Posted by: glue | June 2, 2008

Corridor Window @ Shands Hospital

Corridor Window @ Shands Hospital

A situation becomes region through measure. Oblio writes the measure of measure, since what remains to be learned about electracy is a path of movement through the dataverse. What measure organizes the ratios, proportions, functions of relationship, allowing thought to move from the given to the unknown, circumspectly? Conduction (the fourth inference). The practice of reflective judgment must be updated, replacing analogy with digilogy (analogue digital). The ratio jumps, if still guided by beauty. The sublime conditions of modernity overwhelmed Western beauty (the classical proportions of the Renaissace), but did not necessarily exceed the range of beauty itself. The vanguard arts experimented with new functions to replace ratio, but never forget the multi-cultural, syncretic character of those experiments (importing from every non-European tradition its alternative experience of beauty).

corridor window

This hospital where in May doctors provided me with a total hip replacement is a place from which to learn region (chora). If there was any doubt about the wisdom of the decision to have surgery, this post from Lindsey put them to rest. Her Yoga instructor “gave the example of those swamis who have spent so much time in their lives in the lotus pose that they destroy their hips and can’t walk anymore. These swamis are so revered for their transcendence of practical necessities (such as being able to walk) that on holidays, their students celebrate them by carting them around like statues. At the end of the celebrations, they are packed up and put in their caves for the rest of the year.” She warned me not to count on my students to be so devoted.

A hospital in its institutional form is a scene of constant measurement. The staff hierarchy extends from the Orthopedic surgeon (Peter Gearen) to the orderly who empties the trash basket in my room at midnight. During my stay (May 22-25) the gossip featured the firing of the Dean (Dr. Kone) for having admitted a politically connected young man without the approval of the admissions committee. Each patient is a set of vital signs continuously monitored. My condition was assessed by these human norms, embodied in the organs and their operations (the interactive systems of blood, air, bowels, bones, nerves). What is pain? One must assign it a number every few hours, 0 – 10 (from none to unbearable). How quickly the customs of modesty, privacy, status give way to material access to the organism. The other FAQ was: when was your last bowel movement? You can’t go home until the next one.

This material institution is the vehicle for hospital as tenor, as figure, as in Baudelaire’s “Anywhere out of this world.” “This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window.” Here is the register of the image category that is to electracy what concept is to literacy. The material hospital manifests the achievements of literate metaphysics: the mastery of the material literal order. Electracy is to the figurative what literacy is to the literal world. If this oblio were a remake of Baudelaire’s poem, the narrator’s conversation with his soul would be different. Baudelaire’s soul fails to respond to any of the proposals of travel to an exotic place that might please it, finally crying out “anywhere, so long as it is not in this world.” My soul’s nature, rather, is stodgy, rooted in its locale, uninterested in adventures or elsewheres, to the point that the narrator must chastise it for failing to use its potential for movement. It might as well be in the body of a Swami.

hospital window

Yet I have journeyed from time to time, even if after each sally, during the return, I wondered what had been accomplished. Most recently there was the consultation in Washington, D. C. In the limo on the way to Reagan National at dawn the movement of the car along the curve of the highway positioned us to receive full in the eyes unexpectedly the flash of the rising sun reflected in the glass facades of the high-rises along the river. This flare I recognized at once as an indication, a graphic of illumination (afterwards, in retrospect). It just reminds us that there is a gateway, perhaps as the Tao says, a door or window to the collective subtlety. This register beyond language, formless, has always been the target of art, such as Czeslaw Milosz’s Unattainable Earth. His method for approaching the inexpressible sense of being was to collect his own writings together with whatever else he experienced during a certain period (1981-84). “He lived among people, was feeling, thinking, getting acquainted with others’ thoughts, and tried to capture the surrounding world by any means including the act of the poem, but not only. In everything he wrote then the same striving and the same tone could be discerned, as we move in our life through successive renewals and incarnations, each of which has its own tone. Why then separate what is unified in time?” (Milosz).

What is the gate, according to the Tao? It is the energy that is life, in every dimension and scale, whose vital signs may not be recorded by putting one’s finger into a machine. And yet it is the basis for Chinese medicine. That breakfast tray, when the green ceramic cover in the style of the hospital’s crockery is lifted, the hot pancakes produce a steam in the chill of the cold room. The steam from boiling rice gives the character for ch’i (chee), which is the name of this energy or spirit (the original character combined the signs of sun and fire). Aristotle coined “entelechy” to describe this force, and the observation evolved through the Western tradition in every attempt to name a life essence: daimon, genius, monad, conatus, dasein, duende. Milosz cites D. H. Lawrence, to say that if the pancakes are not eaten with all the senses awake, if they are just hogged down, that is “the feeding of corpses.” Where in this scene is the indication of duende (Lorca), beyond my corpse hunger? The flare of the window on the way to Reagan National was a clue.

The staff were curious about the young man in green scrubs who kept returning to my room at all hours, staying sometimes for an hour or two at time. It was not a specialist treating me, I explained, but my son, Tyson, who is a Resident at Shands. He was there when the physical therapist came the first time to get me out of bed, to introduce me to my walker, and take me out for my first stroll. Outside the door of my room, she pointed to the window at the other end of the corridor. That window was the destination of my roundtrip. Ty accompanied me as I inched along, and a memory occurred to us simultancously, of a similar journey, roles reversed, when he was fourteen, recovering from abdominal surgery, taking his first walk with my assistance. His troubles of those years became the motivation for his career path.

When we discussed this shared memory later I thought of the puzzle once discussed by Koestler, about how to locate the exact place of intersection on a path traversed by a Monk climbing a mountain one day and returning the next.
Discussions of this puzzle in cognitive theory provide a formal structure in which to record the measure we seek. “The solution preferred by Fauconnier and Turner is to imagine the monk walking both up and down on the same day, a scenario constructed by taking elements of two separate input spaces, one for the monk walking up the mountain on one day and one for the monk walking down the mountain on a different day, and blending them into a single image (blended space). A generic space, containing everything the two input spaces have in common (the monk, the mountain path, and a day beginning at dawn and ending at sunset), is required to support the blend. In the blend, the mountain slope and the two separate days are fused into a single mountain slope and a single day, but the two monk images cannot be fused, because they move in opposite directions, so they map into the fourth, blended space, as two separate individuals” (L. David Ritchie, “Lost in Conceptual Space: Metaphors of Conceptual Integration”)

Chora may be composed as a blended space. Here is a dialogical image, blending past and present, two shufflings along a hospital corridor, each setting a goal of the window illuminated with light of the outdoors, even if that view is otherwise obscured by frosted glass or hanging blinds. One helps the other, repaid in kind. This blend fuses more than two space-time incidents, but introduces the coherence of a vortex into the disparate chaos of the institution. It is not a matter of yards or meters, yet fully a measure. The distance from room 18 to the window and back, along the corridor busy with the traffic of care and healing, of pain and Code Blue, is the measure of this time-space region. Window light. Life is a hospital, in which we help each other to the bathroom. Why? This question stumps only the corpse. Corridor window @ Shands hospital: the @ marks the object (a), the expressible standing in for the inexpressible. In electracy we are learning to take the measure of this unattainable earth, and to apply this measure to the play of well-being as a political force. In the electrate apparatus there is a coming institution dwelling anywhere out of this world.

sun flare

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