Friday, March 2, 2012

Body practice

In the IPS "what 'is' the differance" thread Dial inquired:

"How exactly would you argue for deconstruction as being a genuine praxis that has effects beyond how we respond to written texts? How would you argue for thought alone having effect on more than thought alone? How does deconstruction move the body? How does it develop non-attachment in all our activities?"

I replied:

I've asserted many times in many places that deconstruction is indeed a praxis. And certainly one that deals with far more than language or text but with being and the thing in itself. So as a practice it can be applied even to the body, even though Derrida did not seem to specifically apply it in this way himself.

How so? For example I've discussed iterability recently in a few threads. In my dance and very subtle body movement exercises I am continually refining structure and technique while simultaneously allowing for it to be open to innovation. I retain and expand on existing structural patterns yet tap into that withdrawn and mysterious excess via the aesthetic sensibility. Dance literally transports me into that space-time beyond linguistic signs into being a dynamic, open, performance art object. And learning deconstruction first as a linguistic practice aided me to carry this into dance practice. Granted this was also aided by years of tai chi chaun training, but that's another story.

And let us not minimize the benefits of deconstruction as a linguistic practice. One of my favorite Loy quotes follows (source), and I see the practice of differance in it, even if Loy himself cannot.

"Well, this relates to the way we understand spirituality and meditation. For example, we often tend to understand meditation—in Zen especially—as getting rid of thoughts. We think that if we can just get rid of thought, then we can see the world as it is, clearly, without any interference from conceptuality. We view thinking as something negative that has to be eliminated in order to realize the emptiness of the mind. But this reflects the delusion of duality, rather than the solution to duality. As Dogen put it, the point isn’t to get rid of thought, but to liberate thought. Form is emptiness, yet emptiness is also form, and our emptiness always takes form. We don’t realize our emptiness apart from form, we realize it in form, as non-attached form. One of the very powerful and creative ways that our emptiness takes form is as thought. The point isn’t to have some pure mind, untainted by thought, like a blue, completely empty sky with no clouds. After a while that gets a little boring! Rather, one should be able to engage or play with the thought processes that arise in a creative, non-attached, nondualistic way. To put it in another way, the idea isn’t to get rid of all language, it’s to be free within language, so that one is non-attached to any particular kind of conceptual system, realizing that there are many possible ways of thinking and expressing oneself. The freedom from conceptualizing that we seek does not happen when we wipe away all thoughts; instead, it happens when we’re not clinging to, or stuck in, any particular thought system. The kind of transformation we seek in our spiritual practices is a mind that’s flexible, supple. Not a mind that clings to the empty blue sky. It’s a mind that’s able to dance with thoughts, to adapt itself according to the situation, the needs of the situation. It’s not an empty mind which can’t think. It’s an ability to talk with the kind of vocabulary or engage in the way that’s going to be most helpful in that situation."

Bryant's comment to his recent blog post seems relevant to the latest turn here:

"Take my poor garden. A linguistic idealist might claim that the things of the world are nothing but effects of linguistic categories that cut up the world in particular ways (they’d never express their thesis this crudely, of course). My garden suggests otherwise. Were my garden simply an effect of words or signifiers I could speak it into being however I like without any resistance from the garden itself. But in gardening I find something different: I encounter the essential weakness and impotence of language and social forces. For my garden to be 'true' or to stand, I have to surrender myself to the soil, plants, fences, manure, compost, shovels, hoes, rabbits, birds, worms, insects, weather patterns, light, water, etc., so that they might be brought together in cooperation in the formation of an assemblage that’s able to sustain itself. I don’t have mastery over any of this, but can only collaborate with all of these entities and negotiate, opening myself to surprise and the tendencies of these agents."

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