Monthly Archives: April 2012

How’s the view?

On on of the academic fora I read there is a phrase that describes ‘rural’ communities as ‘fly over country.’ These are the kinds of places you see out of your airplane window on your way between interesting point of origin and interesting destination.

I don’t quite live in ‘fly over country,’ not at least in the summer. For people who don’t live here it’s an ‘interesting destination’ during the summer. And, yes, it’s almost tourist season. I am amazed at the numbers of people who flock here and take in the vistas and bring with them beach volleyball and ‘what happens on vacation, stay’s on vacation’ attitudes. It’s not quite Daytona or crazy, there are too many codgerly old people here to let that happen, but it’s a different place in the summer.

But what is it that they see? Or what is it that they don’t see I suspect is my question? 

Before I lived here I often wondered about those little towns that were attached to the services advertised on the highway – the places that host the gas station, restaurant, hotel you need when you’re on a long road trip. You know, those ‘off ramp towns’ in-between where you are and where you’re going. I live in one of those towns now.

It’s beautiful here, if all you’re doing is looking at things. They don’t see what I see. They don’t feel what I feel. How is it that I can feel stifled in this place that they seem to enjoy, indeed love, for the moment that they are here? 

I think it’s like the saying goes, it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. And why? It’s likely because living somewhere requires you to know a little bit about what you need in order to feel at home where you live. There are elements of belonging that can’t be accounted for in beautiful vistas and careful gardens. 

People need to fit where they find themselves in order to feel at home. This is a more complex process of visual cues to belonging, attached to a feeling of connection, a sense of efficacy in relation to others, and a sense of being heard or taken seriously. I haven’t ever quite felt that here – which makes the sense of fit that much more complicated because I am here because this is where I work, not because this is where I feel at home. 

I wonder if they felt what I feel if they would see what I see or would they continue to be caught up in the beautiful vistas?

Slipping through the cracks

This morning I was thinking about what it means when something slips through the cracks. What are these cracks people speak of?

The reason I was thinking about it is because my daughter was bitten by a dog – not pleasant and nothing to take lightly, but nothing super serious in the end. I got to thinking about ‘cracks’ insofar as we had to figure out a few different things in order to determine what to do.

I’ll list the various cracks I noticed in this whole enterprise.

1. We live in a place where healthcare is at a premium, mostly in terms of access. While there is a weekend ‘walk-in’ clinic in town the closet hospitals are 35minutes, 45minutes and 40 minutes (but that’s deceiving because it’s over a mountain and through traffic since tourist season is upon us now) and mostly understaffed and less than ideal when you have a 10 year old who has a relatively minor injury. Finding a doctor on a Sunday is no small task.

2. We had to rely on the owners of the dog in question for information – incomplete and as ‘up to date’ as could be; worsened by the fact that they are friends so it’s a delicate matter even if one is forthright and non-accusatory.

3. We had to rely on our various forms of collective memory – paper forms, demographic probabilities (her age relative to what shots she should already have, etc.), personal recollection, etc. to figure out if she was already inoculated.

4. We needed to deduce what we could from the clues we had available; testimony from a 10 year old who was naturally upset and guarded about getting her friend and the dog in trouble; the wound itself; the lack of destruction evident on the clothing; the physiological presentation of her body.

So how does this all lead to me wondering about cracks?

At various stages along the way there were things we could see and there were things we couldn’t. We could infer somethings from what we saw and we could infer things from what we didn’t. These conclusions could have gone in any direction. In the end, we have to make choices based on imperfect information and base our actions accordingly … for which there are no ‘right’ answers.

Should she be fine as a result of what actions we took then maybe we stopped up the cracks necessary. Should we have stopped up what cracks we perceived but something goes awry then there is a crack we missed. It’s a maddening situation because questions will always linger in our minds whichever way we proceed. 

There are plenty of situations where cracks and fissures define outcomes; most often retrospectively. But how does something become a crack and is it always a crack or is that concept a coping mechanism to redress poor observation and bad judgement? Are cracks always there or are they a manifestation of invisibility that we will into existence to justify that which we were incapable of seeing?

Cracks are invisibility retrograde.

The fifth element, wuji

I must start by admitting that I know little about Japanese philosophy.

With that said I recently encountered a principle in Japanese philosophy that defines one more essential element of life that isn’t so neatly addressed in ‘Western philosophy,’ wuji or the void which is loosely defined as the infinite, limitless, eternal. The void represents an interesting perspective on the visual world we inhabit because it recognizes that there are things beyond our grasp, things that just are because they are not. It’s Rumsfeld’s unknown unknowns – for which he was made out to be a fool or a PR baffoon but with which I think he was on to something.

It seems necessary to consider why almost all philosophical traditions address the indiscernible and also to consider why the indiscernible is categorically distinct and not an overlapping element of everything. I suspect that if we consider the notion of wuji which I have yet to fully appreciate, it is a part of everything just as are the other elements. 

(why) are we fascinated with invisibility?

There are two shows on North American television, one ended, the other just begun called Numbers and Touched that focus on informational patterns in the universe that are there but unseeable outside of mathematics. Patterns, the key to ‘the truth.’

Up until the enlightenment it was okay to say that those patterns were the behest of God. After it was more a matter of science and reasonable explanations. In any event it all comes down to seeing what we can’t, invisibility, for what it is – the key organizational principle of understanding and perhaps life. Bold? Sure but why not. Invisibility is that thing that explains what can’t be explained not for the sake of definition but for sake of acceptance. We don’t need to know why everything works the way it does and sometimes we should accept that any answers we find are co-constructed by the way we look for them. Invisibility can help us figure this out but I would hope not as conquerors but as thoughtful cohabitants.