Next Places

Posts related to my book “Next Places”

Am I on target?

Do I know where I am going? And why am I headed in a particular or certain direction; and not in some others?

Where I am?

I am often confused: between doing what is polite and what is right – and clearing some sense for which is which.

Confused between knowing what my work was and was for, and what is my work, now, in changing times, between being who I am for others, and who I am for myself. Confused about the future and its possible directions.

Living in a world where everyone is presumed to be out for oneself, for success, for power, fame and gain…I am pulled and pushed and yanked around by an aging vanity.

But which sense of self endures; which will I find, and be found?

If I am so smart: “why ain’t I rich,” my neighbors ask; “why am I not at Harvard,” my colleagues whisper; “why am I here,” I ask. “And where am I?”

The meanings and concepts of our being in the world reduced by language; reduced to a language in which opposites proclaim each other’s territories: War is Peace, and Peace is War, and so it is in the actuality of 1984.

1984 – the novel; 1984 – the year of our being; appear so different.

1984 – the novel, dark, brooding, each day rewritten, revised so there is no longer any sense of tomorrow. Each next moment is promised, then stolen. Time is guaranteed, robbed, promised…a theoretical exercise in “Doublethink.” The concept of time, of history reduced is going, going…gone

1984 – today, this weekend; our experience, not Orwell’s imagination.  Yet here we are pondering what he said, wondering what was warning; what was prophecy. What is this time, 1984, the year of our being, here together? The wars, vague; the blanket upon our lives the darkness and dystopia of nuclear holocaust that each next moment does not rewrite the last moments, but that Life itself may disappear and all our concepts flow down some Divine drain: opposites, metaphors, histories, ironies, concepts, words, gone; all gone.

1984 – the novel, warned us that we would not recognize 1984, the year of our being, for what it would be, and what it is.

1984 – our being cast into a deepening quest and search for meaning, not that words and history reduce, revise, but that the concept of existence is cast in deepening doubt.

(Part 1 on my teachers. Part 2 touches on this line of thought, part of how it stalled, and impact on society. Part 3 is on “languaging”. Part 4 summarizes some lessons learned from my teachers.)

Who am I? A deep and developing question. But I did have several teachers who helped me to formulate my thinking and directions.

Above all, Ray Birdwhistell – the originator of “Kinesics,” the study of the human body-in-interaction. He was an Anthropologist who was the best observer of people I’ve ever met – observer in the sense of seeing people in careful and detailed senses. He was trained as a “classical” dancer, and seemed to see all others as performers in life’s dances. And he didn’t only concentrate on each individual. He also/always noted how they interacted: in groups, in life’s varieties of social contexts from infants to older, the ordinary and the exceptional in every sense; richer and poorer, healthy and injured and “odd” and…; ethnic, linguistic. His ways into the world were always expanding. Life is social, interactive: the individual…?

My Teachers - My Teachers - Ray Birdwhistell, George Trager, Henry L. Smith Jr., Norman McQuown, ...

My Teachers (click image to enlarge)

Ray was a student of the Chicago School of Symbolic Interaction – heirs of the American Pragmatist, George Herbert Mead, and the anthropologists who wandered the entire world. His work wandered from American Indians to the average family dynamics, to the sick – physically and, particularly, mentally. And he directed me to the U. of Chicago, Anthropology, where I continued my studies with linguist Norman McQuown – under whose tutelage I (and family: J, and infant daughter Amy) studied a Mayan Language (Tzotzil) and lived in Chiapas, Mexico for two years deeply immersed in both Indian and Ladino (their term) cultures during this time.

Ray was also a student in the line of thought and active fieldwork (life is fieldwork!) of Franz Boas: Margaret Mead (especially), Gregory Bateson, influenced his thought. Read the rest of this entry »

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A nerve, a verve, a…willingness to do and be. A fear, a sense of fear kept in tow, if not exactly conquered. A question of why the issue of being confident should even arise.

A loss…of confidence? – more clearly the issue; the disappearance of nerve, of verve, of the fright of the willingness to do, leaves me almost breathless. Perhaps it is only a feeling, located somewhere in the depths of my bowels, but nonetheless a power in my life which determines much of what I will never think of doing…less of what I might actually do.

Confidence – that when I get up to play the violin (if I have prepared sufficiently), that when I perform or lecture, that I can depend on my knees not shaking so wildly that I will be forced to sit down or sit out; that my voice will not fail, that my mind will not blank, that my thinking will be fast enough, that words will be found in my thinking’s machinations; that whatever happens I will not lose my control, my coolness of mind…that I will be able to smooth over whatever anger or anguish may arise: others and my own.

Confidence in balance with wanting new experiences, to learn from and while doing, so I can move on toward new ideas. Confidence in some balance with the variety of fears which motivate and which obscure, which turn thinking aside, away from, toward the past and gaining ascendance over what I may do or will do in actuality.

Today, close to tears, I mourn my self that life is not the panacea I seem to have had in mind…for today. Little space in which to ply hard-won skills, I am forced to ask for favors, instead of getting fair-market value in a market for which there is no obvious demand.

Favors: bribes upon my character; psychic debt; stinging loss of integrity’s feathers and petals. My man-child’s leg crumpled beneath him: knee bent out of dimension, requiring repair. ‘They know what they’re doing,’ we’re told. ‘Do they know what they’re doing?’ – we ask.

Time will tell. Youth’s aches, temporary, remarkably self-healing, can be rubbed away with an ease that surprises.

Do they know what they’re doing?

We repress the question, but it asks itself in the midst of night’s dreams and wakefulness.

Today, close to tears, sitting here, waiting for…tomorrow?

A couple of years ago, while driving to my place of work with my just grown-up daughter, we were hit from the side and behind by a large truck. Carried along for an interminable hundred feet or yards, she gained control of the small auto and we came to rest beside the freeway, plowing down a road sign upon the way. I found my self, that day and for several days afterward, wanting…needing to confess my surprise and positive pleasure at being there, wherever, and with whomever. Life’s angers, wishes, all seemed vain and very small compared with the fact of our remaining presence.

Strangely, then, the experience of a close-call became cleansing; a moment in time became all of our time. Actual, we felt actual in a way of great completeness. And, in a certain way, life was renewed, a gift to have a future; what, now, to do with it? No longer in debt to my own history, but indebted to futurity. I wonder: must it require that level of experience?

Who I am, who I was and will be, replaced somehow by a what-ness, much due to questions of scale in the cityscapes of life’s living. The bureaucratization of life as I became some cog in others’ imagination – whether it fits me well, or not so well.

Losing some war in which I found my self thrust, between who I was and who I thought they thought me to be, I abandoned thinking about my being. Often I invented a new war between what was left of some notion of myself, and my refusal to be that depiction. And the war became my entire self…or its replacement.

I, growing older, flirting with problems of death and life, became the observer of my living, as I experienced the pains of tension’s tension, and entered also into war with my bodily being. Always a few seconds from pain, it became my enemy, someone to avoid, and I was then two: myself and my pain. As pain became my master and guide, I felt lost.

Recovering, yet recovering, I learned to stretch my muscles and joints and ligaments, and studied the pain which was my guide, until I learned it and it became me. As it did, I could remove my self from the pain or the pain from my self, and gain a distance from it, which I used to locate the character which had disappeared.

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