Soaring through heady clouds, in moments of virtual escape from the conditions that sustain us, we assure ourselves that our personal regimens of self-improvement bring us closer and closer to our best selves. We insist that everything is possible. That “everyday, in every way, [we] are getting better and better”. But there are others in the room, namely, the very material world that supports us. It is not dead. It is not deaf. And, sorry, it is not the stage for our haunted attempts at redemption. The world – if I could speak of it as if it were a single thing – is very much alive, and news of its death is greatly exaggerated. She does not lie open for our scrutiny – waiting to be probed and needled and gagged; she will not belch out truths or answers because we insist on it. And yes, she laughs when we preach that everything is possible.
I think a world where aspects of it are closed to me – a world of differential accessibility – is more interesting and awe-inducing than a world where everything is within my reach…within my cognitive grasp, if only I stretch out my hand a bit further. A world that is fully penetrable, flat and timid, laid plain before my gaze is not the world that inspires paeans and poetry. One needs bumps and grit and denial and shadows and resistance for that. Ironically, it is because the world resists and pushes back and slips away and retreats that we seek to disinvest ourselves from it. If it were true that life is about getting better and better, floating in a pure stream of light where there are no earthly consequences, we probably wouldn’t know it.