Monday, May 2, 2022

Heidegger as a Cure for Anxiety


2 May 2022

“Anxiety could be experienced as a kind of calm by holding yourself out, into that experience”: moments when you’re past worry, adrenaline-surfing, full of everything you can’t name except it moves quickly, curling like a leaf around itself on asphalt, mottled brown and darker brown, and I wondered why friends thought about colors in poetry, as it was the thoughts that seemed most to count, and count they did, by 25s or 100s, in math that was not yet critical race theory, or anything except raw numbers. The four on a telephone pole sits upside down, making the shape of an “I” with a handle, as if we could hold our first person up to our lips and drink. If we take “calm” to mean stillness, not a steady being in yourself, then calm it is. Renovate your words and they will mean what you need them to mean.

Dissolving vignettes, each a single take, holding itself out until stopping in mid-air, which is mid-time, which is the space of an absent narrative, or at least of one that cannot find its ending. What we think is true—a woman captured by a psychopath in a metal container—ends. When next we see her, she’s ironing. The psychopath wants her to show her “true face,” not the one she assumes. The torturer always looks for truth, because the means justify whatever ends. Body, story, the tweets of Russian torture victims you can’t see because they’re “disturbing." Scroll past to see the latest trades, the low batting averages, the poetry gossip. That tweet is a trap-door, but you leap over it the way your dog does a puddle when a car comes. The water breaks into shadow pieces; her tongue sticks out, offering a hint of color in the drab overcast light.

Those still trapped in Mariupol’s steel factory have moved past anxiety, because where they exist is true. Anxiety assumes, but when it’s proven, it dissolves into an after-calm, horrifying and yet certain. This is not how you imagine relieving your anxiety; mostly, you think of yourself lying comfortably on a beach, once again able to breathe in, out. But the steel mill is the labyrinth that promises to hide you long enough to become accustomed. To hunger, to terror, to fingers that push on walls, but cannot feel them. Hongly described his body as it starved, his arms eating themselves. New Yorkers, we read, are now terrified.

We haven’t lost our sense of proportion, though that is our ambition. It’s our stage, where the player in a slump gets sent to Mariupol and the soldier in the tank gets to attend his own bobble head day at the park. Four men in a tank dream of meadows full of flowers. The tank dreams of its origins apart from war. And the war dreams it’s trapped inside a music room without a key. I’ll turn the house inside out to look for it. In the meantime, lock it all out as she did the mean lover who shot faces on the subway. Piles of books lie on the curb, each bearing the title, ETHICS.

Note: quote by Simon Critchley, in “A Philosopher Laughs at Death...” by Mark Dery. The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 28, 2022. Thanks to Jon Morse, who sent me the link. Some details come from Code Unknown, a film by Michael Haneke.

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