Friday, August 01, 2008

The Shadows of Totalization, Part V

The World is too much with us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

--William Wordsworth, circa 1802


Blogger James River Martin said...

"It moves us not."

I'm thinking somatically today. Not to be moved is also not to be touched. There are those who are not touched in their touching and being touched, who are present and yet not present, who kiss deeply and warmly but are not there.

To be touched and to touch is to be moved,
which is to say to be changed, to be open to the flow and process of change. That's relating. That's life.

To be moved is to move, to dance, to live.

I had to risk having my heart broken in the sharing of kisses and cuddles -- which were for me acts of love-like-prayer -- but for my partner were acts of prayer-less play.... I had to risk being moved and touched in our touching to discover that it is possible to offer fantastic kisses without actually kissing.

I now stand and sit in a new place.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we are dealing with the problem of motion,what makes it and what stops it cold. I very much believe the somatic aspect is of the utmost importance in this and that it was pushed to the side,the margins,(though of course not eliminated,)and that the romantic reaction to this is not "unreal" or "irrational" or "merely" "poetic."


1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great God! I'd rather be
a Wordsworth suckled in a romantic reaction outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, write lines that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Kant crimped at his table;
Or hear old Newton blow his wreathed nose.


2:00 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Motion, what makes it and stops it cold... yes.

Well, I see us as mandalas. That is, each of us is a wholeness which is reached into and which reaches out into the wholeness.

Mandalas have quandrants or quadratic structure, usually. The native American medicine wheel is a mandala. A labyrinth is a sort of unicursal mandalic path. Kivas are a kind of mandala.... But what are the four winds and directions, the four elements, earth air fire water? These are murcurial and also changing--through time, culture, exploration, analysis....

It is essential to our movement that our mandala never freezes into a singularity, a floating world map dislodged from the dynamism of the cosmic dance and breath. Another way of saing this is to say that we must be attentive to the mesmerizing trances inspired by our central symbolic myths lived for us as key metaphors--metaphoric lynch pins or hinges. This is because language and symbol run so deep in our blood. That ain't bad, but it is dangerous. A kiss isn't a kiss, sometimes. Things fall apart, as well they should. To live is to move and to be moved; and we *are* life.

But to celebrate things falling apart, only, is to miss the mandala, which has oppositions in the quadrants, or if not oppositions at least complements which together form a song, a rhythm, a dance of life. A good song or a kiss is a mandala. To allow the tao is a mandala. What nudge is there however subtle that wakes us to this moment? Who will sing along?

I have wanted to go silent in order to discover the bindu and dance with Her, but such risk must be taken with care. I hear literal music in this cafe and it is more beautiful and full by far than the plop-less frog jumping in a mere image of a pond.

2:26 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

To say that we are a wholeness (a mandala) is also to say that "Desire is not lack".

Shall we move to reframe--map again--eros?

Is askesis our nemesis?

If it is, what better than a map which unmaps itself? Which dissolves into the buzzing blooming delight of silence (a crack) at the heart of everything? (bindu).

Our play is too serious; our seriousness lacks play. We're a sick rose!

4:41 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

What is crucial about askesis is not that there is renunciation of various pleasures but that askesis, of a certain basic type, is a turning away from or renunciation of desire itself.

In our sick rose American Dream (nightmare)[pathological narcissism] our turning away from desire, our askesis, is a certain kind of renunciation or turning away from awareness/consciousness/
reflectiveness about desire. Our desires are little understood and little thought about; and for this reason we haven't realized how very far our desiring paths take us from what desire desires: pleasure. Not "pleasures". Pleasure, as the activity of movement without resistance.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are those who are not touched in their touching and being touched, who are present and yet not present, who kiss deeply and warmly but are not there.

To be touched and to touch is to be moved, which is to say to be changed, to be open to the flow and process of change."

You say that to touch is to be touched, and yet you also seem to say that there are cases where to touch is not to be touched.

There is also a sense you may have been a victim of a kind of duplicity..A deep and warm kiss might have given an impression of sincerity and authenticity of feeling, but maybe wasn't.

So, though you were thinking somatically, there may be some suspicion of the somatic as a basis for thinking. Is there?


9:35 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

As I type these words 'shivers' ripple along the skin of my arms and shoulders. This often occurs when there is what we might call "felt sense" meaning emerging in awareness. It signals that something important is happening and that I should pay careful and sensitive attention. It is a call to alertness, like a bronze bell rung in a Zen center.

Yes, I'm interested in both thinking somatically and thinking about somatic thinking. Maybe I'm also interested in attempting to think somatically about the somatic. I think that's right -- but how? Little in our usual American Dream culture prepares us to think somatically about the somatic.

The primary attraction "somatic thinking" has for me is that it actively and consciously dispenses with dualisms of all kinds, but especially whatever traces of mind/body dualism may be lingering about. Somatic thinking provides a clearing in which somatic thinking becomes possible. It is like clearing a kitchen table of all of the cups and bowls and silverware and wine glasses, then wiping the table and using it to spread paper on for writing or drawing. Or maybe, as in the REM song, we're sweeping a lot of stuff into the fireplace, even the rug, perhaps so we can dance?

What happens to us when we dispense with dualisms which behave, psycho-linguistically, as directers of somatic energy? I don't only mean the classical mind/body dualism but all of the sorts of opposition pairs like work/play, strength/tenderness, abstract/concrete, and a million others?
What happens when we begin to channel our psychic (somatic, embodied) energies
outside of the circuitries which psycho-linguistically, and thus somatically, reify sharp dichotomous chasms where a fluid dancing relation could be?

Would this activity not put ethics in a new potential relation to aesthetics, for example? Wouldn't this even open feeling up by cancelling the sharp dichotomy of thinking/feelign? Can we sens and feel into thinking as a movement of the body? How hard would it be, then, to experience kissing and touching not as symbols or language of love but the immediacy of the love longed for? And from there how far would it be to travel to arrive at a breeze touching the skin as a great Earthy cosmic loving embrace? Were we not utterly adapted over millions and billions of years to take (and release) this moment's breath? To be this moment's breath! If this insight doesn't open us to be touched and to be moved, what could do the trick?

To think somatically must be the most potentially liberating and revolutionary
play-works! The body (soma) is overjoyed
by the possibility of sharing this dance. Our poetry may indeed come alive.

Final thought of the moment. I re-read a passage from James Hillman in a book titled "Soul: an archaology" yesterday. Here Hillman was in essay conversation/dialogue with a journalist/writer whose name escapes me at the moment. The essay response was originally published in a book titled "We've had a hundred years of psychotherapy and the word is getting worse". Hillman's thesis was that psychotherapists and others in our culture have been neglecting "the soul of the world" (anima mundi) by overly emphasizing the image of the soul as an interiorized something, be it a "journey" or whatever. It is obvious to me that he is exactly right about that, and I interpret this vital criticism somatially. The body(soma) is hauted by dreams!

9:41 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

haunted, that is

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. I hope you will blog on this.


10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like it if Carl and you would create another blog which could then be joined to this one in the manner Enlightenment Deconstruction recently was. Join the family, so to speak.


11:23 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

I'm in.


Yusef, my responses in this blog have been perhaps a little rough around the edges, as they've been pretty spontanious and unedited--thinking on my feet. Or trying to.

I'd love to hear from you what you think is alive in them and worthy of unfoldment. I'd also appreciate any negative criticisms or suggestions for improvement of my thinking and my inquiry.

11:58 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

"You say that to touch is to be touched, and yet you also seem to say that there are cases where to touch is not to be touched.

When we are very much impacted or effected by an encounter or exchange with a person we often say that we were "touched", and that the experience was "touching". The experience "got beneith my skin," we say. When we're in love we sometimes say that "I've got you under my skin". An old song says "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair". When we have a very impactful encounter with a person we might say, "I was moved", or "that was a moving experience".

I'm saying that sometimes we are touched but not touched. Sometimes we don't budge and we aren't moved by even the most seemingly moving and touching of kisses and naked cuddlings. I think this is sigificant, and that it relates to the posted poem, somehow. I'd like to explore this relationship.

"There is also a sense you may have been a victim of a kind of duplicity..A deep and warm kiss might have given an impression of sincerity and authenticity of feeling, but maybe wasn't."

My lover/parner and I have identified as polyamorous for years but never much moved past the theoretical orientation until recently, when I fell in love with my next door neighbor and longtime friend. This friend-almost-lover and I have been making a lot of love recently, with fantastic kisses and delightful naked cuddling and dancing..., but he's not in love with me as I have been with him. He loves me in a small friendship sort of way, but will not and probably cannot give himself to the process of allowing our love to bloom. I don't know why, but I do know that he's holding back--resisting. It's not the first time I've experienced this. It's painful and sad. I've been moved but he has not. His kisses have lit up my whole world but mine have left him largely untouched.

I think there is somatic philosophical significance here, which relates to the posted poem and the inquiry in this blog.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

I'd be happy to start up a blog with James. We could call it "Somaesthetic Investigations" or something cute and pretentious like that.

I think the real problem with askesis, which Nietzsche correctly identified, concerns the difference between askesis as means and as end. When askesis is a means, it can be used to heighten one's vitality and affirmation of life. I'd go so far as to say that freedom in the Nietzschean/Foucaultian sense -- what Foucault called "the practice of freedom as the care of the self" -- is impossible without askesis.

It's when askesis is an end in itself that it ossifies into the ascetic ideal and turns against life, motion, change, sensuality, joy.

2:32 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

"Somaesthetic Investigations"?

I googled "somaesthetics" and found:



How about we call it "Fluxostasis"? That would be appropriately weird and would allow us to use it in any way we like.

Or we could call it "The Coyote's Den".

Ah... the choices!

1:16 PM  

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