Friday, December 3, 2010

Mark Bar

This was a slightly slow week, My Puddlers, but as December rolls along we will have some more posts up for you.  I am going to be unveiling a few lists in the spirit of the holiday season.  There won't be any annoying "year-end" lists because you'll be able to see those elsewhere.  What you'll get are some original Puddles of Myself styled lists.  Also, there will be one or two new surprise guest columnists to weigh in on whatever is moving their soul at a particular moment.  And, we should have the first posts in the Free Forest City Redemption Project so that you can impress your family members with some country music.

In addition, I want to weigh in on the Miami Heat so far, but I need to really organize myself to do that subject justice - so you sports fans may have to wait a little, or I could get inspired and drink a good glass of scotch one night and blast out a 5,000 word post.  You just never know and that's why you come here.

There is lots to come, so as I like to say, stick with me my Puddlers.

And, because today is Friday, you get to have your world rocked once more by Mr. Mark Jack who will make you think twice about how much you appreciate even the smallest details in the world.  This is a man who's glasses are really magnifying glasses into the soul of an object.  At least that's what the statement is press agent gave me says so I copied it and pasted it on here.  Anyway, here is his column for today, enjoy.

The Importance of Being Incredibly Still

Mark Jack

I have forgotten. No. Wait.

No, I have forgotten. It’s probably for the best, you’ll think to say, but then you don’t. You just stare. I’m just sitting for a moment and it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s…well…I am filled with strange regrets, and I do not know exactly where they lie.

I went for a walk again yesterday, but forgot to sit down. This is not one of my regrets, but it is a shame to overlook the importance of stillness.

I remember, now (and I am always remembering) that I sat once on a bench in the middle of Houston Street. What a strange place for a sit, I thought as I sat. The traffic was strongly present on either side of me, and in a moment threatened to send me spinning counterclockwise. So I guess I faced west as a young man was once told to do. It was nearing dusk, but now as I remember the day it may just have been two in the afternoon.

The bench looked terrible and I felt sort of terrible standing over it.  I looked at the bench where it sat—if a bench can be said to sit— and felt less terrible. When I finall sat on the bench, for a moment the bench seemed the same as me. Still, this was not the sedentary lifestyle I sought. Why did I sit? Why did it sit there?

Earlier—it is earlier now, in my remembering—I was in McGolrick Park, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and saw a series of people on benches. There was on average one person to a bench, but sometimes two. None of them would find it likely to be confronted with the attribute youth.

They sat mostly here.

I noticed that none of them were talking. They just sat. And I, being somewhat tired from a bike ride, and enjoying the park immensely, sat too. Also, I thought, vaguely, that if I sat I could better understand their sitting. So, on my way down, as my ass approached those green wood slabs,  I pondered a series of reasons. There must be reason. One does not just sit. Not for nothing does one just sit. I thought, as ass approached, maybe they sit in expectation: of a loved one? of a chance meeting? of a goodly number of birds? Or, maybe, given the average age, they sit and think about the loved one gone, the chance meeting passed, or the arthritis in the bird feeding hand. I was sitting now. I was not speaking. I was not awaiting a thing. I was not bemoaning a thing gone by. My past was not present. My future was not expected. I just sat and wondered what these people sat and did. They didn’t seem to do anything. And then it hit me. Was I not doing the same as them? Possibly? Were we all just sitting there, contemplating why everyone else just sat there?


But then I was still there, my revelation gone and not all that revelatory. It was good. I just sat.

In Samuel Beckett’s first published novel, Murphy, the title character sits. We are introduced to him as fiercely sedentary, secured to his rocking chair, which he never seems to rock. 

“Seven scarves held him in position. Two fastened his shins to the rockers, one his thighs to the seat, two his breast and belly to the back, one his wrists to the strut behind. Only the most local movements were possible.”

Murphy is a character of local movements. He is always seeking the sitting or even the full, prone position. He seems to want to meditate, but Beckett never lets him do it. Somehow, meditation is movement. The stillness of meditation belies the flight of the mind away from the physical stillness. Murphy, on the other hand, is still, physically, which is to make no distinction between this and the mental. Beckett is not a dualist. He does not reduce the mental to the physical either. Murphy, on the other hand, does…at first.  Murphy “sat in his chair this way because it gave him pleasure! First it gave his body pleasure, it appeased his body. Then it set him free in his mind. For it was not until his body was appeased that he could come alive in his mind.”  As the novel progresses, which is not to say that it gets anywhere, Murphy does not mentally travel. He is not free in his mind. He sits still or lies flat and his pleasure in these positions is not the pleasure of his body as opposed to the pleasure of his mind, it is simply pleasure. He thinks the pleasure, then sits, and is pleased. The problems Murphy faces are problems of his dualist conception. He never reduces the mental to the physical. He is not purely a materialist.

Murphy’s attraction to the patients at Magdalen Mental Mercyseat, is not an attraction to their physical stillness or mental flightiness, but to the perfect combination of the two, which unfortunately implies that there is some reconciliation of two processes when in fact it is just the opposite. It is the recognition of their sameness. Murphy, hired as a nurse, quickly becomes enamored of the patients. “Skinner’s was the cockpit of the M.M.M.,” writes Beckett of the place Murphy is assigned, “and here the battle raged most fiercely, whenever it could be engaged, between the psychotic and psychiatric points of view.” Murphy begins quickly to detest the reduction of mental state to physical, distrusting “the complacent scientific conceptualism that made contact with outer reality the index of mental well-being.”

Try as he may, there is no resolving the different dualisms of the psychiatric-psychotic dualism, for Murphy. I think maybe the assumption of duality and conflict is, itself, the problem. I find it incredibly important to think around and within particular mental states, but I hesitate to speak of necessity, to continue to see my physical sitting as begetting mental stimulation, or, more simply, a physical state of any kind as being different from a mental state of any kind. Our terminology, here, is suspect.

I still recommend a good walk, but don’t forget to sit, and in sitting, be pleased, not just rested. Do not oppose sitting to walking. There is no fundamental opposition.


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