Friday, January 27, 2012

Si se puede! (part 2)

Si se puede….that’s how I ended my last post and so how I begin this one, which, I had intended to write before wrote the previous post.  How’s that?  Well, I’d just finished watching Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s philosophical tantrum, which had been sent to me by my colleague Rashid, and wanted to respond, immediately to the brilliant piece. But when I started writing my post, in which I wanted to respond to what he said about ‘hope,’ I flashed back to Ilan, and felt compelled to go back to his last lecture.   As I continued writing it became clear the post would be written in two parts. And at that moment it appeared to me; that is,  the first of the boundaries that I wondered about in my very first post.  Two posts a week seems to be a healthy amount of  blog writing.  A goal, an aim, a boundary.

Gomez-Pena’s ‘Philosophical Tantrum’ spoke to me on multiple levels, and was, quite simply, inspiring.  To be able to write a piece like that!!  Again, my increasingly focused interest on form and now, especially after watching Gomez-Pena, on per-form-ance.  I wonder how he wrote that piece: did he write it by hand, all at one sitting?  Did he type it?  What kind of computer does use?  Does he, perhaps, compose it orally, recording it, and then transcribing it?  That would make sense to me.  Last spring when I was teaching a grad course, I was talking with a student whose family is rooted in Jamaica.  He told me he could really connect with my style of teaching. It reminded him of conversations he has with family, with cousins and uncles when he’s back in Jamaica.  As we were talking I wondered aloud if perhaps my style of teaching was an expression of my own Caribbean roots, and at tat moment I realized I was indeed part of an oral tradition of teaching and learning.    Now, how to translate that into my writing, into my work?  This is the question I’m taking up.

 Below, in the post I wrote a few days ago, I said I was now more than ever interested in ‘the performative character of the self, especially of those involved in educational practice, the performance of the teacher and learner.’ (how does one cite oneself in a blog?!  I’m now fully enmeshed in the latest technology of the self we might call “cyber-solipsism”!  I’ll resist, for the moment, to google this term, and allow myself, for the moment, to believe, because it’s the first time I’ve written it that it must be my own poetic invention.  Indeed, if we’ve never read or heard a category prior to our thinking it, does it count as an ‘original idea’?)   The last moment of my parenthetical digression brings me back to Gomez-Pena’s ‘Philosophical Rant,’ which is so much about the question of authenticity.   He wonders if he is still asking the right questions:

I'm a 55 year old rebel  so I wonder constantly if I'm I still asking the right questions or if I'm just repeating myself?   I'm I pushing hard enough?
Where should I go? Deeper into the Universal Psyche and become a Chicano Buddhist?”

I'm not 55, but I can relate to the preoccupation about being original and/or authentic.   Gomez-Pena is an artist, so his concern for originality is more pressing than my own.  The project of ‘original/originary philosophy’ which will, in its proper moment, receive a post, is definitely responding to the question of originality, but is doing so in a way that doesn't assume originality to be a necessity in the context in which the question is being raised.  On the contrary, the question is struggling for recognition, for legitimacy.   The group who is taken up this question as a collaborative project is also mapping the question in terms of time, and so originality is linked to an original moment, a moving present that gives rise to something new.   And this is the context from which I hear Gomez-Pena's question:
 “In this time and place what does it mean to be transgressive?”   
‘This time and place’does not necessarily correspond to the present historical situation.  And it is not a matter of transcendence, but of immanence.  Not a leaping ‘outside’ the epoch, but a matter of attending to the gaps or breaks in the epoch, the openings that allow for something different to occur.  These gaps, spaces, clearings, openings, portals are immanent  or ‘remaining within’ (Latin meaning of ‘immanent’: ‘in’ ‘manere'.)

But the struggle to gain momentum with the project is motivated by the same kinds of questions that Gomez-Pena is asking, when he says:“Who can artists shock, challenge, enlighten?  Who is listening?”

Of course, philosophers aren't members of any avant garde movement.  Certainly not the ones that meet in my professional spaces.   So no interest in ‘shocking.’  Challenge,  enlighten…we like to believe this is what we do.  Indeed, “who is listening?”  Besides us, that is, and, if truth be told (and what philosopher would claim to be doing anything but telling the truth?!), I'm not so sure we are even listening to one another.  

When I was regularly hosting and producing  the Dead Zone as a live broadcast, I would wonder every now and then if anyone were listening.  Anyone, that is, besides the two or three regulars who would call the station each week.   But, for whatever reason, the question never really preoccupied me, and, I suppose it if were asked to give a reason it would have something to do with the satisfaction I experienced from producing the show, and the lack of desire I had for recognition.  As if producing and hosting the show were an end in and for itself.   I still feel that way about the show, and this is probably why I pre-record it most weeks, and listen to it at home.   The question, Who is listening?, isn't one I'm preoccupied with.  And so too with my writing, the scholarly stuff, the blog, etc.  I wonder if that shows a lack of desire, or even a lack of courage?

I'll have to continue this response to Gomez-Pena….still much to respond to, but I've exceeded yet another boundary that has emerged on the horizon: a temporal boundary that compels me to step back after a certain time.

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