You mean this text can’t be written? That’s what I thought at first, at its inception, before its expressive beginning, until the moment when I discovered that there was no way back, that the text was writing itself, anyway, with or without my explicit endeavor. An effort had to be conjured up, though. Of course. You would not dare express things without the pressurizing drive that pushes, that commands and masterminds the conscious intentionality of your mind. So, after all, or precisely before the début of this writing, there is a decision that was made: to tell the story, to put it out there. Not a novel though, rather short ideas that can be told in a short essay, since it refers to events, to subjective and objective reality, even if you think that saying this is too rough and lacking differentiation. It unleashes some gut feelings, needs much humor to face it and to lend expression to what sometimes just looms in the inner room, unfathomable. The outer world, inner world, interior and exterior and introverted versus extroverted… all these spatial metaphors only hint at what is perceived as the framework that makes our consciousness of the world communicable: to talk about it, to talk to you, to oneself and to the world of human beings. As if understanding were possible as if there were not that obstacle that language itself posits like a shield to defend oneself, by hiding oneself linguistically. But then, later, one yields to communicating one’s innermost comprehension of reality. We humans are language determined, language is like the breath of our mind and talking is breathing and too much hiding cuts us off from our life energy.
As our mental inspiration is not transpiring, we end up expiring… victims of asphyxia. Our inspirations need expression. Expression, like breath, is everything. Integral yoga is about breathing fully (prana), about starting a new and more complete life with each fresh breath. Here and now.
The reality of reality, for each of us, is our subjective perception of it, as you conceive of it and express it. Somehow then, reality is a metaphor for the possibility of communication, a sort of common reference, ideally: universal. However, in concrete time and space, this understanding of reality seems to fail, precise or dovetailed communication where we would really meet completely and coincide keeps being so difficult and remains so until it becomes, no, it doesn’t become easy. That dogma seems to be a facile utopia not yet traceable under the sun, although we are yearning for, yes: the oceanic feeling of being right there: understood, approved of, cherished, loved! So are we falsely construed? Ill-built rational bio-machines? Une passion inutile - Jean-Paul Sartre? As much as this seems to be true at times, intermittently, when our multiple interpretations (hermeneutics) get stymied on our dialogical road, the inner and outer one, at moments of anxiety when letting go of the fantasy of understanding is tantamount to letting go of a vital necessity that we know cannot be jettisoned.
Well, delving further into this would take us too far in our present consideration. It would advance us to a crucial point that risks annihilating all of our foundations. It would take us to that place of melancholic and hypochondriac lack of inner assurances which come out of frustrated desires ad infinitum, those that we keep ad nauseam: accumulated, archived, catalogued, annotated, emotionally flagged. Yes, all kept for that moment in the future when all this will be resolved! Until then, to survive, we resort to full or partial repression. Repression (Unterdrückung) becomes our survival mode, always present in the mode of a relentless resentment-ressentiment.
It would indeed take us to the assertion of a worldview that includes us as quite fragile, vulnerable and, yes, needy, fragmented and torso-like beings, with the feeling of being lost, in a strange sort of emotional-spiritual bankruptcy, something felt as irretrievably gone, forever.
Paradoxically enough we keep being bent and fixed on the way of seeking outcomes, results, success, excruciatingly, like mandated by nature, by an inbuilt strive for self-completion, for integration into a gestalt. It is a yearning for a holistic self-agreement: here I am and agree with myself! Whenever experienced, it feels good. And that could be just ok.
This sounds like the classic Western narrative about beatitude and eudaimonia that the words bliss or happiness cover as correct as linguistically feasible: man is meant to be happy. That’s what the sages conjectured and Aristotle said it philosophically. The desire to coincide within ourselves by blending the mind with the will: we want to know, this is embedded in our nature, we are pre-programmed to desire to know, to see clearly (pantes anthropoi tou eidenai oregontai physei; first sentence of Aristotle’s Metaphysics), that’s our loving delight (agapesis; second sentence), and we want and wish to act in a way so as to feel walking in the center of our own path, then self-programmed to do the right thing, getting all the satisfaction out of it that we need. Do we need?
Humans as needy beings? Well, that’s an assumption but can be demonstrated, based on everyday life experiences. I mean with the morning experience, the feeling when I get up, the speculative moments while I prepare breakfast and the hypersensitive reactions all over during this precious first time of the day, having it as privy as possible with some minimal social promiscuity. The inner antennas wide open to the outer antennas of radio and tv news, all of them proclaimed as urgently appealing. It’s all about me and it is all about the world, at the same time. A decent dose of coffee or tea is alerting the conscious mind. Something happens. The world exists. You do exist, I do exist. The other exists first, not me (Der Andere ist der erste, nicht ich). The idealistic Edmund Husserl concluded realistically that the other precedes my consciousness of him.
My worldview is hence indebted to, yes: the others and the world. That includes all of us. Sounds strange although not surprising at the same time: I have an inclusive worldview already and even before I start thinking about myself and the world... I think and am first - only to realize that I have been preceded by the others and the world. I am always already in the Lebenswelt, the real world living around me. (In the subtle Husserlian parlance: the transcendental intersubjective phenomenological cognitive ego is extraditing me into the our world!).
I remember reading bulky books that talk incessantly about these interminable questions, I mean after the primary literature, the authors themselves, this secondary philosophical literature on topic A in author B, that somebody, but really nobody can read in extenso as they presuppose somebody (a hypothetic abstract impersonal scientific entity) to do in an extended time and space, supposedly in a single lifetime. That’s what made me feel awkward about the ‘here is the solution’ style that some of this literature conveys without convincing us with clarity you would recognize at the moment when you end reading the pages. Your queries persist unanswered. They should be more compassionate with what is left for the gentle reader left alone with a bunch of fragmented synapses aggravated by heavy frustration. The funny thing is that we also like it. It does have a kind of drug-effect: some soft anesthesia or a tiny bit of enlightenment, more promised than realized. And, we feel better, again.
So this text (actually a whole book needs to be written) is just part of this process. Indeed. We would like to be just ok, just normal humans. But there is this never really eclipsing doubt of something. Qualms keep us awake when we like to be just tranquil. But there is no way for us to get out of our way. If only we were objects… that we wouldn’t feel this kind of split in ourselves, this inter-space within us that urges us to see into it. What is going on there? What is challenging us all the time, putting us into question? No exit door… are we trapped? The exit door is the entry door into our own most private personal space. Getting into touch with her/himself, taking oneself into serious consideration. I have this reminiscence of what they say that Socrates said it: human life is not worth living without examining oneself. Self-scrutiny: who am I? An imperishable soul, manifesting in biochemically transient piles of amino acids…? “To thy self be true”, ok. Mr. William Shakespeare (or Francis Bacon), you put us into the best tradition. I got it: it means that it’s unconditionally worthwhile to go on asking, inquiring, sifting, pondering.
Let’s mull it over: there is something special about ordinary life. About that life that often makes us feel that nothing happens, an eternal return of the same? It is exactly that that makes it unbearable and difficult that makes me want to know more... What does difficult mean? What would life be like if it were easy, facile, non-difficult? Unbearable lightness… wu-wei like, lived in a swing of complete effortlessness…? A good goal though, attractive, and should not be discarded.
I came across books and articles in learned journals, as often as I got on to these issues as others get on drugs. At times this can drive us nuts, that’s part of the truth. But the good news is that whenever I got something, a tiny bit of intelligibility, I felt like this light was overwhelming me. A sudden experience: sometimes these instants waxed for quite a while or even a long time, and it felt as if the whole universe was communicating and showing up, manifesting its coherence and its beauty. For me. It made me feel convinced that this same reality is also existing for others, as coexisting with my own awareness of it. I felt, at last, deeply embedded in humanity, yes, a part of mankind. A feeling of touching ground, perceiving the origin of what is ok. That’s intense and intimate. At the same time, it’s an experience of sharing, as if we were all meeting in the womb of mother universe. Not only the earth, the universe; we are tellingly cosmic, it seems that we carry elements from far away stars as we look into our biochemical constitution.
However, sometimes somehow… we feel we just do not coincide with ourselves, as if something different, yet unknown is manifesting, breaking through, birthing into the inner being of an already born subject, we feel like strangers to ourselves, as Julia Kristeva says: Étrangers à nous-mêmes, and need to handle this. The challenge is to negotiate with ourselves and morphing into a more complete acceptance of all that is manifesting in our personality with its subpersonality elements. Disconcerting moments.
Mystics seem to be born in experiencing a desert inside themselves. Sometimes we feel like hiding away, in a desert, be silent; the Greek word myein (to be mystic) meaning to be silent, no talking; and silence is golden when needed. We, seekers, become mystics, our own counselors, mystic guides (mystagogues), as described in Michel Hulin’s La mystique sauvage. It can take us far away, or down into exploring the never before the perceived depth of our being. It may hurt, like the travail of birthing, like going through this canal, which is the birth of the eternal in man (die Geburt des Ewigen im Menschen, Romano Guardini: Über die Schwermut). Those who were affected by this often linked it to a sort of fallen state, as Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), starting with the presupposition of the fallen sinful nature of man that has to be overcome. It is not necessary to see it depart from there.
We just start as so tiny living beings, actually as babies; and all of us. One of the things we have in common. But this sudden start was quite something, for each of us. Birth is separation from the origin, from the unconscious source of life, from safety, protection. Some spiritual people say that separation is an illusion. Well, it takes a life-time, at least, to understand that assertion in its truth.
Birthing goes with pain… and each baby’s birth process marks the personality features forever (and it can be worked upon with breath-work as psychiatrist Stan Grof discovered). Early poetry of mine started as follows: Leben heisst die Wunde der Geburt austragen… to live means to carry out the wound of birth, so as to come to conscious healing. There is no return to a paradis retrouvé. There is no way back to that irretrievably lost initial archaic unconscious baby paradise. There is the opportunity to creatively transition to a paradis trouvé, a paradise now discovered, distinct because unique. I breathe, hence I am!
My I-am-ness should be safe now, unshakable, at last! The living process of life goes on, though. Not necessarily, but potentially we might get further challenged. And some of us do. There is that experience of a midlife crisis, a burnout whilst all seems to be achieved, a sudden nonsensical interruption of normalcy, of a successful life according to standard criteria… As said in Dante Alighieri’s outset of the Divina Commedia: When halfway through the journey of our life I found myself in a gloomy wood, because the path that led aright was lost. (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura. Ché la diritta via era smarrita).
Coming back for a moment to my own case, let me explain that all my problems boiled down to a single conundrum: what had happened to my desire, really that one with a capital d: Desire? The Desire that buttresses the whole system, that makes you feel life worthwhile living, your capacities worthwhile to be exercised and exerted, your experience worthwhile to be lived and worthwhile to be analyzed: you, here and now being a subject with worth in your own eyes.
Now, who tells you? That’s the question, one of these essentials queries that pop up as soon as we want to settle those major existential feelings that tend to engender anxiety and uneasiness in the most simple of life circumstances. What is it that hampers my conviction that I am just ok - not outstanding - but nevertheless reasonably ok, so as to be proud of myself and satisfied, ok with whom I am? Why should there be any obstacle? I mean to assert that I am myself and that it is me who tells the story? Why should the most evident and banal act of self-assertion pose a problem at all?
However, we keep wrestling with ourselves, whilst evidence should make this struggle superfluous. It is strange or tragic that this evidence thought as a given per se takes us aback by its absence. Without making a big deal out of it and not waxing hyperbolic, let’s simply recognize this situation as the major difficulty and just part of normal existence. Indeed it’s part of a normally difficult life. A human being is not a perfectly realized and accomplished entity, not a ready object, but a living evolutionary being in the process of evolving, of self-processing her/himself.
Self-processing sound smooth and nice… but we might pass through these ‘eternal’ moments when life feels like a prison, like hell, when everything falls apart, no hope, no future ahead, toxic negativity filling the whole psychic space, pervaded by an unfathomable lethargy, listlessness, non-motivation, sloth, aggressive boredom, in the literature reported as ennui, le spleen, la noia, the old taedium vitae or even worse acedia that Thomas Aquinas classified as a mortal sin, as it obstructs in us all fluidity of spiritual energy.
Maybe these are just moments when a frustrated sense of not having it all overwhelms us, of not being all-powerful, of not being as perfect as imagined, unveiling to us a conceited pride now creating frustration, a sadness, the sorrow of not dominating a spiritual good as it is beyond us, although we do know it to be present, somehow. Can it be reached? In that moment of solitude? Who, if I screamed, would hear me in the angelic orders…? (Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen? in Duineser Elegien) fears the poet Rainer Maria Rilke The good news is that these falsely eternal moments do create, always, undefinable spiritual energy to crack them open like boxes, to redeem us by finding the exit and, suddenly, be in free space. Liberated. Different, reborn, being now more of whom we really are. And joy: it was worth it!
We are self-evolving humans who grow into what we are becoming. We are being made, we self-make us into what we desire to be, departing from what we are, find in ourselves, have been given and received from others, or discovered in the world. We are artists of our life. Our lives become works of art, each one unique. Being artists, we are healing that space of solitude in us that created anxiety. Whoever has found his art is healed, they say (Qui a trouvé son art est guéri). We are rising up to what is ahead of us, bigger than when we started. We experience an upsurge of our identity, we surge… We are rather surgets than subjects.
This word came to my mind me whilst listening to a doctoral candidate conceptually disserting on the subject “subject”. I realized that I was harboring an awkward but indistinct feeling reading and speaking in terms of subject and subjectivity. Evidently enough, this is official and approved terminology. That day when I was sitting on that dissertation committee in Barcelona university, it dawned upon me that my trouble with this word stems from its very origin, from its etymology that likens the subject to something subjected to, submitted to; rather than a sub-iectum, a subject subjected to… I feel we humans are surgets. Etymologically (from the Latin surgere), surget is exactly expressive of what we feel we should be able to find as the philosophical and psychological meaning or message implicit in the word subject. Subiectum, etymologically sounds like ‘thrown under’, of course in the sense of that what is underlying as founding and upholding support for something (as in its Greek predecessor hypokeimenon).
As much as I can follow what is meant philosophically, I can’t help feeling that this sub- in the subject remains awkward and, in the end, that’s my proposal, should be replaced, most appropriately so, by a better term that is derived from the word to surge, in Spanish that leads us to surgeto instead of sujeto, in Italian surgetto (as opposed to sogetto), in French surget in lieu of sujet… (only the German “das Surget” does sound heavy). The reflection on and inquiry into this free emerging, upcoming, evolving, happily surfacing, indeed surging human being would hence be surgetology. The very term ‘subjectivity’, if left to our now established terminology in our common scientific world, could find its true meaning with the essential aspect revealed in the uplifting term of ‘surget’. To resurge, to get up on one’s feet, to resurrect is essential to a surget. We would hence talk about intersurgetology as referring to a social experience of emerging, of coming to the surface of our freely awakened consciousness.
We feel at times like a thrownness into the world (Geworfenheit), as Heidegger has it. How could we be upright, being sub-jected to a world… without being constituted to uphold, rise up, uplift? It is our quality of being a surget that enables us to always get up on our feet again, as we have been doing since early childhood… to surface, to soar, yes to surge and resurge, resurrect from a fallen state. My conclusion: Man is a surget! And he/she is so great and endowed with unlimited potential because she/he has a consciousness to always be able to surge.
Of course, such a terminological shift cannot be brought about on the basis of an etymological intuition interpreted as more adequate to express the sense of the word subject. At the same time, why not introduce this term that doesn’t throw any shadow at all on the validity and the ongoing use of the universally approved word ‘subject’?
The surget stands for and expresses a conscious state of understanding: I have to get up, lift myself up, I have to be born to myself, to give birth to myself after having been given my physical life by my parents. But now I give birth to myself: Yo nací de mi mismo said José Martí… it is a kind of radical self-assertion, self-affirmation (Tathandlung *according to Fichte or Giovanni Gentile’s *autoctisis, an autopoiesis, a creative Beziehung zu sich selber), that is a self-approval, a positive statement about oneself to be ok, to agree and desire to exist and create, to co-exist and co-create in our common world.
It is, on a deeper and more fundamental level the felt experience of loving oneself, of enjoying oneself, of relishing in that self-delight, that self-love. A love for ourselves and from ourselves, as nurtured by that innocent and never perishable part in us which is our true Self.
Experiencing in oneself to be a surget leads us to the discovery or rediscovery of what I meant by desire with a capital d, the Desire that drives the individual, makes him/her to transition from a position of a subject to the position of being a surget. Desire creates surgets. It is Desire that makes our eyes see, that makes our will to want. Desire is like the fundamental energy that connects us with ourselves and allows us to tap into our own fountain of existential energy, the source of our personal strength. When encountered, once unearthed after periods of traumatizing absence, Desire wells up as the evidence of meaning per sé, that is, individualized, personalized (idiosyncratic) meaning. It’s about the sense of my life, a soul retrieval, as confused and lost as I might have been. I am back in the center of myself, resurrected in virtue of my energy as a surget. I can now feel the essence of my lucid and at the same time indefinite Desire: “ Desejo lucido e indefinido ” following Fernando Pessoa’s poetic expression.
That part of indefinition may feel like a spell thrown over the whole speculative narrative about understanding, will, desire, freedom… An inhibitive hazy veil seems to cover and enshrine them leaving us kept at a distance, without precise and distinct knowledge. Does this mean that anxiety is back? The eternal return of the same feeling of being trapped? No. But it is triggering the sound of an alarm. The work is not yet completed. The work on ourselves. The work with what is driving us, the evolutionary urge. This drive is putting us on the spot, to work it out, to see what we desire, why and how we desire and to what purpose.
The crux of understanding Desire consists in unveiling, at times to unriddle and unenmesh its positive sense. The sense of surging, of birthing. Multiple desires are running the show in us, might be pushing us in all directions… Hence the vital importance of meditation, of yoga, to settle, to calm down, rest and just observe our being here and now, by stopping the endlessly moving activities of the mind. (Yogach chitta vritti nirodacha, Pantanjali, Sutra 1).
To be our own masters, our multiple desires need to be unified to serve our highest purpose, getting ourselves into an attitude of focusing, centering, recollecting. The moments that pretended to be eternal dissolve into their inexistence, disappear into nothingness. Who is left is the resurrected I am. The surget, if you will. She or he is then enjoying her/himself, here and now, essentially. Our true nature, our essence, or Soul, or Self… is beyond suffering, encounters hardship on the way, as described, but suffering is temporary, transient, non-eternal. It may have a cathartic effect or revealing us to ourselves. The irreducible suffering may have a very personal sense. Paul Claudel gave meaning to suffering as a way how the Divine, without explaining, manifests its presence in the soul (Dieu… est venu la remplir de sa presence), and it uncovers inner spaces in us that we didn’t know they existed. Suffering thus brings us closer to ourselves. A hard truth to swallow. And applicable only to oneself. As for others, our work for humanity should be to reduce all avoidable psychological and moral suffering and increase happiness!
We have been through too much suffering, all of us, in our personal life, as also entire nations, civilizations in history and until the present day. Until when? Indeed: We are one humanity. More suffering needed?
Now, as mystics of a normally difficult life, our former normalcy got, yes, metamorphosed. As we are seeing life afresh, with moments of inner retreat. Moments of reconquering ourselves. Moments of being the dispeller of our darkness (gu-ru according to a Sanskrit etymology). Moments of being master and no longer slave. Moments of feeling our freedom, our wisdom and our joy.
Moments that empower us. Moments to experience our existential power that radically changed these difficult moments pretentiously pretending to be eternal. Moments of letting go, and of humor. Moments for each of us, unique as our DNA. Moments of caring and loving smiles at ourselves, over and over again! Moments to become intuitive of our singularity, to intuit into who I am. Moments when my individuality feels consubstantial with Humanity as a whole. Moments we all share as humans, so different and so much alike. Moments of a uniquely individual and humanly universal mysticism of a normally difficult life. With as many mysticisms as there are normally difficult lives!