Towards an imaginative being / becoming
Once I thought that to be human was the highest aim a man could have, but I see now that it was meant to destroy me. … I have nothing to do with the creaking machinery of humanity – I belong to the earth! …— Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer, 1934.
Taking nature as an a priori category forecloses an analysis of the roles that politics and power play in determining what a society understands nature to be. — Elmer G Wiens, quoted from a web article.
Human being is a social-ontological construct. Seen through a frame put forward in complicity to the modernist doxa, it is nothing short of a reductive conceptual scheme.
The bio-cosmic entity that is the human, once schematized in relation to politics, power and episteme, is stabilized through a certain fixed form of (re)cognition of the body and the mind. The entity called the human is, thus, wrested out of its yet-to-be defined plain of possibilities. In effect, the bio-cosmic entity that is the 'body' is translated into the bio-social body, and the mind to the psycho-social mind. All such reductionism has a clear bearing on the level of social/spiritual life of the community and the individual who treads on the commune's lithosphere.
The 'being narrative', as a social/textual ontology, pay little or no heed to the social/historical dynamics, is made up of texts fashioned after a dominant trend. Often the framework or conceptual scheme, produced in line with the social demands for a logical/rational interpretation, captures our imagination but utterly fails to do justice to the 'being' that is the central theme of an evolving ecology with its body-mind axis embedded in the ever changing societal landscape.
Our tendency to ontologize the human in relation to a linear concept of social progress puts a constraint on our cognitive freedom. It is no doubt a case to be taken up in the social-epistemic realm. But we have to remain vigilant of any simple-minded alternative interpretations, and also be aware that in our urgency to get out of the 'box', any such dominant narrative places us into, we do not fix a gaze that produces just another tunnel vision.
Being aware of any such 'cognitive failure' is never enough. We need counteractions that would not only serve to defuse such metanarrative that hinges on the polarity of the body and mind, but would also work as sites of 'world making', to borrow Jean-Luc Nancy's formulation who 'believes that the real polarity is between the global death-drive of the “un-world” and the creative stirring of “world-making.”'
The trope 'humanity' is nothing but a reductive term, which, undoubtedly, is of some significance in the context of how anthropocentrism rose to prominence in the last three hundred years in the field of knowledge in Europe, which gave it a certain epistemic bend. But it sadly falls short as it frames the entity called the human only in relation to the ratio and experientia that flows from within its fold. Overlooking all other non-textual dispensations, humanity casts the human from within a regular grid of narratives.
Human as an acculturated, knowledge- and practice-oriented entity, is what these co-related narratives bring to view. Thus, the body-mind axis, holding in its folds the possibilities of multiplicity of becomings, remains boxed in a well-defined frame as the ethical-textual construction bars its bio-geo-cosmic and social-psychic expressions that go to creating the entire spectrum of the being and the experiential reality it spark.
Taking one's cue from Earns Cassirer's particularly interesting text, where he asserts that 'form thinking' belongs to being, while 'causal thinking' is linked to becoming, one may say that it is in myriad becomings that all beings are bound to locate their possibilities of existence. And as we now know that the concept of the Other, as well as the process to be othered through the intervention of the Other, is crucial to human endeavour to release the self from the fetters of all normative perceptual frames.
Similar mapping of the 'plain of imminence' are to be found in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari. While describing nomad art, they formulate 'a nomadic absolute, as a local integration moving from part to part in an infinite succession of linkages and changes in direction. It is an absolute that is one with becoming itself, with process' (Million Plateaus, p 494). Such is the nature of this absolute processual structure, the being must, perforce, the performances that set off myriad becomings, through which otherness is created, or one is othered.
There are insider and outsider views that a single body is capable of inaugurating, and through its varied dispensations in a given social climate, one arrives at a multiplicity of loci. Rituals are such energy-infused sites of unbound possibilities as they hold the capacity to awaken the visceral in us and to push the body to its limits, to the luminal edge of other world – creating scope for myriad other possibilities.
In this text as well as image saturated world, we erroneously focus on the body as image rather than the body as existence and experientiality. By moving away from the locus where the body operates as a biochemically reflexive entity besides being a thinking, acting vessel that engenders all kinds of experiences and narratives, one proceeds towards the liminal stage.
Image, in today's world, is descriptive rather than imaginative. The word image, seen in relation to the eschatological vision that is also made possible through seeing, observing and interpreting from the edge of liminality, brings to fore the potential of the body which has been thoroughly stirred to act as its other.
We often want to visualize that 'beyond image' or the 'imago', which is, of course, The Image that presents itself through the mediation of the body. The imago-seeing being is, thus, erected only when visibility and corporeality is brought in alignment.