Tag Archives: Phenomenology

Recommended Reading: Selfhood and Authenticity

“Authenticity is a practice and habit of openness. It is the attempt to help free up others for their projects of care. It is an attempt to release beauty incorruptible.” – Corey Anton

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Voids of Concealed Exposure: Evening Sartoriology

Issey Niwa

Mutants

Our bodies blend in and at the same time seem to stick out. We cover our bodies in layers of buttons, zippers, belts, beads, metals and cloths of all sorts. This strikes me as slightly odd. I can see the function of covering the body for social reasons and to protect the body from the woes of weather, but we have gone further than this. We have really entered into new territory by attaching words, brands and coordinated colors to the surface of our body. For whom? Us humans like to dress-up and down, we are on some level mutable. In fact, transformability is expected. How dare I go to work for one week wearing the exact same clothes? After around day three, especially with the blossoming of spring and its tendency to carry scents, things may start to get a little icky.

Cleaning and Revealing

We clean ourselves with soap, apply lotions, creams, gel for our hair and what not. Most of the time we seem to be hiding the human side of us that we truly are. We want to play the games of social life, it is these games that we are almost compelled to take part in, and let’s face it, they are quite enjoyable. Sometimes, the human side of person is exposed. From a distance the person across the way pulls something out of their nose, looks at it and rolls it up in a tissue. This act of revealing is humbling while, at times, terrifying. It seems hard for us to see other people as they truly are and most of the time, I think we would prefer to keep that distance. Any way of speaking about a person changes the image of that person and shuffle the thoughts around a bit, let them go where they may and see how they might change. We all stir the waters.

Tactile and Phantom Emulation

The clothing that the other wears is not only apprehended visually, but sensually as well. The other comes to us in patterns and angles, voids of concealed exposure or well-crafted made-up faces. We seem to be hovering in some in-between plane of existence, caught up in the images seen and crafted through the tongue, carrying around the words of others and the unspoken bodies of others as well. What I mean is that even the movements of our bodies do not seem to be wholly our own. How easy it is to fall into perfect stride with others while walking in the city. Or, we may study the way a person’s hand is poised at their side only to find some time later that we, without our knowing it, have begun to poise our hand in the same way. How easy it is to rest one’s hand on the table in the same way as the person sitting across from us.

Vortexuality

We are like walking vortexes of pulsating…something…Again, drifting in this in-betweenness, this gray space of crystal clear sociality. There are habits and routines, schedules and things that we do. There is casual conversation and posturing. It is morning and the rain has cleared, although the sky is still wet and the puddles still patch the ground. The birds are perched in perfect formation on top of the building. They don’t move. “Are they crows?” he asks. “I’m not sure.” I reply and this time I look with more intensity craning my head just a bit, just the right amount. “Swallllloooowwwsss.” He slowly states, confident and sincere. We turn around and take a few steps away as others approach.

Nonhuman

CDG

The body adorned, the body’s metamorphosis into a garmented state – the interactive process – elevated both physically and imaginatively; The fashioned body as locus of reciprocity and individuality. Layering as self-transformation, on the periphery of self-visualization, never fully able to realize this realization in its wholeness. The fashioned body: the sticky tentacle for the other’s gaze and for the imagined representation of one’s self. Fashion: the disappearing-blossoming flesh of creative infusion with the expression of the designer’s work, an assemblage of vortexes surrounding the body, imaginatively composing the social body…The crevice between body and garment, that nether world, the beginning of the body.

The Extimacy of the Interface

Photo by Late Night Movie

Between the person and the interface of social media, there is a human or humans. In this medium of the blog, I present the reader with static yet increasing snippets from my side of existence and from the zone of other networked friends, bloggers, writers, musicians, designers, critics and thinkers that are blended as a part of me and projected through me into this particular interface. This interface is likely to be one that is quickly passed over in the “stumbling” search for interesting (read: instantly consumable and sharable) web content, or aggregated into a syndicated reader of which one can skim the title for potential after-dinner relevancy. Perhaps this page will appear in a “Google” search for such oddities as “man in mini-skirt” or “Japanese character.” Or, the interface between myself and you could share some kind of interaction in the form of the comment, the email, the mutual subscription to our Twitter feeds.

The New Sky

The human body weakens with time spent sitting in front of one’s computer. Legs become restless, throats parched, yet the fingers and the eyes remain alert, remain active, irking out some yelp to be heard by a random passerby. Although, perhaps the yelp is felt in a close friend who is interfacing with the Web at the same time. Your legs, still growing restless for communication with the Earth outside, disappear from your consciousness, the power of the fingers taking control, the imagined presence of the close friend being delivered to your interface via a network, across multiple networks achieves some kind of satisfaction which stirs within you. Outside, there is the sky and the wind, but the Web has created a new kind of outside for you: the Web is not like gazing into the vast emptiness of the sky, but akin to strolling through the labyrinthine streets of Tokyo. Around this corner, a small restaurant located next to a contemporary art museum. Your options have expanded…you feel connected, but you are merely connected to the symbolic, the imaginary, to the interface of the other, a responsible interface nonetheless.

Extimacy

Psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan coined the word “extimacy,” to express the intersubjective workings of the subject and of the unconscious. For Lacan, the subject is not only within him or herself, but also realized in the other. We could look at the interface of the Web and, moreover, Web 2.0 as a mode of exercising extimacy with other people. A social networking profile is created and within that profile is a blending of various symbols from film, TV, art, others’ photography and so on. Contacting others and “friending” others based on similar web-surfing habits expands one’s online self and entwines within one, the interests and symbolization of another person. Moreover, when looking at the interface of the computer screen, one experiences the decentering of one’s self-image, a fragmented mirroring back of oneself occurs. Desires that are posted by other people, become one’s own desires, desires that one did not even know existed. By expanding one’s network, one comes to see oneself as projected by these other people. Again, there is an intertwining, a conjoining of self and other and in this conjoining, an extimate self is realized.

Meanwhile, you are brought back to your physical body, the body that wishes to move, to temporarily suspend time with this interface. You cannot see your own face, the reflection from the interface is put on “sleep mode” and you step away, into another interface.

Interface Toward Philosophy: A Translated Excerpt from Kiyokazu Washida’s “The Plastics” (Nature Interface Magazine)

Liminal Mike

This is my original translation of the first two paragraphs from Kiyokazu Washida’s essay “The Plastics” as published in Nature Interface magazine. I believe this to be the first time this is being presented in English.

The Plastics

It is far from normal to say that human beings are natural. Inside the body, humans are carried away by metal bolts, that is to say, the attachment of an artificial limb or a heart with an artificial valve…Artificiality is supporting the activities of the human body. There is the injection of nutrients or the ingestion of medicinal capsules that are passed through the internal organs. Contact lenses and false teeth are also examples of things equipped to the body’s surface.

There is the hole of a cavity or the application of a white filling for a cracked tooth. One’s teeth are not completely pure white because of the excess of food or tobacco stains which prominently lessen the whiteness of one’s teeth. Especially in X-ray photography, even though one’s teeth turn to gray, the whiteness of the filling completely stands out. From an objective perspective, the identity of attacks on one’s “foreign body” are passed along in this way.

This is a translation from Nature Interface Vol. 6. The original essay can be read in its entirety (in Japanese) here: Nature Interface Vol. 6 (Washida, Kiyokazu – The Plastics)

Photo by LiminalMike

Sensitive Empathy or Spending Time With Carl R. Rogers

An old diagram of a male human skeleton.Image from WikipediaCarl R. Rogers provides us with a look at our relationships, with our uniquely human interactions with those around us and with our self-reflective communication (our talk about our talk, our talk to our self). Rogers, in his book “On Becoming a Person,” has compiled many of his essays on self-development, communication, listening, empathy and learning. I originally stumbled across Rogers through Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s book “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” and decided to order the recommended Rogers book. Thus far, I have not spent enough time with Rogers in order to be able to make a part of him a part of me. By fleshing out his work, hopefully something of his work will stick with me (and you, too!). In this entry, I will try to give you a brief introduction to Rogers’ work from his piece entitled “Some Hypotheses Regarding the Facilitation of Personal Growth.”

As his guiding question, Rogers asks: “How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth (Rogers 32)?” That is, Rogers wishes to open a space with the other where the two of them can allow each other to grow as separate individuals while maintaining a space of growth between them. That is, instead of speaking “to” each other, speaking “with” each other. This way of communicating transforms both people involved by its compassionate attempt to achieve transparency with the other.

The hypothesis that Rogers proposes is: “If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself the capacity to use that relationship for growth, and change and personal development will occur (Rogers 33).” But, even as Rogers admits, this question is very open-ended and vague. Thus, he continues by breaking down and fleshing-out what exactly he means. For Rogers, a successful relationship encompasses the following:

1. Being genuine with one’s self and with the other, which presents a fragile reality to the situation.
2. A willingness to accept the other on his/her own terms, in all of the other’s unique once-occurring wonder.
3. A “sensitive empathy” toward one’s self and toward the other, a space where real communication can flourish.

For Rogers, in using this approach, a state of “transparency” may be achieved. That is to say, a state of openness and understanding between self and other, a breakdown of the social masks that may hinder true communication. Also, Rogers believes that each person has the capacity for positive change and self-renewal, even though it may be buried, repressed or not yet fully realized. Through working with and experimenting with the above mentioned communicative methods, Rogers hopes to help the other develop and bring to life the realizable self-improving capacities.

As for the outcomes, Rogers writes, “It is my hypothesis that in such a relationship the individual will reorganize himself at both the conscious and deeper levels of his personality in such a manner as to cope with life more constructively, more intelligently, and in a more socialized as well as a more satisfying way (Rogers 36).” Using this as his frame, Rogers provides empirical evidence from case studies and other research as to the efficacy of these methods upon constructive personality change. As Rogers sees it, his proposed findings and communicative suggestions have relevancy not just for those working in psychology or psychotherapy, but for teachers, parents and, generally speaking, human beings in general. As a summary, Rogers provides one (extremely long) and gorgeously structured sentence of hope as to what was presented in this piece and his general mode of thinking in terms of this piece. I will reproduce it here:

If I can create a relationship characterized on my part: by a genuineness and transparency, in which I am my real feelings; by a warm acceptance of and prizing of the other person as a separate individual; by a sensitive ability to see his world and himself as he sees them; Then the other individual in the relationship: will experience and understand aspects of himself which previously he has repressed; will find himself becoming better integrated, more able to function effectively; will become more similar to the person he would like to be; will be more self-directing and self-confident; will become more of a person, more unique and more self-expressive; will be more understanding, more acceptant of others; will be able to cope with the problems of life more adequately and more comfortably (Rogers 38-39).”

I would like to spend more time with Rogers and hopefully in the coming months can flesh out some more of his essays as I think they are constructive and useful to read.

If you like what you read here, please support the work of Carl R. Rogers: Carl Rogers: On Becoming a Person

Kiyokazu Washida: “My Body…Dead Body…Corpse” from “The Screaming Body” (JP title: 悲鳴をあげる身体)

This is my unpublished (amateur) translation of Prof. Washida’s work. My tools were a Kanji dictionary and a Japanese-English dictionary. I hope you find this stimulating.

Then there is the question of “whose body is this?” Namely, the person that is my body becomes a problem in the fact that the relationship of “me” to “my” existence is not all that there is. Also, there is the problem of the (place) scene of this current existence. In particular, the temporal boundary between living and not living. That to say, there is an edge that is the death of “my” existence.

“My” life will be terminated with the coming of death. This means that “my” existence, in respect to death is limited. This corresponds to the moment that the body will cease to function. “My” death and, more precisely, my body will become a corpse. But it is definitely not obvious whether or not we regard this person as a thing as we discuss this purely material body.

Actually different cultures have woven different ways of perceiving the appearance of the dead body.

For example, we can contemplate the “who” of “my” existence in the case of brain restoration. And in the case of “my” death, we can think upon the ceasing of my brain. In this way of thinking, a person who has had their brain removed exists in a neutral space. Namely, it is good for us to contemplate this experience of space.