The rules: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence. Then seek a memory that it touches...
(Anne Carson, Bittersweet) :
"When I contemplate the physical spaces that articulate the letters 'I love you' in a written text, I may be led to think about other spaces, for example the space between 'you' in the text and you in my life."
Reading this sentence reminded me of an experiment in my drama class so many years ago. My Drama teacher, Alexi Coleman at the university had us sit on stage in a circle. He proceeded to blindfold each of us and lead us one by one to two chairs facing each other inches apart in the center of the stage. He asked us to sit quietly and feel the other's presence, but not to speak of it until asked. The experiment in itself was bland, but the outcome was unexpected. Sitting in the chair, one by one, each of us played the game with strange results. One could actually feel the presence of the other's being as one by one we sat in the bubble of silence, blindfolded, with inches of space between our physical bodies. Something strange and wonderful happened for the first time, one understood that the body senses things subtler than sight alone can give. Powers of sense, the affectivity of distance is bridged by physical processes of substance: objects touching in spaces, or bubbles we never knew existed, awaken feelings and thoughts, ideas and affects: in that abyss, or bubble between you and I something happens that closes the gap, which touches the core of our beings with its strangeness...
Of course those with physical defects: blindness, deafeness, etc. have known this all along. Why do we depend on sight so much to tell us about reality? Why don't we listen to our bodies messages more often? When I read I notice the use of sight as metaphor everywhere. One could spend hours tracing the use of physical metaphors in favorite passages from poets, philosophers, novelists, etc. The tyranny of sight controls the course of things... when will our touch, hearing, smell, etc. awaken us from our long sleep of the senses? Why do we sleepwalk between each other and the strange strangers (Tim Morton) that surround us in the silences and gaps of our lives.
Further thoughts have lead me by curcuitous path to Alphonso Lingis who once asked: "What is the relationship between the space in which we encounter sensible things and the space in which we encounter other sentient beings? What is the relationship between the space in which things are objective or intersubjective, and the field of a perception and action which are my own?" 1 In another work he spoke of the passions:
"A living organism is a dense and self-maintaining plenum. Out of the energies it assimilates from its environment it generates forces in excess of what it needs to adjust to that environment and compensate for the intermittent and superficial lacks produced by evaporation and fuel consumption. The discharges of these superabundant forces are felt in passions. But the environment itself is full of free and nonteleological energies-trade winds and storms, oceans streaming over three-fourths of the planet, drifting continental plates, cordilleras of the deep that erupt in volcanic explosions, and miles-deep glaciers piled up on Antarctica that flow into the sea and break off in bobbling icemountains. How can the passions of penguins, albatrosses, jaguars, and humans not lift their eyes beyond the nests and the lairs and the horizons? How can these passions not sink into volcanic rock and the oceanic deserts?" 2
1. Alphonso Lingis. Sensation: Intelligibility in Sensibility (1996, Humanities Press).
2. Alphonso Lingis. Dangerous Emotions (2000, University of California Press).