Notational, No. 7

But you know how shameless I am in the presence of anything that calls itself an idea. The idea is time. Living in the future. Look at those numbers running. Money makes time. It used to be the other way around. Clock time accelerated the rise of capitalism. People stopped thinking about eternity. They began to concentrate on hours, measurable hours, man hours, using labour more efficiently.

♦ Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis

“Shameless” is a good call. I think many of us lose our sense of propriety when it comes jumping at the chance to inhabit tomorrow; to exploit the concept; to make the best of the continuum purportedly so soon available to us. It is the fact of life that coaxes us forward. The merciless exigencies of capital force a certain speed: the spectre of falling behind is always haunting us, the fear of missing the boat. Harvesting every screed of the moment, spending it “efficiently,” becomes our conscience, a relentless task-master seeking to circumscribe our actions even as it drives us to comply. To make the best of our present, it sometimes feels like we must accept the judgement of an unremitting and disembodied third-person, one constituted by an inanimate mechanism that we use to interface with the shape of our lives. Unabashedly we focus on a prize that can never, definitively, materialize. We can only remain current by projecting into the future.


There is always something to be said when the business of everyday experience converges with that of thinking; when the outer systems we navigate and encounter manage to connect with figurative inner tracks—to the less spatialized components that complicate the production of living. This is the time of the year when things change, and three-dimensional reality forces some recognition of the fourth-dimension’s incessant advance into familiar but unknown territories. The world seems to tilt. Time springs forward. The hues of nature tint and inch their ways towards the sky.

This also happens to be the end of a particularly significant term for me, and these past few weeks I’ve been facing the inalterable crux of a forked path, where each direction leads to a different way forward: both futures appealing but radically different. My inner life has been stirred up into a restrained but inexorable tumult as I contend with unavoidable outer demands. I’ve had to put my foot down—foot forward. I’ve had to commit.

The motivations that impel our actions do not seem to emanate from a void, from some mysterious state of blind genesis. We follow our ways back to understand the how and why of whom we are. This is not a new strategy, but it has come to be more formalized in the past century. The great-grandtheory of self-awareness, psychoanalysis, relies upon the implication that there is a narrative structure to a life. Freud recognized a central thread running through seemingly unrelated patches of activity (within and without) and stitched them all together. The details of that centrality—such as what it is that dives the libido, or the clarity of the pleasure principle—has, most definitely, benefited from further extrapolation. The students of the unconscious, post-Freud, have elaborated more nuanced diagnostics of the psyche; raw sexual motivations need not dominate the story in quite the way the author of the Oedipus complex set forth. There have been moves to suggest that the energy driving us may be more abstract. The connection that is there for exploration, for analysis—with the proviso that nothing that we do happens without a reason—is multifarious and open to interpretation. It may be that we are contingent in the sense that we respond to our often-unpredictable environment, but psychoanalysis posits that we are deterministic in our choices, in the tenor and the tone of our replies to events.

Freud himself came to admit that the process he pioneered was a more effective and therapeutic tool when caring for the minds of relatively healthy individuals. Working out a structure of meaning, accounting for and defining an interpretive frame to apply to life, is ultimately upkeep for the soul. Not accurately a science, despite its clinical and research component, and not quite a philosophy or a spiritual dogma, psychoanalysis is more of an atheist narrative of cause and effect, an analytical blueprint for understanding the ineffable. To function it requires complicity between all participants in the project: one has to acquiesce to a standard psychic cosmology, a common lexicography, and the premise that vast reaches of one’s personality operate anterior to active awareness; but there’s something there, in the resultant care for the incorporeal aggregate one calls the self.

My narrative, like many other’s, seems hopelessly disparate at times, but these past four years have established an arc of progress that I find reassuring, and the interest that I have been developing during that time in exploring the mechanics and techniques of analysis has had a large part to play in solidifying strategies for the next stage of the journey. Change has a significant part to play in making sense of what I am up to on the whole during this journey. The makings of a deeper understanding, which I can choose to accept, come from a long, hard process of acknowledging that there is a center; even if that center is constituted by a radical instability.

Confidence owes a great deal to the tacit acceptance of mystery.

Touching Choice

I’ve been out of the pages and into the streets: down the highway: to different halls. I’ve been reconnoitring; figuratively; physically. The future, you see, has sent out invitations, and I need to assess which trajectory I most desire to travel. I need to figure out in which direction to launch myself. These are heady times.

But you can never truly get what you want, says Lacan. The objet petit a resists every attempt to possess. In this case, the inaccessible real and the perpetual deferral is any satisfaction with whatever choice is adumbrated; or even committed to. I have options, each which will fail to satisfy, but none of which will prevent the attempt to enjoy. In the end does it matter to whom I say “yes”?

Of course it does. It’s a smoke screen to suggest otherwise. The shape of the future arriving may not lead to a subsequent future after that worth vying for. I need to want to fight the interminable fight, and strive for that petit a, which, in this case, may involve struggling to define the indefinable elusive for many more years to come. A radical ambiguity is part of the appeal.

If only I could decide where I want to live, what I want to owe to whom, and how best to plunder some incomparable booty from the universe.

I’ve worked hard to get to faced with this predicament. Do I enjoy it now that it’s arrived? Can I live in this moment satisfied with the accomplishment, or is it a perpetually postponed arrival to a destination I can all but connect with? I’m reaching out. My fingers are extended. Contact is a hair’s breadth away . . .

Everything moves forward.

Fragmentary, No. 4

[I]t must be remembered, that while our language is yet living, and variable by the caprice of every tongue that speaks it, these words are hourly shifting their relations, and can no more be ascertained in a dictionary, than a grove, in the agitation of a storm, can be accurately delineated from its picture in the water . . .

♦ Samuel Johnson, from the Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

Notational, No. 6

But self or person is not any one impression, but that to which our several impressions and ideas are supposed to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable. Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensations succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time. It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or from any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently there is no such idea.

♦ David Hume, “Section VI: Of Personal Identity,” A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)

It is quite alarming, setting oneself to task, and then delving within—intent on discovering the boundaries of the self; but there is no discernable source, no border between what is and what is not that which perceives. What there is to discover are the echoes of impressions, insistent but also imperfectly rendered, clustered nebulously about the now, as you cast the net of consciousness blindly out into a murky sea. What you retrieve is not verifiable by some organizing standard, some principle of meta-consciousness; what pieces you have are rather the constituents of what itself becomes aware. Is there a voice that travels between points of reference, generated independently of the lingering instances of a heterogeneous sensorium that organize to produce something called personal history? As far as I can tell, my boundary is the space where my thoughts turn back to reinscribe themselves over their own premise. Perhaps I am a spontaneous generation, a misinterpretation of available phenomena. Perhaps it is all simulation.

Notational, No. 5

And remembering is not a replay of a string of  moments, but an enlivening and reconfiguring of past and future that is larger than any individual. Remembering and re-cognizing do not take care of, or satisfy, or in any other way reduce one’s responsibilities; rather, like all intra-actions, they extend the entanglements and responsibilities of which one is a part. The past is never finished. It cannot be wrapped up like a package, or a scrapbook, or an acknowledgment; we never leave it and it never leaves us behind.

♦ Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway

Quite the affirmation of the constant proliferation of connection, the inextricable mutuality that accrues around every action of a living being, as we continue to perceive, record, and relive our places in reality. Perpetually subject to the folding and superimposing of perspective, of ideological filters and schema, we might as well embrace it thankfully—as an inspiring mystery rather than an overwhelming insight of practical infinity; we are always in it; there is always another connection to explore.

Notational, No. 4

Axiom 1: People are different from each other.

It is astonishing how few respectable conceptual tools we have for dealing with this self-evident fact. A tiny number of inconceivably coarse axes of categorization have been painstakingly inscribed in current critical and political thought: gender, race, class, nationality, sexual orientation are pretty much the available distinctions. They, with the associated demonstrations of the mechanisms by which they are constructed and reproduced, are indispensible, and they may indeed override all or some other forms of difference and similarity. But the sister or brother, the best friend, the classmate, the parent, the child, the lover, the ex-: our families, loves, and enmities alike, not to mention the strange relations of our work, play, and activism, prove that even people who share all or most of our own positionings along these crude axes may still be different enough from us, and from each other, to seem like all but different species.

♦ Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet

To surmise this passage differently: we are all strange. This strangeness substantiates the membranes that surround us and characterize us, our permeable boundaries, as we integrate with one another in the diurnal churn. It is an almost flippant categorization at this point, levelled and attached to nearly everyone and anyone, in an almost universally co-operative but fervently individualistic environment of aggregated bodies. It is tossed out as itself or as a synonym: “You’re strange;” “he’s weird;” “my family’s dysfunctional;” “those people are odd;” “I don’t get her.” We exist in an ocean of surplus and disparity, and despite the stable, recognizable elements of code we all carry around within ourselves, that marks us as walking equivalents—and despite our ability to integrate, albeit in exploitative, unequal, discriminatory, and hierarchical networks and patterned distributions—we remain alien to one another. The “coarse axes” available do not describe categorizations of truly meaningful detail. They are approximations dishearteningly broad. “Do not reduce me to an archaic signifier!” is the war cry in an age where personal identities are being continually mined and panned for any gleam of coherence; where forging demographic badges to pin to a virtual avatar is a full time occupation. We resist this infringement on the finer classifications we chose and nurture for ourselves. We lose sleep over being digitized and rendered as a mark in a column that ignores all the tables of data that reflect our choices, our biases, our investments, and our characters. Doesn’t it take work to learn those things about another human being? Don’t we have to search and strive for the common ground that we might share with the others we find ourselves enmeshed with? Is genuine translation not the hardest part of any interaction for us all?