So while making my last post, I noticed that I sent that crazy ramble to my professor, and not the following which is what I meant to send:

Jacques Derrida states, “all responsible witnessing engages a poetic experience of language,” which is to say that the most responsible way to bear witness to an event is through a poetic language that does not claim to grasp the moment, capture it, or totalize it. Derrida also states that love is a question between “who” one loves or “what” one loves. The question is: does one love the other or some quality about the other. It is my belief that these statements can inform a certain reading of many different concepts that are depicted in literature, most obviously conceptions of love, but also conceptions of heartbreak. I believe that these moments in literature invoke Derrida’s conception of poetic language to try to convey to the reader a sense of these abstract concepts such as love and heartbreak. Furthermore, I believe that within the idea of conveying emotions beyond thematization in poetic language that Martin Heidegger’s conception of identity (Being) as always moving ahead of itself, as being-in-the-world-towards-others, rather than a static, non-moving, self-same identity, is the reason that love and heartbreak cannot be put into words and why it is that poetic language is the best way to convey these ideas .

Stemming from these ideas, I believe that there is a serious critical gap in exploring conceptions of heartbreak, which I believe follow the same conceptions as love. That is to say that heartbreak, like love, can best be explored through this poetic experience of language. Additionally, I believe that there is a phenomenology of heartbreak that has been explored but not explicitly put into words. Though not explicitly about heartbreak, as mentioned earlier, I believe that heartbreak can only be themetized through poetic language. I also believe that Harold Schweizer’s phenomenological look at enduring time in his book On Waiting can inform a view of heartbreak, which is after all, a waiting to “get over it.” These ideas intersect with Derrida when he examines ideas of mourning. Derrida explores having to carry on after an other has passed: “The survivor, then, remains alone….At the least, he[the survivor] feels solely responsible, assigned to carry both the other and his world, the other and the world that have disappeared” (140). But what happens when the world of the other is only gone from me? In heartbreak, the other is gone but not gone from the world, so while I carry the world of the other in me, the other’s world is not gone.

I feel that Schwiezer’s conception of waiting can inform these questions. Schwiezer outlines a theory of waiting using Henri Bergson. Basically, there are two temporalities: one thought and one lived (time and duration). Clocks give us thought time– an abstraction that is measured. Bergson gives an example of enduring time by saying that watching a lump of sugar melt in a glass of water gives us lived time– time that must be endured– a time that must be waited “willy-nilly.” This willy-nilly implies vacillation, which Bergson terms “impatience” (16). It is in this lived time, this time that is not calibrated to our will, that time becomes “time as the other than.” Duration then seems “other than” as in other than can be measured; therefore, it is time that is consciously endured rather than the time in which things get done (16): “In waiting, the hour cannot be turned into lunch; the waiter must live the hour” (Ibid.). The hour can not be a distracting; as Schwietzer puts it the hour can not be turned into a “lunch hour.”

What is implied here is that in waiting the waiter cannot defer or prolong, shorten or lengthen, his time and thus his “being.” In waiting the waiter feels his own being. I get here a feeling of Heidegger’s “being-towards-death.” From what I understand of Heidegger’s anxiety:

Heidegger argues that our ontic feelings of anxiety testify to the “groundlessness” of human existence, revealing an ineradicable insecurity which Heidegger connects to the fact that our existential trajectories – the life-projects, roles, and identities that define who we are – have “always already” been shaped by a past that we can never get behind and head off into a future in which these self-defining projects will always be incomplete, cut short by a death we can neither avoid nor control. In Heidegger’s famous phrase we exist as a “thrown project”: thrown out of a past we cannot get behind, we project ourselves into a future we can never get beyond. “Existence” (from the Latin Ek-sistere, out-standing) is this standing-out into time, a temporal suspension between natality and mortality (http://www.philosophers.co.uk/cafe/phil_mar2003.htm)

If anxiety arises out of our existential trajectories, then wouldn’t we feel that groundlessness more when we are forced to endure time? If the anxiety is a result of being always-already shaped by a past we cannot get behind and being thrown into a future we can not head off, then wouldn’t we feel this anxiety in moments when we, as Schweizer puts it, “feel our being” in waiting– because in waiting our being cannot protract or contract, we vacillate, we are in this state of willy-nilly “will I, won’t I.” This dithering is made manifest in our pacing the room; The walking back and forth is the waiter wanting to get away from a body that endures– the body is always a reminder of mortality. (Again, I think of a “Being-towards-death”).

I extensively look at these conceptions of time and existential anxiety because I see in these phenomenological experiences much of what a phenomenology of heartbreak would feel/look like. In heartbreak, the heartbroken must endure time. He must wait to “get over” the person, and this “getting over” becomes problematic when thinking about what Derrida has to say about mourning. What happens then when the loved one is not dead but just gone and out of my life? Is there not a mourning there, but one that is much different (and yet eerily similar) to Derrida’s mourning. According to Derrida, in order for mourning to succeed, it must fail. Mourning is the getting over of a lost loved one, but does it not feel wrong to think we can get over the death of a beloved; therefore, Derrida’s conception of mourning is that is must fail in order to succeed, but in heartbreak, doesn’t the mourning have to succeed? But it can’t fully succeed because the person is not dead, just not there, which leaves us back to why Derrida says that mourning as “getting over” would seem odd, especially odd if the person is still alive, or so I would think. Or is it that mourning does succeed because we can finally get over the person? While this latter question implies a possible solution, I still find it problematic because, to use Derrida again, when the other is gone we must “carry the world of the other” but the world of the other hasn’t gone anywhere, just away from me. Yet I can’t help but to have the world of the other in me in dialogue.

Another possibility I see is that since, as Heidegger says, Dasien is always-already thrown forward and taking up possibilities and future possibilities, is heartbreak, then, the realization of having certain possibilities no longer available? This is what existential anxiety is, after all, so is heartbreak then just an intense experience of existential anxiety? To contrast that idea, is love then the suddenly multiple possibilities before me?

I think, therefore, that there is a connection to be made between love and heartbreak, which I think phenomenologically are the same experience interpreted in different ways, and I think ways to interpret these emotions are through Derrida’s conception of poetic language and through a philosophy of waiting. I think that the conditions of possibilities for these ideas are found in Heidegger’s conception of Dasein, and I think that heartbreak, like waiting, can be interpreted through Heidegger’s idea of “present-at-hand ”

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It seems that Woolf is concerned with the perceptions of things, and not so much the things in themselves. Her views seem to coincide with phenomenological views, starting with Husserl, who attacks a popular psychologism of his time. Husserl does not think that logic can be reduced to mere psychology (which seems to be the attack that Woolf makes on Freud at the beginning of the novel); rather, the novel seems to be a phenomenological account meditating on experience and “meaning.”

Woolf seems to be concerned more with the way things appear and not in what things really are. This is seen throughout the novel as different characters contemplate “meaning”- especially the meaning of words, some examples are:
“Mrs. Ramsay did not quite catch the meaning, only the words” (12); “And to those words, what meaning attached” (24), and also pages 30, 38, 54,55, and about 11 other times (I didn’t keep a consistent count); Furthermore, this is seen in contemplating the table when no one is there to contemplate the table, and also in the way that Mrs. Ramsay’s art, as Lily realizes in the “Lighthouse” section of the book, is the ability to see the “…little daily miracles” (161) in everyday life.

It is this ability (as well as many others, such as Mrs. Ramsay’s contemplation on life and love, Lily’s reduction of Mrs. Ramsay to just that triangle, etc) that is the concern of Husserlian phenomenology. As we go along our everyday lives, we take for granted ‘the little miracles’ all around us. Husserl gives his method to seeing the world as it is given us, stating that all consciousness is consciousness of an object, and in order to see the object phenomenologically, “We put out of action the general positing which belongs to the essence of the natural attitude; we parenthesize everything which that positing encompasses with respect to being” (Husserl 1982, sec. 32). This bracketing is literally seen in the accounts of the Ramsay deaths. The idea, I believe, is to look at death phenomenologically. We are to bracket out any of our preconceived sentimental notions of death and contemplate them in and of themselves, alone.

This is the novel’s underlying concern– a bracketing away of preconceived notion in order to get to the object itself without any preconceived notions. The characters bracket out all of there thoughts on an object or experience of an emotions until it is left without meaning, which is why there are so many references in the novel to “what does it mean?” Mr. Ramsay in his work is concerned with this idea of subject and object, and for Husserl, there is always a perceiving subject. The novel itself is set up in a dialectic where the reader sees the subjective thoughts of the characters in part one, and then see the objective passing of time in part two, and then we get the synthesis of subject and object in part three.

Lily is seen struggling with these ideas as she is finishing her painting: “One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on the level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that’s a chair, that’s a table, and yet at the same time, It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy” (202). And, through phenomenology, the chair, simply, can be both, just a chair and a miracle.

 

I just finished reading On Waiting by Harold Schweizer. This is part of Routledge publishing’s “Thinking in Action” series (I also have On Humor, which I want to start reading soon). 

This is a fascinating book, and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it. Schweizer’s prose are clear and concise, and he uses vidid and clear examples. It is refreshing to read such a nicely written book dealing with philosophical issues. Schweizer takes a phenomenological look at waiting and what we go through when we wait, but first he states what he considers waiting to be– to paraphrase he says that waiting is not just time to be “traversed” but is something rather that must be endured. He elucidates this point by giving us the metaphor of: if time is a door or hall way that we pass through unaware, then waiting is a door jam– a moment we cannot pass through unaware. 

This conception of time began, he sates, during the rise of modernism and industrial society. A time in which pocket watches became popular, and “Rather than becoming masters of their own time, the bearers of pocket watches were mastered by it” (4).  Time, which was once inconceivable (and here I think of Alan Watts in The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, in which Watts explains the eastern conception of time as just an arbitrary thing that we use to know at what time to meet on what day, but not as an actual “thing” that exist– Watts explains how upset people were when the time changed and they had “lost” a week or something, I don’t remember. You can read about it here). 

Schwiezer does an excellent job of weaving in material from philosophy, art, literature, and everyday experience to make his points understandable and clear, looking at Paul Virilio, a newsweek article (about the death of the comma because we don’t have enough time to pause in our reading), and Daumier’s painint, “Un Wagon de Troisieme Classe.” Schwiezer then goes on to point out the lucrative business of keeping people from waiting– cell phones, computers, internet access everywhere,–constant distraction from the existential experience of waiting. 

He goes on to say the wait as lived-experience is: “This wait is the basic way to live what-has-to-be-lived” (10). This idea makes me think of Eastern philosophy again; after all, isn’t this what the art of mindfullness is preaching. To be fully aware of the moment rather than letting it pass you by. You can check it out here.

There is so much more I want to say about this book, but I realize I have rambled on this long and I have barely scratched the surface. I will try to keep it short. 

Schwiezer then goes on to outline a theory of waiting using Henri Bergson’s lump of sugar as his basic premise. Basically there are two temporalities: one thought and one lived (time and duration). Clocks give us thought time– an abstraction that is measured. But watching a lump of sugar melt in a glass of water gives us lived time– time that must be endured– a time that must be watied “willy-nilly.” This willy-nilly implies vacillation, which Bergson terms “impatience” (16).  It is in this lived time, this time that is not calibrated to our will, that time becomes “time as the other than.” Duration then seems “other than” as in other than can be measured; therefore, it is time that is consciously endured rather than the time in which things get done (16): “In waiting, the hour cannot be turned into lunch; the waiter must live the hour” (Ibid.). 

What is implied here is that in waiting the waiter cannot defer or prolong, shorten or lengthen, his time and thus his “being.” In waiting the waiter feels his own being. I get here a feeling of Heidegger’s “being-towards-death.” From what I understand of Heidegger’s anxiety:

Heidegger argues that our ontic feelings of anxiety testify to the “groundlessness” of human existence, revealing an ineradicable insecurity which Heidegger connects to the fact that our existential trajectories – the life-projects, roles, and identities that define who we are – have “always already” been shaped by a past that we can never get behind and head off into a future in which these self-defining projects will always be incomplete, cut short by a death we can neither avoid nor control. In Heidegger’s famous phrase we exist as a “thrown project”: thrown out of a past we cannot get behind, we project ourselves into a future we can never get beyond. “Existence” (from the Latin Ek-sistere, out-standing) is this standing-out into time, a temporal suspension between natality and mortality (http://www.philosophers.co.uk/cafe/phil_mar2003.htm)

So, if anxiety arises out of our existential trajectories, then wouldn’t we feel that groundlessness more when we are forced to endure time? If the anxiety is a result of being always-already shaped by a past we cannot get behind and being thrown into a future we can not head off, then wouldn’t we feel this anxiety in moments when we, as Schweizer puts it, “feel our being” in waiting– because in waiting our being cannot protract or contract, we vacillate, we are in this state of willy-nilly “will I, won’t I.”  This dithering is made manifest in our pacing the room; The walking back and forth is the waiter wanting to get away from a body that endures– the body is always a reminder of mortality. (Again, I think of a “Being-towards-death”).

The next portion of the book mixes Walter Benjamin, Bergson’s comparison of of the totality of music to the totality of living being, makes a distinction between boredom and waiting, and further explains the manifestations of waiting. 

in music we do not hear the pauses or notice the subtle individual parts, but rather we experience music as a whole. Waiting is like being made acutely aware of the individual parts of the music. Boredom is compared to sleep if sleep is the apex of the body in relaxation, boredom is the apex of mental relaxation. Waiting, on the other hand, must be endured. In waiting the waiter is not fully self forgetful nor fully self-conscious: “The waiter hovers and shuttles between absorption and awareness […] between the spell of the story and the spelling of a word” (20). 

The waiter waits willy-nilly, vacillates, “tarries,” the waiter constantly glances at his watch and is caught in its increments, but then has moments of forgetfulness. 

The book goes on in this manner to look at the waiter’s objects. Again, things become out of synch when waiting: the magazine, the watch, the chair the waiter waits in, the waiter herself (the book looks at Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “In the Waiting Room”). These objects must perish, and we are reminded that we, too, must perish as we become objectified by time:

“It is we who are passing when we say time passes.” Waiting, then, allows for the sudden realization that, like things, we are (29). The body, like things, is the embodiment of duration (manifest in looking at watch, closing eyes, pacing, smoking, magazine, etc). 

The book then looks at the waiter’s gaze, and then through looking at different examples (Penelope’s wait in the Odyssey; Bishop’s wait in her poetry”– The books then looks at lingering and the particulars of lingering. When we wait, obhects become particular. Here again I think of the distinction Heidegger makes between “ready-at-hand” and “present-at-hand.” When things are ready-at-hand, they are ready for our use, and we use the tool without thinking about it, but when something is thrown off, broken (the broken hammer), it becomes present-at-hand, a thing of contemplation in which we notice all the particulars, in which the object becomes strange to us. 

There is also a section on the ethics of waiting… and much more…. But this is why the blog is called fragments because you are only going to get a [long] fragment. This is a really fascinating read and I suggest people pick it up.