Monday, October 06, 2008

Dynamics of the Imagination Revisited

I'd like to revisit the dynamics of the imagination, this time taking some guidance from Edward S. Casey's Imagining: A Phenomenological Study (Second Edition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000). Let's take Pegasus as our imaginary exercise for the day, since it's an example Casey uses. One thing he says in this regard strikes me as indubitable insofar as it can be confirmed by observations of my own experiences of imagining. He says, "An imagined object does not remain present to us in an abiding manner, as do many perceptual objects; to keep it before our mental gaze, we must constantly re-imagine it, and even then it is difficult to say whether we are continuing to imagine exactly the same object again and again" (p. 7). Well, if I think about it perhaps I can entertain doubts, for instance, doubts about what it means to abide. A composite thought. If we set out to study the imagination we must find ways of talking about composition. And, of course, dynamism, which is a key point being made here. Our questions about continuity or abidance don't vitiate any insight we may have been given into the regenerative property of the imagination, though we may be left with doubts. Indeed, it is "difficult to say" whether (abiding /re-)imagination engenders the same imaginary objects, or even whether the same of such an undertaking would be the same as the same we mean by pointing twice to an object presumed to be real or otherwise non-imaginary. (Yes, an imaginary same; we should be thereby be alerted to imaginary repetitions, continuities, transiencies.)

How do we unravel filaments of memory from filaments of imagination? Pegasus, the white of a cloud, ascending. Does our imagination of Pegasus begin with our feet on the ground, on the Aleian Plain? Once we have been condemned to wander, has our wandering life abided in such a way as to call into question our flights of imagination? Are not all of our flights now in some measure composed of wandering? Pegasus' mane. Stroking his neck. Feeding him an apple. A gust of wind. The components of a project of imagination abide (we could as easily say fade away) differently from the abidance of the project itself. Filaments of memory, mythology, literature, cinema are re-imagined–maybe emphatically re-imagined as we are reminded of their origins (a conundrum)–in discrete gestures, but a project of re-imagination takes place on a field of wandering, a field of crossing paths. We choose our gestures to compose a project of imagination, or so it seems. Twenty-eight visions of Pegasus' mane, though we probably wouldn't risk the distraction of counting. Pegasus' mane through our fingers. Or not. Not this time. Is this apparent difference simply a question of scale? A question of familiarity which might be shorthand for a question of scale, of temporal distances? This filament is already worked. Really? The weave is ongoing. Really for real? Are we somehow blind to our own wandering state? Do our flights of imagination remove us from our pain, the pain of a broken hip, the pain of wandering?

Casey tasks himself with clearly distinguishing imagination from memory, fantasy and other mental activities. It's a worthy task, but I wonder if there's any psychic phenomenon, however peripheral its psychicity may be, which can't serve in some way as a re-source of the imagination. What does it mean then to be a resource of the imagination? Is dynamism a resource? Can one be one's own dynamism? Does imagination have its own resources, or would such ownership represent a fatal hubris? Yet who would be content with a sophrosyne imagination? Pegasus' clipped wings. Imagination must at least imagine itself as having its own resources, as flying on its own outstretched wings. Imagination must be audacious to its core, which is why I wonder whether it isn't always precisely realized from the Aleian Plain. And what then of its irrealization? How does one realize an audacity while one is already audacious? One composes an audacity, accepting the condition as a conundrum, at the same time one imagines on the fly. Wandering. Taking flight among the clouds. Do we imagine as if there will never be an unraveling, as if we must remain blind to our own resourcing, our own mortality? Do we not recollect images of the past with a similar sense of being in some vital way eternal? Why wouldn't that say something essential about the imagination? That it's not entirely itself, perhaps. Not wholly in possession of its own resources. And still we take flight among the clouds. Still we wander.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:52 AM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

a friend remembers you writing something on 'the plight of the university academic/professional. Can you point to the blog?

October 11, 2008 1:22 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I'd love to help, Paul, but that's not ringing any bells. I'm at a loss.

October 11, 2008 6:11 PM  

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