The resistance to think, a pervasive harbour. Where people-as ships, shore up to the cozy security of docking their boats. This is not to claim any kind of inherent virtu, heroism, or hierarchy of social status in setting out to sea or becoming a perpetual nomad-but there seems to be this sort of narrative arising continuously. I’ve seen in the recent years, tremendous loads of artwork (my work included) where people are making work about ships, boats, cut lines, the liminal. This kind of limbo or perpetual vacuum space. And empty mind. Think for a moment about a void, what it looks like, what it contains. Blissfully empty, right? What kind of bliss of empty mind brings people anywhere? An eternal potentiality allows whoever does the pouring to fill that void. Who does the pouring into the void now? While I don’t have an answer, but I have found paying attention to be useful. Because even if you’re playing a game, you’re paying attention-otherwise your skis might crash into a pine, a ball into your face, a slack line into your crack. In that sort of tonal range, I would like to venture into a meandering text here with you-a mishmash of words and mostly personal anecdotally. (you’ve been warned)
Totalizing, a word reportedly around since the 1800’s, really has seen its heyday in the recent decade. A shiver word, of the not-so-sensous sort, but seductive in the rights of tyrannical thought.
While studying in graduate school, there was a lot of talk about working free from binary thinking. Before those not gone to such academic rigours (fiery-hoops or hopscotches or fruityloops depending on who you ask) and begin to gaze toward the back of your brains with your pretty irises, consider language and the impressive rate at which words that sound a little foreign are tossed aside before digested. The dumbing down of society is not something to mock and sigh at. The US has already seen itself blushing hard these past months, with the caricature presidential campaign. And it’s not about how screwed up things are or someone better get in there and fix things, it’s that attaching thoughts such as screwed up and needs fixing are attached to the systematic construction and failure of people to work and communicate together. (think a moment for the word commune…communicate 😉 fun stuff right? ) Which brings us back to binary thinking. Being anti- or pro- as a form of black and white thinking essentially puts halt to conversation among people who don’t see the value in dialogue. What is there to relate to? people ask, if we just don’t agree. The value in reaching across what seems an opposition, to begin to soften the binary of black and white into grey zones, to break down the boundaries of walls of difference, and find what Rosalind Krauss and probably a lot of other historic thinkers called, The Expanded Field-the space where people can relate, communicate, discuss, and play. Yes, play. Play happens in the expanded field. And it is this kind of playing that’s absent from the droning scroll screens, oxytocin doses of self-affirming social media likes-among other common complaints from those not wanting to think.
Yeah, we get it. We’re tired, overworked. Technology didn’t balance our lives, but offered more information, destabilisation, decentralisation, among other things. Nicolas Carr wrote several books and essays on this-funnily enough, the author was graciously recommended to me by a gallery director who I was lucky enough to meet through a great artist acquaintance I look forward to developing a friendship with, mentioned Carr to me. If I fail to tell you that part of how I learned about this, then I fail to recognise the people involved, myself and the technology involved. All parts are implicated here. That’s the neat/uncanny/transitional part about this technology stuff, is that by the same instantaneous ways in which our brains fire off thoughts, we can go ahead and pursue the connections and the avenues to exploration. The next part, and puzzling part for some, is what to do or make of all these changes in conditions. What kind of petri are we cooking in? And can culture be more than a hodgepodge of appropriation? Can real culture grow in these conditions?
As a squishy-raisins existential/not-really but sometimes logical positivist, sometimes and not really materialist, insistent spiritualist as diving into the non-traditional bodily senses, and rooting around for that magic thing that will root all the world to something that won’t kill us all-I land in a funny place, someplace a lot like what my memory stirs up as my five-year-old heart.
When I mentioned this five year old inside of me that knows everything she needs to know, my roommate had a great input about schemas. As she discussed these schemas, I realized, these are stories that are formed from what can be psychologically determined as traumas. As a baby, perhaps seeing your own mother could be a trauma, and prior to that-being born, a trauma. These radical changes and feedback from our environment, shaped and formed our development long before we knew what a GPA was. And these schemas run in the background, signal the auto-responses to situations. Which brings us to this sort of glorification of yogi-idealism, consciousness. Which really has been a fascinating concept to explore and suss out something about slowing down enough to be able to make a choice in either reacting, responding, or finally-creating.
Reacting the non-thought impulse. Responding the self-oriented and half breath taken almost thought-action, and creating being the more-completely chosen feedback to offer the other (sitting across from or within our expanded field-aka dialogue or relationship) after they imparted some information towards us. The thing is, we have a lot more impulse inputs these days. Yes, I went on and said these days. Because hey folks, it’s 2016 and that futurist projection from those visions people had cooked up didn’t quite turn out. And thankfully so. When one comes to think about these types of Utopian cities-it sort of turns into this, wow, that would be wonderful! sort of thinking…where people don’t have to think or do anything for themselves. And then that sort of goes into this not having to think or do anything for anyone else. Who is doing the taking care of things then? The robot? The system? The totalizing….oh, there I’ve gone now and said it. The totalization…of a utopian ideal results not in bliss, but rather in utter, abject, misery.
And how do I know? Well I don’t really aside from my own physical experience in a body. This sort of conceptual fairytale land is nice to go around making dreams in from time to time…oh wouldn’t it be nice if, and ask anyone what they think they’re perfect life would be-and there’s bound to be some common ground there. Nothing wrong with wanting to do less work, not having to worry about money, etc etc. And I’ll be called an asshole outright for saying its a choice to worry about money or not. I might be called arrogant for saying its a choice to get stressed or not. Because when the body itself is taxed so heavily, as in so many external factors pull at the body for its attention, particularly paying attention to things that support the systematic function of the social realm today (capitalism) a big heavy mountain of dream seems to shore up right on top of the body. Boom. Depression. Woe is me. All of this and more. All for a sale price too!
So what is the point of all this? I don’t want to be coming up with tidy conclusions for you, and I don’t want anyone to come up with a tidy conclusion for me. There’s not pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there’s no psychic going to draw your fate from within you on a sheet of paper to let you know everything is going to be alright.
This is your life. And you’ve got to think. Think and feel what is it that you value? What is it that you care about? What kind of life do you want to be living? And a cool thing happens when you build these kinds of thinking muscles, you will start to notice all kinds of opportunities, and options in front of you. When something goes “bad” or “wrong” instead of seeing it as anti- or a sign of something not to be, you get to choose.
This is the kind of consciousness that doesn’t get bestowed upon people by the grace of an apple falling from a tree, or taking a bite of it-whatever world history you want to excavate. This is the kind of consciousness that comes from thinking, sticking with values…the kind of values that when you think about going ahead and dying someday-which is a certainty for all of bodies today-will you wish you had gone for it? Given it your all? A totality that has nothing to do with totalling? but rather a loyalty, to that which you love.
And when you love something outside of yourself as much as you love yourself, a powerful thing happens-that expanded field opens up. Choices begin to appear, and life moves from black and white, into colors and greys and all kinds of indiscernible shades. (pick up some intellectual reading for intermission if this is getting to mushy for you: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=782)
You’ve got all you’ve got right now to go ahead and create all you want to. No matter what kind of system we are functioning in, people can go ahead and think. Think, choose accordingly, and create a world we want to live and die in and leave on for others. This kind of respect for life, to speak profanely now-sacred. Inherently life offers a sacred function because itself is limited. As far as we know, not everything is possible. But those things we know without knowing how or why we know them, those are more often the likely things spurring up from our very life force in our bodies. Go there. Live those. Because security can be totalizing and profane, but love, remains a force of desire even capitalism cannot demolish-without our agreeing to let it. And this is my subjective positions I have chosen to rigorously pursue in all areas and activities within my life, because when I experience or inhabit some kind of empty void space, of limbo, I want to be doing the one pouring. I want to fill my cup up with what I choose. I don’t want someone to come along and tell me what to put in my grail. I was born with the right to choose love. Anything else…feels like a deal with yet another emptying void.