Friday, 28 August 2009

The park

I am in the park sitting on a bench. An old man is walking past, leaning heavily on his stick, twisting his body one way into the pole of that support so that, using his hip as leverage, one foot barely touches the ground- only brushes over it. One portion of the ground seems to be porous, absorbing in total his leaning weight, whilst another portion seems reflective- just the semblance of a surface like water that bounces out as mere appearance what touches it and breaks it apart. In this lolloping fall and ejection there is a walking man who notices me noticing him and whose countenance on being touched in this way, very slightly softens. Or so it seems to me. I’m feeling unwell.

The man is also not in the best of health. Here is understanding in that breaking apart of a rhythm- a metre that never perhaps exists except as a grid that never in entirety realises itself but acts, like the ground as a surface on which counter rhythms can play out. That is the day to day life of getting around, doing things as best we can. And it’s through that that we get to know each other.

Is that a language? No words have been spoken, yet there have been minor adjustments in light of the fact of noticing one another. That noticing is on going and is played out in the very slippage between feeling well and feeling not so well, between a function and its adaptation away from and off of the repetitious beat that it never entirely becomes. Between a mismatch that catches itself between disaster and uprightness knowing only one in terms of another. This kind of mediation- a give and take is also how we meet one another- across a distance not in a locked in correspondence of parts with parts. It’s the tiny holds, the wavering, the staying in situ just too long that we waver on the brink between one path and another, the making of choice through that very indecision, the knocks and indentations that causes in expressions that are part disaster part relief, between meeting and a missed occasion, that we find our domain, crafting it out as a user friendly park of dog-walkers and drinking partners, pram pushers and serious walkers and old men who take their time between the runners. We could be all these things at one time or another but only occupy one place at a time. We need therefore a range of different paces to fill in a landscape to any one manoeuvre. Like a drumming ensemble, we squeeze in between beats, in order to propel out of fixtures and swim for a while in a wide expanse before nudging into a repeated and limited anchorage once again. This squeeze propulsion device we are doing with our bodies, with our breath, with our place in a crowd, on a beach, at a station near to where we live or far away. We are all finding voids, filling them and then propelling out of them again making landscapes out of encounters and fashioning these encounters by running simultaneously our passage through these landscapes even far from where we are now so as to feel out implicitly the changes that are occurring in our bodies as a shaping of language, song aesthetics. Our bodies are an environment, to one another that adapts through unarranged affinites- there is a plasticity of this organism-environment which is our thinking and our languaging that cannot be taken apart but can not be associated as continuous. There is rupture that sends things onwards, progresses the horizon or lets fall motions over the edge into a sheer descent. That we hold things on the brink is all we ever do with one another before all those neurological cognitive issues of relationality, intention or understanding come into it. The very process of this filling and emptying- of this shaping around presence and absence, pressure and release is what allows the story of who or what we are in relation to another to unfold a little bit more. But the story is a second thought that suddenly presents itself. The shaping the issue that keeps coming.

That man in the park is all that is needed to feel a whole lot better when I am down or a whole lot more grounded when I am running over the limits abit. He can answer any therapeutic question, because we reset the balance in alignments, off setting one tendency with another that we identify in relation to any present situation. I`ll go into the bounce beat of the old man when I`m down and the descent mode of his collapsed position when I’m up almost as a magnetic coupling of opposites that find one another to off-set a tendency in any one extreme. But for either to make sense of course that give and take between the two is apprehended as one- only that the emphasis is a little different. Of course then I’ll give back to the old man, offsetting the burden of his heavy leg or the phantom quality of his light leg in my own process of adjustment. All this in a fraction of a second so that it is really the form of the man and the form that I take that seem to stretch and contain in a pulsar echo that expands beyond my body and his body, to the park itself and all the figures so near or so far from this encounter that bend with it as we bend to them. This formation of a landscape occurs through forms and the coherence of continual adaptations that set up vibrations not contained within speach patterns or learnt actions or co-ordinated postures or visual markings, but in nudging into place on the way up and down to these other gages; between going about one's business and being unable to go about one's businness.

The human body is impoverished, diseased, dying and pock-marked. Therefore it is breathing, living, light and full of joy.

Human forms are living systems that at any one moment create a semblance of themselves because they incorporate and play out the many dilemmas of so many weaving proliferations of directions and compulsions and inhibitions and reformatted curves that then seem to hold together into one tight object or body so that we forget that there is this constant procedure going on and that there is this languaging in every kind of leaning into or falling off of one another. And that that language is anyway really completely taken up with that jostling into place and spilling beyond each given place- of the contours of what makes it recognizeable but impossible to hold still. a mismatch that we craft in our every encounter, an encounter being nothing other than this pumping mechanism between location and dislocation.

Maturana could be saying the same thing- the shaping of the shape that adapts on touch- the inner working of the boundary closed in upon another boundary as a seam in the autopoetic conjunction that is adaptation and that is the state of being alive. But the synapse is only the threshold between bodies that line up in a conjoint elasticity. The door way is met and continuosly refashioned in bodies that pulse part-completed shapings between them. They synchronise even in their mismatch by bending unlikely holdings into warped dimensions of space. The pulse gets through by turning, riveting, splintering and somersaulting. The mis-match is in fact the diagram of an implied acrobatics. All form and the gaps and puddles between continuums is a manoevere possibility. An invitation to adept living. Falling is part of that manoever. It is the winding turret of a water jet, cut off from a more obvious route, forced into intensity. All the things we do when noticing but seeming not to notice and the automatic flicks and rivets that, coursing though our bodies lock in or loosen to straggling threads portions of our limbs is part of that process- flow and interruption in every gesture, every breath, every handshake or blank stare that suddenly, embarrassingly changes to recognition or not.

A difficult neighbourhood, an autistic child in a mainstream school, a stopping too long as the crowds mount up on the highstreet. All such things, invitations to a remoulding as body shapes enact the possiblites and impossibilities of intelligent life-forms.

“What we distinguish in daily life as we distinguish emotions are kinds of relational behaviours not particular doings and what we connote biologically as we speak of emotions referring to ourselves or to other animals are body dynamic dispositions ( involving the nervous system and the whole body) that determine what we or they can do or not do in what relations we or they can enter or not enter at any moment” Biology of love Maturana p.96

Consensual living. What does that mean? It means warping together.

The autistic girl whom I used to know couldn`t carry on living with her step-dad because his body form wouldn`t change. “There is something horrible about his body-form” she said. I think what she meant was that his body was set on a rigid grid that never adapted or engaged with her pulsar life that was her thinking living, emoting self. So she reflectd off upon this hardened form that appeared as an image not a life form and so round him, there was no cue for an on-going mutual affectivity- a languaging that was a shaping and literally an in-forming. She simply bounced and ricocheted off from this shiny surface that seemed to all intents and purposes more like a wall than a body to her. Thrown back as if from a mirror, the images of her own unmet tangents began to mount and grow escalating into an unviable metre that was not interrupted, not considered at all in any kind of mediation. That behaviour blinded for the lack of a modulating surface, became a symptomatic panel of evidence for derangement, an inability to feel, to express oneself, to give or take. It bounced back upon the girl as a qualifying verdict that reiterated the fact of her being autistic.

But what of the man with the impossible body? The closed panel onto which there could be no qualification- no lived out duration of events unfolding. Which was simply there, statue-like and that judged the other, the girl, to be lacking in that quality of presence. To be empty, lacking or at best morally questionable.

She turned that verdict round as any mirror is apt to do and accused her step-father of abuse. The police were called and statements given by family membes in isolation from one another. The girl went to live with her father in Brighton. The play of lights on the pier constantly threw up new kinds of alignments that created points of interest for a while but there was no school for her and she got bored living in the tiny flat over Christmas where the Christmas tree took up nearly all of the space. Later she retracted her allegation saying unstead that she feared her step-father; the inconsistant way in which he moved and stopped. She returned again to live with her mother and step-father and then into a group home with assisted living. Several more homes followed. Since then I have lost touch with her.

The issue, whilst it became one of whether she had "lied" or "told the truth", was as much about what is possible and impossible in any arrangement of living beings. In that sense she was right that she was at risk in that her ability to align herself to the world through vision, sound, touch and smell was linked to a positioning of bodies always in movement, always in exchange, as an on-going emotioning. When that did not happen she was less than human, simply autistic.
We are never actually there except when we are filling in the mismatches of one another. When we are not doing that we are stilled into a distillation of the absence that we generate as a reflective outsider that we then view from our own supposed interior. That is where the autistic person is then placed. The idea of a person who is not a person. Of an absence of interiority takes hold in the imagination.

There is no absolute interiority. It is summoned up through interchange and can be stopped just as suddenly in its tracks when that interchange at a cellular, bodily, gaseous level, becomes prohibitive.

The question is not what warrants a description of being human or not, sentient or not, conscious or not but how and why does an allowance or prohibition on the molecular level of these various interchanges become a recurrent pattern in certain lives at certain times.



“There is no center or localized self and yet the whole behaves as a unit and for the observer it is as if there was a co-ordinating agent virtually present at the centre. This is what I meant when referring to a selfless self- we could also postulate a virtual self: a coherent global pattern that emerges through simple local components appearing to have a central location where none is to be found and yet essential as a level of interaction for the behaviour of the whole unity” p.10 Autopoiesis and the Biology of Intentionality, Varela

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