A Question of Being Human 2
The ‘Eternal Present’
The space in-between. An opening onto… an inside, or an outside, or … something in-between. A cut in the surface of matter. (The ‘the’ from the first sentence indicates ‘the’ view from inside and further indicates only one, ’our’ as ‘my’. The ‘a’ of ‘a cut’ suggests a view from outside, as many, ‘our’ as ‘they’? But the use of ‘my’ is in many ways redundant, as we are ‘in medias res’ and do not assume, or begin with solipsism, only our situation (perception and memory, with the projection of the latter ahead of ourselves that we call the future) as part of a body, as embodied, our situatedness as our natural starting point… and because any act of communication, writing if you like, assumes others…). To say ‘the cut in the surface of matter’, is terrifying, suggesting a radical solipsism. Otherwise, ‘the cut in the surface of matter’, would suggest all human culture – perhaps the best reading of the field of operations of Hegel and the German Idealists).
The space in-between. An opening… Our experience of our self; as so much stuff flowing in (perception), including our feelings and responses (our awareness of them)… spurts of internal monologue, even the effects of dialogue, as our inner divisions become apparent (in effect only)…
‘A cut in the surface of matter’: our species being (Feuerbach). Imagined as such.
Species-being before (or after) our individual selves, our collective community and historical affiliations… nor our linguistic history; just something about the way we are made, our physiology, but our experience too (what we do with it is our cultural relativism’s domain). Beginning with experience.
Experience… which we receive, directly (for this is what we feel about our perception, regardless of what we know about preconscious operations) a showing, present to ourselves in the present, or indirectly, as a kind of telling to ourselves by ourselves (memory) or others (communication) or the combination of both (the memory of a communication), as information (a perception which refers elsewhere). All according to our species-being, as well as our cultural codes, our learnt languages; all according to a given combination of our species-being with our cultural codes and learnt languages. A species-being that includes our notion of ‘is’, and of how things ‘are’, how they ‘exist’ in time and in space, and of how to measure them, model them (our ability to construct, second order or artificial, formal languages). In short any object-hood will be a product of ourselves (for ourselves, indeed for our-self, for present use, as in the celebrated example of which degree of measure to choose; how long is the table, yards, feet, inches, centimeters, millimeters, molecules or atoms… where to halt the numbers after the decimal point)?
Of being before something, always intentional, at one with the object (so to speak). The cup of human consciousness is only rarely empty. In meditation… a minimal awareness remains: in sleep, dreams; otherwise… nothing (whence Sartre’s infamous identification of self with Nothingness). An awareness which calls out a response. An ‘at one with the object’ which is tested in questioning, copying, making. Expression, when we are most ‘ourselves’: at its best as the product of a full life, creativity as a response to being; otherwise, the minimal reactive growlings of a hungry (or sleeping) dog disturbed…
That place, always at that place, forever, eternally present in that place, before that place, where subject and object meet; as they inevitably must, we being what we are… Before, perhaps, objects as such; even before us, subjects, as to comment, even to be aware (of ourselves) to perceive, would be to make us objects of ourselves. A third place, in-between…we on one edge, one rim, one lip: the rest on the other… And what can we make of what is in-between… Of our relation to the world. That we have whilst we live (that we manufacture whilst we dream). No secret ‘out there’. No, the ’Truth is out there’, hiding somewhere behind ‘is’ (or its linguistic history). Rather in our understanding of this experience as utterly our own. A product at once of ourselves and of the stimuli we receive; and of ourselves as the memory and influence of the stimuli we have received… What we see hear and feel, and what we have learnt.
The moods or modalities of reception of this experience (us): gift, curse; epiphanaic, abyssal; yet our mood is also ‘given’, so also a gift… or a curse. Felt as such as we arrive at self-awareness of this experience as a state and take up ‘our’ attitude towards it. A regress to infinity (bad infinities here are good infinities, they indicate a real… repetition as ‘shape’ of self, the ‘shape of our pocket’, our inner architecture, itself forming -the meanings of- the architecture outside). As in the case of our reliance on personification for comprehension (who is it that ‘gives’, immortals, ‘other’ beings or… something beyond even these… beyond personification, perhaps our favourite trope of coping with, for ‘imagining’ the ‘unimaginable’, a ‘beyond’ that leaves us with our relationship to our experience exposed… a beyond that re-values our relation to this (‘this’) ‘over’ and … ‘above’, so ‘beyond’ what it otherwise might be…).
And the ultimate act of personification, an endless performance, a performative (whilst we believe, continually re-state it, it is so), the performance of ourselves, the assumption of our own person… Assumption which makes the person (joining awareness to the personification that is the perception of others).
’This’ (or better, ’this…’) as opposed to ‘that’, experience - for there is no other. ’That’ as a different (temporal) order, as already memory, done, finished, or future… ‘that’ experience is no longer, is gone (or to come) is past, is : ‘this’ is ‘…–ing’; ‘that’ is ‘…–ed’ (which is how we can imagine a future perfect); not only different orders grammatically (continuous and perfective), but also experientially, dividing experience (-ing) from the recall of memory (‘that’ experience is an experience no longer, or better, is an experience of an experience… ‘that’ experience). Temporally we too are divided into ‘this’ and ‘that’ - into two. And so it is correct to say: ‘What was that?’ And no longer possible to say… ‘That gift has been lost forever…’ to be replaced by this one… For if the events are (appear) discontinuous, then the underlying propensity to experience is not.
The eternal present.
This (experience); experienced as gift. Certainly unasked for (so implying an awareness of debt). Leaving us to choose our modality and degree of thankfulness. Leaving us to choose the apportionment of value. Our return of gift (the payment of debt); the gift of value - so far as we (can) know, only humans can do this.
Or our choice to repudiate… (and by so doing, to de-value).
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012.