Words Left Unspoken
Yesterday, I posted an article about the fellow strolling around Times Square in a state that, I think, would make most people feel intolerably vulnerable to suffering the anticipation of meeting hurtful reactions from others, which in turn would engender a sense of humiliation, disgrace and degradation. The underlying tone of my own article was one of feeling stunned and “agog.” I should have known better than to react in that manner, because in retrospect I think that he was making a grand gesture. The fellow from Brooklyn was making a gesture, a public gesture, in the hope that someone would recognize his need so that he could know it, so he might discover what really matters to him.
Last week, I posted an article that suggested:
“The process of paying real attention to the other involves having the experience with/of the other perceived as outside the self, as well as an experience with/of my subjective conceptualization or impression of the other. But beyond attention, we have both a need for recognition by the other, as well as wishes to be able to recognize the other in return, to experience a cherished other and have a co-constructed personal involvement that is distinctively characterized by a sense of nourishing, mutual recognition. However there is an inevitable tension between connection and separation, the self’s wish for absolute independence conflicts with the self’s need for recognition. In trying to establish itself as an independent entity, the self must yet recognize the other as a subject like itself in order to be recognized by it. This immediately compromises the self’s absoluteness and poses the problem that the other could be equally absolute and independent.
Each self wants to be recognized and yet to maintain its absolute identity: The self says, “I want to affect you, but I want nothing you do or say to affect me, I am who I am.” In its encounter with the other, the self wishes to affirm its absolute independence, even though its need for the other and the other’s similar wish give the lie to it. The need for recognition, then, leads to a fundamental paradox; in the very moment of realizing our own independent will, we are dependent on another to recognize it. At the very moment we come to understanding the meaning of I, myself, we are forced to see the limitations of that self. At the moment in which we come to understand that separate minds can share similar feelings, we begin to find out that these minds can also disagree.
The ideal resolution of the paradox of recognition is for it to continue as a constant tension between recognizing the other and asserting the self. sustaining contradiction is an ability that is enhanced to the degree that we are willing to appreciate, preferably embrace, the uncertainty that is inherent to our involvement in everyday life, to the choices that we make and to what might possibly emerge from those choices.”
Unfortunately, the particular gesture that the Brooklyn guy felt compelled to employ in order to reveal in public his needs for recognition was fated to be self-defeating and destined to fail. This, of course, reveals that he is almost paralyzed by feelings of ambivalence about his wish to be recognized by another or others, which would lead to him being forced to admit to the limitations of the self, to a degree that is even greater than he already experiences.
As an aside, at this point, it is commonplace for people to make public displays of their wish to be recognized, perhaps epitomized by strolls through Times Square. These wonderful photographs of people sauntering around Times Square are captivating illustrations of this:
Times Square One: Eyebrow
Times Square Three: Our Chests
Times Square Two: Scarves
Times Square Two : Our Colored Ties
Photography by: Joseph O. Holmes, NYC
The genuine issue raised for all of us by the Brooklyn guy’s stroll through Times Square, then, is the need to discover the nature of the particular sources of ambivalence about revealing one’s wish for recognition by others.
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