Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Keeping a sense of humor in good stead is very wise for mental health. For example, if someone won’t talk about their alienation from me (e.g., someone’s teen self sense resurrected by my presence), I keep a sense of humor about it (or try my best). If their alienation is innocuous (let me call it good faith alienation), they’ll see that teasing them about it is innocent; I just want to understand. If the alienation is in bad faith (e.g., projecting bad feeling into me that isn’t actually mine), then they’ll likely have no tolerance for being teased about their alienation.
If (As) I have good feeling toward someone else, I’d laugh when I’m told I always leave the room when they enter it. That’s ridiculous. It’s funny. We might recall the series of coincidences that caused the departures. We might laugh about the way that coincidences fall into patterns. Maybe I just have such high esteem for their presence that I assume they need me to stop my prattle with someone and move on. Maybe they’re so affecting that I lose my thought in what I was saying to others and leave—too much light, but I’ll never confess it to them.
Having no humor about odd patterns is symptomatic of a problem. In such a case, it’s good practice to want to get beyond the problem.
Suppose I have a friend whose blog I respond to regularly via another blog of mine (one blog writing in part to another one, as well as doing other things). I presume that he’s aware of what I’m doing. (He does know about my blog “to” him) and seems to post as if he knows I read him). Suppose I have an awfully-alienated actual scene with him, thereby concluding that he’s not aware of my ongoing praise of his work. This could be a quite-dramatic occasion for realizing a difference between reality and actuality. An impish side of me, feeling that the situation is daimonically delicious (a haunting of the Halloween aura?), could revel in the difference—except that his ignorance is painful.
So, just tell him the reality?
He doesn’t [now removing myself—or just a first-person voice—from the narrative], and he wonders why.
I wonder how narrators ever know such things (presuming he isn’t an author’s alter ego doubly displaced through a narrator’s entertainment of the other).
I’ll let the little drama remain a treasure of the difference, trekking a dependence on the other’s curiosity—i.e., lack of it, thus his living against a darkness of what’s lacking, a little tragedy of lost time.
But I’m just prospecting. Stories emerge from somewhere.
“If you don’t care enough about your discomfort to want to address it, thus find out the degree of my good feeling toward you,” the story might go, “then that’s a problem—ours? yours? not mine.” All he can do is be open, good humored, and cordial (though he would wonder deeply about his fidelity to the reality/actuality difference: his requiring the other’s curiosity). Someday, the other might have a great laugh, when the other discovers how dearly he regarded the other’s stances, views, wit, self deprecations, little obsessions, what all.
Anyway, genuine rapport is a wonderful experience. When it comes naturally with someone else, but later ceases, it’s good to want to restore it. If the other doesn’t want to, that deserves respect. But also deserving of respect is wanting to restore the rapport (disregarding weird motives of self withholding). Relating to the other as if there is rapport when there’s not can get surreal, but it’s healthy to be open and rapportous, even when the other is not. This is an important part of living well: always being open to gaining rapport, repairing lost rapport, and being ready to do what one can to have it or regain it. If the other persistently doesn’t want good relations, so be it. But it’s saddening to see, for example, someone say they’re not uncomfortable with someone else when the actuality is clearly otherwise, but the first person would sacrifice a friendship rather than try to find out and repair misunderstanding.
Caring about endearing fools is another feature of living well. Being saddened by their presumptuousness is no good reason for pretending that rapport isn’t valuable and possible, though it gets surreal to act rapportously with someone who acts as if I’m severely missing something by not acting coldly (as if I have some weird need for their attention).
A posting on good stances toward others (and fictional prospecting) looks like an abrupt departure from praising a venture to study Obama’s thinking, which looks like an abrupt departure from a fascination with childhood curiosity, discussed over a week ago, as if I’ve departed from that interest altogether—no way valid.
That’s the way points occur in a landscape—like improvisational music. As Esperanza Spalding says today in an interview: “And when it comes time to write a balanced piece…, all you’re listening for is what sounds right in that moment. It doesn’t matter what genre or idiom or anything that it comes from. It’s just, what’s going to make this piece work?”
Esperanza gives me tears.
Curiosity, imagination, empathy, caring widely and deeply, aspiration, audacity, improvisational courage—yet prudence: ambitious and patient. Singular lives, singular times, and so on.
-- gary e. davis --- 8:32 PM
Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg is publishing a comprehensive study of Obama’s thinking, which places him in a lineage of American pragmatism.
-- gary e. davis --- 7:15 AM
Sunday, October 17, 2010
This is a good point in my ongoing onwardness to address an interesting question: Who am I to say that [insert any broad-stroke truth-functional claim or any apparently-speculative audacity in any of my postings or webpages ]?
I imagine what would happen if one of the Wikipedia police assessed one of my pages, if it was at Wikipedia: There would be many scoldings like “Needs Citation,” “Original Writing Needs Authoritative Reference,” etc.
Obviously, claims must be articulated and hypotheses must be stated before there’s anything to substantiate (or question—or inspire occasion to learn from critical others or from collaborative others!). I’m developing a coherent (to me) position irt an array of topics, and I implicitly claim (and presume on the reader) that anything I write is emblematic of a larger-scale discussion, which I would be quite happy to pursue. That is apart from the creative license of a writer, of course, which might well be improved by editorial or critical response. Please indulge yourself (cogently); I enjoy perceptive critique. Again, I want to learn from others.
So, I welcome a challenge on anything I write, as to what resource background gives tenability to what I claim—or I welcome questions about apparent confusion, obfuscation, obliqueness, etc. I welcome critical claims (cogently proffered) that I’m verbose in specific instances, have ill-considered formulation in specific instances, and the like. Implicitly, anything I write is an invitation to a more-detailed conversation, explication, or inquiry.
One might imagine a tediousness to detailed examination of any of my themes or discussions. I don’t claim anything that I don’t believe I can further clarify (when that’s called for) or justify (ditto). But I need to tailor that to specific concerns, because I have enough to do, just doing what I do.
I know what I’m doing. But those evidence-implicative contexts are also mixed with my own conceptual work, whose tenability depends on discursive presentation, which is more usefully done relative to a specific questioner’s terms of interest or contention. And such response works better as a dialogue (e.g., extended email exchange), rather than guessing how someone’s interest/questioning/inquiry goes, based on an intial communication.
See, my online work is part of a manifold dialogue: between topics (each potentially calling for furtherance, especially relative to other topics, more so as future topics appear); between myself and given readers; relative to others’ work (which will become more and more the case); and between aspects of myself, which I share online. Text can be a very resonant phenomenon implicitly associating to a lot or anticipating a lot.
Where you can’t give me the benefit of the doubt, re: the tenability or credibility of what I’m doing, let me know. I’ll be happy to get into detail or depth or explication, whatever (if you’re not being obviously vacuous; e.g., you didn’t read what you’re concerned about).
Otherwise, give me a break and accept that I genuinely claim that I know what I’m doing.
-- gary e. davis --- 10:55 PM
Friday, October 15, 2010
When Ralph Waldo Emerson was 61 (1864), he wrote in his journal “Within, I do not find wrinkles & used heart, but unspent youth.”
In the current issue of The New York Review of Books, the reviewer of the recent publication by The Library of America of Selected Journals, 1820-1877 (2 vols.) begins by noting that “Emerson’s dominant passion was not to know but to grow. ‘Expression is all we want,’ he wrote in his journals….What must grow, ever anew, day in and day out, is one’s inner genius, which his essay ‘Self-Reliance’ defines thus: ‘To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.’”
Well, not quite—except inasmuch as one’s private heart is exemplary of humanity, a rather audacious pretense (yet, a pretense I’m exploring in a 21stC context). But we read Emerson as the genius in the flesh that sought a sense of genius in our humanity—though relative to 19thC conceptions of self expansiveness or high scale of belonging or being.
I haven’t read Emerson extensively. I’m not, in the following, recommending that one buy the 2000+ page selections from his lifelong journaling of an original, couragous 19thC mind. But he’s a precursor for my postmetaphysicalist sense of expansive, inclusive (non-egoistic), and appreciative sense of self. I would call myself Emersonian. But more aptly, I would argue that there’s an American ethos of thought, stretching from the founding to the present, which is Emersonian, and I’m an American Earthling. [Some of the NYRB review is involved with aspects of the publication or Emerson’s life, rather than his thought, highlighted below. The best pages of the 12-page review, in PDF here, are pp. 1-2 and 6-10.]
The reviewer notes:
Self-expression through writing was an almost organic need of his, as if his genius received its daily bread from his pen. For over fifty years he spent a good part of his time writing in his journals, fostering the growth of that forever embryonic inner self whose health depended on it: “Writing is always my metre of health—writing, which a sane philosopher would probably say was the surest symptom of a diseased mind.”As remarkable as his obsession with writing and his lusciously secular expansiveness of self was his hope and optimism in the face of grievous loss, such as the death of his wife, Ellen, the young death of his brother, and the death of his son, Waldo, when his son was 5.
Emerson’s reactions to these overwhelming losses have tended to baffle scholars. The journals show that in each case, with the possible exception of the last, the deaths were followed by extraordinary surges of inspiration, vitality, and self-affirmation. After Ellen’s death, Emerson experienced a sense of wonder in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. In his ensuing state of exuberance, he conceived and drafted the ideas that he would subsequently publish in his seminal first book Nature, which lays out his lofty Transcendentalist doctrines about a benign cosmos, the divinity of the self, and the deep correspondence between the spiritual and material worlds.The reviewer closes his account of Emerson’s thought by noting “the incorruptible trust he had from early on that the universe is friendly to our innermost selves, that there is something prelapsarian in the human soul, and that, despite whatever befalls you in your experience, there is no reason to doubt or forsake the ‘selftrust’ he so passionately advocates throughout his essays and journals. Knowledge follows upon such trust, it does not provide foundations for it.”
As loved ones fell from him, one after another between 1831 and 1842, Emerson held on to his core conviction that there is a divine, pre-fallen self within us that cannot be touched by disease, disaster, or even death. His journals tell a fascinating story of how Emerson, against all odds, resolutely refused to give in to disappointment, which is an almost inevitable destination for the exalted and the hopeful. He somehow avoided its trap.
Emerson, especially after the death of Waldo, found in the sequence of days the place where life, in its intrinsic generosity, offers itself to our reception. Everything is given in and by the day. That is why life for Emerson was a “journey,” a day’s travel. The day, in turn, gives itself in “hours,” which is the most important word in Emerson’s lexicon. Just as life is a sequence of days—a journey or journal—a day is a sequence of hours. If there is a philosophy in Emerson’s lifework—be it his journals or his essays or both—it is a philosophy of the hour. Our perceptions, thoughts, moods, and convictions unfold with the days, which in turn unfold in hours, so “let us husband them.”
Because [any] series [of hours or days as such] has no endpoint we must find ourselves in each of its successive moments, must find ourselves in the day, as it were. Each day is an end in itself, just as each of Emerson’s essays is an endpoint in the series. By the same token, each of Emerson’s paragraphs is an endpoint of any given essay. Scholars have remarked that Emerson’s basic unit is the paragraph, yet just as a day is made up of hours, a paragraph is made up of sentences. When Emerson is at his best, his whole philosophy finds summation in the quintessential sentence. For example: “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”
I’d say it’s wisdom that follows from trust, and I suppose that’s what Emerson had in mind with his sense of ‘knowledge’. In upcoming discussions, I rely on a sense of trust (or belonging) in childhood love of learning which is also integral to ethical life and integral to an inclusive, expansive sense of self in creative development.
-- gary e. davis --- 10:02 PM
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Monday, October 04, 2010
Ironically, the more secure a baby’s attachment to the primary parent, the more interested in exploration and independence the child becomes.
10.17.10 — 2:54 pm
Today, I rewrote the piece.
-- gary e. davis --- 11:36 PM
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Saturday, October 02, 2010
This is the first of three postings in a series: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
This one (linked at the end here) is more theoretical than the others, difficult in places, but not altogether. The next one is more, well, poetic (or phenomenological). The third is very accessible, as will be most others in coming months.
I’m beginning a long agenda.
-- gary e. davis --- 9:13 PM