Saturday, September 27, 2008

Word and world

Life at Yellow Bird: In the mornings I am writing a book: Fatal Projections: Pathologies of Alterity. Most of the chapters are written or drafted – typically versions of papers I have given over the last two years. But as much as they do fit together, I am struggling to clarify an integrative theoretical basis. I am looking for a streamlined general account of ‘projection’ both as necessary for sanity and as empirically variable and ethically charged. I think of Kant, Feuerbach, Freud – but how to sew them together? In the face of this challenge, I went in for displacement on Friday, and cleaned out the fridge. Out went rotten containers, moldy sachets, out of date cheese (yes, I’m not yet a vegan). Was I modeling for myself the difficult practice of throwing stuff away. Practice on dead broccoli, move on to bad first drafts.

Today, I must have been continuing to externalize the task of organizing mental/textual space. I got it into my head that there was a part of YB that had too long been out of bounds, the steep brambly slope up to the ridge above Pearson Pond. Surely my 4x4 would handle that. I could take shears and a Japanese pull hand-saw to clear the way. An hour later, having got lost, stalled, and ripped up by nature’s precursor of barbed wire slashing my forearm, I began to regret my venture. Large logs obstructed the way. Trees too close to pass between blocked my passage, and everywhere dangling strands of thorns. At the same time, the drive to return and ‘conquer’, with more serious equipment and a team of trail-blazers, was hard to repress. The better to ‘care’ for the place. Perhaps we need a little control for care-taking to happen. Anyway, with an arm crimson-speckled with thorns, I looked forward to returning to writing and thinking, less bloody forms of the sanguine.

In trying to think about projection, I note that cleaning the fridge and trying to cut paths through the wilderness are precisely forms of projective externalization, displacing a problem with a less promising form onto a space in which ‘it’ seems more tractable. But on this occasion, at least, surely it’s not the same problem. There is just an analogy between the two problem situations. I still need to return to sorting out my book’s conceptual map. All I will have gained is a certain renewed confidence in tackling difficulty. Or, worse, a confirmation of Sartre’s dictum that ‘les choses sont contre nous’, and that sometimes they win.

I went by Bob’s and picked up the boards I had sorted out from the old building I agreed to tear down for him. I plan to make a French Country Table, 8’ x 30”, with breadboard.ends by gluing them tight onto plywood. Narrow so that you are close to people sitting opposite. Are the boards oak? Poplar? Some of each? Can a warp be flattened out with screws or glue? The classic joinery advice is to use round pegs in oval holes to hold the end pieces, so the width can ‘move’. Another nice example of strength through flexibility. Pleased to discover that the poison ivy I thought covered the building is or was largely Virginia creeper. I feared the worst. Vines of mass destruction. How can we prevent ourselves being governed by fear? Imagination is good; fearing the worst bad. How/when can we subject imagination to ‘reason’, or at least a certain reflection?