Friday, 15 February 2008

Purchase in encounters through, or despite Indeterminacy?

Ongoing notes and questions:

dict def: 'Indeterminacy principle' - a principle in quantum mechanics holding that it is impossible to determine, both the position and momentum of a particle at the same time' (Also called Heisenberg uncertainty principle).

def: 'Indeterminacy' as defined by Brian Massumi in the context of the body relative to its own indeterminate state, in Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Post-Contemporary Interventions), 2002, Duke University Press, p5, as: '... (its openness to an elsewhere and otherwise than it is, in any here and now).' (see previous November 07 post).

In my last post in November of 2007, I had reached a point of involvement with the notion that inexorably perhaps, we are affected by indeterminacy as a characteristic which underpins the nature and substance of our meetings with people in urban spaces.

On the main page of my blog I have included a quotation from Buddha:
‘What is the appropriate behaviour for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What`s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?’ Buddha. Human Givens. vol 14, (3) Human Givens Publishing Ltd, East Sussex, England, UK

I am following a line of thought which posits that each meeting or encounter with another in the streets, is a moment of establishing a temporary purchase in the tide of humanity which surrounds us. A temporary purchase in time. How do we salute, greet, converse with one another in such an environment?

I am considering the alignment of the distinctly experiential and process-orientated realities of Henri Bergson, Brian Massumi and Len Lye (see November 2007 post) and their concepts of 'becoming' as opposed to
'being' with the above definition of the 'indeterminacy principle': the immutable integrity (soundness) of an apparently 'present' location perceived inseparably with that of its simultaneous already-generated momentum - on and away from its own 'present' state - a condition of constant erosion of that immutability within and of its so-called fixed position. An ever-diminished and renewed and re-diminished point of purchase. Is this a reality in urban spaces? Is this a fractal of our wider life or limited only to swift encounters in the street? Is the practice of our wider life as sentient beings in fact, ruled by indeterminacy - even within our so-called daily 'routines'? If so, does this imply that all the affairs of our lives are fated to be coloured by a vague sense of insecurity, uncertainty, an indefinable sense of something just missed?

Perhaps not. I am aware that the criteria and qualities of flux, momentum, departure, movement away, can be seen equally to juxtapose their opposites: pause, stasis, arrival, movement toward - and this describes a more optimistic perspective of human relations in urban precincts. Yet, I am not a pessimist by nature. Rather than viewing the two hemispheres of behaviour as competing with one another, one being 'better ' than the other, I prefer to perceive aspects of the latter existing in the former to create the whole. Not a negative viewpoint, but instead, an acknowledgement to the potency of change and indeed, time. The definition on indeterminacy above, makes clear the allegiance of matter to the concept of 'time'. Time, it might be said, adheres to corporeal, tangible matter which in turn is constantly affected by those things which 'time' decides to impact upon it. I cannot ignore aspects of time within my own response-making. Decisions must be made as to how to embed my observations, efforts and critiquing into a time-frame. (Hold that thought.)

I am faced with the possibilities and in turn, the challenges, that an immersion in this tide, within a given time-frame may provide for me. How do I make dance work about this paradoxical (in the sense that we also seem to gravitate towards people) - movement away existing in meetings between people in the street?

Why am I doing this? What is it that I find fascinating about encounters and exchanges between people which owe their allegiance, not to a baseline which relies upon a positive, if temporary communion; but a manifestation which could be said to be negative, symptomatic of loss, leaving and parting? So the communion is ephemeral, insubstantial, perhaps even ineffable - a mere perch, just out of reach of Buddha`s 'flood' and only temporary, at that.

To continue my side of the debate identified above, I am curious about the tensions existing in the fabric of this relationship: I choose to see every arrival containing the seeds of departure. Every arrival is swayed by an undercurrent of the momentum of leaving. As we engage with the process of arrival, we assert our presence/insert ourselves into a place, space, connection with someone, NOW. But 'now' is already in our wake. The present is already diminishing to materialise in the more encompassing state of 'becoming'. So 'becoming' is governed by almost anything which is non-static. Movement away - movement surely, toward the next ensuing moment and destination but movement away, nonetheless.

If I pursue this direction I may take it that each time we meet with and intend, apparently voluntarily, to converse with someone in the street, this meeting is suffused with uncertainty, the outcome hidden in a myriad of chance elements; the meeting may be said to be governed by efforts (or initially, choices) to reach out across the current, as it were, of indeterminacy to gain some kind of purchase through establishing some common ground, while simultaneously and unusually unwittingly, being in the act of 'becoming' - of moving away. I mention choices, yet, whether or not we choose to actively and fully engage with someone, I believe the 'climate' of each encounter is still mediated by uncertainty through change - and indeterminacy. Perhaps it is important to define here, associations between uncertainty and indeterminacy? For me, within the context of this research, indeterminants in the process of engagement give rise to uncertainty - uncertain outcomes and also a process of a simply, 'not-knowing' while the experience is unfolding. Under these conditions it is not surprising that sometimes people leave an encounter feeling unfulfilled, unless as sentient beings we are used to such a state from long practice.

What constitutes a meeting between people?

Chance/planning, agreement/disagreement, accord/dischord, protocols, personal and cultural imperatives/influences/prejudices/insights; the body and its needs, weather of feeling and outward manifestations like speech, expression and gesticulation; the climate of the day and of the moment; the desire to be here and to be elsewhere, both. Indeterminacy is present I believe, in all of the above and furnishes us with a subliminal level of movement away ... movement away from the person in front of us, movement away from the desire to be here, movement away from a moment of purchase.

It appears that indeterminacy is a catalyst for chaos, for discomfort, for uncertainty. Perhaps, but the focus on improvisation in my dance work also asserts that it is a liberating factor. An undercurrent which is ever-present but which can provide us with a truth - no thing is certain but that is all right. So perhaps while struggling to gain a purchase on the moment within a meeting, acceptance of this realisation - that each meeting moment is in a state of 'becoming' may assist us, not in struggling against, but instead, going with the waters in which we are immersed. Indeterminacy as mediator.

To make work from this I must document these moments of pause, in ways which are discernible. How to make dance work about this? How to document it? How to evaluate both?

'Nostalgia and hope stand equally in the way of authentic experience'. Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
Past and future are indeterminants which collectively intervene in the present, 'now'. Meetings with people can be identified as manifestations of the present. The authentic present. My dance is based upon improvisation with all its authenticity, vagueries, 'becoming' moments and essential indeterminacy. How to make work using an approach which itself, is governed by indeterminacy, about concepts which themselves are also governed by indeterminacy?

My dance is another kind of flotsam. Purchase in the moment, while inevitably moving away. Despite prevailing conditions in the street which are laden with ambiguity, I need to prevail on a given moment and then capture it, hold it long enough to allow for recognition - to render the moment of purchase in a way which is accessible and then to pursue qualities which may express, contain or project an essence of 'leaving'.

How else may indeterminacy be determined?

More soon.


idiom said...

Many people would feel uncomfortable with the concept that they are already leaving an encounter during the encounter. I imagine that this indeterminacy changes day to day and possibly hour to hour depending on how we 'are' as a holistic being. There is a part of me that initially bridles against the idea of indeterminacy. There is also a part of me that understands that as an organism we are more like a multi functional processor than a homunculi with a central processor - this part of me isn't so concerned because it allows us to be present with those that we encounter with some part of us, while other parts are already walking down the road choosing what to have for dinner or preparing an essay or deciding what to wear to that wedding on the weekend.

I know this is a very simple response to your intense and in depth thinking but I feel compelled to share these thoughts...

It is interesting to remember that the brain evolved from a desire/need to move... perhaps we are very rarely, if ever, still... even when we appear to be physically still and present we continue to think ahead or backward into the past...

nomads.hat said...

Hi Idiom, I imagine that you are right in your supposition that the level of indeterminacy changes from moment to moment. As yet, I have not been able to tell.

I know what you mean about not liking the idea that we are not fully engaged when we like to think that we should be. Actually, how often can we truthfully say that we are comprehensively engaged with someone in a meeting on the street?

To me the idea of indeterminacy (manifesting in particular, as a subliminal movement away from engagement), colouring our lives in various forms is quite compelling. I am interested in indeterminacy as a notion which can be perceived not as a negative, so much as simply a state or condition within which we function and respond accordingly.

It is 'normal'and can be said to occupy a place in that tide of movement within which we pause in moments of purchase - eg: meetings and engagements with people.

I am interested in your assertion which states that '...the brain evolved from a desire/need to move...'. Could you say more on this?

Thanks Idiom

idiom said...

My last comment was descriptive of my internal process of reaction and then acceptance of indeterminacy. I have come to find that it is an honest state which those that are empathetic might find disturbing because it suggests a level of non-presence (or more simply of being distracted). But I agree that it is in fact not possible, nor in fact desirable, to maintain conscious presence limitlessly! Unless you are wholly committed to this pursuit to the seclusion of all else, such as a Zen Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhist or other such religious practitioner. As a functioning human it is in fact important for our mental health to experience periods of time where we are not fully conscious but allow our unconscious to 'take over', so to speak (see the Human Givens approach; the work of Earnest Rossi, Milton Erickson, Michael Yapko etc).

To qualify my assertion about the brain evolving due to movement I provide this quote:
'This ancient natural human desire, the quest to understand (to find meaning), originally grew out of primitive creatures' evolving ability to move independently. Indeed, movement is fundamental to the very existence of brains, which developed primarily to control movement, to predict the outcomes of movement and remember the result of past movements. Plants, by contrast, never evolved brains since they did not need to do this. (there is a tiny marine creature called a sea squirt which, in the earlier part of its life, swims around like a tadpole. It has a brain and a nerve cord to control its movements. But, when it matures, it attaches itself to a rock and stay in one place like a plant. Thereupon it digests its own brain and nerve cord because it no longer has a use for them'. Griffin, J. & Tyrrell, I. (2004). Human Givens – A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. Human Givens Publishing, UK, pp.6.

nomads.hat said...

Hi Idiom, Thanks for that follow-up.

Through the founders of the Human Givens approach you present a compelling argument for keeping on the move! There is much to recommend movement for its own sake but also to stave off the insidious creep of atrophy which occurs through lack of use in any given muscle/state. The 'use it or lose it'law (although I do not fully subscribe to it).

Yes, perhaps we are actually being 'looked after' through the governance of indeterminacy? Perhaps as a condition to which we have no choice but to experience, it keeps us on the move, reflexive, adaptable and responsive to ever-changing vistas of physics, perceptions and emotions.

Thanks again. I will revisit this in my 2008 posting.