Sunday, January 31, 2010


Rendering a legacy of insightful novelty must stay an evolving thing.

But that’s not about my claim to insightfulness, rather my valuing a notion of historicality which I want to better understand.

Thank goodness there still are academic departments of rhetoric—which are wonderful locales for interdisciplinary work in the humanties—such that I can claim I’m doing something admirable. I am. I’m sitting in a leading edge (an interdisciplinary garden), I think, playing around, but really someplace original—which I wouldn’t boast about; I just happen to believe it.

Playing around—for keeps.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

a note on phenomenology

I’m writing here. There’s writing here. Here in the writing, with the action, it’s there for reading, to myself as reader. One reads what’s there. I’m here with what’s there. You’re “here” (for yourself) for what’s there. For me, you’re there for what’s here.

In writing here, I’m writing, here-ing, making here—hereing? Hering?—pronounced not like the fish, but like cohering. Reading is a re-hering through what’s there, a cohering of earlier hering—your hering with mine, a cohering of what’s [t]here.

We are the beings that cohere there better than any other intelligent life. We are the “highest” witnesses on Earth of what is there, what there is. But we are also of Earth, of what there is. We are beings of what’s there, yet the beings for which most highly on Earth there is anything. In a sense, we’re there beings. Our nature is our intelligent life, being here as there being our hering, cohering, therebeing.

So, for any waking moment, there’s something there to here, for therebeing: a phenomenon—perceived?, projected?; belonging to me as and in what’s there?, belonging to the other?, us? The narrative line is expression? stance construction? I wonder. “I wonder, ” I read, he says.

In any case, there is what’s there, seeming, really, a mix of appearance and reality, projection (largely born from here) and perception (really there), writing in reading, a resonance of here and there in first writing, self-expression here revised after being there in stance, becoming a better stance representing what was here.

The story is ours, written by writing reading of the written? The text belongs to phenomenal resonance?

Inasmuch as poetics is about ambiguity, then experience itself, understanding itself may be inhabited by ambiguity, and “poetic” potential inhabits any beginning?

A fictional character is posed as said, a figure in our figural space—trOpical, potentially thematological, potentially discursive (archetypal)—vertiginous across modes of therebeing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

all the world as high school

notes in honor of Holden Caulfield
revised 2/4

For example: adding insult to injury. A typical injury by teens is to excommunicate a “friend.” The insult is to play clueless that the excommunication happened. “O, what could you be talking about?” But the exclusiveness continues, as if the scene denying it never took place.

There’s nothing like the teenage mind. The tragedy—Salinger’s perception, I suppose—is how teen styles often stay with adults. That’s especially likely when someone consolidates their adulthood in terms of consolidations of Self (i.e., self identity) made as a teen. A teenage immaturity remains the fallback stance in dealing with conflict that unconsciously threatens one’s stability of Self. The teen practice of excommunicative exclusiveness becomes a common social snub used to help sustain the integrity of a network of self-esteeming involvements. Denial of it insults the intelligence of the injured, as if the injured one is too clueless to just go away, instead having the poor taste to ask why. Callousness by the narcissist toward the injury goes with “due regard” for the injured.

Narcissism. I still haven’t read “The Wings of Icarus,” which I promised myself a while back to do. It’s a chapter from Stephen Mitchell’s Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis.

But for now (upcoming): poetics—whatever that can be made to become.

The theme of all the world as high school has limitless potential, obviously. How well we all remember the reality of class and clique, but also the real talents that so impressed us (or that we already were). Though considering a vista of modern America relative to the world of high school is a worn theme, it’s never worn out. A profound aspect is what adolescence is for the lastingness of identity and identity-oriented worldview. Even adult truth about being no longer that is woven with a feel for “I’m no longer that” which is so established in teen years, so woven in a sense of becoming what “I” is about.

A haunting fact is that the anthropology of human longevity has constructed civilization largely as a venture of youth. Parenting was “adolescent.” (Teen desire expresses Deep Time.) The sacred was articulated to make sense to a “teen.” Romeo and Juliet were relative kids (as was Isis and Osiris, Tristan and Iseult). To someone who’s, say, 60, there seems to be little distance from, say, 18 to 25. In cultural evolution, elders have been catchers in the rye for civilizations made largely by and for youth, because such energy was the locus of economic productivity, as well as the source of new labor.

Modernity has gradually moved the bell curve of human flourishing, and the movement is ongoing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

being With, inwordly

Reveling in the sensuous, Keats, in an 1819 letter, writes: “Talking of Pleasure, ... holding to my Mouth a Nectarine—Good God how fine. It went down soft pulpy, slushy, oozy—all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large beatified Strawberry.” Christopher Ricks (a Romantic Period scholar, evidently), quotes Keats as part of an extended complaint against the film “Bright Star,” which, according to Ricks, fails to let words have their ownmost way. Adjacently, he quotes a contemporary of Keats, Leigh Hunt:
Here is delicate modulation and super-refined epicurean nicety! “Lucent syrups, tinct with cinnamon,” make us read the line delicately, and at the tip-end, as it were, of one’s tongue.
Ricks’ article provides a convenient brief for the integrity of the evincing word as “poetic” form (as I’m wondering what it is “exactly” for something to be poetic, and the Romantics would be exemplary). Ricks would dwell with an idea he associates with Ruskin, who “valued the symbiotic relations between truth and imagination.” Poetry expresses, embodies the value of evincing, even enabling, “the mind’s eye,” an enhancement of mentability, one might say. (I coined the term ‘mentability’ years ago, but I see that it’s also a brand name.) Ricks quotes Ruskin’s indication of “a voluntary summoning of the conceptions of things absent or impossible...pleasure and nobility of the imagination.” “For the imagination,” says Ricks, “acknowledges both the power and the poignancy of It is as if....” He is grateful to the poet for “giving us...the experience of imagining the senses, the experience of finding imagined in words...[imaginations’s] own well-grounded truth” or, quoting Keats, “a sense of independence, of power, from the fancy’s creating a world of its own by the sense of probabilities.”

As medium of visualization, poetic form is a graphic art—though Ricks wants to distinguish “description that is graphic” from “the graphic arts,” which, he claims, Campion’s film confuses. “To visualize is not the same as to see,” says Ricks; “more, it is incompatible with seeing,” which, “in all its majesty and power...most threatens to tyrannize over the other senses, even as the senses are among the forces that threaten to tyrannize over us all”—presumably via our consumerist society. “The imagination will help us....Fortunately, to recognize the distinct and distinctive triumph that is visualizing may be one form of protection for the other senses against the triumphalism of sight.” Apparently, the insight here is that imagination is preventive health care for the mind’s eye, for conceptualization. Yes! I’m with Ricks on this (very presumably).

Most interesting to me, though, is the educive capability of words as relationship between mentability and an other—the pleasure of something as derivative of experience with personification, as things “speak” to us or reach us like other persons reach us, in a sense of being richly touching, “the creative power of empathy and of sympathy by means of all the senses,” Ricks says; or, as Keats puts it: “One of the most mysterious of semi-speculations is, one would suppose, that of one Mind’s imagining into another.”

Ricks believes that Campion’s film occludes the creative power of being in word. He grants that “Bright Star respects Fanny Brawne,” but he has much ire for Campion’s treatment of Keats and his poetry by so often visually accompanying what is supposed to be educed by imagination in word. But he’s a curmudgeon here. Campion’s film is about the bright star Fanny Brawne, not Keats. Nonetheless, Campion is right, that the public is too commonly alienated from poetry, such that making Keats more “accessible” is not a bad thing. The film is not aimed at The Keats-Shelly Association of America, which Ricks is overtly representing. But Ricks’ ire proves a useful reminder about being with, in words, and Campion’s film is a beautiful validation of the woman.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“...a scientist by early inclination...”

“...[So many] reasons, and many more relating the simile to its place in the Sonnet, must all combine to give the line its beauty,...not knowing which of them to hold most clearly in mind,....and the machinations of ambiguity are among the very roots of poetry” (Wm. Empson, in Seven Types of Ambiguity, on line 4 of Shakespeare’s 73rd Sonnet, quoted by Jonathan Raban, “Summer with Empson,” London Review of Books, 31:21, 5 Nov ‘09).
The first lesson Empson taught was to slow down drastically; to read at the level of the word, the phrase, the line; to listen, question, ponder, think. This was easy because his own writing enforced it. A single paragraph in Seven Types of Ambiguity was like a street closely punctuated with traffic-calming sleeping policemen: you had to study the relationship between one sentence and the next—and often one clause and the next—to see the logic that connected them, and if I tried to read them in my usual skimming style, I instantly lost the thread.

The second, more general lesson required one to greatly enlarge one’s understanding of what writing is and does (all writing, not just poetry; Empson illustrated his arguments with sentences from novels, book titles, newspaper headlines that had caught his eye and so on). On this, Empson was inexplicit except by inference, but as a fisherman, I saw it in angling terms. Every piece of writing was like a pond, sunlit, overhung by willows, with clustering water lilies, and, perhaps, the rippling circle made by a fish rising to snatch a dying fly. This much could be seen and appreciated by any passing hiker. But the true life of the pond lay below the surface, in deep water where only the attentive and experienced eye would detect the suspended cloud of midge larvae, the submarine shadow of the cruising pike, the exploding shoal of bug-eyed small fry. It was with the subaquatic life of literature that Empson—a scientist by early inclination, whose interest in science is a recurrent feature of his writing—was concerned.


Trying to understand the habitat in which we live requires an ability to read it—and not just in a loose metaphorical sense. Every inhabited landscape is a palimpsest, its original parchment nearly blackened with the cross-hatching of successive generations of authors, claiming the place as their own, and imposing their designs on it, as if their temporary interpretations would stand for ever.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

some educive growths by a sidewalk, picked for replanting

It’s not that city life is chaotic. So much is happening, no order can be discerned before the inestimable assemblage of events have transposed into another question of order. The ecology is change by change within change within change, levels of cycles and process, our evolving humanity easily seeming like some eternal recurrence. Another day, but someone from, say, the 1950s transported into 2010 wouldn’t have any idea why so many people are apparently talking to the air (wires coming out of their ears, into their jackets), so much pointlessness in the solioquys, as if not daring to be left to the solitude of their own thoughts (or thoughtlessness), idle chatter exponentiated, maybe longing for a brain implant that allows a tribal mind (thereby unwittingly returning relative quiet to a bus or train ride).

At best, the street offers all the healthy din of our evolving writ small, some of the manifold Flow that all there is expresses, Zygmunt Bauman’s “liquid modernity” (Liquid Times, 2007), where too much happens so readily, here and gone, that an account can’t be captured, little solidity of The Present, little frame of reference for long-term plans. Our lives are netweaves, assemblages, because the environment is animate assemblage, disassemblage, reassemblage—simulacra vying for genuine pretense. Be flexible and adaptable, adroit at tacking, because the days are rocking ships on tempests of time. Be ready to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret, writes Bauman, because opportunism reigns. “Endemic uncertainty” rules the ecology, where living well becomes risk management.

In light of such a view, Bauman argues that “we are all artists of life,” in his the art of life, 2008, “will it or not, like it or not.” We give life form and purpose, because that’s what successful people who end up happy do. “And we are praised or censured for the results—for what we have managed or failed to accomplish and for what we have achieved and lost.” We are designers in the face of constraints we will not accept and constraints we cannot elude. The pathwork will be what we have to look back to in later years, when we wonder where all the time went. There will be the story of our lives, memorable and not, because we will have become whatever stayed memorable for the narrating we must do.

So, what is “art”? Why even use the word? Calvin Tomkins, beginning Lives of the Artists, 2008, notes that “the early years of the twentieth century gave rise to a new kind of artist, whose first obligation was to invent or discover a new self.” Now, for the ten artists interviewed in his book, “art has been, among other things, an approach to the problem of living.” But it all (the art world of the ‘80s, the ‘90s, and our turn of the century) “brings us back to the question of self-invention. ….In my experience, the lives of contemporary artists are so integral to what they make that the two cannot be considered in isolation.”

Art of living, life of art, self, world—elated embodiment, worn identity. Existentialism is modernity. Questions of Being express our nature. Do we find ultimate resolution in an epistemology? The black cosmos looks back, black and silent. Some moral vision we design and sustain? Are we ultimately some art (or lack of artfulness)? Discourse on aesthetics has found a new life in recent years. Jacques Rancière’s Aesthetics and its Discontents, 2004 (2009) seems typical, arguing that we need the institutional discourse of art, beyond the dissolution of “art” into life (“a remorseless ethical demand”) and life raised to “art” (or some “metapolitics”). We need to keep legacies alive, as youth (and “slacker art,” Tomkins’ phrase) pretends that our humanity originates in The Present (a depressing thought), rather than, well, that one might work on a cathedral that’s growing to redesign itself relative to our degree of fidelity to its advance.

Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature: rethinking environmental ethics, 2007, seeks to “relinquish the idea of nature” in ecological thinking, but to range “widely in philosophy, culture, and history” to explore “the value of art in imagining future environmental projects.”

So, what is “art”?

Ha, what is gardening?

for a higher quality of political commons

Yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision favoring unlimited corporate freedom to fund political marketing restores limitless license to dominate the media space of unsophisticated voters.

Democracy is at least about advancing the sophistication of the voter against unreasonable power.

one life to live

You can rightly regard yesterday’s “for a higher quality…” as an expression of guilt about absorption in self-formative interests, relative to decades of engagement with political-philosophical issues. I wanted to reaffirm a sense of continuity, such that self-formative interests are generally complementary and—given the greater importance of our shared humanity, relative to one life—supplementary: Self-formative interests, relative to our humanity, are supplementary to our shared interest in human progress.

Integral to my self-identity is easy feelings of guilt for pursuing self-formative interests. So, in going my own way, I hope for something useful for others in writing about it. I hope, at best, for something exemplary.

But I’ll “have to” update my posting on the issue of unleashed corporatist license. An expanded page will eventually become a part of my long-standing interest in U.S. democracy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

meaning of life

Let there be (and make) lots of memorable enjoyment in a high quality of life, and make the life long.

But keep the theory brief?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

higher education as finding a fulfilling fit

Click on the image for a more-readable size.
[from: Slate, “Daily Dose,” 1/19/10]

Fit, fittingness, fittest fitness—one’s life implies an ecology, not just in the wilderness.

High fidelity flying is nice.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Enough of that depressive position this morning:

1/18 — 8:53 am

I say I’m a “news junkie,” but that trivializes my desire to understand details of how we, humanity, are evolving—to understand particulars (often tedious) in “how it goes.”

So, I risk depression in the face of catastrophe’s narrative. (Thank goodness, I’m not living the quake.)

The weekend before last (Sunday, 1/9), I happily intended to write something by yesterday that might be creative and satisfying. But I didn’t.

1/18 — 3:32 pm

Even as the earthquake was overwhelming me, I was still wanting to climb a tree (end of “what goes...,” below).

Mood goes to and fro on a sea. It was late Thursday—Friday really—that the scale of the tragedy came home. My cynicism about American care would be nothing c0mpared to Haitian despair. The least we can do is suffer empathy (and contribute something, at least symbolically). But did you know that there were 45,000 Americans in Haiti when the earthquake happened, most of whom were there working for humanitarian agencies? It makes one proud to be an American. Hail Bill Clinton, U.N. Special Envoy for Haitian development in recent years.

But perhaps I’m right: “Often, the best we can do is to go on with our own lives the best we can.”

And don’t try to be The Moralist of others’ lives (which, I guess, is the kind of thing a moralist might say).

Happy intending of creative satisfaction. What more could one want from life? (Okay, a lot, but hey, creative satisfaction matters).

So, hmmm (feigned pensive moment...), where was he before the tragedy?

Celebrating anticipations of “creative play”—which is no substitute for actually doing it!

Creative process as subject of creative process—the self-begetting writer (so postmodern)—gets tiring!

Chameleon days of scenic life (without willful dishonesty) can be a pretty thing (i.e., fun) and so appreciative, you know.

This living instance of the horizoning Child in our humanity, facing a starry night, maybe does have no ultimate recourse but poetic hope (something else a moralist might say).

Anyway, just you wait.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

what goes without saying

I’m not a moralist, and I dislike didactic tones. But, on the one hand, our rightly busy lives do tend to marginalize (if not forget) what supposedly “goes without saying,” the so-called “needless to say.” If you accept the chaoticness of daily life or, in my case, would promote a license of harmless play, it’s important to not occlude what’s central to anchoring good lives, central to good sense, for prudence, lest we forget (not just marginalize) what really matters. I say that as someone who easily implies what I never meant to imply—someone who takes for granted so implicitly the importance of what goes unsaid that others can easily not surmise that I have much good sense at all, let alone appreciate deeply what really matters. However...

On the other hand, I might seem to be The Moralist because philosophy is about interest in what really matters. Someone not especially interested in philosophy might easily dream up explanations for why someone gets so philosophically serious, at least in terms of the value of literature (conceptual literature or conceptual issues, in the case of philosophy). But it’s not easy to explain (for my part) why philosophy became so important that conceptual interests have become and remained central to a life. It’s integral to me, to my Center.

That said, I give myself permission to play. The Inner Child takes hold. I figuratively climb into the arms of a tree, and I’m happy.

“the common humanity that we all share”

At the moment (Friday, 1/15), officials say that the earthquake may have killed two hundred thousand. “This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share,” President Obama said Wednesday morning.

Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

But a reminder is soon forgotten, because our attention has to be centered on managing our own lives. Time, energy, and resources are probably already fully encumbered, because the world works with little slack, especially in recessionary times.

So, keep this in mind: Your tax dollars support the large share of humanitarian work that governments are best placed to provide, and government support for international agencies (such as U.N. agencies, supported by governments’ support of the U.N. itself) is the central reason that vastly more persons survive catastrophes than otherwise.

Politics is too often an ugly battle of self-interests against taxation, as if the incomes we’re awarded are fiercely earned. But most of life—in the U.S., at least—is a very comfortable gift of an economy that awards more than many deserve, relative to the struggle for existence in developing regions.

Americans proudly feel their solidarity in the face of catastrophe. But it’s largely ephemeral.

Even for humanitarian activists, there’s a point of compassion fatigue that arrives eventually.

There is too much senseless suffering and death to bear appreciating for long.

Often, the best we can do is to go on with our lives the best we can, try to give that some exemplary effect, put time into keeping informed about what our elected officials really do, and support the struggle of humanitarian work at least through helping the electoral campaigns of officials who support humanistic union that makes a durable difference.

Share what really matters when you have good chances. Keep real value alive through the days. Show care as much as you really can.

Thursday, 1/21 — 9:51 am

One Haitian, writing to the New York Times, says “I marvel at the signs of humanity” and that, in the end, “I am busy loving life and my country.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

creative play

Playfully, I declare my right to write obtusely! Taking time to offer ideas while more or less in the middle of doing other things has its downside.

Monday, for example, which began nicely enough—until the second paragraph (which I’ll clarify)....

Monday, 1/11

Value Of The Day—for today—that I’m especially drawn to dwell with. That would be a nice use of this daynote convention. But I want to make it worth thinking about, dwelling with...

a sense of healthy mindfulness as well-attuned difference between inner Self and outer personality: integrity (Self) dressed in play—a lifelong legacy of commitment to (confidence about) one’s “Center” or purposive clearing—or Flow of life—sustaining a persona of luscious but harmless play.

Tuesday, 1/12

It’s quite valid to want to dwell with an idea, but not have the time at the moment to do it, yet to express that, in effect, I wish I had the time. (I’m making the time now.)

I would distinguish kinds of play. Frivolous play is great, but—in a deeper sense—play is also a keynote of any creative process: trying this-and-that option; arranging elements in novel ways to mull whether that works for what’s drawing one into the process.

To understand the Self (or, say, to understand identity relative to one’s life) as “dressed” in play is an easy way to say that a creative process needs to keep a flexible or fluid relationship to the creativity drawn into a process. Such fluidity is why (how?) creativity may do such different kinds of things. Howard Gardner calls it a capacity for “fruitful asymmetry.”

I’m fascinated by—and tacitly begging a quesstion of—one’s “Center” as a concept of commitment and confidence about oneself. Commitment to (or confidence about) one’s Center is, somewhat tautologically, a confidence about one’s sense of confidence, a fidelity to one’s commitment. This is very important for sustaining a creative process, because what one’s doing is likely not appreciated by the wonderful people who happen to be near-and-dear or nearby.

Monday, 1/11

Such a Center is strongly related to what allows a change process in one’s life to be made easily. Also, a good sense of play may express a flexibility of thinking, situational attunement, and other-oriented appreciability.

So, how might reliable-but-flexible Centerness be very well understood? (There’s no best understanding to be had in our very diverse world—just, at best, very good understanding. So, here’s another Value Of The Day: something’s being “very good.”)


It’s difficult to understand how that Center comes to be. I think I have it much of the time, but it’s a struggle to keep the confidence, to not fall away into the sea. It can be a struggle to keep fidelity when it’s so easy to be found with others who couldn’t care less.

Tuesday and Wednesday, 1/13

The good play, though, is a matter of relationship to the world, which is largely made of other persons. The play requires really being there with others and with things. Naturally, for the artist, as ordinarily understood, there’s desire, need to “really be there” with things. For the writer, for the counselor (which can be an art), for the teacher, there’s desire to really be there with others.

It’s great to be influenced by others that one really cares about, so play is an easy way to care and be influenced without burdening. But wanting to appreciate is no automatic way to reach others you care about. Sometimes, others are unreachable, and that can be painful.


But the appreciability must be sustained! The world is lost without appreciability. It’s intimately related to there being value in the first place. Maybe, even, appreciability is the Center for what may continue to matter.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

anticipatory departing

Friday, 1/8 — 9:29 am

So—to follow up further from near the end of “free association”—why care whether or not poetic thinking can be rigorous?

Poetics can “yield [something importantly] reliable in our evolving reality...after humanity’s self-undermining of Godly metaphysicalism.”

So, again, why? And why care?

Saturday, 1/9 — 7:07 pm

In yesterday’s note (above), he’s prompting himself as probable reader—making an implicit promise to follow up, by a postured expression of his desire to do so?

I was recollectively leaving behind Thursday’s reaffirming of the value of dailiness, in terms of Monday’s obtuse questions.

This morning, I had a more convoluted version of that simple point (with ample vanity) and a segue on astrobiology.

That was emblematic of desire to write in some very different key.

But Saturday’s seldom a good day for grand gestures. As one wise guy noted: After “Enlightenment,” the laundry still has to be done. Etc.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

boy seeks genuine fun

About “vacuous dailiness” (near the end of “free association”): Realize, please, that I wasn’t positing some equivalence between dailiness and vacuousness! I had in mind the pro forma chat or phony pretense of rapport that expresses, among other things, a common anxiety about the other’s presence. People so habitually miss chances to just be serenely silent together—or even to say something one’s listener remembers for a while; something thoughtful? something thoughtfully funny? I know a persiflager who’s brilliant at this (when she feels like it). In an affectionate sense, I want to strangle people who are habitually dismissive or who talk as if it’s really about their presence.

There’s so much genuineness in our days (but it has to be noticed) or available to us in our days—play and wit—so much craziness, in the best sense. On the other hand, being real means not always having to have some piece of sharp comment available. Real people don’t have to prove they have rapport with you (as if to keep you at a distance by feigning closeness).

For me, good dailiness is so easily not vacuous. There’s that “ecstatic quotidian” I came back to and which returns for me easily.

See, it wasn’t lovely simplicity I had in mind by mentioning “vacuous dailiness.” Another’s having little time to give doesn’t, by itself, make the time one does give tiring. No way!

The simplest interactions can be joys, and make the morning. Simple acts of graciousness and generosity can easily feel fun—and fun, you know, keeps the world turning.

Friday, 1/8 — 6:56 am

But I recognize that labored writing about genuine spontaneity gets self-undermining.

So, hey, I do prattle—easily, happily. “I.M. living, all the way, I say.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


A recognizably figurative work—not Frankenthaler’s “Westwind”—might be imagined to have begun by the artist’s sketching forms, maybe pencil or charcoal whisps emerging from white space.

But with abstraction, the color areas emerge such that any pattern on the canvas (as set of color areas, at least—counterpoints and complements, etc.) implies the imaginable brush stroking that gives “form” in the first place to each area. There’s no substructure, apparently, as the color structure of the space apparently has emerged from the imaginable brushing, rather than the brushing fleshing out a figured background. The color areas directly implicate the brushing outward toward the viewer (as virtual painter), whereas brushing/color given to preceding form results in implicature inward, beyond the surface toward representation apparently beyond the surface (surface as window). Not only does abstraction enactively frame (maybe indicting, as well as thematizing) the surface, but its brushing highlights the act of brushing unlike brushing that would flesh out recognizable figuration (though brushwork may be interesting there, too).

Anyway, one might have no idea how the color areas emerged relative to each other: whatever extent a given color area led to another area (and what does “led to” mean—what is the painterly process of seeing a color area emerge relative to itself, the space “now” as space merely so far?). Did a previous color area (or several) disappear under another that remained, due to what later emerged elsewhere in the space?

Then, there’s an issue of projectable form: Does “Westwind” have a window in the upper right quadrant? Is there, through the window, a cartoon person’s face in profile with a cap? No (larger view here), but enough distance allows the effect. Is the entire upper half a window out into greenery beyond a shadowed tree trunk? Is the lower blue space an inner mood—melancholy?—overlain by an enduring flash of elation? (Relative to the dyad happy—sad, it’s a happy painting.)

It’s credible that a gestalt (such as one’s “there”) emerged from the act of painting, rather than from the painter’s preconception of emergent organization of color space. There may have been several possible endpoints or closures on the act (across several sessions?) of painting, such that the work we see is, to some extent (even largely), the work that ceased, rather than definitively finished. There may have been closure without authentic ending. (This is standard fare in novels, like life.)

I wonder if any pointillist began with no idea of the final scene, but had it emerge from appeals of color, like the abstractionist.

No, that would be contrary to the retrospectively-precursory motive of pointillism that led to abstraction in the first place.

But surely the scene emerges for a voyeur of the pointillist painting-in-process, and probably even so for the painter, as postures and subjects and weights and relative placements might emerge from a sketchless dawning of areas of shape—maybe a little of one small area of the total space for one day’s work, another area for another day (with the first one hardly yet emergent); then, back to that already-emerging part another day. (Here’s something well-known. How amazing that we bring value or meaning to arrays, based on a history of feeling for relations....)

Maybe for the pointillist, there are, say, 5 subject areas emerging in the space, and the fourth (arbitrarily numbered in retrospect) emerged after the first; but the third might have emerged after the fourth. The voyeur of one sequence of emergences might have anticipated a different end gestalt than would the voyeur of another sequence.

No matter how well-defined in advance is a journey, a narrative, a discourse, a curriculum, it might emerge for the participant—the witness, the voyeur?—several different ways.

Or what it is that seems to be emerging (the path, the gravity or telos, The Point) might depend on the sequence of points along the way. Or the way is transposed or transformed by emergent points. Or the way is dependent on the participant.

In any case, something usually emerges part by part, constituting itself as wholly some thing, only in time, act by act in the activity of there being an artist’s valid claim for work in progress that there is, indeed, a point to it all—and, in the end, it is so said, there was all along.

Monday, January 04, 2010

free association

revised Tuesday — 6:45 am

A recent orchestral composer who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work recounted how he spent so much of his time apparently doing nothing, gazing out the window of his study.

A well-known poet reports, before reading his poem on video, that the short poem took 3 years to finish, because he would come back to it and come back to it—presumably until it had just the elements that let him feel the poem was complete enough at last in the details enough that its conception was full enough.

Enough, enough.

I got lots done last week, after “Feeling concerted parenthood,” having left that context completely behind. You meet it as something new for perusal, as if it expresses where I’m staying that week. But the writing was a departure from the subject (for that week, this month). I was soon far away in my developing landscape.

I expected to have something ready to share by last weekend, about idealist humanism as a realistic nest of values. But free association is a “dangerous” playmate of desire for closure. Enchantment—

I wrote earlier: Trust your intuition (Wednesday), but I didn’t come through with something short and clear to share about feeling the origin of value (another hope for my week) that, over time, gives intuition its reliability. A reader wants something practical, not conceptual musings. I want both. How might the two modes best weave together? How does embodied cognition (feeling for what happens) grow to become practical value? I should not fill space with my learning process (i.e., rough sketches that a burdened reader would not later bother to find revised)? A reader wants final results, because we’re too busy for mere explorations.

What values are very good options for deciding between two conflicting values?

What may self-actualization hope to achieve?

Is voracious aspiration for high humanistic fruitfulness admirable or just symptomatic?

Days go by.

In a sense of the universe that has outgrown God (don’t tell my dying mom), can our condition of ultimate constructiveness give Meaning enough?

Is being prone to wandering and solitude alienating to one? I’m a psychologist without apology, under cover as a functionary maintaining enough professionalism. Yet, I’m a wild parent of figural spaces, given enough time in free associations of a plural psyche interplaying facets of self like improv with a friend on the street.

It’s too much love of verbal self-possession for a world monetized for systems management and consumption of results.

Meeting you last week was enough to inspire much free association, but I also got lots done—though not enough for offering a result by Sunday (and this isn’t a fair result).

I’m so happy you bought one of my all-time favorite philosophers, and I caught you at it during enough free time to share appreciations. It doesn’t matter that the philosopher is new to you and old to me. I needed your unwitting dramatization of the obvious: that philosophy matters for others, which I too easily feel is not obvious, falling prey again to others’ alienated judgment of idiosyncrasy about interest that is really special, if not rare (like devotion to a fine art). I am so tired of vacuous dailiness—and people who trivialize aspiration. It ruins value.

I was not sitting in wait for someone to buy a book I loved. It was just good luck that you happened along.

Poetic thinking can be rigorous, is one upshot of his work. So few readers even wonder whether or not. Why, after humanity’s self-undermining of Godly metaphysicalism, can poetics yield anything reliable in our evolving reality?

You’ll let me know what you think—because I want you to: Your fresh sense of it all matters. Love what you discover, and make it yours.