Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Understanding the self

Journal entry from 2/21/12

Like Dean Young says about Keats's Ode to a Nightengale:

"The self is not a fixed thing, rather a movement:  A collection of arrived-at and abandoned impulses and conflicting conclusions, one X over another." (The Art of Recklessness, pg 54)

But as much as our self wanders throughout the day, we, like Keats being dragged back to his forlorn self, always return to that place where we lay our head on the pillow.  Our routines bind us to an identity and give us an illusion of control in a constantly changing world.

Part of our fear of algorithms finding our patterns is that we cannot, or don't want to, break out of them.  Besides, if we do break out, how long before we fall back in?  Do we converge on an invariant identity, categorizable, well-defined, predictable?  Is it even possible to ever break out?  Breakouts become patterns of their own, part of the overall texture of a pattern.

But behold!  We break free, forth into the darkness or the light, ever-changing world where we try new things, jumping off the dock into green water, skiing through the trees, propelling ourselves into space, falling in love, adapting to change, creating new ideas, new things, new ways of being.  In the big picture, we are unpredictable, and in the microcosm of a moment we are as well.  It is only in the quotidien cycle of waking and sleeping, following our routines, that we are most predictable.

So then the most unpredictable we could be would be to change daily or weekly or cyclic habits.  But who would want to?  It is the cycle that gives us a sense of stability.  The predictability is good, reliable.

1 comment:

KateMadd/skmckinn said...

I'd say: "the predictability is good, reliable," as long as we're talking about it from the point of view of the self, as an experiencing subject ("subject" in Agamben's sense).

But such predictability is problematic when the predictability comes from an outside position (the meta-position of the data-collecting corporation/descriptive algorithm) that produces a subject, or subjectifies ("subjectifies" in Foucault's sense)...