Sunday, February 05, 2012

Aporia / Asceticism

Aporia has generated much discussion. In the context of the work of silence it means, more or less, a gap in the schematizing activities of the self-conscious mind. Writers can provoke aporia deliberately through imagery and syntactic tropes, opening the reader to the deep mind. Sarah Kofman suggests that the true, philosophical aporia, or Penia ('the child of poverty') is always fertile and resourceful. It is this descriptive paradox, a variation of the basic paradox of intention, that underlies notions of the usefulness of voluntary poverty and asceticism, which integrate the body with interior work. See Gillespie and Ross, 'The Apophatic Image...' The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England V, ed. M Glasscoe, Cambridge, 1992.

Asceticism is a means, not an end. It is a way of opening to new possibilities. It is optimally tailored to the individual. It is counterproductive when carried to extremes, or competitive, or stereotyped. Ascetical exercises can be positive as well as negative. Physical asceticism persuades the body that it will not die if it gives up indulging itself, thus helping to prepare the mind for giving up its indulgences, including the noise of ideas about itself and the world—and, ultimately, its preoccupations with asceticism. 'The purpose of asceticism is to fail.' The trans-figurative resources of the deep mind cannot emerge without letting go even the effort to let go.


Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Kathy, I would very much like to post your beautiful comment, if you will give permission—this is the advance notice you asked for! If in the end you decide 'no' I will understand. You didn't send your email so this is the only way I have of replying.

Happiness? It sounds more as if in those months you know the joy that is beholding, and your beautiful account is full of the inadvertency, the ordinariness, of true beholding—you only realised it after the fact.

And yes, if artists are not disciplined, being wide open to beauty can cause burnout.

As to grieving, grief is always with us. We grieve in many ways, and often it is too deep even for feeling.

Don't beat yourself up for feelings you don't have; if you are growing in wonder and appreciation, and that is leading you to a joy that you can neither name nor even realise until after the fact, then give thanks, and leave the rest to God—for you have found the one thing necessary.

5:58 pm, February 05, 2012  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Kathy's Comment:

This post seems to have everything to do with my efforts to quit smoking. My most recent try was inspired not by concern for my health. I wanted to quit because I was trying to quit everything that is taxed by the U.S. federal government. For example, after I got comfortable living without cigarettes, I intended to begin indulging in alcohol every once in a while but only if it was homemade wine or beer and so not taxed alcohol. I was looking for ways to minimize driving so as to minimize paying gas taxes. And so forth...

Ever since the torture "scandal" of the Bush administration, (which wasn't a scandal but a celebration for so many of my neighbors) I've been haunted by the fact that my labor is taxed to support rape, murder, and torture. It hit me so hard that I am myself a survivor of rape but all my labor is taxed to pay for rape. Despair is the only word for how it feels. I am a citizen of an empire and there's not much way around it, but surely I could begin refusing my consent to all this by refusing to pay those taxes where I do have a choice.

At the time I quit smoking, I was also reading and rereading Julie Cameron's embarassingly precious self-help book The Artists Way. As I was withdrawing from nicotine, I began using the exercises in The Artists Way to compensate. I found myself often extremely happy, simply because I kept noticing very beautiful things. I began to grow uneasy. I realized that it had been weeks since I'd mourned the victims of my country's bombs and etc. I didn't quite know how to handle this.

Soon after beginning to wrestle with this -- how much do I dare to simply feel happy?-- I had to deal with my mother's serious illness. I wound up spending a month in the hospital with her. If it hadn't been for the self-discipline of looking for beauty in ALL circumstances, I'm unsure if I'd have made it -- that and reading Evening Prayer every night -- beauty and the grace of God helped me do this and still not start smoking again.

Soon after that it was December. Long story, but I was extremely lonely and I began smoking again. I realize now that every time I've fallen off the stop smoking wagon it has been an extremely bitterly hideously lonely time in December.

In any event, I now wonder about that feeling of happiness I had in those months. Is simply feeling that happy a kind of a prayer? I rarely prayed in words during those months. I was just appreciating the heck out of so many things. I wonder is this how other activists manage to do what they do without burning out? But it still seems sinful somehow not to grieve.

I've only been able to read one of your books so far, but I've got some money now and want to buy them all! But if you talk about this in any of them, please let me know which one. You often write above my head, but I use a dictionary and work through it and love your writing.

Peace to you and to everyone you love,


8:06 pm, February 05, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

You last few blogs have stirred ma a bit, and today reading Kathy opened my eyes some more that I would like to inquire.

But first, let me say that I do not know how you and Muskrat would have survived as well as you did in the hinterlands of Alaska without good hot black coffee!!!! I was sad to read that it is now off your diet.... I still take mine with a lot of cream.

What I noticed in reading your comments on Asceticism and then Kathy's story, was how my heart yearns for more moments of simply Beholding the glorious manifestion of God in the moment; and accordingly for more and more solitude, silence, contemplation, and simplicity in my life; and in this yearning there is this fairly constant negative merging/hatred of most everything around me - capitalism, consumerism, military might and conquest, greed, righteousness, poverty, etc. - right down to how this mindset manifests as my righteousness in my family and friends of Foodies, Wine Conoisseurs, Business Class fliers, 5 Star Botique Resort must haves, and owners of Mercedes, Wolfe Appliances, Escada Clothes, etc. I am exaggerating - but close.

As much as I attempt to contain my reactivity, this hateful moving away from much that our Western culture holds meaningful alienates me from my family and friends and ultimately myself and possibly The Beloved/God (although in my heart I know not).

Everyone around me can certainly smell it and so can I from time to time, and the more they call me on it, the more defensive I get and the thicker this hatred manifests.

I would appreciate any suggestions, comments and observations. I have been on this Path a long time and I am afraid of some sort of dramatic rupture occuring to break the chains and creating a lot of upset and chaos.

Many Blessings,


2:43 am, February 06, 2012  
Anonymous AM said...

"People who think they are going nowhere are often, if not usually, in a very good place!"

It's hard to embody the wisdom within this line. But thank you because it helps sustain the hope in me.

2:46 am, February 06, 2012  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Tim, hate not only will destroy you, it will destroy everything around you and everyone and everything you love.

Hate only makes you part of the problem; you become like what you hate.

I beg you to seek some therapy before, as you put it, some 'dramatic rupture' occurs, and I will pray fervently that you do so quickly.

There is a lot more that you are struggling with than just the materialist culture ...

We need to grieve and detach, and work for change each of us in our own small way; hate only strengthens what we are hating.

7:20 am, February 06, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a "good hater," and if I may, I would like to make a suggestion to Tim: Pray for yourself and for those you find yourself hating. Do it in the same prayer, the same thought, the same second when the hateful thought occurs. Something like this:

"'I hate them, Lord, with a perfect hatred,' and I don't know what to do and I don't know what's wrong with them, not really, and I don't know what's wrong with me, not really. Please help us all."

(My concordance is an old cheap joke and I can't find the place in Psalms that says "I hate them with a perfect hatred.")

But do go to therapy. It was in therapy that I learned that Psalm, though not the prayer I began praying years later. The therapist was just trying to help me short circuit my shame over my rage.

In any event, I once worked for violent-minded Republicans. Now I work for ridiculously silly sophisticated Democrats. I often think "bullies to the right of me, fools to the left," and then I have to pray my prayer again.

1:24 pm, February 06, 2012  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Beautiful. Thank you. The Psalm is 139:22.

1:37 pm, February 06, 2012  

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