Saturday, February 9, 2013

Too Tired To Move, or Being-In-the-Chair

"Being-in-the-armchair, if you will, is the precise inverse of being-in-the-world"
Tim Ingold, Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, 283

As much as I enjoyed and agreed with your book, Tim Ingold, I just have to tell you: I am too tired to move. 

It's been a long day in the archives, thumbing through books, reading essays, standing in front of a class and when I finally collapse into my arm-chair at the end of the day, I find out a terrible fact: I am not living.

Now, I will credit net-workers and mesh-workers that this is probably not what they mean when they say movement is life; i.e. to discredit the lives of the bedridden, recluses, the chair-bound, the amputees, the aged, the sick, the doubled-over, and those just too tired to move. If we are to follow the logic that agency is in the lines of effect, than the result of this mode of thinking is that those Beings-In-Chairs are relegated to the side-lines. It is in effect, what they are doing:

"Thus, if anyone retreats to the armchair, it is not the anthropologist but the ethnographer. As he shifts from inquiry to description he has necessity to reposition himself from the field of action to the sidelines" (243).

Well looks like I am not going to ever be an anthropologist! With my laundry-list of allergies, the special shoes I have to wear (because to walk-barefoot my flat-feet will cause me crippling pain after a short-period), as well as numerous time and financial hindrances that keep me from a life-on-the-move, I appear excluded in many ways from a kind of "being-in-the-world."

There is of course no escaping the mesh, the network, or lines of flight but such discourses continue to privilege those with high-mobility (social, physical, financial). The call to take a nature walk or to hug a tree, the people on the street and in general proliferate close proximate relations to as many things as possible plays well with those with the capacities to purchase these pleasures. For many of us, however, our environments (and our bodies) are more limited and more part-icular.

"Yet no particular - no thing, or happening - can have value and meaning in itself, cut out from the wider context of its occurrence." It is true enough in that all things come from, pass through, exist and open up to a wider world, but such a privileging of relations simply for the sake of relations, in turn profits those persons that can gesture to a wide context of events; whom by financial, physical and other social means are able to take in and touch more of their shared world (230).

Many of us are cut off in significant ways, made very particular by our bodies and our circumstances, and that context is important, but important just as much because of how we refuse and are refused in our relations. It is all well and good to speak of a "partial whole" but there is value and meaning in the part-qua-part, the part-icular, the part-icle, the things set a-part or de-parted from the wider world. Not everything can or wants to gesture back to the whole; the whole is often antagonistic to the part. The part is marginalized, made "the precise inverse of being-in-the-world" and set on "the sidelines."

Love binds us together (philia), but love can also set us a-part (agape) and can be keep us a-part jealously (eros). Ingold was right when he said that the "global environment is not one to which you or I or anyone else can relate. It is too big," but let us remember as we collect our partial-views, that it is even bigger for some than for others (96). Some are able to wayfare an environment and an ecology which includes mountains and rivers, but for some of us, being-in-the-chair is our world and our life. We are meaningful, valuable and alive no matter how little we move, how little we relate, however a-part or partial we are from the whole world.

You can dislike shoes, but some of us need them (50). You can rejoice at how plants can burst through pavement, some of us need paved roads and ramps to get where we want to go (124). You can leave your chair behind, some of us cannot (138).

Now, don't worry, you can go for a walk able-bodied eco-lovers! I agree with you that there is a lot of life to live out there on the road, but personally, I am just too tired to move right now.