It perturbs the body in precise ways

“Consciousness satisfies emotion by the physical actions it selects in the midst of turbulent sensation. It is the specialized part of the mind that creates and sorts scenarios, the means by which the future is guessed and courses of action chosen. Consciousness is not a remote command centre but part of the system, intimately wired to all the neural and hormonal circuits regulating physiology. Consciousness acts and reacts to achieve a dynamic steady state. It perturbs the body in precise ways with each changing circumstance, as required for well-being and response to opportunity, and helps return it to the original condition when challenge and opportunity have been met.”

(page 113)

Edward O. Wilson. (1998)  Consilience: The unity of knowledge. New York: Knopf.

Feeling responses to stimuli

“The feeling of shame originates in the shame affect. Affects are empirical human universals, inborn in every healthy specimen of our species. They are expressive, in facial expressions, in intonations, in the modulation of the voice, in gestures. Expressions of affect are not acquired. They are communicative. They are feeling responses to fairly complex structures of stimuli and change over time. Affect intensity can be diminished by habit and by turning away from the objects of affect. Among affects are the following: fear (with the expression of fear), shame (with the expression of shame), and rage, disgust, curiosity, gaiety, sadness (with their respective expressions). Although bodily pain is not an affect proper, it belongs to the same family. Darwin, who made a comprehensive study of affects, defined them as the remnants of instincts derived from a lengthy process involving the erosion of instinct regulation and its replacement by culture regulation. It is culture which provides the objects for affects.” (p. 215)

Heller, A. (1982). The Power of Shame. Dialectical Anthropology, 6(3), 215-228.

To give speech to that which has no language

“Think what it would be to have a work conceived from outside the self, a work that would let us escape the limited perspective of the individual ego, not only to enter into selves like our own but to give speech to that which has no language, to the bird perching on the edge of the gutter, to the tree in spring and the tree in fall, to stone, to cement, to plastic…

Was this not perhaps what Ovid was aiming at, when he wrote about the continuity of forms? And what Lucretius was aiming at when he identified himself with that nature common to each and everything?”

(page 124)

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millenium. Trans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1988.

A good deal is at stake in the attempt to invent linguistic structures

“Physical pain – unlike any other state of consciousness – has no referential content. It is not of or for anything. It is precisely because it takes no object that it, more than any other phenomenon, resists objectification in language. Often, a state of consciousness other than pain will, if deprived of its object, begin to approach the neighbourhood of physical pain; conversely, when physical pain is transformed into an objectified state, it (or at least some of its aversiveness) is eliminated. A great deal, then, is at stake in the attempt to invent linguistic structures that will reach and accommodate this area of experience normally so inaccessible to language; the human attempt to reverse the de-objectifying work of pain by forcing pain itself into avenues of objectification is a project laden with practical and ethical consequence.”

(pages 5-6)

Scarry, E. (1985). The body in pain. Oxford: OUP.

A surface that is always the same and always distant

“Still, all “realities” and “fantasies” can take on form only by means of writing, in which outwardness and innerness, the world and I, experience and fantasy, appear composed of the same verbal material. The polymorphic visions of the eyes and the spirit are contained in uniform lines of small or capital letters, periods, commas, parentheses – pages of signs, packed as closely together as grains of sand, representing the many-colored spectacle of the world on a surface that is always the same and always different, like dunes shifted by the desert wind.”

(page 99)

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millenium. Trans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1988.

An infinite whole that contains other infinite wholes

“The artist’s imagination is a world of potentialities that no work will succeed in realizing. What we experience by living is another world, answering to other forms of order and disorder. The layers of words that accumulate on the page, like the layers of colours on the canvas, are yet another world, also infinite by being more easily controlled, less refractory to formulation. The link between the three worlds is the indefinable spoken of by Balzac: or rather, I would call it the undecidable, the paradox of an infinite whole that contains other infinite wholes.”

(page 97)

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millenium. Trans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1988.

Some possible pedagogy of the imagination

“If I have included visibility in my list of values to be saved, it is to give warning of the danger we run in losing a basic human faculty: the power of bringing visions into focus with our eyes shut, of bringing forth forms and colours from the lines of black letters on a white page, and in fact of thinking in terms of images. I have in mind some possible pedagogy of the imagination that would accustom us to control our own inner vision without suffocating it or letting it fall, on the other hand, into confused, ephemeral daydreams, but would enable the images to crystallize into a well-defined, memorable, and self-sufficient from the icastic form.”

(page 92)

Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millenium. Trans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1988.