Just kick some ass and everything will be fine.

Another story about what can happen when assumptions about gender collide–you have probably heard about this already, that a transgendered woman was denied emergency medical care in Muncie, Indiana precisely because she is transgendered. That is to say, the hospital staff actually told her that they could not treat her “condition.” However, by “condition” they were not referring to the medical emergency she was presenting with; she had to ask, though, for clarification, and, no, they would not give her medical care because she was transgendered. What she came in for had nothing to do with gender–or at least not in any direct way that I can imagine off the top of my head, and I doubt they had anything in mind either–but they refused to treat her because of who she was, not because they were incapable of helping her with her presenting symptoms.

Go. Read about it. Do whatever you think you can do to bring some rationality to the situation. Then come back here and find out why going directly there and “kicking ass,” while a perfectly understandable wish if you were brought up on the American cowboy myth, would not help anything. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Well, no I won’t. I’ll write this and then some time after that maybe you’ll read it. All three of you.
Continue reading

Proposition 8 over my dead body

Given that this is a queer blog, or that is it is a queer blog to the extent that the writer considers himself quite rather queer, it might seem odd that I have not said a whole lot about Proposition 8. Given also especially that I live in California and donated a little money to the No on 8 campaign and voted against it myself and did other assorted things to work against its passage, one might think I would have more to say.

I am a little surprised myself, but not a lot. I am upset about those whom I know who are waiting to find out if they are still married and I do not think that it is right that a simple majority should be able to write a specific group’s rights out of the constitution so easily here in California and I wholeheartedly support the lawsuits that are being filed as efforts to get the thing repealed/revoked/rebuked/removed/rerased. I do!

But to be honest I am having a hard time working up the energy to go to the protests and I am having a hard time working up the energy even to argue about it. I do not think this is just because I never plan on marrying, do not understand the urge to marry, and wonder why anyone would pledge to spend the rest of their life with one person (realizing of course that a large number of marriages end in divorce, so that pledge has to be taken with a grain of irony). I do not think that my reluctance has to do with my own alienation from the whole institution.

And I have read the arguments about marriage being a tool for wealthy white folks to accumulate more wealth, but from my vantage point, queer marriage rights are for legal protection, more than anything, of one’s access to one’s chosen partner in times of crisis: the legal definition of “kinship” extended to one not related by blood is enormously important in all sorts of contexts and all the legal maneuvering and contract-writing and power-of-attorney-granting one can afford to engage in can so easily be trumped by selfish and self-righteous family members that I think this one reason alone is sufficient to throw one’s support behind queer marriage rights–but then, I think that we should all be free to define our own familial relationships however we want, be it in marriage or other types of chosen alliances with those we love. For so often are many of us cast out of our “real” families that it should be an easy thing to say simply “this person is now my next of kin no matter what any of the idiots in my ‘family’ have to say about it.”

And that is probably enough to brand me some sort of anti-American communist, to be so thoroughly distrusting of the American Nuclear Family. Later on I am sure there will be discussion of the roots of my dissatisfaction with our so-called building block of society. For now: bullocks. The building block of society is friendship. Whether your friends are blood or legal relatives or not, your partner or spouse or not, society begins wherever there is love and trust.

That is my general position on legal kinship, which is the sum total of my personal stake in queer marriage rights–the degree to which these two ideas intersect.

But I have not been to one protest in support of queer marriage rights since Proposition 8 passed, and as badly as I knew I would want to riot if the presidential race had been stolen by the Republicans, the loss on this Proposition is not compelling to me, and if you do not mind, I would like to talk about why that is. If you do mind, move along. Nothing to see here.

First there is this: Why the fuck is there, in all the Proposition 8 ranting that I can find, no mention of the recent murder of Duanna Johnson, a black transgendered woman who was enmeshed in a legal battle with the City of Memphis, Tennessee over her beating at the hands of Memphis Police last June?

Now, I do not believe in zero-sum games when it comes to community activism, and I do not think that we need necessarily to abandon our outrage over the passage of Proposition 8. But why is that outrage so out of proportion to what sparse protests there seem to be over this woman’s murder–a murder that may well have been orchestrated in some way by the very City and Police Departments that are now “investigating” the murder? If anything should outrage queer sensibilities in the United States right now, it should be this woman’s death.

I could make an argument as to why so little attention is being paid to her case. She is not a young white boy from the heartland. She is a black transwoman from an urban area of the Deep South, a place where, I suppose, we accept this sort of thing happening as an every day occurrence. I mean, I could make that argument. Should I?

Or maybe it has something to do with uninformed queer historicizing that subtracts gender-variant people from the whole queer rights movement, as though we were only just now jumping on the queer bandwagon for a ride on coattails already bloodied by pure gayness, untrammeled by poor “gender confused” bleating for human dignity. Is that it? Is that an argument I should make? I will say that much to this end right away, and for the nth time, so listen the fuck up: the Stonewall Riots were led by drag queens and other gender-non-conforming individuals, because they were the ones who were targeted in the lgbtq community all along. A goodly portion of anti-queer legislation in the US during the first half of the twentieth century mandated such things as that one wear “gender appropriate” clothing in public, and if one did not, one was subject to arrest. In short, in Anglo-American culture, queers have always been persecuted for gender-variant behavior, of which sexual contact with members of the “same” gender was just one offense among many that could contravene strict gender roles.

“We” seem to have forgotten our history. Maybe I should be writing lectures instead of rants.

On the other hand. Because there are always other hands, often as many as fifteen or more: queer marriage is what is up right now. For better or worse, this has become the “gay” issue of our time (I actually cannot say for certain that it is an LGBTQ-wide issue, because little has been said about transgendered marriage rights, or genderqueer marriage rights, but one probably can assume that “gay” marriage would be written so as not to discriminate against any gender. Or one hopes that one can assume this). It is not the issue I would have chosen to stake a national battle on the worthiness of queer relationships and identities on, because I think that there are more grievious problems in the relationship between LGBTQ culture, such as it is, and the larger, heterocentric culture of the US.

The fight over queer marriage rights is certainly bringing all sorts of “cultural warriors” out of the woodwork to defend the country against the mythical “Gay Agenda”; likewise it has been quite revealing to read what some white gay men have to say about people who are not white–even when they are gay. People say the darnedest things when they are upset. This issue may well prove to be a cultural turning point on queer rights–I just hope that we do not lose sight of the fact that people are still dying in this fight, and that pushing anyone who is other than cisgendered, white, or 100% homosexual ever further to the fringe of the LGBTQ-rights movement is only going to replicate the same disenfranchisement that marrying gays and lesbians are experiencing right now, working thus to fragment what could be a vibrant coalition.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance will be this Thursday, November 20. Demonstrations are planned worldwide. Duanna Johnson’s case is still waiting for some sort of outcry to push the federal government to intervene in a case where the investigating entity has a clear conflict of interest. The HRC’s call for a federal investigation is already buried by continued screeds about Proposition 8.

So “we”–whoever we are–do have a chance at proving that we can be as outraged by continuing predations on the most vulnerable members of our community. Will we? I do not know. I will go to the demonstration here in San Francisco, and probably report back. Until then, I am not certain that I will throw my efforts wholeheartedly at regaining the right to marry whomever I choose. Right now, I get a little miffed when gay men think it is ok to address transsexual men as “it” (sorry I cannot find a link for this right now. Let us just say this is aggregate data collected from various sources. Press me and I will find that one horrible column in The Advocate again if you cannot find it yourself), or when lesbians accuse transsexual women of rape simply by virtue of their being (you can find that one yourselves easily enough as well). I simply hang my head in shame when white gay men shout the One Word I Will Not Type at black gay men. You could say that I am torn, in similar ways that I think the LGBTQ “community” is torn. I would be happy to support queer marriage, if I thought that there was a good chance that it supported me and several other people whose lives and deaths are getting lost in the din. Right now, I am not so sure.

With enemies like these

Well I was not expecting to go on vacation right after NaBloPoMo started when I first signed up, and I have a few things to say about the idea that by missing a couple of days I have “blown it”–especially since my own motives for undertaking this challenge boil down very simply to “make myself write.” But first let me tell you about this:

In case you have not heard, a transgendered woman named Duanna Johnson was shot and killed in Memphis TN last Sunday, November 9. Yes another transgendered woman murdered. So what? Well, besides the obvious so what–that The Targeting of Transgendered People for Abuse and Murder Must Stop–Duanna Johnson, if you will remember, was the same woman whose abuse at the hands of the Memphis Police was caught on tape last June. The two officers involved, the one who beat her and the one who held her down for the beating, had been fired, and at the time of her murder, she was in the process of suing the City of Memphis for $1.3 million.

If you, like myself, suspect that there might be some nasty retribution motivating this murder, or worse, that the city and the police department might have actively facilitated this murder, we are not alone. Monica Roberts at TransGriot and Autumn Sandeen at Pam’s House Blend are reporting developments in the case and in their posts and subsequent comment threads you will find many misgivings about the propriety of the Memphis Police Department’s investigating the case on their own. What’s more, none other than the trans-if-they-do, trans-if-they-don’t double agents at the Human Rights Campaign, featuring Joe “Stop Crashing Our Party” Solmonese himself, is calling for a federal investigation of the murder, which was my own first thought on hearing the news.

Whether you think it is overly-sensitive trans- paranoia to suspect that the City and/or Police Department of Memphis might have had some hand in Johnson’s murder, it seems obvious to me that they cannot be objective investigators in this case, given the dismissal of the police officers for beating Johnson–something that never would have happened had the tape not leaked out into the blogosphere–and Johnson’s pending lawsuit against the city. Personally I think the City and Police Department are logical suspects in the murder, and I have no problem whatsoever imagining–as one commenter conjectures in one of the above blogs (forgive me if I cannot find the link to the specific comment. Since I cannot put post-it stickies on the internet, I frequently move too quickly through several pages to remember my way back to the right ones where I read something I want to quote–but so in this case the idea is not my own but does not seem out of the realm of the possible to me)–a hit arranged so that a handful of black males may take the fall, probably with “drugs and prostitution” stirred into the mix so that all this seems the fault of the multiple victims there would be in such a setup.

But no matter whether your level of suspicion goes that far, it seems to me obvious that this murder needs to be investigated from outside and higher up, and probably by the FBI–not because they are necessarily the most sensitive agency to violence against trans- folk, but because they are charged with upholding hate crimes law and also simply because this case demands high priority: we cannot sit by while trans- people are silenced in this way for coming forward with the charges that Johnson’s assailants faced and that the City of Memphis itself faced. This case in particular must be picked up as emblematic of how we are going to allow our own government to treat us: as citizens worthy of the same protections as other citizens, or as marginal creatures whose rights to live and to live unmolested are suspended by virtue of our own need to be true to ourselves–and at no harm to anyone else!

I hesitate to endorse anything the HRC is involved with, but if they truly want to throw their muscle behind demanding a federal investigation of Johnson’s death, then I think that it might be worth our while to employ them in that regard. Who knows why they are doing this–to make up for certain, um, colossal political betrayals and disingenuous efforts to rewrite queer history without gender variant individuals in the center of it all, where they actually stood for decades–but you know? If they want to make up for all that, I am willing to suspend disbelief for now.

I think, though, that it might be helpful to do some organizing of our own, in case the HRC cannot see this one through whatever obstacles the feds might throw up in their unwillingness to protect the lives of trans- individuals. In a Pam’s House Blend comment I can actually find the URL for, Kathleen suggests that we demand an FBI investigation ourselves as well: anyone can file “a civil rights complaint with the FBI ‘Under Color of Law'”. It is not clear to me whether multiple complaints involving a single incident will encourage the FBI to investigate or have the unwanted effect of making them less likely to do so. I do think, though, that as a community, however you might conceive of it in relation to yourself, we need to find a voice in this case that is separate from or “back-up” for that being offered by the Human Rights Campaign, who have proven themselves extremely untrustworthy in speaking for us. Watch the above blogs for further organizing efforts–I myself cannot promise to keep abreast of all developments but wanted to put this out there for whatever limited audience I have to keep in mind and to monitor.

We cannot allow Memphis to investigate this crime without oversight from higher up; to do so would be to abandon Duanna Johnson and any trans- person who might find themselves staring at the wrong end of police officers’ assumptions and prejudices, facilitated as they are by the surrounding culture. We need to let Memphis and the rest of the nation know that we are not going to be their punching bags to use for working out their own insecurities about gender–which is what drives this literal policing of gender boundaries to begin with. Send ’em to therapy to cure them of hate. Leave us the fuck alone.

NOW can we talk about Queerness and Racism?

So. Yeah. I am still stunned at how quickly the election seemed to be over last night, how soon McCain conceded–8:45pm Pacific Time–and I am still mightily relieved that the Republican/NeoCon/Religious Right has lost its stranglehold on the federal government. Perhaps now we can, as a nation, make our way towards being seen as rational, impartial, and committed to human rights rather than to making the world over in our image. Science may once again be used as a valuable resource for deciding domestic environmental policy and our global environmental stance, rather than censored, distorted, or simply thrown out when it does not agree with our ideological views. Hopefully, some sort of solution can be found to the grave mess we have made in the Middle East. And with some very good luck, we can stop blaming the economically and socially disadvantaged for conditions they were born into and offer them viable assistance in rebuilding their relationships to their own cultures, and, where necessary, rebuilding those cultures themselves.

One can hope that sanity will creep back into the American consciousness, until we again have a grasp on empirical reality that actually takes into account empirical consequences.

One thing though: yeah. Proposition 8. I have so much to say on this subject that I cannot hope to put it all in this post, and may have to sit and ruminate before I tackle various aspects of the question of how we handle its passing as a community of queers. Yes, I am talking to a specific “we” at the moment, although it also includes non-queer allies who voted No and/or who contributed time and money to the effort to help California citizens understand that writing discrimination into the state constitution is not what a freedom-loving population wants to do. Where to start?

Well, first I think one fire in particular needs to be put out, and it needs to be put out now, loudly and firmly, by anyone with a sense of history and justice. Case-in-point: over at the Daily Kos, d edmonds is demanding that “we talk about Race and Homophobia”, but as you might imagine, “we” is turning out to be a bunch of white folks deciding that it is time to bring the African American community to task for its role in passing Proposition 8.

OK. If “we” is to be white men, then what “we” need to be focusing on is the following: America’s overarching homophobia in that is continually and viciously fed by the Religious Right, which is overwhelmingly white; the millions of dollars that were pumped into the Yes on 8 campaign by the Church of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormons, a church that is overwhelmingly white; the fact that the African American population of California currently hovers around 7%–far, far too small to have made the decisive difference in this vote; the fact that, according to the numbers, hundreds of thousands of white voters must have voted both for Obama and in favor of banning non-heteronormative marriage, so that the onus of “hypocrisy” leans at least as heavily on whites as it does on anyone else; and last but not in the least, um, least, Anglo-European culture’s long history of cultural imperialism, which is overwhelmingly responsible for the world-wide propagation of conservative Christian or crypto-Christian social mores–through brutal violence when necessary.

Do I need to say more? I realize that a paragraph cannot really stand in for an argument, but is any of the above actually controversial? Blaming a small portion of the population for accepting the values of the dominant culture seems disingenuous to me, like asking someone to conform enough to their environment that s/he is not living under the threat of constant physical and psychological violence, and then castigating her/him after s/he does so very, very well. Rock, hard place. Can you see how this might look to someone who is harassed daily on the basis of their presumed race?

I do want to add this, though: the only way that white folks can “help” with fighting homophobia in African American communities is to reach out to African-American queers in a way that does not silence them, does not ignore them, and does not try to erase their experiences or identifications. What “we” must do is listen to them, while working to clean our own house. If you need me to name the multiple obvious ways in which the queer mainstream is itself already (and still) racist, in ways that have little to do with the passage or defeat of Proposition 8, I’ll do it.

Right now, though, we need to settle the fuck down and stop fingering racial “others” as responsible for this horrible moment in California’s political history. One could say quite accurately that Proposition 8 passed on a wave of white religious conservative capital. “We” have spent a number of centuries trying to Christianize the world, and “our” people worked very hard to extend that tradition in the past few months. Guess what? It worked here. Is there such a thing as cultural karma?

Now it is over

OK so today is November 4 even though this post is dated November 5 and if you find this puzzling, consult the first few sentences of yesterday’s post, which was the post for November 3. This may happen regularly throughout the month, but in the end I will be awake for approximately 30 longish periods and I will post in each one of them until I wake up on December 1, probably around 8pm. I probably will not explain this again, but anyone arriving late to the party is probably not going to notice that I started the month an apparent day behind.

What can I say. Last night I was walking around the chilly streets of San Francisco, where winter moves in on the first of November, supplanting the late, October-only summer that we get every single year–and every single year, people say “it wasn’t this hot last October” but of course it was and they are just annoyed that it is hot now. But so after McCain gave his concession speech I could hear people shouting joyfully in the streets, honking horns and setting off fireworks and so I, a little stunned at the rapidity of the results and the concession and the declaration of the winner, all of which practically coincided with the closing of the polls here on the West Coast, decided to go take a walk to let off a great deal of anticipatory anxiety that hadn’t yet found a way to breathe in the relief of a political nightmare now over.

Some say Obama is not that exciting of a president-elect, and that Democrats and Republicans are so much alike that it no longer matters who takes the White House, but I just want to say a little bit about why it does matter, and very much so: the unholy alliance between the Religious Right and the Neo-Conservative movement, which is now, apparently, in a shambles.

But if the Republicans had taken the White House, that alliance would have taken on yet another incarnation, this time with an actual Dominionist Christian in the White House and, as they say, a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Now, I think Barack Obama has a lot going for him: he has withstood the pressures of being a black man in America and made it to the top political office in the land without once losing his composure in the face of what, to most black Americans, is an unrelenting onslaught of racist inferences, insinuations, and assumptions, as well as explicit epithets and insults, as it buffets them from a dominantly racist white culture. I will not go into great detail right now in describing how it is in fact embarrassingly obvious that America is still deeply racist and deeply divided along racial lines–or “racialized” lines, given that “race” itself is a white supremacist construct that we cannot seem to give up. I might talk about this at some length later, but for now I will just say that for people of color the racism in our culture is flagrant, excessive, and so deeply rooted within white institutions and discourse that white Americans on the other hand can almost never see it until it is pointed out to them in a way that hits home.

Obama’s grace under this sort of relentless cultural antagonism is nothing short of remarkable, and a testament to his integrity and dignity as a public figure. He won this election mainly on charisma, which is not a superfluous quality in a president. Quite the contrary: it is the sort of personality that makes building alliances and healing rifts in ideology much easier than they are in the hands of someone with less grace, and right now the US is in great need of just that sort of social and cultural reintegration, to the degree that it is possible at all. Unlike the current resident of the White House, Obama conducts himself with impeccable restraint and sensibility in the face of insult. Do we really doubt that this in itself could greatly improve the bearing of the face America turns to the rest of the world? George Bush has made us laughable in the eyes of the rest of the world; the Neo-Conservative agenda has made us into a law-shirking rogue nation. I think that an Obama administration has the potential to repair not only our public image on the world stage, but to back it up with empathy and discernment, rather than relying on reactionary displays of machismo to bluster our way through our relationship with the rest of humanity.

But this is not the source of my biggest sigh of relief this evening. The thing that I am truly thankful for is that the party that has openly courted the forces of conservative Christian theocratic ideology is now out of power. Democrats have taken Congress and the Presidency, leading us back away from what I believe was a dangerous precipice: that American fascism that would rule according to simplistic, distorted, and cruel interpretation of the Christian faith. I have lived within those beliefs, and I can say unreservedly that they rely on cult-like techniques to subdue followers into accepting just about anything that one could construct a Biblical argument to support, and they browbeat people into despising life on Earth as a sinful, evil realm. The casualties from these churches are numerous, and if right-wing Christians are ever allowed back into the most powerful office in the country, anyone who is not a “real” Christian–according to their strict criteria–is at risk of the same harsh, inhumane treatment that they give to all things “worldly”: including anyone who cannot or will not march lockstep with their strict ideology.

We find it so easy to spot the immorality of Islamic fundamentalism, but we seem to have a curious blind spot for the same sort of worldview as it is espoused in Christian fundamentalism. Neither movement would be friendly to those who dare to act and believe in ways that diverge from the approved dogma; either would be happy to see the world destroyed in order to hurry the advent of god’s kingdom as they perceive it.

This is why I and many others feel they have awakened from a long political nightmare. There are other reasons as well, but this has been the most compelling one for me: it is time to stop believing that god is on our side no matter what we decide to do, and to stop believing that war and violence are sanctioned by heaven, so long as we are fighting “evil.”

Evil is not a cosmic force. Humans invented it and perpetrate it on each other endlessly, each faction more often than not believing that theirs is the righteous cause. This is a cultural myth that needs to die, to be demystified and faced as what it is: human fallibility, greed, and aggression. Until we can see it at our own level, we cannot take proper responsibility for it, and the atrocities that we visit on ourselves in the name of Good will continue unabated.

Any step we can take away from this particular abyss is a positive step. Tonight we managed to inch our way back from a flirtation with theocracy that many of us did not realize we were engaging in, for reasons that are unclear to me, but that seem to stem from a denial that anything we are familiar with could be dangerous to us. But vigilance over the destructive forces within us may be more important to securing our freedom than we realize. For now, at least, we have eluded a particularly tenacious one.

Between the word and the flesh

This post is a little late, but as I may or may not have made clear the other night, my administrative day runs from about 8pm till sometime after sunrise, so to me it is still the third, and this post still counts. To demonstrate, I will most likely post my fourth post later on the fourth, local time, but to me it will be tomorrow, which is the fourth, as far as I am concerned.

If that makes sense.

Not that I am writing in order to make sense. At the moment, I am pondering three things: the US Presidential Election, the why of writing, and the state of the blogosphere as it appears to me. I do tend towards metacommentary, as you might infer from two of the three things preoccupying me. At any given time some portion of my brain is evaluating what language is doing. I mean, what it is doing in my head, what it is doing in the media, what it is doing online, what it is doing for lunch–you name it, I’m thinking about how it is talked about. This is my own fault for getting a degree in Rhetoric, but of course I chose Rhetoric because I’ve been in a death struggle with language my entire life. Ok maybe that’s not an “of course” statement: I could have chosen Rhetoric for any number of reasons. But the fact is I did choose it because language and I have been in a love/hate relationship since my first attempts to form words in my head.

But I think I’ll talk about that another day.

Right now, I cannot think of anything to add to the shitstorm of writing about the Election, not because I have had no thoughts on the subject that might be novel to someone, somewhere, but at the moment I am incapable of thinking any of them. This Election has me on pins and needles to an extent as yet unforeseen. I am not sure exactly why this is; the older I get, the worse politics seem to get, and the more important to try to influence what goes on around me. But I do not know if this is a function of age or a function of the particular–that is, wrong–direction the country has been headed over the last horrifyingly ill-advised eight years of neo-conservative rule behind our face puppet president. Whatever the cause, right this second I am unable to speak coherently on the topic.

Every act, though, is political, and every act of writing is a political act of writing. Perhaps it would be a good time to undichotomize speech and action, that dilemma of political life and the basis of much of the antipathy between intellectual circles and the American populace as a whole: the view that book-learnin’ isn’t worth the paper it is printed on but that decisive action is somehow always to be looked upon as honorable, if not downright heroic.

Why is this important now? Well, for one, I think that by this time tomorrow either the country will breathe a collective sigh of relief or people will start to pour into the streets and begin to act in ways that are unpredictable right now. And it will be time to write furiously, as we have never written before.

This is not because thought guides action, or because writing can be a prelude to deciding what to do, but rather because thought is already action, and that writing is already a choice as to what to do: both have real consequences for those who undertake them and for those with whom they might be shared. Theory is not something one consults in order to figure out how to behave: it is behavior’s primary gesture, determining not merely the “beliefs” behind what we do, but inhabiting the core of every movement.

Just as the empirical event is emergent from the encounter between perception and its environment, and is so to the extent that perception and environment turn out to be inseparable, constantly oscillating around one another and interpenetrating one another, one could say that action is the working out of physical theory, or that theory is the unconscious of every muscular movement.

Let me see if I can explain. We are–or, it seems, most people I meet are–used to dealing with concepts such as “frame of reference” to explain why a given situation (which is never given without the frames: hint.) will appear and/or be interpreted differently by the various individual points of consciousness that are involved with it (think of “individual points of consciousness” as a fancy term for “people,” but one that does not disallow the possibility of non-human frames of reference). The way that most Anglo-European-American minds are trained, this makes sense to us only insofar as we introduce frames of reference as an independent term from that which they frame: as though they were literally picture frames, except that they might contain something like inscriptions that a person will refer to to translate what is inside the frame in such a way that they, from outside the frame, can understand it. Put a frame of reference around a painting and embed within it the voices of art critics, and perhaps this model could be made concrete (No really. Do it and see if you can get a grant or something).

But the frame of reference model is too simplistic and too compartmentalized, when in fact the entities that meet at the frame, as a kind of boundary, actually communicate through it, to the degree that neither remains completely independent of the other, the frame itself starts to dissolve, and soon what one has is an encounter that sparks an event: an event that contains neither the painting nor the observer, but which confounds them at the place where they meet.

Think of it this way: when you encounter an object, it impinges upon you. Light hits your retinas, your hands are blocked at points where the object will not let them pass. You stub your toe on the base of the thing and the resultant boing-oing-oing assaults your eardrums. All these things happen in a region where the difference between your perception and the physical bluntness of the object is not easy to make out: if the object is blue, it is so only because your retina is sensitive to a certain wavelength of light striking a nerve, which sends a signal to your brain where, through processes I cannot pretend to understand fully, you “see” the color you have been trained to call “blue.” Without you, the object may or may not be blue. It may or may not be hot. It may or may not be soft, noisy etc.

So what has this to do with the difference between theory/words/speech and action? When you move, you theorize. You process information about your environment and you synthesize “hypotheses” about what you can and cannot do while enmeshed with that environment. Conversely, when you theorize, you move. You not only change the way in which neurons in your nervous system fire in concert with all the others, but you change your perceptions according to whatever modified frame of reference proceeds from your theory/thought/writing/speech. If you are speaking out loud or theorizing publicly, the same thing happens to those around you, whether or not they agree with you. We say we are “moved” by a speech, or that the play was flat and “unmoving,” as though we recognize intuitively that change actually results from the way in which language and other signs affect our perceptions, and thereby, our environment and the events which arise when all of these moments coincide.

Tomorrow then, or tonight–however you yourself experience the way in which hours pass in this world–when you decide what to do in response to whatever your environment presents you with, be aware that speech and action both have consequences in reality, that motion can be achieved in thought, and that the right word–Flaubert called it “le mot juste,” which we can understand as both “precise” and “just”–is perfectly capable of motion and carries with it a specific energy. I cannot say, myself, right now, exactly what you should do with this thought, or how it should move you, but I think that beginning to understand the way in which even language is tangled up with the world of phenomena might be of help in understanding how a butterfly moving its wings can cause a windstorm on the other side of the world.

To sum up: take care. It is both the easiest and hardest thing for those of us brought up in a post-platonic world to do.

I will explain more on that later, but by all means, give it a whirl yourself.