Paul Klee, "Abstract Trio" (1923).

Gestures of Belonging


The fall has brought to fuller expression many notions with which I have been struggling for decades.

The process of getting to a greater clarity has been difficult on my personal and professional relationships.

In striving to find a path between friends and freedom, scholarship and truth, stumbling into others and knocking a few things over became unavoidable for someone as big as myself. I don’t like that. It is a grimy feeling leaving plenty of regrets from every misstep or accidental turn that caught someone else.

Of course, these strains and breaks occur ironically: the profound need for open communication has been at the heart of my reflections. And these abusive acts on my part—should I call them anything less than abuses?—demonstrate over and over how easily open communication may turn into a violent closure.

It is very delicate this back and forth exchange between us. A word that you do not even hear in your own voice as a closing phrase may bring down and encircle someone else, cut them off from participation and make them feel cornered, emasculated, left out or forgotten. That may not be your purpose but it can very well be the result.

Given how much I talk, it is easy to step so quickly that I don’t see I have hurt someone. So this happens to me more than I like to admit as a consequence of my impatience. I’m too quick too assess a situation and then jump in to correct it if not try to get folks move on to something else.

Getting in, moving on, shaking things up, keeping busy… not really the same things as mindful engagement.

So I have taken the last two days when I have not been going on mind walks with my young friends to match some aphorisms with some images.

Slow down. Consider a few things. And recognize that I am at a turning point in my life.

The destructive power of speaking a thoughtless word manifests as the calling up of irate shadows that reorient to a distant elsewhere.
The destructive power of speaking a thoughtless word manifests as the calling up of irate shadows, blurred lines leading to a distant elsewhere, an over-yonder where two become remote despite standing next to each other.(1)

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st-john-the-baptist
Details last only so long as they are maintained. Gestures alone obtain.(2)

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kircher moon
Every new idea waxes to meaningfulness and immediately starts to wane. Beginning again: another question-knowing journey.(3)

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fig2_wasdale_head
Motion in stillness. Belonging to each other. Words in silence.(4)

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001-salvador-dali-theredlist
Either we see that the greatest power of our adaptability is to become more than merely adaptive, to transcend thoughtless reactivism; or we give up on the notion of liberation… let alone the possibility of freedom.(5)

————————footnotes————————-

(1) The picture is a scene from the post-WWII noir film The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed.
(2) Leonardo Da Vinci, “John the Baptist” (1513-1516).
(3) Athanasius Kircher, “The Phases of the Moon” (Originally appearing in Ars Magna Lucis. Amsterdam: 1671).
(4) Chiang Yee, “Going to Church in the Rain, Wasdale Head” (Originally appearing in The Silent Traveler: A Chinese Artist in Lakeland , 1937.)
(5) Salvador Dali, “Geopolitical Child Watching the Birth of the New Man” (1943).

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