Published in  
August 22, 2015

The self is a haptic involution

Transcendental philosophies prod us to toss aside the ‘ego’ to get out of our heads, to leave the ‘I’ behind and rejoin the rapturous gyre of wonder and peace that is reality.

However, this invitation is fraught with problems, and trouble peeks around the corner – for the imperative to transcend the ego assumes the ‘ego’ is a thing, a given, a fixed ontological point, the enfleshed psyche that, were it not for the intrusive appearance of an ‘other’, would spend its every waking moment selfishly licking itself. The very portrait of sin and perverseness. But how does such a story hold up in a cosmos that is entangled, where the material and the discursive are each other, where boundaries are constantly shifting, and where relationships – not things – are the primary units of reality?

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The ‘I’ that pretends to be the author of intentions, the agent behind the cause, the hidden self, is not a given – the naturally occurring sprite in a fable of muteness. It is monstrous – defying categories and definitions. A ‘product’ of intercepting ripples, of diffracting agencies, of multiple differences, and congealing relationalities. Bending linear time into pastpresentfuture involutions, queering distances. Touching im/possibilities. The ‘ego’ of Freudian lore is not the putrid heap of shame of psychotherapeutic convenience, the rusty nail in the giant wheel of economic progress, the salvation-seeking pilgrim of religious sway, or the Archimedean point of humanist fantasies. She – and her promiscuity and unyielding transience is such that I can only refer to ‘her’ in the feminine – is so ‘much more’. The ‘ego’ is not a pixel; it is the entire screen. The challenge is not to transcend anything; it is to acknowledge the intra-activity that she is, the suffocatingly riveting complexity she is. It is to come to a mighty river and hesitate to name it lest one offends the unnameable streams – scattered here and there – that weave it as one.

Portrait: Colleen Wallace Nungari