A Question of Being Human (6)
Heidegger’s ’extases’, extensions of the self, of the temporality of the self as constituting the self, as consisting in the reach of the self beyond the two frontiers of the present, that ‘behind’ and that ‘before’, the future and the past, and as its content (the content of consciousness) caught between the twin horizons as it were, is the site of the mobile, fluid synthesis that makes up our present perception; an eternal(y) arriving present + a future/past. Not only framing, but also framed, prior in terms of presence and in evolution, so less present that the present, always ‘in’ the present, so coloured by it, by its mood (exceptions being the modes of present being which defer to or are dominated by the past or the future, leaving the weakened self prey to those variously debilitating mental conditions, melancholy or anxiety).
’Everyday time’ is made of this; a present infiltrated to various degrees by the past and the future. But, as with the interference we experience from the past and the future, the present too has its intensities; its ebbs and flows, its peaks, shocks, rushes of adrenalin and exacerbated awareness: and its somnumbulences, troughs of minimal awareness where we might almost be ‘power-off’ or in ‘doze’ mode. Indeed we might say it moves in waves, over us, or through us, or better that it is we who move with these waves, we, our experience of being, is such. For our strength of feeling are precisely tied to their slightest modulation – inseparable. Our pulse of being is made up of wavelengths, of the cycles or patterns of repetition that traverse the past, present and future or, more precisely, that erupt in the eternal present to fill our being, then disappear… to be left only as a trail, or memory, a process that constitutes the past, and in so doing gives rise to the power of prediction, an oracular sense of what will come next, what may return, that constitutes our sense of the future, imminent or distant, near and far. A rhythm of temporality whose external face implies narrative, units of non-repeatability, personal and general, from our story to history; identity as I, We, Us, my history/our history etc. The internal or inward-looking face offers rhythm as mood-based; defined by (emotional) attitude to the ‘non-present’ times, past and future. Such as anxiety, which therefore is not fundamental, rather incidental to the occasional pressure of the future, the threat of repetition or non-repetition… Desire, in all its complexities and combinations (for object, situation, person, and recognition; the desire for others and the desire of the desire of others) is better suited to play the role of fundamental motor, a role consisting of a continual unrelenting pressure. As, for example, in the case of desire as fuelling intentionality, ‘care’, interest, bias, focus… and perhaps in this way lightly flavouring everything else, colouring even the penumbra or periphery of our blurred ‘out of focus’. The attitude to the ‘content of the frame’ is also a case of desire augmenting internal, past predispositions and learnt habits in their interaction with incoming information (the self is the result…). Or again, we may find different speeds of alternation between the present and the past or future (so quantitative, sensed as repetition, giving life, or a period of life, its rhythm): so producing, anxiety, desire for, anticipation (if a tension between present and future), obsession, melancholia, mourning, depression (if the alternation is between present and past). A rhythm presented to us as memory and expectation. And occasionally, in moment of third person self-awareness, as the abstracted vision of a narrative line on which the ‘I’ is but a point. An awareness whose price is a degree of fiction (a picture presupposing our self-annihilation).
The sense of ‘self’ as separate from object, from incoming information, as the birth of the self, a continual birth, with no Ur-moment (or with an Ur-moment that is always lost in the past) so continual as an ‘–ing’ type of experience, manifest as continual flow or pressure, a continual, ‘eternal’ presence – an eternal present. Consciousness as aware of the awareness of incoming, this awareness (of awareness) our sense of self as separate, but not really separate (the objects of our consciousness fill us, often to overflowing) just ‘aware’… Therefore still part of what is ‘incoming’, our context, our environment… as always (but not quite) separate-ing off from it, not, it in us as us. Not us reaching out to it, this is the illusion we live… (active as join of ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ movements, forces… the crosswinds of the self).
While sight constitutes our most ‘obvious’ (sic) of senses, an example from the other senses will help emphasize the receptivity of the self to what is ‘incoming’… to the constitution of the self by this sensory data that is reconfigured within us as part of us. So it is that the hearing of what is present, the present sound and music that is around us, is very important, perhaps as one of our other main, most present senses, filling us, making us be… Therefore the importance granted to controlling ones own sight and sounds, own music (the Walkman, iPod etc) just as in the visual realm, the décor of home, or room, our preferred space effect us in varying ways. It is also worth noting the case of crime reduction in clean, well-decorated surroundings including decorous sound; the music of Mozart, as opposed to Rap, graffiti and dirt… of an uncared for geo-locality (these latter usually anyway are also accoutrements of a generational and reactive fashion). What we see (and hear) is what we are… whence the importance of the environment, of our geographical, physical, immediate context. So we may adopt the opposite conclusion to theorists of monad and ‘interior subjectivity’; as opposed to a unassailable interiority, an irreducible inner self; we may posit the opposite pole, no interior (self) only vulnerability to surroundings, as a permanent part of us… - how many of us, to listen to music carefully, find that we first have to close our eyes… (Or to think, require some degree of quiet).
Or in a more extreme example: the difference it makes (to how we feel, how we react) if the smells around us are not attractive or attenuated, but pungent, unpleasant…
Or the difference it makes if the touch we feel is incited or unwarranted – caress wanted or unwanted…
Among which the caress of water… Touch traversing the physical and mental; the skin and the self. As a cleansing of the skin of the self, even as it cleanses the skin of the body. The sensation of cleansing, of purification by water, is not limited, does not stop with our outer boundary: its waves lap against our very soul, engulfing it, washing it clean, absolving it even as it is drowned, traversed by a wave, the very self as refreshed, reborn. Newly-born emerging from the sea; blue waters of baptism. Blue of the sky, reflected in the water, its clarity at once symbolising purity, and, echoing the heavens in its capture of light, the light blue of light, now engulfing the self, water rising up even over our heads… as if rising up from within to wash clean our thoughts, now also become clear and clean. No longer formed of the censor’s blue of dreamt desire nor the sung blue(s) of lost desire, but the light clear blue of the heavens, our desire of the heavens. Whence the link and physical adoption of the ritual bath by all cultures and most religions as a part of a war of angels fought upon the surface of the body, the latter the means to strike deep into the soul… The heavenly warfare that would transform us into the Good incarnate… guaranteeing membership of the community of the Good and the Just. But let us not be misled, as with the listening to the most uplifting, most refined of music, so too with the ritual cleansing process; the ‘evil’ can as easily wash, be washed clean, participate in the sensation of purification, as the ‘good’. And still go about their enterprise.
But what else do we hear? Not only the sound from without, but also that within… our own inner voice, thoughts, the language we use, that we speak, and that speaks us… we do not always find ourselves in control, a set of habits (indeed the we, I, self, is only visible/audible to ourselves as such, as other, we as our own witnesses… ((other to us indeed, as other as our parents, and the peers whose voices provide the basic material, phonic and semantic, for our ‘own’ voice… those ‘Others’ continually overheard…)) witnessing self as other, continually overheard…). Otherwise we have the illusion of this space/place behind the eyes, echo chamber of the soul, moreover one driven by desire… both elements coming from ‘outside’ of the world of the ‘now’, of the now perceivable. The other without and the other within. Both as meeting point, a meeting that ignites the continually burning flame of the self. Both from elsewhere. Outside of the rent in the veil.
Melding into One (Other).
A voice we often ask is our own (so segregating the I that speaks and the I that listens… (that listens to the ‘ I’ that is enounced)).
And beyond… to the ‘third person’, the other’s point of view as something we learn or assume from an early age, including the act of mimesis, of others, of things, of places, an acting which quickly stops being an act, so constituting community, recognition (of places, a taking into the self which becomes the birth of the spirit of the place). This kind of legitimation, apparently coming from outside of the self, but actually part of the self, the self in, or of the tear, is to be opposed to the real outside of eternity. This latter a god’s eye view, perhaps including the eternalisation and externalisation of the self into the god’s eye view implied in picturing history as linear, as seen from ‘outside’; but this is history as we imagine it - early do we imagine ourselves within it, so positing ourselves (subject of the condition of enunciation of this thought) as without it, ‘outside’ (so narrative history is also one of a number of learnt semi-exteriors…). Yet the ‘eternal outside’ is implied in the ‘eternal present’, and gives us the basis for all foundations, for all points of view systematized, holistic, globalised, ‘the big picture’… as ideology, faith, reason, basis for all world-views (sic). (As well as the non-place of all axomatisation, universals, generalizations, first principles and other certainties and trans-historical, a-temporal concepts and entities – and equally necessary (a necessary fiction)).
Picture we ourselves paint.
So… is there really no necessity, no place, for self-generalising, for generalisations made from our sense of self? Or of axioms as in the case of Descartes’ start (all anyway as illogical as the choices of axiom ((that will found all logic)) are usually justified… logically). Actually a matter of cohesion or neatness, where it is not the beginning but the results that are important - then correctible as necessary. Hermeneutic: testability, use… etc. So to the pragmatism of post-foundationalism, post-structuralism, post-modernism… with all these (late-) twentieth century forms of thought anyway (or after all) already implied in empiricism and skepticism. As so often (in matters of interpretation), the argument is all about where we stop, where we stop circling, circling, circling before we disappear down the plug-hole; the ‘Black Hole’ of semantic infinity. A war of position rather than final conquest. Most of the generalizations we live by are un-testable, or a matter of convention, of our custom-laden social life, so-many implicit social contracts (so performative, ritualistic, agreed punctuations in time, formative of our lived temporality). The lessons we learn from looking at our rent in the fabric are those of experiencing life, and not of a new foundation for science and logic (they are way beyond this amateur requirement) … but may act as a necessary corrective to their strictly quantitative methods, as well as our habits of wooly cohesion and flights of the imagination (somehow always embarrassingly subjunctive) as supporting more questionable stuff… So the rent in the veil is a source of quality (-bestowing) as well as keeping the focus real (but this process is also shared, collective, social, inter-personal or recognition based…).
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012