Friday, March 29, 2013

Perpetual wonders in the periphery?

Unusual events

What is unusual? In the surrealist context we rarely look for the merely statistically unusual. If we do, it is loaded with potential of logical paradoxes and showy rhetorical paradoxalness. If we apply probabilistic statistics, then all combinations of events have a low probability just because there are so many logically possible options. And in fact, what is maybe truly unusual is that there is such an uneven distribution of possibilities, so strong patterns, so much apparent regularities, in reality... While older science often considered the regularities to be given by god and exceptions were things that needed explanations, modern efforts (modern physics, psychoanalysis, evolutionary biology etc) are more the other way around: how the hell does it come to pass that regularities occur and one option among many becomes common?

Often we think that the regular, characteristically boring, aspect of everyday life is an ideological construct, based on behind-the-scenes censorship and denial of the width of possibilities and specifically those possibilities that could be interpreted in any way as subversive or disruptive. It follows from this, that whenever one walks out to meet the world with an unprejudiced mind and vigilant senses: there will be a beautiful jungle to discover with amazing things in it. Maybe. However, this is of course determined by the process of generating meaning. All these possibilities don't mean a thing as long as they don't mean anything.

In fact, we're not specifically looking for the scenic view of the uninterrupted field of possibilities. Ok, it might have a particular sense of euphoria to it. It feels nice. And then?

Many of us are looking more for the little instructive examples of dynamics in these respects: where do the rifts occur, where do the enticing detours open up? Where are things building up to an unusual atmosphere and it would demand an effort to put them back into the normal categories – an effort which can be delayed or even avoided?

Many of events thus may look unusual just because they are absurd in the sense of conventional meaning. But then a lot of the conventional meaning is strictly speaking absurd in itself, and it does not provide us with a criterion.
Objective chance
The traditional surrealist concept of "objective chance" is about the unexpected agreement of "inner and outer necessities", where the interior and the exterior join hands in striking coincidences, often sequences of coincidences, which convey a strong perception of meaning, one which has an aspect of being obvious yet still resonates with the weight of the unknown.

Many surrealists also focus on a more pedestrian sense of objective chance as a regular guiding light of life in the surrealist sense. It is those everyday chains of coincidences and associations, where there is a regular interplay between the interior and exterior, where ongoing psychic processes find their exterior correlates in a more or less striking manner (a certain vigilance picks up those elements of reality that incarnate certain obsessive thoughts, hauntings, just ongoing lines of assocation and research, recent remembered dreams, recent forgotten dreams, automatic monologuing, unconscious or strictly speaking preconscious thoughts...) and it seems like the fabric of reality is part of our ongoing psychic life and vice versa (which it of course is).

The stronger sense of objective chance is where life itself seems organised according to a structure of the unknown, life is poetry and poetry is life; and is usually connected with certain types of crises: being in love, of course, or various other near-madness-states of temporary intoxication, durable insomnia, euphoria, despair...

The weaker sense of objective chance is immediately accessible with voluntary means, experimentally; as a surrealist game or as a chosen "surrealist lifestyle" which is little other than a permanent surrealist game. Just being vigilant. Especially when combined with making choices about time allocations and directions based on the logic of the spontaneous encounter, of options presenting themselves rather than rigidly decided in advance.

It is very much a question of to what extent these observed details convey meaning and particularly converging meaning, and very little a question of how statistically rare or common they might be.

Organisation of life
A major practical question is to what extent it can be combined with other ongoing demands in life, those that typically are seen as belonging to the other camp of regular boring everyday life. (But of course they are often far from boring, otherwise they wouldn't be that compelling...) Examples are well-known. Having a job is bad enough, but for many still flexible and with plenty of space for own thinking. Having a more permanently attention-demanding job, exhausting, with a rigid time schedule, and often very stressful ongoing disturbances is worse. Keeping times in general, thus having to interrupt whatever went on before, and often using public transport at their busiest and noisiest hours, is bad too. Having permanent company (a partner, a family, colleagues, close friends, guests) usually is quite disruptive to thought, and favors avoiding unusual tracks, but can be orchestrated to the contrary by willful playfulness. Loneliness on the other hand, leads to a situation where more determination is required to stay attentive and not get distracted by repetitive thoughts or need for entertainment. Flexibility is good of course, but there are also some crucial moments that can be organised to squeeze into a rather demanding schedule. Public transport is full of random or weird ongoings, as is the world at large as seen when walking, but going by car prevents most impressions except quick visual ones. Staying at home, and intense entertainment such as perpetual chattering on the phone, watching tv, extended videogame-playing or filmviewing, is of course a strategy to avoid anything unexpected.

First of all, some time to remember dreams just after awakening, or during breakfast, or on the walk to the station – it is crucial to get an opportunity to do so before assuming one's waking social persona, before starting chattering away with people – or to make telling dreams the first part of one's social interactions... Focus on memorising or writing down some keywords, they will usually make it possible to reconstruct more or less the whole dream afterwards, and elements from the dream will often turn up within one's attention span during the day as reminders as long as there is some initial memory for them to cling on to.

Second, some time during the first half of the day, to write down the dream, or to write down the anecdote or unusual element of what happened during the public transport ride or during the walk there. There is usually one. Such anecdotes are often inconsequential, but they are often used as social entertainment, and sometimes accounting for them will reveal them as symbolical or truly unusual, and within a game framework, it will turn out that some of them find attachment points to other friends ongoing chains of associations, memories and phenomenological investigations; there will be minor coincidences.

Third, not to work oneself into complete exhaustion, or jump straight into the demands and pleasures of socialising for the entire rest of the evening, but leave a space for a bit of solitude and noting the anecdote of one's ride back home, or of one's social encounter, or of how one's dream found its correlates. There is always something to note, and for me it has been pedagogical with those occasions when this has been done in the shape of the old "dominant image of the day" game. One does not even need to be alone, willful playfulness can engage the whole company in discussing the dominant image of the day, just like sharing dreams over the breakfast table.

For me, this works very well whenever work demands are not particularly pressing, and in fact often when work demands are pressing too but I am in a good mood and do not need to seek social company merely for the sake of staying above the surface... It works bad during combinations of pressing work demands and relatively bad moods, and it works bad with heavy work demands from different angles so that one goes home from one task just to work a bit on another before exhaustion or before having to hurry to bed because one has to get up early; there is just no time to write things down, and even if memorising them works for a short timespan they eventually get lost in the turmoil.

What to expect from reality
Apart from things that stand out as major unusual events (which may be interesting or not, cf world news, astronomical events, social drama, deaths, encounters with madmen, encounters with crime etc) there are more continuously ongoing categories of everyday weird anecdotes on the one hand and exterior correlates to one's ongoing thematics on the other hand, and they occasionally melt together. When the material is quantitatively increased, by a particular game context, or just by a lot of time for interpretation and reflection there might occur a shift to the qualitative: things associate more intensely with each other, patterns of deep meaning knock on the window, themes become obsessive (and of course, vice versa, if exaltation occurs for subjective reasons, the material increases). The opposite dynamic is obvious, without the time to remember dreams or to take notes of whatever has demanded attention, less things seem meaningladen, and fewer things seems worthy of attention, and life seems more boring.

Surrealist expectancies on reality is not about what is unusual. It is about organising life so as to be able to notice, and wherever desired to follow, the unusual implications; to realise and acknowledge the presence of the unknown, and to explore it at will individually and collectively. Not to be in control, to be in a certain tension-filled agreement with ongoing dynamics, and not remain manipulated by conformist concerns, so-called repressive structures, exploitative relationships and single people.

Though the unusual is quite useful in a game context. Unusual events can be collected for systematical data mining, for experimental interpretative approaches. For building up stories, for simulating dreams, and also for systematical phenomenological studies of what constitutes single experiences that have some sense of autonomy visavis other experiences and visavis a background of life itself if there is such a background and how such event atoms relate to images and symbols.


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