Sunday, November 21, 2010

Positive Disintegration

Positive Disintegration

by Richard Michelle-Pentelbury on Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 7:41pm

 We all disintegrate. And we rise again. We leave one birth-year for another. We leave one grade for another. We move from one place to another. And for the most part we’re lucky if we see these shifts in place, time, and experience as positive. We grow. But we also experience the loss of a pet, the sudden accident, the brutal betrayal, the death of what was in exchange for what is now. And we disintegrate. How to make the experience, whatever experience, positive?

Shipwrecked, we examine and unpack the flotsam around us. Awash with memories, we may feel the fragmentation of the present but as an unwanted gift. The relative stasis of what was had a comfort, a familiarity, an expected quality that allowed our habits more readily to adjust to the slight rhythms of the seasons, of daylight-savings time, of stopping at alternate times at the usual garage for gas, or the usual store for groceries. But when that rhythm is really distressed, broken, disengaged, and afloat around us, we have little but the inner resources of experience and trust and hope that this too shall pass. And then? We arrange our new life, assume a new route, visit different stores, keep different hours, make different friends, and we grow in more knowledge, grow in having yet more, grow in exploring some other area, enter numbers into some larger phone-book, make an advantage of having once been so dislocated, or sadly acknowledge the disadvantage of no longer having that which made us once before more at ease. But do we really grow?

Our primary habituation is with ourselves. What if it is our predominant habituation? We do need the factor of ‘the self’ met, our want for sustenance and the immediate and our need for self-gratification. At its most elementary level of operations our jails are full of such persons. Next comes the factoring in of our need to satisfy the ego, best satisfied in the eyes of others, so we make left-right choices ad infinitum, perpetually choosing one thing over another in order not only to satisfy the self, but to be accountable to our continuing perception of some other’s approval. And then, now only at a Secondary Level of Positive Disintegration, if we’re brave enough predominantly to take on the vicissitudes and verisimilitudes of a vociferous populace, we vacillate vicariously between the exigencies of being our own person and wondering whether everyone else, or at least someone else, if not a group, club, clan, or ideology is actually perhaps not ‘more right’ than we ourselves dare to be.

To be or not be? That is the third level of Positive Disintegration. The theory, posited by Kazimir Dabrowski (1905-1981), holds that in the Third Level one is predominantly conscious of holding onto one’s very own paradigm, yet still is integrative of others, being not distressed by the disavowal and disassociation and fragmentation and divisiveness of the ‘vox populi’. To be or not to be? And in ‘The Fourth’ level? There one serves entirely the needs of others, has sublimated the self to an extent that the ego needs no gratification, to the extent that the self has no desires, to the extent that the flotsam and jetsam of life has become but the boxes of mankind afloat in a universe of mankind’s own making.

And me? And you? As I look at the stuff that surrounds me, and at my attachment to it, I realize how very far I am from letting go of the things that still define me, the photos, the books, the music, the paintings, and the curriculum-vitae of a lifetime. And as I unpack yet another box, I wonder: at which point, beyond it all being consumed by some accidental fire, can I truly just… let go? To do, or not to do? The art, in either case is… letting go.

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