Thursday, February 02, 2006

Aspiring to Psychopathology...or Beauty

Last year I saw a German Shepard get hit by a car on a busy street. I pulled over as a crowd gathered, including some acquaintances I had made through my job—one of which a woman who always wears a pendant with saint Francis of Assisi, the patron and protector of animals. “Thank god!” she exclaimed. “We were just praying for a truck.” We loaded the limp dog, whose collar read “Waldo” into my truck bed and sped to the other side of town. I had found him just in time, I thought, as I watched the nurses carry him on a piece of plywood into the vet’s office. The next day I returned to the gas station near the accident to rinse the dried blood out of my truck bed when my pendant-wearing customer approached me to report that Waldo had died.

Myself? I did and have referred boldly to this as “an experience,” though it is blatantly contrary to the definition John Dewey takes. It was a “continuous merging” filled with “holes, mechanical junctions and dead centers” (48). The woman’s pendant held no power to stitch the seemingly arbitrary events together, and my good timing was to no avail. I didn’t even make any new friends.

Despite the lack of resolution, I was moved and felt—dare I say—“a satisfying emotional” sensation as I watched the bright red fluids dilute and trickle off my tailgate (49). Arguably my emotions in this instance were “pathological” or attached to the animal’s loss rather than any present coherent development (50). But even in reviewing Waldo’s last day, I am certain, and in fact I will swear on my art, that they were “attached to [the] event” in its “movement,” and not “intruder[s]...from without” (51, 53). I know this because I felt nothing but “intensified” clarity as I supported the dog’s broken neck and as I sped down the sun-speckled street, scanning for cops. I was thrilled and evoked by my timing, and moved by the smell of the animal, the sweat and thick hair. Not to say I enjoyed his pain, but I was moved by it. It was cinema-graphic in its precision, and even if the events had no outwardly apparent “consummation,” I felt that I brought a “quality of intelligence...upon the perception of relations” (51).

This is hard to write about and probably harder to read about, because we haven’t talked about plain old daily experience as being aesthetic yet, and because I am knowingly contradicting Dewey’s detailed argument of the seamless nature of experience. Also, because my aesthetic experience, so called, was both totally made of Semblance, and yet fully grounded in reality (see Schiller, number 4). This does touch on Dewey’s default argument that “we drift,” but that such happenings have no “initiations [or] concludings” (50). On a totally personal level, I object to that. What arose in me in those moments were awe, fear, excitement, and anxiety. Indeed these emotions have been “absorb[ed] and carr[ied] on” since then to a more complete cognition of what it will mean to die (50). That experience was a review of “everything [I’d] ever lost and the premonition of everything life will take from” me (Ellen Hawley in What We Forgot to Tell Tina About Boys). I feel the same arguably aesthetic emotion when I listen to Handel’s Oratorios, read T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, or sit before Picasso’s Guernica. It is an emotion that is sometimes nothing more than play-drive, and sometimes an emotion filled with memories, that is to say—Mr. Schiller—filled with extraordinary reality.

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