17 December 2010

transition and transgression

In great part I have started this blog based on having posted the following text elsewhere. My kind friends kindly suggested that I might wish to start my own blog... The reasons for their kind suggestions are probably self evident to any reader.

Please consider all of the following remarks, and all my remarks in general 'qualified' in a wide variety of ways, including the implicitly read 'in my model' embedded within each sentence. Also, I consider this an asynchronous blog and therefore assume that anyone reading this has chosen to do so and could certainly cease, or abstain from doing so at any moment.

I have several working assumptions about change and the supposed process of change. At least it seems so to me today.
  • Change is already always occurring, except with reference to the whole itself, in or as a function of which some change can be considered to be occurring.

  • There is an 'absolute' version of such a whole, but it is not sensible in a 'normal' way and cannot be constructed from what seem to be its parts, because such a whole does not actually have parts, per se. Such a whole can perhaps be intuited.

  • We actively define, construct, and enact conditional 'wholes' that are not naturally given, but are part of the larger whole (or we participate in such)

  • Such an enactment gives us the impression of change as something that happens with respect to something that is not changing, but this is a false impression, in most cases

  • Our thoughts, actions, behaviors, emotions are a result of participation in the definition, construction and enactment of these apparent (not actual) points of stability (paradigms, mental models, social constructs, habits, patterns and the sources of patterns- patterns patterning)

  • Sadly this may mean that change is also not occurring, except as a function of our own construction and enactment - this possibility may have many interesting consequences in terms of managing what we experience as conditional change. It also means that in a functional sense that seeing our part in this construction and the act of pattern recognition become important.


Consider two extreme cases of attention. One state is a state in which one's attention is so 'relaxed' that there is no distinction between anything. Dreamless sleep might be considered an example of this. The other is a state in which one's attention is a single point, which also means no real distinction between anything. The intent of such a single point is to eventually release, dissolve or eradicate that single point. Both of these states are practiced in various traditions, whether through ecstatic (to be outside of oneself) trance, or focused meditation, etc.

We tend to believe that we ourselves are consistent in some way over time. We change, we age, etc., but there is some "I" that we feel ties one moment to the next. There is no real evidence for this. It exists at best, in memory and the narratives and processes of memory. Within the notion of a biological system it is impossible to tell in any moment what is 'real' and what has been hallucinated (Maturana). Clearly death, or the cessation of some biological system as a functioning whole, represents change with respect to the assumed integrity of that biological system.

All of this means that any time we are working with 'change' that we are working with an artificial construct, though many of these are thoroughly socialized and very persuasive; some ultimately so, since they seem to be related to the continuation of our biological existence as we understand it, i.e. survival. These constructs and the apparent consequences of them, occur as necessity. There is only one possible necessity and Heidegger gets at it nicely with the question of his metaphysics "Why are there essents, rather than nothing?" Is reality itself necessary? Is anything arising in reality, as reality, necessary. After this, everything is conditional. We make choices about this. We might choose that it is necessary for us to survive in some way. Clearly this is false. In any way associated with particular or biological continuity there is no necessity to it whatsoever. Our sense of necessity is a function of a construct in which we participate, though we are not typically aware of this participation or the nature of it.

Of course, all this seems abstract or even esoteric. So how to test it? How to bridge such a consideration to some lived, embodied moment? What are the implications for 'change process'?

One of the implications, for me, is that our participation in change is art. Consideration of such a frame leads to a very different sort of action and reflection than the presupposition that our participation in change is based on survival and necessity. We only exist, as something distinct, in memory. Art (and science) are a function of that. Epistemology is a function of that.

Consider the truly ecstatic moment. "You" are not there. There is no memory function of the moment, though one can be, and is, constructed very rapidly, so as to seem instantaneous. The constructed memory becomes the fetish of the ecstatic. Consider it this way. It seems apparent that separation serves as the basis for our identity. "Parts" of the localized neural net of my brain communicate rapidly enough to be considered an integrated whole, by itself. The 'delay loop' between some 'you' and 'I' falls outside some, perhaps, arbitrary envelope. What if your brain function and my brain function were either within that time envelop that allows for that sense of self to arise, or we somehow managed to alter something about the parameters of that envelop. Would "I" now experience a "we", where that was not made up of some additive, reductionist process, but instead was experienced as a preexisting, given whole, of the sort "I" seem to encounter upon waking up in the morning with respect to myself (though this is an interesting process to observe)? Of course it is self contradictory to even consider the question in this way. It is just a metaphor.

So if we consider something about this as art, what does it mean to be an artist? What questions might we then ask? What are the sort of normal and expected questions involved in a change process?
  • How do we do some "it"?

  • What are the barriers?

  • What do we need? (Do we have the money?)

  • Why do we want to?

  • Who is involved in what way?

These are the sorts of 'functional' questions we might ask ourselves.


Often we are in such a state of 'necessary survival' that we do not even ask such functional questions, but address ourselves to some apparently self-evident 'problem' in some immediate, habitual and even reactionary way.

As an artist what might I ask, when I understand that even the "I" asking is a kind of artistic endeavor? For me the primary art is often narrative metaphor, in a wide variety of forms. Our 'reality' is re-presentational. We are the artists of that re-presentation. This does not mean that it is solipsistic, for we ourselves are an aspect of the medium. Perhaps part of the artistic endeavor is to suspend or even forget the action of the artist?

As an artist, clearly some technical (techné) mastery is required. The technical mastery is not however isomorphic with the artistic expression or mastery in that domain. What are the differences? Following along this metaphor, this means that the technical mastery of change is insufficient. What is the right role of techné in the art of change?

1 comment:

  1. Roger, This is lovely. A space for your thoughts is long overdue. :) They do take up so much space because they are grand; we need to see them. Thanks you for sharing them.

    I am interested in hearing your answer to the last question, "What is the right role of techne in the art of change?"