Let's assume this: the self is not just multiple but in a state of perpetual flux (we all fluctuate with greater or lesser intensity and speed).
And this: the self is not hermetic but is always and already constituted by "external" forces — the self is run through with networks that exceed you and me — gender, class, race, sexuality, looks (place in what Michel Houellebecq calls the sexual hierarchy — I fucking love that), and so on.
This is all to say that there is no one self, no one mode of being, of we can say: "That! That's the real me. All that other stuff? Not so much." It is all you — or me, as the case may be. When I'm home alone surfing pantyhose porn? That's me. When I'm drooling and muttering as I sleep? Me. When I'm nervous and blushing and stammering as I try to flirt? Me, too. When I'm being a jealous, passive aggressive asshole? Hate to say it but, yep, that's me. When, despite being 41 years old, I'm a petulant prick when around my parents? C'est moi.
And yet there are times when we feel — in ourselves and in others — that we're being real (or know we're being phony). But what does real and phony mean here? After all, everything we do is real. And everything we do is who we are. So what makes doing one thing real and another not?
Well, as we assumed from the start, there is no fixed point by which to judge the realness of our being. We can't size up this self along the measuring rod of the real self. Everything is in motion; every state is just another state — the so-called measuring rod, too.
I want to say, then, that this state of feeling real (or not) is the result of a certain aesthetic reaction to a state of resonance. This is to say, the great teem of my being — we are a complex of systems digestive, emotional, coronary, affective, nervous and so on — this network of networks can sometimes harmonize in such a way that there is a kind of order (but a strange and precarious order).
Kant says that the beautiful is a state of perpetual agitation of the faculties — we cannot understand per se, cannot put the experience in the a conceptual bucket — but in such a way that there is discretion and proportion. When discretion and proportion are torn asunder, we enter what Kant calls the sublime. Ah, but the Kantian beautiful is, well beautiful: a state of flux that enjoys some kind of limit and proportion. I love that.
And that, I believe, is what I'm suggesting about this feeling of being real — it is a kind of pleasing resonance in which our complex of systems are working together to create precisely this state.
This makes the act of feeling real a) an aesthetic experience; and b) an act of systems maintenance.
But it's not an act of trying to maintain one state (which I sometimes fear is the Buddhist goal: to always have one state. But I don't know fuck all about Buddhism so forget I said that). This state of feeling real may, later, feel like it was phony. So this "real" state is not one state but is itself different states at different times (and that themselves are internally variegated).
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