Oar and wonder

Section 136 is still in awe and still wondering

Vernon and Nsansa felt relaxed; they had enjoyed the sparring banter and managed to avoid a row.

Vernon and Nsansa ate a leisurely lunch together at the King’s Head, Fen Ditton, a rustic pub just a short stroll from the river Cam and the Ditton meadows. The food was good and they busied themselves with the hearty portions over a companionable silence punctuated with, but not punctured by, practical conversation and occasional musings about the service that morning. Before heading home they took the time to meander along the banks of the river, Nsansa paying  a professional interest, so she said, to the muscular oarsmen in their six-man coxless boats. As they sliced through the water like a hot-wire through polystyrene, Vernon suggested she might actually like to be on board conducting a hands-on measurement of the pronation and supination she claiming to be so interested in. Along with the banter Vernon explained his commitment to travel to Hull the following day in order to obtain his working visa for Thailand. A necessity if he was to acquire the document in time for his departure. In addition to this obligation, though he did not tell her so, he was keen to speak to Jean Luc and hungry for news. They parted affectionately and Vernon used the rest of the afternoon and evening to prepare for his trip. Before going to bed he phoned his colleague.

Nowadays, whenever they spoke, Jean Luc and Vernon felt as if someone else was listening in.

Nowadays, whenever they spoke, Jean Luc and Vernon felt as if someone else was listening in.

“Hi Jean Luc, long time no see. Have you heard from your agent?”

Though they doubted phone-tapping would provide admissible evidence in court both had decided to take precautions. Émile must not be traced or implicated by them.

“No news directly Vernon; all is secure that end I believe, though Tarkey is stirring things up. Far from seeking amnesty as a guilty party he’s told the police that he fears we tampered with the software he commissioned and leaked the results to Mudrock’s cronies.”

Did they really want his head? How had he blundered into this nonsense?

Did they really want his head? How had he blundered into this nonsense?

“What rot. What motivation would we have?”

“Apparently you yourself kept on insisting to him that the project would never work but failed to dampen the expectations of the media at its launch. You wanted to get out of the contract and damage Tarkey in doing so.”

“How do you know all this Jean Luc?”

“I’ve had the police around again. Watch out you might be next.”

As always it seemed, Vernon went to his rest with a restive brain.

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When in Rome…

How did that song go? I dont care how you get here, get here if you can.

How did that song go? I dont care how you get here, get here if you can.

Section 135 gives a contented sigh

They pulled up at the nondescript brick-built warehouse on the outskirts of Cambridge, squeezing the car into a slice of air between an upbeat Chevy and a downtrodden Beatle. The menagerie of vehicles in the car park promised a veritable zoological jamboree if their owners were as diverse. Vernon wondered if he would need a shoehorn to ease them both out of the cabriolet and, to his shame, swore uneasily

under his breath. Humans he felt were overrated and there were just too many of them.

As they approached the entrance the vibrant music he could feel in his chest contradicted the functionalism of the retail-park foyer.

“Hi there; good morning.”

Just inside the entrance the welcoming committee stood poised to dispense practised empathy and anointing. The pleasant American voice was owned by an attractive woman of Japanese descent and Vernon was handed a printed welcome pack by her vivacious Hispanic colleague. Their greeting seemed genuine and for a moment Vernon and Nsansa were bathed in heaven’s beam of love.

On realising that it was directed toward the weary pensioner grappling with the door behind him, Vernon stifled his response to the other woman’s “Lovely to see you thees morning” Their moment had passed.

Jesus had always seemed to find an international following.

Jesus had always seemed to find an international following.

They found their seats in the auditorium, and as Nsansa stood swaying and soaking up the rhythms and melodies of the worship band, Vernon looked around him curiously. Jesus had always managed to draw an international following he thought, hadn’t Palestinian shepherds and Iranian kings rubbed shoulders at his birth in a building as nondescript as this. It all seemed to make sense somehow and so he too stood, soaking up the music with more than a little interest directed towards the band’s very competent drummer.

As the final strains of ‘Lord I lift your name on high’ hung in the air like the vapour trail of a passing jet, a black pastor jumped to his feet and prayed that his words would be God’s words. Vernon hunkered down for the inevitable sanctified stream of consciousness, resolute the way he had been in school assemblies, to see it through to the end whilst enduring the foot persistently kicking the back of his chair. There was of course no seat kicking now and though the address was undoubtedly fast-paced it was not what he’d expected.

It was as if God has suddenly punched a hole in the warehouse wall and said... here I Am.

It was as if God has suddenly punched a hole in the warehouse wall and said… here I Am.

A fiery apostle’s ancient letter to the Christians in Rome bore a disarming message… it was not presented as a call for Holy War but an invitation to inner peace. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ Entranced, Vernon lowered his world-weary defences and absorbed the spirit-lifting antidote to the poison of self-reproach. He who gave up his own Son for us all… will he not also graciously give us all things?’ Vernon held his breath, dreading the hollow promise of a prosperity gospel… and released it with a sigh of contentment. Here was the heart of religion surely; ‘It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns?’ The dubious testimony of answered prayer that followed, the several unsolicited offers of prayerful counselling, even the church–grade coffee-with-chicory failed to rob him of his glimpse of heaven. How to hold on to the gift of faith without becoming a debtor to religion that was the problem; how to occupy every room in the house with a God who liked to Spring clean?

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Reasons to be cheerful …part 3, and 4

Section 134 feeling sunny and cooling down

Vernon woke up feeling pleased with himself. On reflection that in itself was remarkable, not just because he was by nature melancholic and pessimistic, but because his philosophical reading, tinged as it was with a curiosity about neuroscience, had alerted him to the observation made by Proust that awakening generally entails the gradual reassembly of self from the oblivion of sleep. Nevertheless, and despite his recent setbacks, Vernon awoke this morning knowing who he was and knowing that he was lucky.

Vernon was happy; his application for India was secure, plus...

Vernon was happy; his application for India was secure, plus…

He turned and looked at Nsansa lying next to him, breathing in as he did so the rich scent of the oils with which she conditioned her coffee-toned skin. He stroked her back in appreciation and from somewhere beneath the pillow heard a murmur of approval. Further reasons to be cheerful in three parts were that his mother and sister approved his trip to Thailand, his research proposal had been accepted by Dr van der Floot and he had survived the walk across hot coals that his India visa required. Things were looking up.

Most of all, Vernon reflected drowsily, his feeling of self-satisfaction was derived from the news story of the previous day, the one that had unnerved him profoundly, and the subsequent text on his phone that had woken him up this morning. The text was from Jean Luc. Five words gave him hope. ‘Tarkey has handed himself in’.

Tarkey, by doing so had confirmed the link between Mudrock’s losses and his own actions. It was a short step from there to suppose it was a guilty link. Snug in his thinking-nest, though somewhat distracted by the lazy hand that was exploring his left thigh, Vernon doubted that this turn of events was merely because of the newspaper reporting which was in the public domain. He didn’t know yet, but he considered it likely, Tarkey had been ‘lent on’…

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Cryptic complaint

The Lemmings

 

The Lemmings …askers and tellers, hurled themselves over the cliff yearning to damage it.

The Lemmings

…askers and tellers

hurled themselves over the cliff

yearning to damage it,

and filmed their spree gleefully as if anticipation was proof.

Two bastions of British civilisation

bast—s more like.

The cliff was unmoved,

but Cliffs deserve justice too.

Shame on you lemmings..

try looking before you leap

The seductive promise of security: memory as a foundation for identity.

“Life without memory is no life at all… “
Oliver Sacks. The man who mistook his wife for a hat

A person’s singular identity is often construed as an interior narrative which chronicles life’s sensibility of continued ownness. But how can this inner chronicle thread together life’s episodes, particularly those we don’t experience such as birth and death, without the witness of others? Our loved ones’ recollections ‘fine tune’ our memories; similarly, our episodic memory relies upon the critical co-witness of others to appropriated events.

This dependence upon intersubjectivity, which I have explored in a number of ways so far, is further complicated because not all non-pathological humans naturally align themselves with a personal story which narrates the continuance of their lives.[1]

The memories our lives rely on are part autobiography and part biographical.

The memories our lives rely on are part autobiography and part biographical.

Some lives, described as episodic, are predisposed to recognise possession of a past ‘from the inside’, but display no sense of life as a narrative.[2] An accompanying minimal interest in their past or concern for their future serves to dilute any sensibility of a ‘self’ accordingly. Of course my argument is that one’s identity-sense may not be dependent upon conscious interest but nevertheless find equilibrium in a recognisable habituation of engagement with the world through unthought preferences, posture and participation in the world.

The narrative role of memory as a guarantor of human identity is first explored systematically[3] in Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.[4] According to Locke, continuity of identity is safeguarded, by way of an ironically Cartesian ’straightjacket’, in consciousness, delineated practically as memory. Consciousness, says Locke, perpetually accompanies thinking, enabling one to distinguishing oneself from all other thinking things; ‘in this alone consists personal identity…  and as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches the identity of that person…’[5]

I have made the case for a significantly broader classification of personal identity and the critical factor which enables singular distinctiveness to accrue to each one. Personal identity is holistically felt and presented in the living body, not merely in conscious thought.

The identity of each human person is found in an essentially embodied intersubjective intentionality embedded in the world. In this existential space identity is won, individuated and lost precisely in the project of appropriating the world; the background empirical world and equally the historiocultural gender-specific concrete reality of one’s Lifeworld.

This appropriation is driven, uniquely for each identity, in the particularised manner in which a desire for significance is fulfilled and a capacity for purpose is expressed and furthermore, the manner and means by which an equilibrium is achieved between these two primordial traits. One’s sense of identity I have argued is that ongoing audit of this requisite equilibrium, undertaken holistically and the meaning one acknowledges has accrued to one’s life as a result. Locke’s diffidence towards consciousness is insufficient given the fragility of human memory.

It is a central argument of this thesis that the identity of a person consists in their activation of an intentional arc through which the world is appropriated and that this is by means of an intentionality that has the capacity to be both operatively subconscious and rationally conscious. It is not however safeguarded by memory and consequently must be repeatedly reaffirmed and renewed through a sampling of that intentionality.

For Locke there is recognition that human physical identity is individuated and maintained through retention of a person’s functional organization at an atomic level. A human most significantly however, is an intelligent thinking being aware of itself, as itself; the same thinking thing in different times and places, and so unsurprisingly it is consciousness that constitutes the  ‘person’ as distinct from ‘humanness’, and continuity of personhood is found in their unique individuated consciousness retained throughout existence. Consciousness of participation in past actions equates to owning them and identification with that person who instigated and perpetrated them. This even extends to things done whilst asleep or otherwise unconscious. In terms of personal identity then, for Locke, memory is all.

To what extent are the formative events of our lives, scrumping say, part of us to the end.

To what extent are the formative events of our lives, scrumping say, part of us to the end.

Fifty years after Locke, Hume acknowledged the import of memory as a criterion for identity, but disputed that any distinct human impression supported the notion. Hume argued that repeated remembrances build up the semblance of identity.[6] Memory creates rather than validates identity. For Hume the idea of continuity of being, is the by-product of imagination rather than memory, and this lends empirical weight to Hegel’s rationalistic conjecture that self-consciousness is essentially desire, desire for selfhood. My view is not that Hume and Hegel are entirely wrong, but that they miss the significance of that colossal investment each human person nevertheless makes in the maintenance of selfhood, and the urgency with which one’s identity-sense monitors this endeavour. My human identity is a construct, imaginatively built upon the embodied intersubjective intentionality embedded in the world which this questioning being harmonises as mine. Nevertheless it is not the exclusive domain of consciousness and it is not rendered indubitable by it.

Whilst there is something compelling in Hume’s skepticism regarding a tangible core human ‘self’, his radical empiricism goes too far. Though there may not be a permanent central ‘I’ that governs my life, this does not mean that there is no primordial drive which desires permanence and to which an accretion of meaning attaches as a result of one’s appropriation of the world in expression of a primordial purposive capacity and an equiprimordial desire for significance. Memory is a poor safeguard for the integrity of that centeredness but a rich resource for its construction.  Indeed Reid also criticised Locke’s position highlighting the circularity caused by memory’s fragility. He questioned the implications for identity when our several selves contemplate each other’s existence and asserted that memory is neither necessary nor sufficient for personal identity metaphysically speaking.[7]

Locke’s theory implies that a breakdown of memory entails discontinuity of identity. Of course this criticism in turn hinges on the assumption that there can be such a thing as a discrete private identity. In my view one can have personal identity to the extent that one’s identity-sense can successfully sustain an experience of ownness. Were personal identity not an intersubjective accomplishment however, memorial fragmentation would herald the cessation or dissolution of identity.

Suppose a gallant officer to have been flogged for robbing an orchard when a schoolboy, to have captured a standard from the enemy in his first military campaign, and to have been promoted to the rank of a general at the end of his career. Suppose also, suggests Reid, the admissible possibility that on capturing the standard, he was conscious of having been flogged at school, and when made a general he was conscious of having captured the standard, but that he had by then completely forgotten his flogging. Reid concludes that if the man flogged at school is the same person who took the standard, and he who took the standard is the same person who was made a general, this should entail that the general is the same person as the boy flogged at school. However, ‘the general’s consciousness does not reach so far back as his flogging’, therefore, ‘according to Locke’s doctrine’, he is not the person who was flogged. Problematically ‘The general is, and at the same time is not, the same person as him who was flogged at school’.[8]

Was the mature General  only comprised of the formative events of his life that he was able to recall?

Was the mature General only comprised of the formative events of his life that he was able to recall?

Thus, if memory plays the vital role Locke posited, the general who remembers his exploits as an officer but not his misdemeanours as a boy cannot be the same person as the latter, even though he is the same person as the officer whose recollection of childhood is intact.[9] Even if memory were infallible, it cannot constitute proof of identity when the concept of memory depends conceptually on the presence of identity. It becomes clear that my identity unifies the memory impressions I have, encrypting them as ‘my’ memories. It is furthermore the mechanism with which I filter these memory impressions for my purposes and for significance to me.

This last aspect is relevant to the almost universal phenomenon of ‘childhood amnesia’[10] which entails that few people remember anything prior to three years of age with subsequent years barely memorable either. Certainly one can identify physiological reasons for this, such as the insufficient brain maturation before the age four or five which means that the ‘dentate gyrus’, a small part of the hippocampus, fails to facilitate the flow of signals to areas around it that retain them. Even so children retain some memories from experience before maturation is complete.

Scholars have gone on to suggest that the erosion of childhood amnesia coincides with development of the ‘cognitive self’;[11] the ability discerned in the youngster between eighteen and twenty four months to distinguish themselves from others. Some have argued from extensive tests over the course of ten years that our identity-sense helps us to organise our memories thus aiding recall. Considered phenomenologically, it is not surprising that memory can begin to accrue to the young only when there is an identity-sense it can adhere to. In fact what can one select to retain as of memorial import for one’s life if one has not yet begun to unify one’s sensory experience? Such a cognitive unity can only then begin to express a desire for being and identify at least tacitly those experiences for retention that are useful to oneself and significant for oneself. Thus an emergent identity-sense would seem to play a significant role in enabling memory but even so ‘memories continue to be sparse long after the point at which a toddler can recognise his or her reflection’;[12] further explanatory factors must apply.

Researchers argue that in addition to brain development and the advent of a ‘cognitive self’ the development of language is also vital. One study confirms in part, the sentiments of Merleau-Ponty regarding language acquisition years before when he argued that ‘The spoken word is a gesture, and its meaning, a world’,[13] in concluding that ‘You have to have a word in your vocabulary before you’re able to set down memories for that concept’.[14] Merleau-Ponty is arguing that in addition to conscious memory the body retains a gestural pre-conscious memory of meaning. The compelling idea follows that one’s identity-sense provides a structure to which memories can accrue and language serves to extend this construct with some kind of ‘memory scaffold, anchoring the details in a format we can call up years later’.[15] This consciousness-dependent notion is that much more convincing when supplemented with the idea that one’s body-subject retains this memory holistically and through revisited explorative narratives, language is enabled to reclaimed it. Indeed the research goes on to affirm that in a recursive manner language does not just appropriate the past memorially, ‘talking about the past… also fosters development of a sense of self’. To argue that one’s harmonising of the world is sensed holistically is to affirm the creative role, but not the validatory role, of one’s unifying desire to be, one’s memorial narrative of experience and one’s narration regarding one’s own identity. What ensues is autobiographical memory, though not as a validatory guarantor.

Words and meanings, like memories are the creative elements with which we shape our lives.

Words and meanings, like memories are the creative elements with which we shape our lives.

Sartre’s twentieth century critique marginalises the role of memory further in that he argues that memory cannot be possessed at all. As I have shown, he argues that a conscious person is free, a fluid self-determining centre of distinctness and memories, like preferences, merely reveal a person’s primary existential project. Having judged that consciousness is a nihilation, Sartre asserts that one must conclude that ‘to be conscious of ourselves and to choose ourselves are one and the same’.[16] To some extent I agree but it is not in fact necessary to assume that one only chooses oneself consciously. In fact memory may be said in retrospect to supply the conscious narrative for a prior-to-conscious choosing that has already taken place.

Our lives, are malleable and stylised, like the memories that underpin them.

Our lives, are malleable and stylised, like the memories that underpin them.

According to Sartre, we may through conscious choice live in bad faith, rejecting correction of wrongly constructed reminiscences because we cannot embrace what we once were. Memory is a matter of our truth which has validity on a personal plane rather than objectively.[17] Remembrances are lived and legitimated when they represent adequately the performance of my project which takes up, in my view, the tension between being what I am not yet and interrogating what I am.

Here then, in Sartre’s objection, is disclosed  the role of memory. The ‘self’-actualising human being, an identity-sense desirous of harmony, attempts to incorporate the disjunctive stimulus of each given moment and to encompass time through projecting Being from itself upon time.[18] Memory is a creative tool employed by one’s identity-sense to stem the fragmenting tide of time and etch in the sands anew the outline of its fragile harmonisation of significance and purpose in appropriation of the world.

Memory is neither the criterion nor guarantor of continued identity over time,[19]  though a primordial human desire for such harmony persists. Human identity, incessantly, re-opens time to reclaim its ‘what it is to be’, a singular embodied intentionality embedded in the world. Though memory cannot safeguard identity, this most creative tool sculpts identity.[20]

 

Memory, rich in texture as it undoubtedly is, enables us to sculpt our identity-sense.

Memory, rich in texture as it undoubtedly is, enables us to sculpt our identity-sense.

[1] Galen Strawson, Against Narrativity, Ratio (new Series), XVII 4 December 2004 0034-0006, 428-433. In fact, each of us are positioned somewhere on a spectrum between a ‘Episodic’ and’ Diachronic’ experience of the ‘self’, Ibid, 430-45-, Strawson explores this issue advising us in the final word not to conclude that Diachronicity is a necessary condition of a properly moral existence, nor of a proper sense of responsibility. How he asks do Episodicity and Diachronicity relate to Narrativity? In response he advises us to suppose that being Diachronic is at least necessary for being Narrative,  since its true by definition that if you’re Diachronic you’re not Episodic and conversely, it follows that if you’re Episodic you’re not Narrative.

[2] Strawson, 2004, ibid

[3] Henry, E. Allison, Locke’s Theory of Personal Identity: A Re-Examination Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 27, No. 1. (Jan. – Mar., 1966), 41

[4] John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London, Fontana Library 1964), 212

[5] Ibid, 449

[6] David Hume, Treatise of human nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, Oxford, OUP, 1951, 259

[7] Rebecca Copenhaver, Reid on Memory and Personal Identity First published Wed Mar 18, 2009, The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/cite.html, accessed 18:13, 14th November 2010

[8] Essays 276, Ibid

[9] Thomas Reid, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, in Works of Thomas Reid, ed. Sir William Hamilton, 8th edition (Edinburgh, 1895), 11, 351

[10] Weir, K. Our forgotten Years , in New Scientist, 43

[11] Mark Howe, in Weir, ibid, 44

[12] Howe, in Weir, ibid

[13] Merleau-Ponty, M. PP, 2006, 214

[14] Morrison, in Weir, ibid

[15] Weir, ibid

[16] Sartre, 2005, 484

[17] Ibid, 647

[18] Luchte, 2008, 115

[19] For an interesting discussion of an argument for abandoning criterialism and the implications that ensue from this see ‘There Are No Criteria of Identity Over Time’ Trenton Merricks, Noûs, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 106-124

[20] This term is explored in Abraham. H. Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, London, Penguin Arkana, 1993 as indicative of a strategic and therapeutic choice to choose, see pages 40-50. I borrow it here to depict instead the default intentionality of human identity.

“You’ve melted me”

Vernon made a mental note that this was the last place on earth one could make a quick getaway; thankfully he had no desire to.

Vernon made a mental note that this was the last place on earth one could make a quick getaway; thankfully he had no desire to.

Section 133 is between the sheets

Vernon squeezed his little cabriolet with difficulty into the parking space next to the Chinese restaurant. He fancied that the air reeked with the smell of grease and Mono-sodium-glutamate as he walked the short distance to Nsansa’s back door.

He knocked and waited, and as the key rattled in the lock and the bright colours of her blouse created patterns in the frosted glass, Vernon realised that his head was spinning so fast it made it difficult to remain in the present moment.

“Ah Romeo, ingeleni mukwai.” Nsansa’s injunction to come in was hard to comply with however as she had stepped forward and kissed him firmly, holding onto his beard to prevent him pulling back. “Shani tu tea, or coffee? Finshi ukalya? I’m making scrambled eggs on toast. ”

She was obviously pleased to see him and her glee was like a tonic. She pulled him into the room playfully and kissed him again, and Vernon, for the first time in quite a while, felt horny. As they fixed a light meal together refused visas and ongoing fraud investigations seemed very remote.

In the romantic gloom his troubles looked like a pile of discarded garments.

In the romantic gloom his troubles looked like a pile of discarded garments nothing more.

The meal was followed by a relaxed conversation in which Vernon found that Nsansa was very content in her new placement, as besotted with Wales as was himself but planning nevertheless to come out to Thailand for a holiday once he was settled there.

It was certainly not Rosemary that was filling his thoughts that night.

It was certainly not Rosemary that was filling his thoughts that night.

As Nsansa attended to night-time preparations in the bathroom Vernon played distractedly with the numerous beads of a broken necklace lying on the bedside cabinet. He formed the beads into a shape while he mused over the events of the evening and quickly gathered his toiletries for his turn. When he turned out the bathroom light and re-entered the bedroom he found it swathed in candle-light and Nsansa draped over the white bedspread like a fallen statue. She beckoned him to the bed and whispered “The heart, in beads, and the ‘I missed you’. You have melted me.” Confidently she pulled his night clothes from him. She whispered erotically as he tumbled onto the bed and allowed her to massage his weariness from him, “Oils my love; to help you relax, but don’t relax too much. It’s your turn next, and then…”

 

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Identity-sense: sensing oneself in the world

In this blog I wish to consider the way that one realises one’s unique ‘way to be’ in the given world; put simply I wish to describe the way that the questioning being interrogates the world recognising that this is not merely a conscious and therefore rationalised interaction. This is a significantly human aspect of that being but there is much more interaction to describe. Indeed relevant to this claim is the fact that my phenomenological evaluation of human identity has found untenable the intuition of a unified Ego. I have however gained from Husserl’s later work the insight that identity is essentially intentional and intersubjective. Merleau-Ponty moreover, contends convincingly that ‘being incarnately’ is an essential ‘way to be’, supporting my view that human identity is essentially embodied intersubjective intentionality. It has, through the course of this thesis, become clear in addition that that the intentional lived body grounds human identity, and this speaking being spans subjectivity and objectivity.

Precisely because the lived body grounds human identity, one’s identity-sense is not reliant upon mental ‘self’-reflection alone but is, as an experience of one’s singularly embodied intentional presence, experienced holistically  in every aspect of one’s embodiment. I feel what it is to be me, and audit the success of my harmonising ambitions in all of my being. My identity-sense is also, as a result of indebtedness to the lived body, recursively acquired through my conscious, and my habitual, interaction with others and the world; though I may rationalise its perceptions mentally, my identity-sense is not merely a mental phenomenon nor is it only registered as such.

As with plant-like creatures such as the sea anemone, the questioning being assimilates the worlds  meaning sensitively in ways not necessarily reliant upon conscious thought.

As with plant-like creatures such as the sea anemone, the questioning being assimilates the worlds meaning sensitively in ways not necessarily reliant upon conscious thought. Sea Anemone, Image from image from http://deepbluehome.blogspot.dk/2011/09/sea-anemones.html Other dramatic images are to be found here.

In the posts that follow I will explore in detail the way that one’s identity-sense comprises an existential measurement of success. An audit, often tacit, which is constantly monitoring the explicit and implicit harmonising one inevitably attempts between one’s primordial desire for significance – capacity for purpose and the Lifeworld. That which is monitored is my appropriation of the world that forms my identity, an appropriation that occurs through the following mechanism. My capacity for purpose motivates me to take up and employ as useful the background of the world; in addition to this my desire for significance prompts me to confer to selected aspects of that world, value for me, in the hope that they in turn confer value upon me. By such an appropriation I bring the background of the world into my foreground and by this mechanism an accretion of meaning accrues to my life. As I have noted already, the auditing work that constitutes one’s identity-sense is not solely undertaken though conscious reflection. It is however, often assumed that memory is both the gatekeeper and the guarantor of my identity-sense. It is to evaluate this assumption that I turn now to the role of memory.

A dangerous foe

Poor Vernon. words never seemed to fall in convivial combinations lately.

Poor Vernon. words never seemed to fall in convivial combinations lately.

Section 132 wants to be incognito

One his way home after a morale boosting visit, Vernon turned his thoughts to Émile. Something was bugging him about the unfortunate irritating exile and Vernon could not think what it was. It was something his sister had said when their discussion had turned to Jenny.

“So she has Claire, Daniel and Pippa most of the time. So what; if she’d let you share them less grudgingly your input would be less part-time.” For some reason it had reminded him of the exile, and his worries about his own escape too. Turning it over and over like a restless tide, Vernon pulled up outside the local cinema, risking a double yellow line and hastened over to the newsagent nearby.

Forgetting to collect his change, Vernon paid for the newspaper and stood reading the article which appeared in various forms throughout the national press.

 

Watch out, theres a bear about.

Watch out, theres a bear about.

‘A spokesman for Media Mogul, Rupert Mudrock, has made public the tycoon’s fury regarding the far-ranging embezzlement of nearly three million dollars from private accounts. Police are investigating the missing funds which have surely targeted one of the most powerful forces in the business and, speaking on behalf on Mr Mudrock, solicitor Mr Minchin indicated that an award would be offered for information that boosted police enquiries. Mr Minchin affirmed that business interests of the media tycoon had also suffered loss; “He will not rest until the perpetrator is identified and bought to justice.” Police have said that they are following a number of leads regarding promotional software distributed to journalists working for Mr Mudrock’s various companies which may have contained Trojan elements.’

Suddenly aware of an irritated knocking on glass beside him Vernon also noticed that the sales assistant had been trying to get his attention. “Hev y’got to stand in the way of door Mr? Please take the change and move aside.”

Vernon jumped out of the way feeling intense embarrassment, and leaving his change fled to the relative security of his car. He re-read the article with growing alarm and turned down the sun visor in a futile attempt to be inconspicuous.

From what ever angle he looked at it, and the papers covered every angle, things looked bleak.

From what ever angle he looked at it, and the papers covered every angle, things looked bleak.

Vernon took a different route to Thetford, intending from there to join the A11 back to Nsansa’s home as agreed. As he twisted and turned through the Norfolk countryside he was in turmoil. Clearly Émile had targeted a dangerous foe. Had Tarkey known anything about it? Were they complicit in any way? There it was again; something to do with sharing.

He drove through Watton passing as he did so a signpost advertising some kind of time-share; Golf apartments or something. And then the penny dropped. Émile was in Spain. What was it he had said?  ‘I’ve got a big project on with a time-share biz …in Spain.’ Was Émile really there? He must be. More importantly, was he safe?

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…a town surrounded by Triffids

Section 130 is still on the go

Vernon had a hunch that Thailand might be as welcoming as India.

Vernon had a hunch that Thailand might be as welcoming as India.

The next day was Saturday and normally the occasion for morning school, but Vernon, since his implication in the Nonsense Filter fiasco, was more dispensable than previously. ‘Don’t come back until the visas are fixed eh Vernon’ Reverend Albright had remarked after their plenary discussions about the interviewees, ‘make yourself scarce eh what?’ He suspected that dignitaries, or the press, were on the school estate and this was something to do with damage limitation. One thing he did know was that somehow he had the weekend and half the following week on paid leave; who said crime doesn’t pay?

Vernon had decided therefore to go and see his mother in Norfolk and then to spend some long overdue time with Nsansa. After that he would be heading to Hull of all places for a golden ticket to Thailand. While he had been occupied with interviews Nsansa had been back and forth from Abergavenny on placement with an interruption in the middle caused by a close friend’s funeral. They had, as always it seemed, lost ground to recover.

Swaffham, like many towns in Norfolk, seemed surrounded by Triffids.

Swaffham, like many towns in Norfolk, seemed surrounded by Triffids.

Vernon had returned from London by his own now familiar and arduous escape route, his ‘Chemin de la Liberté’. Numb with fatigue and frustration he had endured the congested tube all the way to Redbridge, changed a flat tyre in the rapidly emptying car park and then sat in a traffic holdup on the M11 near Harlow for more than an hour and a half. Relieved and exhausted, he had cherished the tame rural embrace of Suffolk as it enveloped him at his journey’s end. There was something to be said for home, he thought ironically, as he teetered on the brink of abandoning it.

There had been a parcel on the mat when he returned containing the university’s regulations and a warm letter from Dr Miles Van der Floot. ‘My dear Vernon’ the letter enthused, ‘please find attached the procedures for study. I am delighted to tell you that the university has approved your tentative research proposal regarding Relativism, and I can confirm that I am to be your supervisor, though I understand you are headed East. We can keep in touch via skype I am sure, happy travelling and hwl fawr am nawr.’

The bear with a sore head had clearly been roused.

The bear with a sore head had clearly been roused.

As he drove through the East Anglian countryside Vernon ruminated on the cheerful certainties his new supervisor exuded. If he knew that Vernon was haunted with the possibility that he would prevented from leaving the country, and, consequently unemployed, would not be able to pay his fees, that understanding certainty might dissipate.  As he drove through Swaffham, a market-town hemmed in by swarms of triffid-like turbines, and he’d read somewhere, one-time home of the ill-fated Howard Carter who turned up more than he’d bargained for in discovering Tutankhamun, Vernon wondered what his expedition would unearth. He drove through the genteel and quirky market square, pausing at the traffic lights to turn right onto Norwich Road, glancing as he did so at a newsagent’s rack of papers.  ‘Media mogul offers revenge reward’ was emblazoned across the front page of one, ‘Hunt begins for giant slayer’ he read across another. As the green light beckoned the traffic forward Vernon knew he had some unexpected discoveries of his own in store and vowed to buy a paper on his way home if not before.

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The Zee-rore Eeet Treee of Life

Section 129 could kill more than time

“Wait over there for your Visa to be signed and presented. Don’t go anywhere, you will have to return tomorrow if you miss this. Your number will be called out. Collect it then and only then. Check it; mistakes cannot be corrected.”

Vernon could not be sure his number would be recognisable when it was called.

Vernon could not be sure his number would be recognisable when it was called.

Feeling as if he was a prisoner of war, Vernon marvelled at the intelligence gathering powers of Indian bureaucracy. Obviously they knew about his every sin since childhood and this was the payback. A pound of flesh for Pune.

He joined the cautiously-optimistic queue gathered around the door he had first entered and for the first thirty minutes he was entertained by the checkout assistant’s indecipherable pronunciation of numbers, his aggressive abuse of anybody who stood in the wrong place or came at the wrong moment and his running commentary, in what might be a blend of Hindi and Urdu, denigrating the dregs of humanity he had to nanny. When his number appeared to be close he was ready in the starting block to sprint forward and collect his prize. ‘Zee-rore Eeet Treee’.

Oh how he felt his number was up.

Oh how he felt his number was up.

Aha 083. Vernon stepped forward and time seemed to drag its heels. With the boom-in-a-barrel acoustics familiar to a drowning man he reached out for his passport. He actually touched it. As he did so the assistant cried with horror. “Oh goodness me no. I cannot let you have that no. Too bad. No.”

The assistant promptly withdrew his passport and carried on dispensing justice to his other unworthy clients. When Vernon remonstrated he shook his head as if to dissuade a persistent fly saying, “No, no Mr. Cannot have. Look it is not being signed. Please to be waiting there, there, there.”

At last the Treee of life.

At last the Treee of life.

The assistant pointed with hair-splitting precision to an exact spot at the corner of his counter, as if he had checked these coordinates minutely, and Vernon waited tensely, like a coiled spring. And …waited. He could see the administration staff drinking tea and milling about apparently aimlessly. After forty minutes had elapsed he noted that the department closed business for the day in quarter of an hour. “Please”, he said to his unlikely ally, who had checked on his colleagues twice already, “I have a long drive home. Please can you get this signed?”

When the passport finally arrived Vernon accepted it meekly, the fight knocked out of him. You had to admit it. The British having invented bureaucracy seemed to have left it behind in India like volatile unspent nuclear fuel. Vernon now knew that the path to Nirvana led through purgatory.

Is everything good if you see it the right way. Vernon did not think so. Bureaucracy bad.

Is everything good if you see it the right way? Vernon did not think so. Bureaucracy bad.

Vernon gets a little taste of Indian Numerology.

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