On the constitution of self through the articulated gaze/space of the other

Mundanity, Words

Which is a thought I am having right now, but am not sure if I have the energy to actually explore into a coherent spool from divergent threads.

But here are some of the seeds of enquiry:

At some point in life, when I finally encountered a person whom I could do the work of trust-building for her to see all the layers of me, with generosity, kindness and unflinching honesty, I realised that being witnessed is an important part of becoming. Because somehow, being witnessed made all the crazy, flittering words in the head true, and the volumes of thinking behind a small invisible act gain matter. And they knot together in a string, like a sentence, or a song. One that is unfolding. Maybe even changing as we speak. But still, a song.

And it gave the space for experimentation. For making mistakes that adds to or sheds the layers of becoming. That retained a kind of memory. But witnessing/being witnessed can also be an ephemeral thing. Or temporary. For now, a shared path. And somehow being witnessed is an exchange, a reciprocal moment of seeing and being seen. And in that space, we are constituted through each other.

Wondering: Does it matter that there are multiple people who witness across the landscape of time? And would the shift in gaze disrupt the song, or simply add different notes to it? And is the self then a kind of techno-classical ululating tune that reverberates through the inflections of the other? And how long is long enough? One random conversation with a person at just the moment when both are experiencing different versions of the same vulnerability, panic or anger at uncovering a piece of truth, because the randomness and strangeness remove the cloak of performativity? Or does it allow for performativity to become the truth that it is constructing because there is no consequence?

Adding now the interface. The site of where much of this act of witnessing, and enacting, and expressing is taking place today. The messenging app, the social media home, the brief discursive landscape that accumulates as it disperses, the increasingly archaic comment box. The ability to dip quickly into the dislocated, disembodied truth of the self expressed through the absolute freedom of being no-named. And the increasing investment of weaving a digitally cohesive and constituted self that gains social (and other intertwined) capital and visibility through literally, being seen by the economy of eyeballs, that is simultaneously, not being seen at all.

The intimacy of distance through textual intercourse. The fleshiness of relating conjured through the pastiche of imagination, selfies, narrowly framed spaces and witty visual pop culture containers. How does one stitch a song through this haze of complicated noise and semiotic skin?

The simultaneous existence of being surrounded by hundreds of bodies, where some are more material than others, that is also at pockets of stillness, incredibly lonely.

And the loneliness is as important as the moment of witnessing by an other in the process of becoming. The aloneness is maybe more accurate. The necessity of closing one’s eyes, to hear one’s voice, as it rides dust winds and swims in rivers and lies in the changing stillness of skies, to witness the becoming of the self, by self.

The interface of this screen, to write this post, that is perhaps going nowhere. And the distance between the voice in my head, to the automatic movements of my fingers finding just the right space on the keyboard to make up words.

I’m thinking of this, because a friend shared an article, about how Descartes got it wrong, and yet we are still haunted by this scaffolding of the coherent, cognitively-driven, subjectively sealed-off self. And it is more about the interactions. But maybe it is also about both, and that maybe neither is actually, exactly possible.

Although, ubuntu.

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