Bleak, Rainy Days and Inspiration

Rains have peppered our Manila days in ill-tempered whim. So this game of chance is all about guessing the downpour’s rhythms and making sure that I am in transit while it pours and somewhere still when it ends. This year’s would probably the shortest summer we’ve had and that meant no sunset beach for me, not even the little bit of tan I was craving for. Make do with the images of the Bora trip from two years ago for consolation –
Another academic year is about to begin and perhaps, there is no other way to welcome it but with hope and plans. This post is a belated entry from the weekend, when I flitted from work to reading fiction and writing snippets. Ensconced in this maddening rhythm of multi-tasking, I resolutely promised myself yesterday to do away with it and focus singly on tasks. So here goes –

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Motley of Inspiration

At some point, I reached an uncertain conclusion – that I probably would not be able to carve time for either writing or work on weekends. Last weekend was an exception, the first of hopefully a long series. It was not just work that occupied me but fleeting sources of inspiration. I guess one’s life is plagued by occasional barrenness, dwindling energy and momentary lapses in purpose. My well is founded on the written word, film and music. I love the pauses that academic life allows-however much I believe in the resolute making of time for solitary reflection, there are just work schemes that allow for very little of such.

John Dewey’s “Aesthetic in Experience” first published in 1934, which I read again in preparation for the coming semester, Milan Kundera’s “Immortality” because of its sharp wit, exquisite insights on human nature and infectious humor and U2’s single “One Step to Knowing” (from “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” album) were delightful pauses between reading and work. Dewey asserts the cumulative nature of aesthetic experience, its emergence and basis on other forms of experience. Thus, the aesthetic is not distinct from life’s other aspects but wholly inserted in its loom. Some provocative ideas from this essay:

On “courses of action and conscious experience” –

“Between the poles of aimlessness and mechanical efficiency, there lie those courses of action which through successive deeds there runs a growing meaning conserved and accumulating toward an end that is felt as accomplishment of a process.” (Dewey rpt in Feagin and Maynard 1997: 49)

On the emotional character of the aesthetic quality that ushers experience into completion and unity –

“We are given to thinking of emotions as things as simple and compact as are the words by which we name them. Joy, sorrow, hope, fear, anger, curiosity are treated as if each in itself were a sort of an entity that enters full-made upon the scene……In fact, emotions are qualities, when they are significant, of a complex experience that moves and changes… All emotions are qualifications of a drama and they change as the drama develops. …Experience is emotional but there are no separate things called emotions in it.” (Ibid, 51)

To wander between plateaus of “aimlessness and mechanical efficiency” in our performance of life is a cavernous and silent agony. Indeed, we only recognize emotions against the backdrop of significant life events, making sense of their fleeting character and complexity vis-à-vis life’s drama. Some emotions are beckoned by life’s circumstances, while others are ushered into pits of non-remembrance by will and choice. The theme of self-knowing perpetually lingers because I see it as a life project. I think nothing compensates for the sadness of life lived ‘naively’.

Indeed, how minute our knowledge of our own self-image through others’ eyes. Some of us let this image overtake us, living slow deaths by pumping life into them. I wonder however, how much or how little of our conscious constructions of the self, bleeds into our public enactments of life. I wonder whether the only pragmatic juncture is a node where contradictions mesh in comprehensible unity. Life, after all is couched in unpredictable turns, joyous surprise and recurring themes. The intelligent insights on this from Kundera in the next entry.

Let me end with U2’s single on death (either momentary or final) and knowing, an interesting collage of beat and prose referencing places of limbo –

Lyrics by Bono and Music by U2
I’m round the corner from anything that’s real
I’m across the road from hope
I’m under the bridge in a rip tide
That’s taken everything I call my own
One step closer to knowing
I’m on an island in a busy intersection
I can’t go forward, I can’t turn back
Can’t see the future
It’s getting away from me
I just watch the tail lights glowing
One step closer to knowing

Thus, the week unfolds in quiet possibility and the solid comfort of work, Manila’s balmy weather, the chaos of university enlistment, the positive vibe of exhibitions and anticipations of good, inspiring company.

Dewey, John. “The Aesthetic Experience”, [Art as Experience (NY: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1934) 13, 16-17, 35-50] rpt. in Aesthetics edited by Susan Feagin and Patrick Maynard. 1997. Oxford and NY:Oxford University Press, 45-51.
Kundera,Milan. 1990. Immortality. London: Faber and Faber.
U2, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”. 2004. Universal Music.


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