, the habits of desire) together with cultural input, or ‘gender’ as given and (in certain societies, in certain times) hard to resist (the Big Subject sometimes wields a Big Stick)! Embodiment need not follow culture’s dictates however, or rather it may be accompanied with other (sub-)cultural trends; from the traditional clichéd anti-theses, to the varieties of self, otherwise-linked and floating above sexed identity, as a ship is attached to its anchor, pulling, but then so does the tide and the wind…).


Adding another pulse to life, maybe the pulse of life…at once a rhythm (of event and affect, of a surge of feeling) and a patina of desire (coating all). Like music.








Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012