Friday, November 19, 2010

I am pretending to be who I am listening to

At the station, a young woman eats a muffin-top, obviously unawares of Elaine’s desire to profit from her, and the fact that it is best if one avoids acting out episodes from Seinfeld in you day to day existence on this planet. Anyway, this muffin top eater is stunningly beautiful in her black hot pants and liquorice leg stockings and stilettos. Half way through her treat she packs it away for later, grabs her coffee and walks off proudly to ignore my gaze. In her heart, though, I think she thinks that she is not quite beautiful enough for the world. There is no confidence in her demeanour, just false pride. She fact fears the mirror far more than she does my gaze.
Photograph from The Age
The sun shines brightly warming the air. The flowers have finally bloomed, and the women who are out and about are more lightly clad than before.

Others stand around the platform warming themselves in the gentle morning sun waiting for the train to arrive. The birds are singing in the distant trees. It is the first hot day of spring, and a gentle sea breeze has picked up already against the deep azure of the sky. It is the type of day when everything has an intensity that on any other day would not be so noticeable: The colours seem brighter, the smiles larger. A young woman feels her hair, all nice and warm in the sun, her bare arms soaking up the rays.

Once on the train, people maintain a safe distance from one another, unfolding their broadsheets to hide behind, listening cocooned with their iPods and sunglasses on, or checking the messages on their mobile phones. I often wonder whether they are actually performing the task that such a gesture would imply, or that there is a deeper meaning to what they are doing. Are they reading or hiding. Are there actually any messages on their mobile, or are they just hoping to receive one and in fact are lonely? I will never know for sure, but what my body gives me the ability to do, is to allow their body to speak to me.

This is not a particular power I alone possess, but because I notice that I do possess it, I am willing to allow other bodies in space to have a similar ability at least to do what I can do. Of course, I can also go off on flights of fantasy, and imagine that other human bodies have the same capacity, as they are recognisably similar to mine, and different from other bodies that I encounter in my life, such as dogs, cats, cows and sheep. For instance, I may recognise similar attributes in an insect, but these are not of the same order, as I would think of a human body possessing. I can deduce from their behaviour the shared and separate characteristics, and notice that human bodies can change their behaviour to mimic that of the other bodies I encounter, but that these in turn can rarely affect such mimicry in return.

In the carriage as it moves along, people have already ordered themselves into something of a class system. Men and woman in suits tend to sit together, mothers and children with older women and a quiet single woman. The more raucous gather at the end of the carriage, and in this way, harmony is maintained to a degree at least. So long as this fragile order is not disturbed by someone unwilling to maintain there place in the order, all seems to maintain an uneasy but fluid structure. People, who come and go, leave and join this structure, read from the position of the others within the carriage as they do so: by the clothes their fellows are wearing and the activities that they are pursuing; whether it be talking loudly, sitting quietly and reading or looking out the window. As they come and go, they leave gaps in this microhabitat that are filled by new passengers or a reshuffling of those already present.

This is a microcosm of society in transit, but not just any society, nor even a representative cross-section of a particular sub-section of an historical habitat. It is both at one and the same time, a cross-section of all transitory movements of human beings and of all human society up until the train left its station and of all the possible human societies in the future. It is all present in this carriage to be read, but the reading itself disturbs the equilibrium of those read, as the reader him or herself is at one and the same time separate to and a part of this transitory historical train. I am both an observer and a participant in this historical moment, and so, it exists as part of me and me of it, and there is no way that I can extricate myself from this project and still remain an observer anymore than I can fully immerse myself and continue to observe.

I cannot escape my historicalness and be outside of myself. I am always trapped by my gaze and its mirroring by other sentient beings who also gaze on me, even if they do so by gazing at their mobile phones. I am in their smell just as I smell them, and it is not necessary that this sense be above a threshold to exist in actual fact. Even if the turning of the newspaper is masked by the sound of the steel wheels rolling over the cracks in the tracks, I can still hear this sound, as too can the reader of the paper and those surrounding him or her. But as much as they or I want to escape this particular moment we cannot, as we are surrounded by a factual world of sunshine and warmth, now doubt simultaneously here as across this entire city today.
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Friday, November 5, 2010

I am of my world and my world is of me.

die mutter aller madenImage by spanaut via FlickrI am sitting here on a sunny afternoon, and the warm air is entering behind me. I can hear a radio coming from my neighbour's kitchen. The odd door opens and closes. above the humdrum of the city that surrounds me, I can hear birds and gentle sounds all around me.
This is the background to my existence. I am amidst the world, not alone. The world was there before me and will continue after me. In another sense, I have always been and will always be a part of this world. That I have experienced life and that that life will pass, is but a miracle of the world I inhabit, and of the consciousness of it which i was born and educated into by others like me.
This is far from trivial. This forms the essence of who I am, and the perception I have been granted by the miracle of nature. These others who have come before me and will follow me share a similarity which i recognize. This recognition is so potent that I look and see it in other objects around me, and see those objects in myself and the other bodies who I recognize as equals.
Sometimes I try to mimic the bird calls i hear when i am out and about. A dog barks at me and I growl back in a distinctive more or less dog-like manner. I can snort like a pig, neigh like a horse, indeed, some have said that at times I am as stubborn as a mule. The human animal is remarkable precisely because its body can metamorphisize into that of others at will.
Other objects outside of me can also be rendered mirror-like into the terms of my own perception of myself and those I identify with as equals. The way the dog looks sad when I am about to go out, the cat that panics when i am preparing to move house, the horse that is startled by a small piece of paper floating through its field of vision. I interpret the responses of these other mammals from the perspective of a human: I have an empathy with them because I can see that they too are similar though different to me. They too feed there children milk, have emotions and behaviours that I can recognize as coming from a similar source and myself, and that they too are similarly a part of my family, if only distant cousins.
Theater of LightImage by ecstaticist via FlickrThis relationship with mammals is much more obvious than the way I see beyond into the world as a whole. The relationship between me and my fellow embodied humans and the environment we share, is an extension of this primary recognition of myself in others, namely my family, friends and the wider human society and even spreading beyond that as described above.I see the world itself as an embodied being. there I have a tendency to see it as a whole; a world or universe beyond my immediate environment.
This process is reversible in that I am the world and the world is me. While I am stardust the world is also there for me. There are constellations in the sky that I recognize as part of my tribe. Like the expansive ocean, it draws me too it, while its vastness fills me with awe and dread. There is a mystery to its very existence precisely because my own existence is tenuous. It draws me to toward it, to understand it and the patterning that seems to emanate from it. Even though I can recognize in the universe a beingness, it is a beingness which gave birth to me and my kind. More than that even, to all like me, both animate and inanimate. It's power transcends me and my kind, and yet, gives me power to act upon it.
Is it any wonder than that throughout the ages, people have personified this relationship with our creator the universe as a human-like being, which created us in his or her image? Perhaps such a metaphor is a truly honest and open expression of who we are. Sure, this personified God is created by us, but nevertheless exists as an infinite environment that we witness when we look at the stars at night, when we see the sun being drawn across the skies during the day, when I sit here typing against the background provided for it, and which my mind can imagine thanks to it, not because of it.
The universe doesn't exist for me to understand and exploit it, but it understands me and exploits me in its development. I am of it and it is not of me. The universe is my God and it is the creator of me. I can c
Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...                         Image via Wikipediareate because of this God, and any god I create is less than. The universe, after all, my be just one of a myriad of other infinite beings. Even a glimpse of this imaginary scenario makes my head whirl. But there can only be one creator of me, and that creator is the totality of all possible universes including my own.
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