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Here is Existential Positioning (EPS) in experience.  How common is it to have an intuition of mortality during childhood? It is as if each person has to realize for him/herself individually what the sages codified in Ancient philosophy as ataraxy. Ataraxy is a state of mind in which the sage, realizing that s/he has no control over external events, decides to reduce her/his own desires. This ascetic view is associated with the stance that “philosophy is learning how to die.” Paradoxically, it may seem, philosophers insist that the realization that everyone dies is liberating. Since death is inevitable, why get so excited over one’s successes and failures in life? Of course, various response to this intuition are possible, such as carpe diem (seize the day).

The following piece is Ulmer’s pastiche of Blanchot’s epiphany. Pastiche is a useful form for mystory in which one’s own location within the discourses of the popcycle is mapped. Ulmer imitated Blanchot’s style and form, but substituted his own experience event. Exercise: compose your own primal scene as a pastiche of Blanchot’s epiphanic memory.

  A primal scene? The boy is eleven, starting seventh grade. His father explains that it is time to learn the value of work. He has arranged a job for his son with a friend whose name is Cutting and who owns a sheet metal shop. Every Saturday the boy rides his bicycle across town to Cutting’s Sheet Metal. The employees are done for the week at noon on Saturday. He has to arrive by noon so the boss can lock up, leaving the boy inside (he is too young to be trusted with a key). The job is to clean the shop — sweep the floor, gather up the tools and align them neatly in their designated places on the work benches, collect the remnants and clippings of the metal sheets scattered everywhere. It takes most of the afternoon to finish the chores. The shop is a cavernous open warehouse, with rows of heavy tables, the walls lined with shelves stacked to the distant ceiling with equipment, tools, metals. It is quiet, the stillness of dust motes swirling in the beams of sunlight filtered through the few windows high up near the roof, carving vectors through deep shadow. The sunlight catches the edges of a museum of blades, a taxonomy of every snipping snap slice chop saw hack rend rip cleave nip or severing machine. Half-shaped tin objects stand in rows behind piles of hammers and modelling frames. After so many weeks and months of Saturday noons the boy begins to lose touch with his former friends and companions, who go their separate ways.

  What happens then? The light and shadow of the industrial building open all at once onto a void, a black hole and white wall of divided worlds in this little infinite town: the official world of adults (parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, scout masters) that until then had constituted reality, and the unofficial world of his peers, whose existence he had only just discovered. Two completely different systems of virtue and vice, success and failure, winning and losing, visibility and invisibility, were enforced in these realms: systems Not only different, but opposite and in conflict. What earned admiration and respect in one was inversely judged in the other. He could not have articulated the revelation so abstractly then. The unexpected aspect of this scene is the sense of abandonment, solitary isolation, that overcomes the child, a spilling out or abjection, an absolute exhaling of substance, followed soon after by the inhaled relief of knowing that it doesn’t matter, since everyone and everything dies everywhere the same death.

2018-07-22T00:42:08+00:00 July 22nd, 2018|Categories: Disaster, Intuition, Memory, Mystory, Tutorials|Tags: , , , , , , |


7) Howard Gardner: Definition of Wide Image. Gardner references Howard E. Gruber, who also studied creativity in science from the point of view of the wide image. Gruber’s examples cited below are cases of memories translated into wide images, applied as guiding figures (analogies, metaphors, allegories) used to structure otherwise unshaped archive of data.

The creative individual pursues (or is pursued by) a number of dominant metaphors. These figures are images of wide scope, rich, and susceptible to considerable exploration, exposing the investigator to aspects of phenomena that might otherwise remain invisible to him. Often the key to the individual’s most important innovations inhere in these images. In Darwin’s case, the most fecund metaphor was the branching tree of evolution, on which he could trace the rise and fate of various species. Gruber’s students have uncovered other such metaphors of wide scope. William James had a penchant for viewing mental processes as a stream or river, rather than in terms of the associationist images of a train or a chain. Any consideration of John Locke should focus on his falconer, whose release of a bird symbolized the quest for human knowledge. Finally, in conveying his own emerging view of the creative process, Gruber finds himiself attracted to the Mosaic image of the bush that is always burning but never consumed. (Howard Gardner, Art, Mind, and Brain: A Cognitive Approach to Creativity).

–Memory Glimpse. There are many more examples of memories from early childhood that resonate retrospectively with a career. It is important to note for our Exercise that these early memories do not always present themselves so clearly to the maker as was the case for Einstein or Darwin. The memory may first appear as a glimpse, an intuition, an endocept rather than a concept. The first lesson is just that the way to a pedagogy of creativity passes through childhood experience, involving eventually both memory work, and historical research, as well as some ethnographic field work. All of that comes later. For now it is enough to retrieve a memory and save it in an illustrated anecdote. Here is one more example for now.

  –Steven Spielberg. Sarah Boxer asked Steven Spielberg to recall his earliest visual experience. He found one from the age of 3.

“My parents put me into a fluoroscope, a big, horizontal X-ray machine. My parents were very friendly with the doctor, and he tested his fluoroscope on me.” They laid their toddler down “in the machine, a kind of coffin, and closed the lid on me. It was all green in there, a white-green light. That was one of my earliest and most scary memories. I guess they were looking at my bones. But my point of view was that they put me in a box, and it was all green. And I couldn’t get out. I think that might have been the beginning of ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Jaws.'” The connection between the light and “Poltergeist” was clear. But how do you get “Jaws” from green light? Spielberg didn’t miss a beat. “Just being abandoned, you know, set adrift, in the middle of the ocean, my ocean of green light.”

Before the green light came another light. “The first thing I remember was the eternal light.” He was only 6 months old at the time and was in a synagogue in Cincinnati, the city where he was born in 1946. “I didn’t know at the time that that’s what it was. I remember seeing people with long beards, handing me crackers. And a red light.” The crackers were called Tamtams, and “the red light was the eternal light, the Ner Tamid,” the light that never goes out. Given all these extraordinary encounters with light — green, red and eternal — it’s no wonder that Spielberg became obsessed with alien abductions. “I’ve been dealing with abduction ever since ‘Close Encounters,'” he said.

(Gainesville Sun, December 7, 2002).

2018-07-18T14:16:04+00:00 July 18th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , , , |


 6) Memory Exercise: Kandinsky.  As illustrated by the careers of productive people, at some point an interviewer will ask about an early memory from childhood. Mystory may adopt such interviews–the kind of things people want to know about the sources and motivations of creativity–as a guide to identify similar resources in one’s own biography to bring into the wide image matrix. Exercise: read an interview with a creative person of interest, inventory the questions asked, and answer them in your own case.

In Pictorial Nominalism, Thierry de Duve describes the autobiography of Wassily Kandinsky, one of the inventors of abstract painting, in a way that resonates with the theory of the image of wide scope.

    • In Ruckblicke (Reminiscences) Kandinsky relates his memories of several aesthetic experiences that he judges retrospectively to have been crucial and that he endows with all the inner necessity required to have justified his passage to abstraction. […] One is a memory dated from adolescence, which deals with the being and name of color and which Kandinsky describes with a fervent lyricism that gives it the value of a true revelation: “As a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old boy, I gradually saved up enough money to buy myself a paintbox containing oil paints. I can still feel today the sensation I experienced then–or, to put it better, the experience I underwent then–of the paints emerging from the tube. One squeeze of the fingers, and out came these strange beings, one after the other, which one calls colors–exultant, solemn, brooding, dreamy, self-absorbed, deeply serious, with roguish exuberance, with a sigh of release, with a deep sound of mourning, with defiant power and resistance, with submissive suppleness… Living an independent life of their own, with all the necessary qualities for further, autonomous existence, prepared to make way readily, in an instant, for new combinations, to mingle with one another and create an infinite succession of new worlds.” This sentence is pivotal in more than one way. By its position in the book, it acts as a hinge in time allowing two other memories to fold onto one another. The first, an archaic one, is the childhood memory with which the text of Reminiscences opens and that gives to the title all the phantasmatic weight of a “primal scene”: “The first colors to make a powerful impression on me were light juicy green, white, carmine red, black, and yellow ochre. These memories go as far back as the age of three.”

2018-07-17T14:55:10+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Categories: Art, Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , |


 2) Childhood Memory: Einstein’s Themata.

A heuristic rule is: any hermeneutics may become heuretics. Holton developed the Image of Wide Scope as hermeneutic, a mode of analysis and interpretation of the completed careers of productive people. The gambit of mystory shifts focus to the thematic, to discovery, as a rhetoric to generate a hypothetical wide image. Since the wide image is fully formed by the time students reach college, the mystory assumes that it may be composed and designed speculatively. One feature that recurs through these biographical studies of creative people is the importance of a scene of memory from childhood. Prototype is Albert Einstein, studied in depth by Holton, and we will refer to his history as a template to test for ourselves. It is possible with completed careers to observe the correspondence between the childhood scene and the disciplinary invention (between the compass and the physics of electromagnetism).

We can go back even further when searching for the point where the thematic commitment to the continuum was formed. It is well known that as a child of four or five, Einstein experienced what he called a wonder when his father showed him a simple magnetic pocket compass. It was an experience to which Einstein often referred. His friend Moszkowski reported him in 1922 to have said, “Young as I was, the remembrance of this occurrence never left me.” His biographer Seelig wrote in 1954 that the compass to this day is vividly engraved in his memory, because it practically bewitched him. In his autobiography, written at the age of sixty-seven, we read: “I can still remember –or at least I believe I can remember–that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

This scene is most suggestive. There is the mysterious invariance or constancy of the compass needle, ever returning to the same direction, despite the fact that the needle seems free from any action-by-contact of the kind that is usually unconsciously invoked to explain the behavior of material things; despite the vagaries of motion one may arbitrarily impose on the case of the compass from the outside; and regardless of personal will or external Zwang or chaos. If Einstein remembered it so well and referred to it so often, it may be because the episode is an allegory of the formation of the play-ground of his basic imagination. (Gerald Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought).

  –Exercise. There is no need to understand all the features of mystory, wide image, heuretics, popcycle, before beginning the discovery and design project. We may begin with a memory exercise, to notice what scene remains in memory. The instructions are just to reflect for a few minutes on one’s early childhood, to observe what may appear, to take note, to save the scene for development later on. Record the memory in anecdote form (300-word flash fiction) illustrated with found images. The exercise may also be applied analytically to biographies of interest. We will inventory a number of cases of such early memories.

2018-07-17T13:12:55+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , |