I rarely, if ever, get entangled in sharing my thoughts about the goings-on of the world around us, especially the political-cultural upheavals, swells, and movements. This is not out of lack of caring or disinterest, it is instead out of my feeling of impotency.
Because of this, I frequently find myself thinking about the concept of agency, where is it and how does one embody/enact it? Keeping these questions in mind, and with relation to our contemporaneous times, where is our true agency located? Is it in our daily routine? Our little rituals? In the validation of our repetitive jobs? Consequently, how do we employ/enact our agency in the age of sanitation, and control, and emphatic order?
Take death for example, it is something apart, other, mostly ignored until it is impossible to do so, and in most cases dealt with in a sanitized setting under the controlled environment of hospital rooms, funeral homes and gated cemeteries. Furthermore, we generally shun speaking of death, of its inevitability, of its pervasive role in our daily lives. We do not search nor kill our own food, it is instead neatly arranged for us to purchase and consume. We strive for perfectly manicured, weed-free lawns. We arrange our lives within an encasement of control and order, keeping away what does not fit neatly into this given pattern. Everything is done and ordered for us. In the same vein, we see our political manifestations and struggles against the system subjected to the same sanitized formulations. I think about this often as I am aware of my impotence. As I look on at the political, environmental, and human rights struggles, I cannot help but wonder about our own agency. Does it lie in our community protests/marches? Does it lie in our involvement in cyber forums or in activist groups? How does one produce change within a rigid system? I say all this out of my own musings, not out of an expectancy for an answer. I hold a few particular views on power and violence and change.
Following this trail, I can’t help but think of Oedipa Maas’s plight as she delves deeper and deeper into the Trystero enigma in The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon. Wherein she looses her grounding, her sense of self and context as what she unveils in her quest as executrix is a myriad reality, a labyrinth of possibilities and truths or lies, with no stable footing in sight. The quest of the self, and the construction of self in a world of multiplicity. Again I ask, as Oedipa never completes her quest, where does the revolution, the agency and power lie in our lives?
As I sat in bed the other night thinking about these things and shuffling the cards, I decided to ask.
What does genuine revolution (embodied agency) look like outside the paradigm of consumerism, approval ratings, order and protocol?
Where the blood boils and explodes, expelling the ghosts of our constructed realities, toppling the lid off our carefully elaborated selves, our self-prescribed fables null, here the power of the one who orchestrates and creates lies. True revolution lies within this cataclysmic shift of transformation, in the spilling outward of the inner. In the dethronement of constructs and symbols. Therefore, genuine agency/action lies in the liminal space between being and not being.
There is an element here of dichotomy, of a glaring awareness of things that are as well as of the potential of things that are not. Clearly, agency lies in our daily enactments, our routine constructions of self in the face of society, culture, and state. I certainly don’t intend to cause any disruption in the traditional flow of things, if there is any purpose to these musings whatsoever, it is merely to get the mental wheels turning as I examine my life, my agency, my actions. As I seek to re-enchant my world and my perspective, I examine all the tangents and routes of my self within this monolithic architecture of reality. This is my self looking at my self as I see the swells of society around me. If anything is meant by this monologue, it is to inspire an exploration of self within and without cultural formulations. Also, I don’t intend to cover the gamut of complexity that are these interconnected yet varied topics that plague us in these modern times.
I thoroughly enjoy reading the cards for all questions, and this was no exception. When I read the cards I don’t look for symbols of power, nor authority. I don’t search for conjured meanings nor intangible concepts. I look at the narrative, the story within the context. I look for the poetry of the images, the tensions, the movements, the swells and transitions. As I read this string of cards, I looked for the narrative of the answer inherent in my question. Evidently, the cards, in whatever shape or color they come, always point to the answers.
2 thoughts on “A question of agency”
After a point, I settled on a working–I’ll call it a working “approach” to the “meaning of life”: the creation and discovery of meaning and significance. It can seem a bit vague or even abstract, but that’s why it’s also wound up unpacking over the last few years. There is meaning there in the world, but we also create meaning. And, as I’ve learned from Shakespeare (of all places), if we aren’t the ones creating that meaning–our meaning and otherwise–if we aren’t imagining and exploring our life, our world, and our meanings, then someone else is. And, rather aptly dramatically, those meanings are often embodied or realized through embodied action. And if you find yourself on unstable footing–like Oedpia Maas–in a post-modernist world that often embraces the nihilistic side of pomo theory, that the world has NO meaning, or that it’s all arbitrary, then that’s when I think we have to remember to earth all those notions into lived experiences, into lives and bodies and persons’ situations. And if we can’t find the meaning, then we do our best to create and discover (and revise!) meaning.
TL;DR: I agree, and art is life is art.
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I agree, meaning and creating meaning is in the hands of the individual. And the world is laden with meaning. This reminded me of an interview with Alan Moore I revently read. I love Oedipa’s quest and what she uncovers speaks mich of the world we live in. To leave her worldview on the nihilistic is scratching the surface, I believe. Uncovering the myriad forms of reality we coexist with is the beginning of transformation, the transformation of self, truth and meaning. After discovering the labyrinth now the individual names the labyrinth as she walks it, summuning meaning and direction in medias res. Oedipa’s story is one of my favorite stories because it is a story a decentralization, a story of unraveling. The might end in a quasi sombre tone but does it? As the auctioneer, very much a veneer for a priestly figure, stands behind the podium about to auction lost 49, now it is in our hands, the reader, Oedipa how we make sense and ascribe meaning to this lot, what will we do with this?
I look at the world around me and the movements that desire for radical change and I wonder about their agency, and consequently about mine. When at the end of the day, I continue on my way livong my day to day life. To be honest, I fantasize about the moments in history that have created change, the french revolution for example. There is a vitality in the violent acquisition of change, the violent demand. I imagine it would give one a more concrete sense of agential purpose.
But this is me rambling on blasphemies…
In the end, yes I agree with you.
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