Reading In Between
Making sense of the world from afar — sizing up a so-called political situation, interpreting a friend's girlfriend's motives, reckoning the Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man" — is no easy task. It demands a certain generosity, an openness, an ability to make multiple elements more or less cohere without reducing or simplifying ( hopefully).
Trying to make sense of the world from within the world — from deep within the proverbial shit — well, that is even harder, if not impossible. To me — and to most — it is incredibly obvious when a girl likes a guy, when a co-worker harbors deep seated angst, when a friend's friend is being a prick. But when it's me involved — when I'm the one who likes or is liked — I become flustered, confused, as stupid and lost as any moron (and I use moron affectionately here). I am blinded by the proximity.
Let's say I rant about this or that — say, San Francisco. Well, it's obvious that at some point my critiques are not just about San Francisco but about me in San Francisco at this moment. My position is just that — a position. I am — we are — always already situated. All writing is that position articulating itself, a position that includes the writer and his environment. Which is to say, all writing — all living — takes place in between, in that murky, beautiful, complex space between self and world.
Sometimes, this in between grayness becomes so murky I can't make heads or tails of what's happening. I see the complexity — I see all the different feelings I am experiencing; I see my history; my possible futures; my desires, at times contradictory. And I see her feelings, her history, her possible futures, her often contradictory desires. And I begin to drown and, worse, flail. It is humiliating for me — aren't I too old for this shit? — and it's not pleasant for anyone involved.
Life happens in this middle. As Deleuze and Guattari say, the middle is where things pick up speed. Sometimes, I am able to go with this middle, with this speed, to make it and be made by it at the same time and it is glorious. Other times, the tides overwhelm me. So what is it that separates these two experiences? What is it I'm doing when I go well and when I go poorly?
But is that even the right question? After all, this question assumes that it is me when, in fact, it is never just me. The in between — where life happens — is made of multiple strands each with its own speed, its own intensity, its own rhythm, its own metabolism, like a Matthew Ritchie painting. So maybe I can right myself amidst these waves but the waves keep coming and maybe, just maybe, it's her or the world that keeps knocking me down.
At which point, it would seem like it's time to bail. But heeding this moment — knowing the right moment, the propitious moment, what the sophists call kairos — is precisely what's so difficult when heaving and tossing about.
Perhaps, then, Eckhart Tolle — despite his creepy face and absurd beard — is right: stop thinking about it all and just be present right now, right here, right in the middle where life teems. Let it all wash over me. Let it all come down.