Friday, February 20, 2009

Touching Rhythm (Rhythmosophy)

To touch rhythm is to be touched by rhythm. Though he doesn't say "touch," Lefebvre invites us to see touch as a model for how we interpret rhythm. There is more to understanding rhythm, however, than being absorbed by it. Before proceeding I have to step back and look at what Lefebvre is doing with the concept of perpetuity, the uninterrupted reach, the going through, or the seeking through that has come to be synonymous with diuturnity. Once again he distinguishes between the cyclical and the linear and says that "[t]he linear is the daily grind, the routine, therefore the perpetual, made up of chance and encounters" (Rhythmanalysis, p. 30). He has said that the linear and the cyclical combine, but he clearly means here to define the linear as both routine and grind, both the aleatory and the perpetual. The first thing to note, then, is that there may be a cyclical element to Lefebvre's "linear" time. It encompasses the beaten path and the breaking of paths. It does not however foresee the end of paths, or the ends of journeys. It does not anticipate heat death. It apparently has no significant relation to finitude nor to exhaustion. What then is the difference between the linear and the cyclical? Let's look at a couple more instances of Lefebvre's sense of perpetuity. Speaking of "the lessons of the street" and the "teachings of the window," he says that they "perpetuate themselves by renewing themselves" (p. 33). A pleonasm, or rather a tautology? Well, should we think of the linear as renewal, or is there a contradiction at work here, a paradox whereby the beaten path is also the path of renewal? He also says that people "come in crowds, in perpetual flows" (p. 34). We say "perpetual flow" readily enough, but in doing so are we speaking in riddles? What do we really believe about flows? Are our beliefs consistent with a polyrhythmic grasp of being such as Lefebvre recommends?

What is the relation of perpetuity to memory? To meditation? Lefebvre has given us an interesting idea to puzzle over: to grasp the rhythms of the street, he says, requires "a bit of time, a sort of meditation on time" (p. 30). Can we say that to be touched by rhythm is to be in two times at once? Would these be separate times, joined only by rhythm, or might they be modalities of a unitary time? Should we acknowledge our creation of other times or of time itself? Lefebvre says that memory is required to grasp the rhythms of the street, "in order to grasp this present otherwise than in an instantaneous moment, to restore it in its moments, in the movement of diverse rhythms. The recollection of other moments and of all hours is indispensable, not as a simple point of reference, but in order not to isolate this present and in order to live it in all its diversity" (p. 36). Wouldn't touching rhythm then also require protention, anticipation of the coming moment, the next moment and perhaps additionally the constitution of "next" by consciousness? How would we meditate upon the next moment without transforming the next moment into a meditation? Are our routines meditations? What about our routine meditations? Where is the finitude in rhythm? Might there be a rhythm to the way things slip away, slip away from even memory or from anticipation? Is the by in touched by rhythm the place where rhythm slips away from consciousness, from meditation–but the touch of rhythm requires meditation! I find it puzzling. Can we be sure that the touch of rhythm doesn't instigate meditation?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:24 AM.


Blogger Andrew Louis said...

Levinas seems to be a common thread in your posts - I know nothing of Levinas, but you've peaked my interest... Where would be a good place to start? Perhaps then I'd understand your writing better.

February 20, 2009 10:48 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I couldn't really tell you where to start learning about Levinas. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an entry on Levinas that might be helpful. I'm currently reading Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (trans. Alphonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press, 1969). Later in the year I'll pick up Otherwise than Being and perhaps a few other books of his I have lying around.

Not that it matters much, but you might think about writing that your interest was "piqued" instead of "peaked."

February 21, 2009 4:23 AM  

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