Having Bought into a Wreck — What Now?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 7 May 2018
Cognitive Challenges of Embodying Reality Otherwise
7 May 2018 – Whether in collusion with others or not, I seem to have bought shares in a total wreck of some kind. It could be a house or some means of transportation — possibly a truck, or a boat, or a train, or a plane. Some call it global civilization. Like the Cubans after their revolution, I am faced with the challenge of a rapidly decaying “automobile” for which I cannot get spare parts. This is despite the reported rate of development of technology elsewhere (beyond my reach and comprehension), and the promises with which it is associated. How am I to then to engage with the wreck, which could indeed collapse further at any moment? There is some irony that, as an “auto-mobile”, getting it to work is curiously reminiscent of what is otherwise framed as the challenge of “sustainability”.
One approach for me is simply to note the facts of this situation — to bear witness. To whom? Various parts do not work as they might be expected to work — whether frozen, ill-fitting, or poorly connected. The pipework seems mysteriously to be leaking. There are unpredictable sparks form the electrical system — suggesting that something is working to a degree, but perhaps dangerously so. One aspect of this situation is that I am variously keen on some of these parts and their preservation. I want them to work. They carry significance for me and I identify with them — and especially with the “automobile” as a whole, if only it would work. In a sense I am locked-into parts as they once worked, or might have worked, and have little time for proposals regarding alternatives — especially alternative modes of transportation. However it is a serious mess. I have taken the “automobile” apart on various occasions. I have multiple parts scattered around my garage and yard — some acquired by various means from elsewhere. I have forgotten where some might have fitted. Basically I am confronted with chaos and do not know what to do.
A second approach is for me to recognize certain patterns in the situation. I can reframe it in aesthetic terms. I can see how other “stuff” from elsewhere might be used to substitute for some parts of the “automobile” that do not work — or at least compensate for my inadequacy. I can indeed become more flexible and inventive in this process of looking for equivalents to get the “automobile” to work, or to appear to do so to my satisfaction. I can also begin to see that some of the constraints on fixing the “automobile” are due to constraints blocking my own imaginative creativity. The brokenness of the “automobile” is a kind of mirror of my own incompetence and failure to get to grips with the situation. More challenging is the sense in which I am effectively conning myself in my approach to the “automobile” . Clearly I have some responsibility — if not a fundamental one — for having tricked myself in buying into the wreck in the first place (whether or not I only have shares in the “automobile” with others who were similarly tricked into its acquisition). Then what?
A third approach is for me to articulate my understanding of my situation in relation to the “automobile” . I can be sophisticated. I can philosophize about it and about the nature of its existence, and mine in relation to it. I can analyze it in sociological terms, in systemic terms, or in terms of the possibilities of some more fruitful approach — about which I can variously speculate imaginatively. I can express my condition in nostalgic song, music, humour, drama, or turn it into a game. I can organize a party around the “automobile” , using it as a focus for fun — even turn it into a monument for regular ritual celebration. What am I trying to achieve? What do I want to “leave behind”? With whom (or what) should I be engaging far more intimately to engender that? What of my situation is meaningfully replicable? What would fixing the “automobile” do for me? Do I really want to possess and own a “automobile” ? Why? Is there some strange kind of illusion implied by this engagement with the potential of the “automobile” as a means of my transpiration. To where?
A fourth approach is of course to step back from these other approaches and to see myself and the “automobile” as part of a far larger scheme of things. What shift in perspective does this imply? Is it more realistic or less so — given the passage of time and the probable reality of events elsewhere, of which I am only partially aware, if at all? Should I be taking account of subtler dimensions of which I have only the faintest intimations — whether the supernatural or those wrapped up in the immediate reality of the moment, according to fundamental physics? Is there a case for being far more radical in my understanding of my situation (and that of the “automobile”) — did I but know how? More radically inventive perhaps — to the degree of completely reinventing myself and the world around me. And my “automobile”?
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