Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Her Blood-spattered Frock

Two jar by nature. Irresolvable opposition
is the seat of change, of perception.
Harmony in conflict. Peace in stress.
Instability in equilibrium.

I cannot extend the span of my empathy
and stay inside the fold, shielded
from the social winter that drives
the tough outsider on. See

how I change: empathy flows then cuts
me off. The two jar: isolated empathy,
empathic isolation. But it’s as natural as grass,
as Yin and Yang. Two jar by nature.

Opposition creates sense; sense
bubbles up from its well, this first position,
this deep fundament. One rises from two
to begin variety. Opposed hands shake,

one agreement is struck. Then endless
interpretation. Then no discernible one.
Impossible placebo, the mind’s eye
solid as chance, centred as awareness.

Suspended by left and right, top and bottom,
scaled between black and white,
right and wrong, poles are meaningless alone.
Empathy’s encircling warmth chills. I click:

a string of 0s and 1s blooms a two year old girl,
a father’s face caught in one moment,
mine quickly entangled, a dusty war zone,
a cart of heaped torsos and limbs

and the girl in mid-air, tossed to join them,
unabandoned by her father’s arm reaching out forever.
His fingers grasp mine across an ocean of noise
and seal the uselessness of my empathy.

My courage fails.
Opposition has me. I am tugged in two directions
going nowhere. Then this squeaks out
and I am miles from content.

I want to be more than the sum of this.


Tao Jonesing said...

Two jar by conditioning, not by nature. Cartesian duality is a human construct, not a law of nature.

Life is a flowing event, not a static thing. We, all of us, instinctively know this. So why do any of us accept the notion that we must choose between two static choices (aka jars)?

Toby said...

Tao, aren't you presuming that conditioning is unnatural, or that it is somehow less real than 'nature' because it is a "construct"? If nature is about change and if, further, we are as intimately embedded in nature as it is possible to be, then 'twoness' – which I see as essential to perception – is a natural prerequisite to (inter)existence. In other words, opposition is a prerequisite for perception and yet generates 'oneness'. And this itself is a further contradiction.

Also, how do you know we all "instinctively know" that "life is a flowing event"? There was, according to Graeber in his book on value, a debate back in ancient Greece between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus asserted that "life is a flowing event" or that change is the only constant. Parmenides stated that Universe is made of discrete objects that are themselves and only themselves, statically, for otherwise we would not be able to make distinctions between things. He won the argument. Modern science is, apparently, a reflection of that victory. (I may be misremembering names and details, but I think I got the gist right.) We live in a culture which does not know how to take on board how true Heraclitus was...

Tao Jonesing said...


I presume nothing.

I merely observe that Cartesian Duality is nothing more and nothing less than a set of blinders that prevents the human horse from observing, let alone understanding or accepting, the full breadth of reality. I cannot and will not deny that the human brain is naturaly flawed, but to embrace that flaw as Nature is to limit what we can accomplish as a species. Trying to succeed in spite of that flaw is not unnatural in the least, nor is it impossible. To consign yourself to Cartesian Duality is to consign yourself to Fate and deny free will. If that's what you want to do, just give up and stop pretending you have a say. That's an acceptable outcome generally, just not for me. I will fight.

"Also, how do you know we all "instinctively know" that "life is a flowing event"? There was, according to Graeber in his book on value, a debate back in ancient Greece between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus asserted that "life is a flowing event" or that change is the only constant. Parmenides stated that Universe is made of discrete objects that are themselves and only themselves, statically, for otherwise we would not be able to make distinctions between things. He won the argument."

He won the argument according to whom? Who gets to decide the nature of reality, and why should I agree with what that person says? I have know too many experts who have proven to know nothing to care about what experts say. And the ancient Greeks were the worst.

In any event, I disagree with the notion that "change is the only constant" means the same thing as "life is a flowing event." The two ideas are in no way equivalent in any meaningful way.

You ask how do you know we all "instinctively know" that 'life is a flowing event'"? The answer is that we are all moral relativists. The so-called static "Truth" is a nose of wax to be shaped into what each of us finds to be "Right" under all the circumstances.

Debra said...

I strongly suggest that both you guys get your hands on Paul Veyne's "Did the Greeks believe in their myths ?"
I see no inherent... CONTRADICTION in the idea that life can be both perceived through differentiation of discreet phenomena determined through observation, and ANALYTICAL thought, and a perception of its continuity which can not automatically be reduced to what can be perceived analytically. Dialectical paradox, maybe ?
Greek thought seems constructed around the assumption of antagonisms which exclude one construct to the profit of another.
But once you have accepted that what is true... in one space, one time, with one person, for example, IN ONE CONTEXT is not necessarily true in ANOTHER context, you have understood how much we assume that "truth" is an ABSOLUTE value, independant of all context (relative, and limiting, context).
The scientific method cannot develop or flourish around religious assumptions, I believe...
Another possibility : what is true on one plane, in one space, is not necessarily true on another plane, which exists AT THE SAME TIME. Multiple realities, if you like.
Why are we so attached to ABSOLUTE truth ?
I believe it flows from the way our language determines US. Talking about absolute truth tends to make one want to pull it out of the magician's hat, and start looking for places in the world where we could find it.
As for "free will" and "determinism", once again, I think it is dangerous to eliminate what allows some relativity in the area. One can be.. as free as possible within a particular context which is given. We exerce our... FREE WILL every day in a countless number of small choices : (what to eat for breakfast, whether to take a shower, whether to drive the car, etc.) And the fact that there may be factors... DETERMINING our choices which escape our notice does not ? should not ? diminish our perception that WE are acting, and actors.
Determinism is a very complex question. If you are a shrink, you notice how... CONVENIENT it can be for certain people to decide that they are shaped by forces beyond their control... very very convenient, she says...
It has always been so...

Debra said...

Found on John Fraser's website this morning, a quotation from J. Loewenberg's book "Hegel's "Phenomenology", Dialogues on the Life of the Mind", p. 94-95 :

"Among the things that come and go, the sceptical consciousness retains its undeviating posture. In the universal flux, it feels its own stability. The restlessness or uncertainty everywhere present reflects the disintegrative might of consciousness.. Scepticism, in short, succeeds in dissolving everything but itself... the sceptic thus resuming the place of master, who, by his annihilative intellect, can subjugate everything to his imperious will to disbelieve."

I find this quote very interesting with respect to the driving forces... behind our modern sense of the word science. It is one thing to be driven by a desire to complexify one's understanding of the world, but if such... restlessness can bring about... progress, the consequences of the WILL to DISbelieve are devastating, in my opinion.
A case of... too much of a "good" thing ?
Of having the bottom of your chateau in the sky falling out while your eyes are trained every upwards ?

Toby said...

Great stuff, Debbie. You've really hit what I am struggling in the poem to capture, to relate. Opposition both is and is not opposition, and yet without it there is nothing, no perception. And my sense/intuition is that perception is everything.

Sorry for the radio silence. My life is extremely intense right now and I have no time/energy for econosophy or anything related to it.

Debra said...

A couple of musings for today.

They are grounded in what you like, Toby, perception.

Something earth and heaven shaking has happened at blogger. We are asked to type in.. ONLY NUMBERS now to verify that we are not computers.
This is.. VERY VERY IMPORTANT, as it is a symptom of the bulldozer that is rolling over our flesh and blood bodies right now.
Numbers, as in.. NUMERIC.
The creation of a human identity which is becoming exclusively... numeric, to the detriment of language, I fear....
Something else : last night I was having my hand read by a friend who told me she was holding my right hand, when she was holding my left hand.
Think about it...when I talk about somebody's left hand, I am capable of projecting myself into the place of the person opposite me, to talk about HIS left hand, not.. his right hand, as though I were looking at him from the outside.
Left and right are RELATIVE concepts...
This helps us see, I believe, the difference between the sticky, gooey, moralistic "empathy" that goes with Disneyland, and another form of empathy which is founded on the capacity to put oneself in a place where one can see different things from a different perspective. This is basic relativism, and it is also...FICTION...
In our modern ? eyes.. the truth, as an absolute value is represented by the third person.. OMNISCIENT point of view, as I like to say.

Toby said...

Hi Debbie,

your first musing reminds me of Lewis Mumford (whose work I know only vicariously through Eisenstein) and what Eisenstein calls the Mumfordian machine. Because we 'know' the universe is mechanistic, because we 'know' we can thus perfect our knowledge of it with precision, with number, with increasing control, and because this programme is so powerful (we put a man on the moon), we must not flunk our destiny, now cleary mapped out before us in numbers, defining everything down to the last, devilish detail, the devil we annihilate with true detail. And anyone who does not get with the programme will be, as you say, bulldozed.

The second musing is really fascinating. A very astute and helpful observation. Thank you for sharing it with me.

And once again I apoligise for my radio silence. I am going through a very intense period, I hope it ends soon.

Tao Jonesing said...


I need to go back through all of the comments since my last one, but I felt compelled to respond to one comment Debbie made.

"Numbers, as in.. NUMERIC."

Not necessarily. Ancient Greek numbers were, in fact, alphabetical. So are "Hebrew" "numbers," although only starting from the second century B.C.E., which begs the question of when was the Torah written?

My exit from my current job was announced in mid-December. I am officially done February 3rd. I am currently trying to plan a Europe trip, and the only thing holding me up is my immediate family: if they can come to Copenhagen in the summer, we will all go together in June or August, and if they can't, I will go in April or May. Just an FYI.

I hope the Holidays are treating you well. We enjoyed Christmas with my parents, and this New Year's looks to be a real opportunity for renewal. I wish you and your families ALL the best, and I thank you both for being such great, thoughtful people.

Toby said...

That's great news Tao, congratulations!

Exhausting holiday period for me catching up with my MA, but I'm on top again lookin forward to the coming year, which I earnestly hope will bring us together, face to face, for some long conversations.

Best wishes to you and your family. I know you will make the very best of your coming opportunities.

Tao Jonesing said...

My current plans are for two trips to Europe this year.

My first trip is April 3-April 16. My niece has her Confirmation in Copenhagen, and my father and stepmother will be in town, as well. The first week is pretty booked, but not the second.

My second trip will be in the first half of August with the whole family. I will lobby for another two week trip with the first week in Copenhagen to see my sister's family.

Toby said...

Hi Tao, that's great news. April is good for me. Let me know which of the two weekend your trips spans is best for you, and we'll set something up.