trigger

A small but crucial point. It’s not the supplements that actually heals the body, nor the doc. The stuff that we take and use and have recourse to, are tools merely that aid and facilitate the process of recovery/realignment, not constitute it. In effect, it is the body that heals itself. Once the crticial/necessary aid is provided, the supporting agents, as it were, cue the body to heal itself. So, all the healing agents we project our hopes into and onto which we are nervously clinging are mere triggers in the process. Nothing more and nothing less. Sort of catalyzing agents in the dynamic process that defines the streaming of our being.

A good analogy for this could be language and the way it works, its pragmatics. In short, the meaning or the sense of a phrase is/inheres not in the words of that phrase. Of course not. The actual words only prompt the construction of the sense that we have/”share”/accomplish. They trigger the sense that we, in a way, already anticipiate (i.e. harbor). Again, the agents (words) merely trigger or catalyze, not enact and determine the overall process. The cause is always internal in other words. This is the essence of autopoiesis. And the more crucial point of this principle (of autopoiesis) is the mediated and open-ended (i.e. nondetermined) nature of it all.

Everything turns on the extent of one’s, say, triggerability. One’s capacity to be affected. Nothing is transmitted or received in an unmediated, direct and transparent manner. It’s translation all the way down. And up. (See translationism and OOO, btw). It’s no wonder that I have to build my way up if I want to be able to utilize (absorb and assimilate, for example) healing agents. (See the incre-mentality of the GAPS diet, for ex). No two satiation/drunkenness is alike. It’s not what you eat that matters, they say, but what you(r body) do(es) with what you eat. It depends on the body’s texture of triggerability. (Yes, I do like to mix the world of languaging and that of digestion metaphorically).

A small but crucial point. Nothing can be externally imposed without the mediation of internal appropriation. The same way as I have to cultivate my body’s capacity to thrive I will have to reflect and read and converse and “open” a lot if I want my mind to be capacitated to grow further, in its scope and insight and intuition. I gotta know where I’m at and go from there. In Emerson’s words: “every mind must know the whole lesson for itself, must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will not know.”

Funnily enough, the more sensitive, that is, vulnerable I become the more robust my being will be.

 

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yadda

One can’t help but notice how neurotic we humans actually are when we perceive certain situations/behaviours from a disengaged and aloof-enough, abstract perspective. Last night, for example, I couldn’t fall asleep because the neighbour was watching the telly with the volume at full throttle, hours on end. Now, it wasn’t loud enough to afford me (the “chance” to latch onto) the sense of the words that flooded my mind in a ceaselessly rumbling torrent of sorts, but I could pick up the tones and the sentiments, all the same, the trajectories of the sense, so to speak, [that Robert Frost called the sound of sense btw] that percolated through the intervening wall. And, given that I was trying to fall asleep, it was heck of an irritating sensation. Just neverending yapping; a muffled (but all the more sheer) onslaught of stimuli on my senses. Yap, yap, yap. Made me think of how compulsively we, you and I, all of us talk. As if constantly offloading the pressures (positive, negative, whatever) that build up inside, day after day. Talking, talking, talking. Day in, day out. Socializing and doing it small, or talking big and then nonsense poppycock [“bullshitting” as a good friend of mine characterized my kind of talk]. Confiding, analysing, gossiping, theorizing, coaching, preaching, chatting, yammering and whining. The amount of talk we bombard others and are bombarded with can be outweighed only by self-talk maybe. Maybe. Negotiating, conversing, scheming, sharing, ranting, sulking, expressing, affirming, informing, soothing, forewarning.. and so on.. and so on. And one can’t help but wonder whether all this spent air is spent not because of the actual contents that our talk is supposed to convey but because of much deeper and (by the same token) simpler reasons. On the surface we seemingly share relevant and significant stuff in our talk but isn’t it the mere fact of engagement or the fact of some form of a connection that is really relevant in all this? Evolutionary accounts aside [for one: languaging is an abstract form of grooming/intimacy that gels a group into stronger cohesion], sometimes it does feel as if we had a mysterious or some sort of primal kind of elemental and fundamentally unresolved issue that we were trying to resolve by the illusively fulfilling capacity of expression and the help of others. Like writing this very post, in fact. Communication as a sort of redemption or validation.. of one’s raison d’etre. Not bad. La condition humaine. And of course, anxiety just never let’s up, as William Gaddis once said: “one thing said leaves others equally significant unsaid.” But no matter. We try nevertheless. To tease that transcendent form of being somehow out of the block of air that pumps us through the light.. and through the others..

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fun alternative to crosswords and sudoku, every day

Here’s a little game that’s fun to play. Find the ground behind the figure. As a rationale, suffice it to say that the occasional daily stroll in the ontologgia is proven to decrease the risk of chronic stress-related diseases. Here’s the how to. Basically, the only tool you might need is a pencil and a piece of paper in the pocket, but even that is optional. And then… essentially, settle into the following frame of mind: What I say about things or other people tells as much, if not more, about me as about those things and people. “I don’t like dogs and their soft servile souls.” Every statement is a form of judgment and every judgment has implicit baggage. And it’s quite a hefty one, no matter how empty and ethereal we might think it actually is. “Docility feeds nothing but exploitation and arrogance.” Expression occurs at multiple levels. The way I express myself on one level in a way expresses my self on another. “He is just a hapless puppet, self-castrated of all virtue and agency.” Whenever I say something I simultaneously express a horizon of values that, most, if not all, of the time, overcasts my mind, like light, invisibly. “It’s not normal to cling to/diss your friends like that.” The world is disclosed in the light of what we take to be normal, in the horizon of what we take for granted. And it’s never beyond contingency. Now, this little psycho-logical gymnastics does not justify or condone anything, of course; rather, it’s a kind of art for art’s sake. Granted. But, as mentioned above, there are serious health benefits involved. Yeah, just by trying to figure out: on what ground, on what assumptions, preferences, values, beliefs, opinions, habits, etc. are the figures of our speech based? This is it. Simple. Deconstruction in daily life.

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wondering..

Cleanbred, fullbred, highbred, hightech and thoroughbred.. pureblood, pedigreed, aryan and whatnot. All this obsession with purity and sterility, with anti this and anti that. Could it be: that it’s the death-drive manifest: the lure of the inorganic (form of being) and the absolute predictability that’s involved. Rejecting the fecund and spawning and contingent but robust cesspool that life, actually, is. Could it be then: that the more mongrel, the mongreller a being, the more alive it is? Pure water has no fish, after all.

Also.. regarding Angst and “the throes of finitude”. Could it be: that it is not the subliminal awareness of death that freaks the shared mind of mankind out (shocking it to flee into the fluffy nest of myths and superstition and secular fictions) but quite the opposite: life itself, that mongrous monstrosity of contingency. After all, as they say: all suffering has to do with wishing the moment to be other than it is. And indeed, we do routinely dwell in the sticky filaments of guilt and anguish strung between our past and our future. Which, as the phenomenologists have shown, is the basis of human consciousness, really.

Perhaps.. perhaps not.
The life of the mind is complex.. 😉

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Gass, meditation, aesthetics

Reading books like The Tunnel by William Gass or his Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas may feel a tad taxing for readers who are not ready for the soporific rhythms of their flow. Admittedly, the term ‘soporific’ conveys an ambiguity here; which for the average/avaricious reader is negatively charged, obviously, referring to boredom really. But ‘boredom’ is another ambiguous term sensitive to the specificity of context, isn’t it. Turns on one’s attitude.

I have read my fair share of big and challenging tomes (Pynchon, Gaddis et al.) and even though it was the most accessible The Tunnel was also the most demanding one for me. It took a lot of time. Hell of a lot. To sludge through it. And maybe it is just some kind of a perversion on my part but it is one the dearest books to me. It is truly gorgeous indeed.

I think to read such quaint monstrosities is very similar to watching movies that are extremely slow-moving, so to speak. Think of Tarkovsky or Tarr. There is a peculiar radiance and rhythm to these works of art that envelops the viewer in an ambience of which she is only half-aware. Action and movement is retarded or, better yet, arrested and, in effect, secondary to the mood.. that ripples in concentric circles from a center.. that is eslewhere.. somewhere. It feels, actually, that the wheels of our cog-nitive being spin without being spun. And soon, we start to have the sensation that we are idling. Merely idling about. (Again, ‘merely’ is ambiguous: sufficient/insufficient?) And then, if we are not patient/open enough, we deem it to be nothing but a waste of time.

But this is an interesting question: what is a waste of time? Is an action-movie or the little excitements offered by the convoluted plot of a novel not a waste of time? Really: What is a waste of time? If nothing novel or meaningful or significant is experienced or learnt? If there is no entertainment? If our wheels are spinning for no reason at all; unoccupied, naked? Look at Beckett. Those texts are gorgeous too. And soporific. Idling. But still so enigmatically powerful. We feel that we are in the presence of… or, at least, that we are present.. with it.. and ourselves. I think, the answer to the previous questions lies in something like the following one: What happens exactly when we experience the ambience of these textures?

Well, experientially, it is a bit like waiting for someone/something. Not Godot, no. Let’s just say that I sit on a bench and I can hardly wait for that hour or two to pass. I look at my wristwatch every 5 minutes or so as I listlessly shift my posture. My mp3 player has run out of battery, I can’t listen to music. My tiny notebook that I always carry in my pocket is not with me this time so I can’t spend my time toying with words or concepts either. My sources of distraction are significantly dwindled. I know I could go for a walk to buy something or just idle about in the mode of a passive pedestrian, say, but I just don’t feel like it at the moment and, incidentally, I have already walked a couple of circles around the area anyway, so. Yes. This is where I actually notice and become aware of my anguish and agitation at being with myself. I feel as if, slowly, an aura of stifling ‘boredom’ was creeping over me, except I realize that it was there all along, and what is more, I even have the vague inkling that it is there with me all the time. The sheer burden of being on my own… decoupled from the soothing hum and buzz of everyday distractions.

Now, this feeling definitely harbors a strong amount of energy, which could be destructive if it causes unchecked distress as well as constructive and quite liberating if it results in a moment of intimacy (with my self). This intimate moment, if intensive enough, can bring up many unappreciated and unacknowledged thoughts and feelings that constantly swirl beneath the surface of my ’online’ (robot-pilot) being. The moment is potent with mental catalysis in other words. And this is what meditation is all about.

Meditation practice takes place on a personal level. It involves an intimate relationship with ourselves. Great intimacy is involved. It has nothing to do with achieving perfection, achieving some absolute state or other. It is purely getting into what we are, really examining our actual psychological process without being ashamed of it. It is just friendship with ourselves. (Chogyam Trungpa)

A text like The Tunnel is, in fact, a sort of site for such meditation. The sonic beauty of its verbal architexture silently reverberates in the back of my head as I read and, slowly and gradually, I feel intimately connected to something, somehow. Unheimlich. I kind of feel inside. In Gass’s own view, as we are reading we are

making arrangements out of arrangements until we’ve understood a text so fully it is nothing but feeling and pure response; until its conceptual turns are like reversals of mood in a marriage: petty, sad, ecstatic, commonplace, foreseeable, amazing. In order to have this experience, however, one must learn to perform the text, say, sing, shout the words to oneself, give them, with our minds, their body: otherwise the eye skates over every syllable like the speeder… Such a reader sees every text as unique; greets every work as a familiar stranger. Such a reader is willing to allow another’s words to become hers, his. (William Gass)

Thus Jorge Luis Borges (from his “Poetry” lecture):

The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, of water. We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?

The feeling of interiority that gradually emerges from the performance of reading precedes all content/concept: it is pure affect. This is the aesthetic, basically. Here, I am not simply (no ambiguity here) caught with my wheels in the shifting sand of fleeting contents, kept busy and entertained (in every sense of the word): I am also resonating with an Other and I am connecting on a deeper level. Affect precedes concept: whatever I make sense of is always already based on a connection and it matters always less what (content) I experience than how I experience it.

Actually, vision and sound are great metaphors for distinguishing between these modalities of involvement. The seen connotes some kind of exteriority (detached from the seer) and sense and meaning (“I see”) and the possibility of control and manipulation while sound intimates a resonance or an interiority (that we share with an other). In a way, as I tried to sketch it in my previous blogpost, as I am opening my self towards the Other I am, in effect, opening my self towards my Shadow(s).

At the end of his essay “The Wall and the Books” Borges writes:

all forms possess virtue in themselves and not in a conjectural “content.” That would support the theory of Benedetto Croce; in 1877 Pater had already stated that all the arts aspire to resemble music, which is pure form. Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces molded by time, certain twilights and certain places – all these are trying to tell us something, or have told us something we should not have missed, or are about to tell us something; this imminence of a revelation tha is not yet produced is, perhaps, the aesthetic reality.

Yes, I guess, Gass agrees with Borges. Language is a material phenomenon that is potent with catalytic capacities and it is “word-music”, to use James Guetti’s formula, that sets its aesthetic dimension in motion. Word-music disinhibits a kind of liminal space.. where.. etc.

The aesthetic in this recipe then, let’s say, is: demanding/challenging stuff that is well-wrought enough to envelop the self in a meditative/therapeutic ambience that facilitates the process of its deconstruction.

It is a tangent, but in closing let me add: the author is not dead, never was and never will be: it is interpretation and its end-products that is dead. Thanks.

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Bill Gass, the aesthetic is no mere stucco

Gass has balls. This is, in a nutshell, what I generally feel when I read William H. Gass. Besides an elegant and extravagant way with words, rather well renowned, Gass has guts. There is a fineness in his expression (which is incredibly exquisite indeed) that is surpassed only by the brazen boldness that it conveys. One just loves the virtu(e) and relentless poise in Gass’s voice. One has to. This is a voice that is quite erudite. And a voice with a compelling tone that laments a lot. Not in nihilistic indulgence but, on the contrary: griping (de)constructively. In essence, it is a voice that indicts and imbibes. A voice that echoes the voids. And more than anything else, Gass’s voice is a voice that plays with sounds. A voice that arrests routine readerly appropriations. And a voice that is immensely neat in its compressions (of concepts) – yes, ‘spareness’ and its master Don DeLillo comes to mind. In short, a voice that grips. But most importantly, Gass’s voice is a voice that exposes. It’s a voice that exposes all the frailty and all the innate lameness in us. Hence the virtue, hence the verve.

Makes me think of Emerson. “In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

This voice just flips in and out of the loop that connects the reader and the read, blurring (up and away) the clearcut boundary between the two. Through this moebius twist a space opens up wherein everything turns into a kind of resonance, an inside; a stream of pure experience that is not, as William James would say: doubled up yet. This is an aesthetic ambience where the reader is not an appreciative outside(r) putting, let’s say, the text like a pair of gloves on the hands of his imagination, but rather he finds that he is the very glove turned inside out observing, feeling, in effect, the shady textures it is woven out of. Escher-like. The shape of this experiential dynamics could be well illustrated by the paradoxical surface of a Klein bottle where the inside flows seamlessly into the outside and back inside – sides that actually exist only in the binary schemes of perception.

This is, incidentally, what, I think, happens in better movies where the hero and the villain are not partitioned into distinct polarities but are contained within a single consciousness (that, in addition, turns out to be but a reflection of my own). In this scenario I not merely identify, but I recognize. Hell of a difference. In recognition there is no safe distance, only a pressing immediacy and intimacy that urges one to own up to the truth(s) of his (shallow) being. This is what I like about DeLillo’s fiction as well, by the way. Think of Libra or Falling Man.

“The truth takes grit to give and guts to receive.” This passage, from his essay titled “Evil,” I’d say, sums it all aptly up. It tells everything about Gass’s big book The Tunnel too. All the sludgy negativity and resentment that the Nazi researcher Kohler feels are the sort of emotions that are not that alien to us either. Even if the pungently misanthropic sentiments are merely “enjoyed” in a kind of voyeuristic fashion we are still complicit in our excitement of sharing in its experience. No matter how troubled he appears, we can definitely relate to Kohler. The uncompromising level of sheer honesty is just fascinating, rather than shocking. Naturally, one inevitably starts to wonder about Gass himself, of where he actually stands, so to say, in all this, and this is why it’s all so gutsy. No matter what Gass thinks, the things that he writes about are just there, brutally there. And they are there because they are here. In a sense. Throughout the text there is this lingering feeling that evil is not something over yonder, that evil and its myriad threads, in fact, are ceaselessly spun from our heart, from a heart that is troubled and confused and anxious and, in a word, human. All too human. The great phrase from the book, namely: “the fascism of the heart” refers, I think, to a fascism that comes from a state of mind that is especially tuned to the the level of (un)certainty that we feel from moment to moment in our lives.

This lingering feeling is there, basically, because of the sonic susurrus of the text, the en-chanting sound that envelops us in an ambience, an interiority, an intimacy. It is this ambience and this resonant intimacy that instills the tacit recognition: there is no outside. The abject (stuff we reject) springs from inside. Monstrosity comes from inside. The outside/other that is reified into concrete beings out of the basic insecurity and lameness in our own being only triggers the responses we might have, not causes it. This is how, for instance, every response reflects the structure of the ego-self, with all its inhibitions and limitations. Gass is one of those writers who show the shadows of the soul. And for him the best medium to facilitate this descent is sound. Sonic invagination. For Gass knows what James Guetti also knew: while the visual (that thrives on variations) detaches the reader the aural (that thrives on repetitions) attunes him. This is why the plot is always somewhat secondary to the mesmerizing sonic reverberations in Gass’s prose.

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the way I see it

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buffers

Life is exposure. Exposure is the contingency and constant stream of challenges in/of experience to the consistency of our identity and to the ground of our self. Hence the buffers. In order to insulate our fragile wholesomeoneness from these challenges we adopt buffers. As simple as that. Layers of self-deception that enfold us. Yes, think of onions.

We adopt a persona, a face that we are massively afraid to lose. Yet this face masks but an abyss, the source of all evil in us, humans. We are protective of a rigid self-image in spite of the fact that we are a magnificent stream of habits and skills and persistent but malleable adaptations and neuroassociations, a plastic biochemical architecture, a cascade of biosemiotic associations, and whatnot.

We adopt traditions. Alas, countless spineless people–self-righteous and indignant and hopelessly clueless-are held erect by the backbone of traditions. Which are arthritic, of course. Come on: traditions are mere foundations not definitive (cosmic) principles. Still, we all are dandily dangling from the strings of random memes. Chiuauas. We settle for sloppy. It figures, we are humans: a bunch of bitter brittle critters.

We become cynical, judgmental and highly critical and etc. Knee-jerkly. In order to establish a sense of distance. In essence, distance means safety and a vantage point whence we are able to control. You know: the remote-control way. Because distance means that we are not affected, not involved. Actually, this is the way we relate to family and close friends, not only to animals and plants. What is more, this is the way we relate to life as whole. And yet, weirdly enough, we are more than 80% water and 90% percent bacteria.

Close-up, we become detached and passive aggressive in regards to those closest to us. As intimacy deepens the inevitable contrasts/conflicts intensify – another challenge, another exposure. We stealthily deploy the subtle strategies of sulking, shouting, silence, whatever. Indeed, more often than not we are trying to instigate a sense of guilt or even shame in the other whose mode of being challenges ours. The other’s interests, values and concerns, and the other’s excitements and joys are felt as provocation. We don’t trust and don’t respect, we don’t share independence. We manipulate.

We become fatalistic. Subconsious beliefs drive us to create situations in which we have those beliefs reinforced. Consider jealousy or defeatism. Instead of thus dooming ourselves we could try and pull subconscious reactions and stress-responses into the orbit of our awareness. Couldn’t we. Giving space to a state of confused arrogance: this is what they sometimes call mindfulness meditation. It is easy to cling and to be a hysterical parasite of sorts. But how about forging (meaning and meaningful and novel connections). Being challenged. The body and the mind adapts to the inputs it perceives/is exposed to and we have the free will to choose which aspects of the manifold inputs we gear ourselves towards. Focusing.

We become introverted. Introversion ferments and enriches the soul, for sure, but if never liberated/exposed soon enough its rotting and decay sets in. Insights need exposure, they shan’t just fatten a sole embittered diabetic soul. The seeds need to be sown after they have grown. Typically, for fear of being dissed, the introverted shuns the sustained attention of others-instead of narrating he prefers the mode of commenting-but then crave it all the more. Here, excessive self-consciousness curbs the flow of all spontaneity (which is: graceful awkwardness).

We become sedentary. As if stand-by, in the mode of preparation, constantly getting ready: we idle. Idling is an idea(l)-driven style of being. Basically, it’s like inhabiting the safe haven of the crystalline palace of fancy and reflection. Because idling is about aboutness. It is the aesthetic modality: the tasting the taste of the experience. Lingering in the tense of present perfect. Hovering, hesitating. Needless to say, we also need to be away as much as about. We need to get and be caught in the actions of experience too. Yielding and tuning is as much important as withdrawing and controlling. Yin and yang.

We become lost in daydreams and fantasies where the given pales beside the gone and the not yet given. By necessity, intimacy (once again) dampens desire because it is (perceived) distance (once again) that motivation requires. As for the way distance sustains a kind of ‘tumescence’ think of the phenomenology of kissing: the taste of a tongue is sweet to the extent of its unfamiliarity. Yep, much rather than grasped upon the given is always (obliviously) relied upon or, more bluntly put, neglected. Fundamentally, our grasping is oriented towards the enchanting uncharted territories. Always, already.

And so on, and so forth… obsessed, possessive, compulsive, addicted, bored. Buried under an ever-crumbling and stifling facade of self-confidence. Or on top of poplars, popping pills.

I say chuck the buffers. Risk being less.
Don’t reach after it, just let it come to you.

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weirdness

The other day, passing a group of seemingly puzzled people in the street, I caught the following fragment of conversation:

-….It’s kinda weird.
-It IS weird!

Even the ensuing baffled laughter was predictable. Might I say, a bit irritably predictable. Actually, isn’t this what is truly weird. The way that myriad pat phrases and tones and gestures are cues for other utterances and affectations. From the ’outside’ one cannot help but notice the ’artificiality’ of such exchanges. There you go Heidegger: it is language that speaks man, not the other way around. But mistake me not, I don’t think there is any problem with all this. Not at all. (The above mentioned irritation is but an affectation of my own.) Rather, I am simply bracketing and amplifying a fleeting instant that displays the extent to which, in effect, we ride along impersonal (in the sense of being more than personal: i.e. social) rhythms of communication; which happens, I think, even in private, when we talk to ourselves. And though, most of the time it is very much like language were ‘using’ us–to reproduce itself and survive and bathe in the air filtered through us or something-we do have the capacity to use language for constructive and therapeutic ends, pro-actively. We can use it intelligently: where words like enzymes catalyze the unprocessed debris of our minds. Among other things, it is called dialogue. David Bohm has written a nice book about it.
Exeunt.

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Things that amuse me #1

To observe myself or others masking (a felt) awkwardness.

A lot of this has to do with rhythm and pacing; with temporally/dynamically adhering to established scripts so that we won’t get out of character/line and lose face . When I enter a space already occupied by others, like rushing into a closed store’s door or stepping into the street after a period of withdrawal or into a restaurant or belatedly into a meeting, I become very self-conscious of myself and my movements: with the others already a-rolling in a particular groove that I am just hopping right into/out of. The other day, for instance, I was walking down the aisle of a carriage of a train and when I asked someone if there was a free seat in the booth (to which the answer was affirmative of course) I found myself being carried by a slightly overwhelming momentum even after I have sat down. I was shifting frames. A sense of awkwardness derives basically from this. As if dampening or buffering and balancing somehow the tempo-difference I was fumbling and fidgeting about a bit, adjusting myself and looking around, checking things, feigning nonchalance – aware of the relative motionlessness of the other person who have already settled into his sitting and has already assumed the role of the earnest traveller. This is very similar to the dynamics of conversations where we say certain phrases and cliches or make specific nonverbal signs only for the sake of keeping the imperceptible but arresting beat of the interaction (undisturbed). We say and do things in such communicative instances only to keep the pace smooth enough and the expectations and the level of interest unexhausted, the engagement sufficiently poised. The temporal adjustment we attempt in these situations is conspicuous yet unacknowledged, and in a way amusing in my opinion.

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