02 January 2011

The Familiar

"A man of action forced into a state of thought is unhappy until he can get out of it." -Kafka

It is morning, with all its familiarity and all its promise. Upon waking, perhaps I know or begin to know the details of my day even in the first moments of its unfolding. Perhaps I have some planned itinerary. It is a familiar, planned routine. Walking out of my room or house I feel that I know what I will encounter so thoroughly that I eliminate any possibility of encountering the unexpected. Or in the moment of the unexpected I may feel stressed, specifically because things are not going according to my imagined plan. My utility relies on the lack of the unexpected. My ability to function is based upon things going according to plan. Of course things never go according to plan, but I insist. I blur the details of what is such that it fits my plan. I usefully pretend that the sphere and infinitely-sided polygon are isomorphic. I assert this consistently and energetically, a calculus of deletion. I apply such calculated manipulation, anxiety and concern to what occur for me as deviations. They are accounted for even in their hyperbolic change. I suppress the undiscovered. I eliminate the liminal and interstitial. I suppress the possibility of the emergent in myself and seek to do so in what human being and life I may happen to encounter. What is just around that corner I have turned so many times? I already know this so thoroughly that I prevent the possibility of discovery that even one step in any direction allows.
"I had to restrain myself from putting my arm around his shoulders and kissing him on the eyes as a reward for having absolutely no use for me." – Kafka

Perhaps over time, as I develop and master my habits of utility through repetition and insistence, I begin to encounter myself turning the same corner again and again. I wonder who this person is, so predictably found at each turning. I begin to make plans to avoid them. I develop a narrative about them. I imagine that in my planned life that I know what there is to know about them. I hold them in some contempt. I see this one all around me in various forms. They are known and appropriately filed in my system of utility. I begin to plan activities that I call unplanned. I begin to plan my spontaneity; escape and distraction. I decide to take a vacation; to travel. Perhaps I seek some apparently novel relationship. I decide to learn something new. I look for the unexplored landscape in my contempt for what I imagine to be known and thoroughly explored. Where is it? Why can't I find it? For now, I have an appointment. Asserted necessity whispers, shouts, rants, cajoles in my inner ear, pretending it is a structure of balance. I will look again later.
"He who seeks does not find, but he who does not seek will be found." -Kafka

Now I am living in a constructed landscape of familiarity. I see and feel what is there before it is there. I am present only to my own construction with no room for wanted or unwanted intrusion. I am sane. I am useful. I am productive. I am efficient. I am many, many things. My grandmother once said, brushing her hair, "My hair is not as beautiful as it was. My hair was never as beautiful as it was." I live in the fantasy of an idealized, remembered, consistent self, actively dismissive of any immediate and emergent self. I have come to know the utility of my utility so thoroughly that I delete the repeated exception, even in such moments that it may reveal a deeper truth; specifically in the moments of that possibility. No wonder I grow contemptuous of myself. No wonder I feel a deep sourceless anxiety. I feel some possible seeing lurking just beyond. Some me knows that this seeing, such re-cognition, obliterates the useful self in a moment. Who will I be in the absence of my utility; in the absence of my habituation? Will I be seen and seen to be seen? Will I be loved and seen to be loved? What horrible betrayals and abandonments will I been seen to have enacted? Perhaps I defensively pretend to such obliteration in a moment, substituting a self castigation and judgment for freedom. I calculate the actions of emancipation and enact them in this theatre of one. This too becomes an integral and professional part of my utile machination.
"You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
– Kafka

Perhaps in some moment all of this is reflected back to me. Is such a reflection loving? It is not a distanced reflection in which I ask some categorical anything about the image and imagined. I am in that moment apparently and initially in crisis. The unknown and trackless landscape opens suddenly and wholly before me; within me. There is no self planned map. My carefully developed and inherited habits are useless. In the moment of such useless reflection both reflection and the reflected dissolve; are witnessed to dissolve. I can make no attributive statement. No remembered stencil of meaning, thought or emotion applies. Causality collapses. I have no useful way to relate or even speak about that reflected moment of all moments. It has no momentum to it; no relatedness.

It is morning, with all its familiarity and all its promise.


  1. After reading this I am thankful for any current craziness because I understand it is an opportunity to feel the disruption to the familiar.

  2. Paradoxically, as i get familiar with the feeling of imminent death running through my body, the familiar dissolves, in expectedly unexpected ways, and more surprises came in unsurprising ways, and more liveness came upon taking deadly risks.