Complicating binaries

Complicating binaries

I was reading a citation on The Obvious about bending to religion, and it dovetailed with a metaphoric problem. How do we deal with relationships in the world?

Bending is perhaps the most pervasive metaphor applied to that. We bend, modify our goals or will, in the face of the wind of civilization. Or do we? I encountered a far more troubling metaphor from Dr. Anderson, he sees the process of social integration as a surgical one: we suture ourselves into the world. It’s a painful image, to be sure— it’s hardly as elegant or as pleasant sounding. But perhaps it’s more accurate; I’m not really sure yet. Severe disruptions or traumas are like painfully ripping out the stitches of our carefully woven lives. It aggravates our flesh, and is guaranteed to form scar tissue.

I am certain that the ties that bind us to communities are not easily broken; they become connected systems, with channels transmitting codes into us as we replicate our codes in others. Rex and I were talking on the phone last night, and he mentioned to me that the most common trauma that hypnotherapists are asked to deal with is loneliness. It seems impossible to feel completely connected to others, so perhaps all relationships are of a stitched variety, and when the stitches are weak, we chafe against the loneliness. Humans are dismal creatures when alone; it takes community to accomplish much of anything.

At the extreme, it can be suggested that we have no real identity outside our community formed values. But the cry of the damaged self, a constant current in most expressive writing, permeates most of literature. So far, I don’t buy most of the efforts to explain it away. I really like the conclusion to Dr. Anderson’s article “Suture, Stigma, and the Pages That Heal” regarding the gap in our understanding of real human writing. Writers that express themselves, particularly in pain, foul up the neat theoretical binaries:

These writers complicate the simple binaries that underlie so much discussion of writing at our conferences and in our professional publications — academic/personal, political/solipsistic, self/other, postmodern/romantic. They invite us to look for a more complex interaction of discourse, other, act, society, history, and subject, one in which the self may or may not exist (depending on which side of the theoretical line one comes down on), but in which the sense of self plays a vital role.

It seems sad to me that we have to talk of a world without self. The foundation of democracy, and capitalism, is enlightened self-interest. It seems to work pretty well, though of course there are many problems. The problem is inextricably linked to its foundation— that funky notion called self, which now must be couched in such jargon as “sense of self”

By sense of self, I mean that part that wrestles with the other, the part that feels the pressure of stigma and breaks the sutures by which it is bound to a hard subjectivity it cannot occupy if it is to survive. I mean the part that feels pain, love, joy, and grief, the part that acts, the part that speaks across the pages to bring a future where silence means respect, where people can let go and take up again, where difference is real because wholeness is possible, where personal, academic, and political are inextricably bound, and were we may rise, phoenix-like, from the language of confusion and come to know who it is that we have become. I have seen it happen.

Dr. Anderson is an eloquent fellow. I like him.

I do believe that writing helps us figure out who we are becoming. The sense that we can know “what we have become” seems a bit foolish, because the flux never stops. Writing taught me that. I am never the same person who finishes writing something that I was, before the writing was begun. It’s part of a process of change, of deepening and broadening the horizons. Of living.

Because I am living, I feel and think. The two are inseparable. I write about both.