Let’s talk about these three.
In my recent divorce one of my most gifted, most highly intelligent friends gave me the advice: bli inte flyttad på – which can be roughly translated to don’t get repositioned by others. My friend, being less of a deleuzian than I am, wanted me to ponder: what is my inner core, and not to let other people make me stray from that path. I find it, in all its simplicity to be one of the strongest pieces of advice I’ve received in this testing time period. Locating your inner self, locating what values you truly adhere to is sometimes a painstaking process. It’s not easy in a society, where pretty much everything boils down to attempts to reposition you. TV commercials, opinion editorials, posts on Facebook making you think that you should perhaps revisit your political standpoints.
The problem is: You and I are always in a state of transition. Differently put: To locate a solid core in the stream of time, in the inevitable wear and tear, your physical decay (and by all means flourishing), is anything but easy. The world is constantly changing, and so are you. Either you are consciously involved in efforts to re-evaluate things like your work place, your life choices, your choice of partner, your political opinions (perhaps even in a different way than those Facebook-posts where hoping). Or otherwise you may be involved in entrenching positions, solidifying opinions, stances and manners. You may not realise that these too are processes: entrenching is a verb. Solidifying describes something being fluid transitioning to a different state than it has been previously.
Clinical ACT psychologist Russ Harris proposes that locating values is about identifying what you want to do with your brief time on this earth. And that values is the adhesive connecting everything from the tiniest gesture of kindness and compassion, to those actions involved in big life-altering events. Harris states that the easiest way of defining values is: ”If you can’t do it yourself, then it’s not a value”. It may be a desire, hope, aspiration, or craving. But values are those beliefs that are enacted by you, manifesting who you want to be through action. Identifying values that help orient your actions in constructive ways is different from thinking things along the lines that ‘if I just post this on Facebook, more people will hopefully see things my way’. It is the impact through your actions, which you hold much more sway over than you ever will over any other person’s actions or thoughts.
I’d like to discuss the issues above, by talking about three words that may put things differently: Purity, positions, and porosity. Purity is something that people from a religious background like my own struggle a lot with. Even though we may break with our theological frameworks, the notion that there is something ‘pure’ that rises above the ‘impure’ is often residual. But as Mary Douglas said ”dirty is simply matter out of place”. The problem is that we often try to locate the proper place for things. And identifying a proper place on a specific shelf may be a repressive tactic to deem some other location impure, dirty. That sex for instance. A prime example of where all of us have strong ideas on where matter is out of place, what can happen where, when and with whom. This is why I love breakbeats. It’s all about matter out of place. It builds on funk drummer samples which in the first place creates the groove by placing hi hats and snares slightly ‘off’, creating the all important groove. So I ask you this: What if more things were groovy, by us placing things slightly more out of place. How about being a little more dirty? The suggestion here is that your search (and perhaps perceived need) for purity may result in the obfuscation of how a slightly different position would make your life swing a bit better, make all of it a little more groovy.
The last word, then to tackle is porosity. I think porosity can be a value as well. The value to be a good listeners, to empathise with others, to take on board those in your vicinity with a bit more serenity, may be a way to be open to the notion that (in Leonard Cohen’s words) there’s a crack where the light creeps in. And that this movement is a move on the side of both parties. To give an example (which may perhaps seem a bit brutal) I have started in recent years to select which friends I make a priority in my life differently. Trying to be a good listener is something I’ve worked hard with for a number of years (and it sure helps in interviewing extensively for my ph d thesis), and it becomes more and more apparent that some people who I used to share (for instance) musical or political echo chambers with, are very poor listeners. So I care less for where people are located on the political spectrum (or musical … ”spectrum”?). Instead I make it a priority to engage with people who are equally in a conversation to be changed themselves, rather than just changing you; people who see it as a truly exciting prospect that this conversation may change me. This is what I’d like to call porosity.