Wednesday, April 18, 2012

sideways city-texts and my whenabouts in a spacetime drive and dérive



I get lost.

On drives, and walks.

My sense of direction sucks.
As does my direction of sense.

On the topic of direction..

I think spiritual direction might sometimes consists of literally losing/finding one's literal direction.

To be literally lost, and then literally found is a-mazing, ex-hilirating and re-demptive ...as lost sheep and sons know from experience and Amazing Graceness.

Lost coins miss out on the feeling of being refound.

I love Paul Hiebert's diagram  (below)  of our fair city, Fresno, in "Transforming Worldviews."
(full text here)

Like many cities of its era, Fresno was built around,  grew around ,  and oriented to, the railroad  tracks.
So downtown streets literally follow  and parallel  the tracks...which run northeast-southwest.. and are not tied/tethered to  a traditional (whose tradition was it, anyway?) north/south, west/east grid.

But the rest of the city follows a traditional north-south, west-east pattern.
There was less  attitude and latitude for straying from literal latitude  by the time the city expanded beyond downtown.

So, in some circles, we are famous/infamous for two things: introducing the credit card, and being laid out sideways.

Heading south on Blackstone (the main drag ....and many do drag there!..and north-south corridor) , one sees on the horizon, in fact as the horizon ("NO Line on the Horizon.. time is irrrelevant, it's not linear") the tallest skyscraper between San Francisco and Los Angeles  But the building's corners are  perfectly angled to the tracks, and look sideways, disoriented, crooked ..and from a parallel universe and orientation.  But once the road hits downtown, it all evens out.  Which is odd.

Watch it all here:

 Bruggemann offers  a taxonomy of the psalms: psalms of orientation, disorientation and reorientation
Sometimes we must lose orientation to find disorientation to find  reorientation.  In fact, such may be the only way to grow.  It's more than a Hegelian synthesis.  It's holy liminality and liminal space where holy shift happens.  So it could be what happens to a driver's/walker's orientation is a microcosm and metaphor of what happens as we pilgrimage from "glory to glory"...even if transversing through  Fowler's stages of faith or Kubler-Ross's stages of grief.

I find spiritual direction by losing my direction.
I find my life by losing it, a Rabbi once prophesied.
Re-pent and be re-oriented for the forgiveness of sins.

Oh, and on the sixth floor of that straightcrooked skyscraper, our church met for a year,  Looking down and out the  window at Blackstone was radically reorienting.  Maybe it did is some spiritual good.

Derrida suggests
anything is a text.

DeCerteau ( see Mashup: "Walking in the City"/"Moment of Surrender") has reminded us that the city is a text.

So as I force myself to walk or drive in our lopsided city,  more than intertextuality  is born; a new text is created: a tertium textual quid, larger than the sum of the parts and streets. Theologians have described the Third Member of the Trinity (fight over the filioque  sometime) as in a sense,the overflow from the union of the First and Second Persons.

Thus any third way is  holy and Holy Spirited.

I must walk in the city, even if (especially) I get lost, and lose my sense of space, time and spacetime

(Hey, why do scientists call it "spacetime," and not "timespace"?  Is space more fundamental than time? And I love de Certeaus term "nowhen"  If we get lost in time, how do we find our "whenabouts? Maybe by singing, "He's a real Nowhen Man")
in mys city's deliciously  crooked miles.

I love this article, How to walk in the city from Josisah Neufeld, in Geez Magazine:

A dérive is not a stroll.

It is a journey through an urban landscape inspired by a curious mixture of intention and aimlessness. A dérive (pronounced deh-REEV) has no destination. Its goal is neither work nor leisure, but rather to pay attention to the influences of one’s constructed environment.
I began my own dérive at the University of Winnipeg. There I locked my bicycle, emptied my bladder and set out on foot to follow the city’s lead.

This was a new adventure for me. I only recently encountered the concept of dérive in the writings of Guy Debord. He belonged to the Situationists, a group of Marxist revolutionaries who roamed the streets of Paris in the 1950s and ‘60s searching for new and authentic ways of interacting with their built environment. They sought to defy the capitalist order and create their own experiences of reality.
 .
...I returned to the street and kept walking, resisting straight lines and right angles. I walked in arcs, zigzagged across streets, backtracked. I became uncomfortably aware that I was behaving like a deviant. Panhandlers, drunks, graffiti artists and skateboarders travel like this. Our grid makes it easy to spot their unwelcome movements.
.... Danger lurks in unmapped pockets like these. As branches closed around me I wondered how green, flourishing leaves could conjure such fear.

When I emerged from the forest I checked the time. I had been wandering for three hours without experiencing a moment of boredom. I was surprised at the pleasure I’d found in the excursion. I rarely leave the house without a destination. Most common forms of recreation come with clear objectives: score goals, get fit, get drunk, relax, learn a skill, build a relationship. Perhaps our society has lost its ability to wander.
As I headed home, now moving resolutely, I met a woman who walked with a spastic shuffle. She smiled at me as we passed – a magnificent, gap-toothed grin. She must be a touch crazy, I thought. Only crazies smile at strangers for no reason.  -LINK, How to walk in the city | Geez Magazine


Spiritaneously on purpose; I must purpose to ..whether through a drive or dérive .. find myself lost if I  want to find faith ..and indeed find myself finding myself.

"No one steers a living thing, " :Leonard Sweet (Summoned to Lead, pp. 76-77) offers.  "It moves forward one step at a time. No living enterprise moves forward by 'planning'.. When you come to a pothole, you don't need a strategic plan to get by. You improvise. After a brief pause, you ad lib your zig zags until you regain your bearings."



Rob Bell talks about the text as a what, and the context (con-text) as a where.
We wonder "where am I?" when we become lost, and  when/where our "insulators" are missing...or crooked.  Only then, through lostness and suffering, does creativity emerge:

There’s a phrase we use when we’re describing something we consider new and fresh and unexpected. We say it’s “out of the box.” The problem with the phrase is that when something or someone is judged to be in or out of “the box”, it reveals that “the box” is still our primary point of reference. We’re still operating within the prescribed boundaries and assumptions of how things are supposed to be. “Out of the box” is sometimes merely another way of being “in the box.” And then there are those who come from a totally different place. They ask another kind of question: “There’s a box?”  -Rob Bell, Drops Like Stars.


How about a bumper sticker:

  • "I lost my insulators. Follow Me!."
  •  
  • "I lost my box!"

  • "Follow me! I'm lost."

I love losing my insular insulators, and reference and deference points,  in my  beloved ":Lost and Found Town,"  (guess who sang that song) which has conveniently left the dual angles on the map and streets.

If only the streets had no name...Then I could truly get found/lost.

I want to go there with you.

BUT I need a language with which to create and navigate my travels.

Or do I?

What language do I borrow  to track my time-travelling Toyota..or soundtrack my walk...through the twin texts of  city and soul's time and space?


I wish there was a language with no sense (or tense) of direction.  It might be a spiritual retreat/advance just to speak in/though it.  But the best I can find is Some languages with a very different "sense of direction":


The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space — how we describe the orientation of the world around us. Suppose you want to give someone directions for getting to your house. You might say: “After the traffic lights, take the first left, then the second right, and then you’ll see a white house in front of you. Our door is on the right.” But in theory, you could also say: “After the traffic lights, drive north, and then on the second crossing drive east, and you’ll see a white house directly to the east. Ours is the southern door.” These two sets of directions may describe the same route, but they rely on different systems of coordinates. The first uses egocentric coordinates, which depend on our own bodies: a left-right axis and a front-back axis orthogonal to it. The second system uses fixed geographic directions, which do not rotate with us wherever we turn.

We find it useful to use geographic directions when hiking in the open countryside, for example, but the egocentric coordinates completely dominate our speech when we describe small-scale spaces. We don’t say: “When you get out of the elevator, walk south, and then take the second door to the east.” The reason the egocentric system is so dominant in our language is that it feels so much easier and more natural. After all, we always know where “behind” or “in front of” us is. We don’t need a map or a compass to work it out, we just feel it, because the egocentric coordinates are based directly on our own bodies and our immediate visual fields.

But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” In fact, Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t make any use of egocentric coordinates at all. The anthropologist John Haviland and later the linguist Stephen Levinson have shown that Guugu Yimithirr does not use words like “left” or “right,” “in front of” or “behind,” to describe the position of objects. Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions. If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” Or they would warn you to “look out for that big ant just north of your foot.” Even when shown a film on television, they gave descriptions of it based on the orientation of the screen. If the television was facing north, and a man on the screen was approaching, they said that he was “coming northward.”...

In order to speak a language like Guugu Yimithirr, you need to know where the cardinal directions are at each and every moment of your waking life. You need to have a compass in your mind that operates all the time, day and night, without lunch breaks or weekends off, since otherwise you would not be able to impart the most basic information or understand what people around you are saying. Indeed, speakers of geographic languages seem to have an almost-superhuman sense of orientation. Regardless of visibility conditions, regardless of whether they are in thick forest or on an open plain, whether outside or indoors or even in caves, whether stationary or moving, they have a spot-on sense of direction..They don’t look at the sun and pause for a moment of calculation before they say, “There’s an ant just north of your foot.” They simply feel where north, south, west and east are, just as people with perfect pitch feel what each note is without having to calculate intervals. There is a wealth of stories about what to us may seem like incredible feats of orientation but for speakers of geographic languages are just a matter of course. One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.  -Guy Deutscher, ‘Through the Language Glass’


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Of course, I love that I need to, in Deutscher's language (about language), I am called to  ditch my "egocentrism." How Christian is that? 

I better get busy getting lost.

I need to drive on the wrong right side of the road, life, lines and box.

I might even get found.


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