tracing my steps

It seems to me that many of my insights (if I may call them that) arise when there is a slight modification or a sort of unexpected quality to the habitual course of my everyday routines and movements I am continually and more or less quite seamlessly involved and caught up in. There is a barely noticable yet subtly felt shift in the tone of the given (physical, intersubjective, etc.) activity that I normally perform mindlessly, and if I happen to be in an adequately receptive frame of mind I’ll have a dimly felt unwonted bodily response to the situation that otherwise is almost totally transparent (unfolding according to the familiar saliences I am accustomed to).

A (bit trivial) example of this could be the reaction I had yesterday when I entered my girlfriend’s flat in a large apartment house. The flat is on the second floor and at the end of an endlessly long corridor. When I arrived with a friend of mine I pushed the buzzer and she let us in and, as we discovered it, she also opened the door in advance for she was busy in the kitchen right then. So as we reached the end of the long corridor we saw that the entrance-door was wide open and so we entered without any break in the momentum of our motion. And yes, the dynamics somehow felt a little bit odd (but only a little bit). As I reflected on the feeling of this sensation I realized that instead of the feeling of leaving the external milieu of the corridor behind and entering the internal milieu of the flat I felt as if I merely turned into another room in the ‘same place’. There was a lack of crossing the boundary between inside (private) and outside (public); the place was an unbroken gestalt, enveloping my movements seamlessly, with no distinct demarcations…

The insight I gleaned from this “experience” (which, I’ll readily admit, is rather trivial in this case) is the idea that certain mundane rituals (like opening the front door of a flat in an apartment house) provide structure to the felt sense of the (concrete and abstract) spaces we inhabit. But this is beside the point. The reason why I bring this all up is to emphasize that given their subtle deviation from their normal, habitual course the feelings that tacitly accompany our movements (be they on the bodily side of the sliding scale of our embodiment or the mental) can guide us in discovering little truths about ourselves and our being-in-the-world. The key is to be receptive as much as possible. In fact, I believe that in our attempt at mindfully engaging in our activities awareness needs to be and necessarily is coupled with honesty. Of course, honesty here is meant in a rather crude and broad sense: referring to our capacity to be as little self-possessed as possible while at the same time attending to the ceaseless shifting of our (bodily and mental) movements as closely as possible. Insights, or at least one kind of insight (the kind that I am interested in the most which is ‘phenomenological’) emerges out of such tensions. I think this is the primal effect of art as well. While beauty might well be a secondary feature of art the drive toward a foregrounded tension in the felt sense of our engagements, the drive toward in-sight incited by the art-work, will always be a defining feature of art…


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