What is that supposed to mean? (Glossary)

There are a number of words (terms? signs?) that I use on a regular basis because to me they have a specific meaning. I don’t know if you looked them up if they would appear in the dictionary and I know how pretentious it can be to decide your own definitions for other people’s words. I’m writing them here though because for me they have specific meaning and I suspect that they will come up pretty often so it would be helpful to explain what I mean when I say them. I find that one of the biggest problems with communication is that people often think they are speaking about the same thing and don’t realise they are not (or think they are disagreeing when really they don’t).

I think so much of that understanding is developed through context and connotation that the denotation of words is sometimes not always enough (sorry Jared). Because we don’t necessarily know each other, and because we don’t share a context or a shared connotation, in order to make myself as clear as possible I want to provide my connotations to these specific words that are integral to my world view/ opinions/ attempt to express what I think.

If you need more clarification, or find me using a term repeatedly without putting it here and think I should, as ever, let me know and I will try to do so.

Capacity: Capacity is our internal fortitude to deal with all of the different, tension filled parts of a social life (as in, a life lived with others); the pain and beauty of the attempt to understand ourselves and the world around us (including other people), the ongoing empathy of shared experience and the ability to continue to consciously carry it with us without attempt at elusive respite found in compulsive behaviours.

Clash: At the end of all debates, discussions, life conundrums, there is always clash- that moment of mutual exclusivity beyond which no resolution is possible. The point is that clash must just be accepted. This is the cause and inevitable result of tension (yes, circular I know but thats kind of the point of tension- there is no resolution).  Clash appears in the most basic fundamentals of life, it is constant and painful and inevitable.  It is the clash between individuation and relationship manifest over and over in myriad ways.

Compulsive Behaviours: I think of compulsive behaviours as the things we do to avoid existential crisis. Some people call them addictions, and I think that they can often become addictions. I also think that there are some that are more respected/tolerated in our society. A person can compulsively work (workaholic), exercise, shop, take narcotics (alcohol, nicotine or heroin). We can also pray compulsively, or analyse people and behaviour compulsively (logic addiction?). It’s all the things we do to avoid thinking and feeling. Some are more conducive to integration with everyday life while some have much more destructive results for ourselves and others. I know people who ‘achieve’ compulsively, terrified that if they stop achieving and face their demons that they will crack or die or something horrible and yet unnameable will happen. Instead of facing that fear we compulsively engage in behaviour that is soothing.

Emotion: How we feel about things, where we base our choices prior to any relationship or logistical action we may take. How do we feel? Why do we feel that way? Emotions are a personal thing, as in ‘how I feel about this action, person, situation’, but it is also about the interpersonal dynamics that characterise our relationships with the people around us (Are you handing out happy? Or handing out mad?). How do the actions of the other person make me feel and how do I choose to react to them?

Logistics (Mechanics): Everything that isn’t the emotional stuff- how we are going to do what we are going to do, once we have decided how we feel and what we want to do amongst the available options

Power: Huge concept, changes, a central tenet of what I think about all the time. I will probably write entries about it because its way to big and complicated to define in a paragraph. Big fan of Lukes (see reading list) on the subject- especially power to versus power over.

Pressure: All the external elements that make it harder for us to do what we want to do and would choose to do all other things being equal. This is not just about material difficulties, it is also about interpersonal issues, the inability to fully communicate with those around us, and the voices in our head, created through inherited messages and personal experiences. Pressure manifests in different ways usually with the same result, making problems unclear and solutions difficult to enact.

Privilege: The ability to reduce pressure. Potentially provided through material resources, but also practices developed to reduce the impact of pressure through internal shift. Related to power but not necessarily congruent (convergent maybe?).

Tension: 1) The pull we feel between poles of feeling or understanding, the both/and, the recognition that we are always us and other, things are invariably tied yin to yang, beauty to mess, light to dark. Life is located in the space between absolutes at either end so we are all in tension, in different incarnations and different ways all the time. The difference between a dichotomy and the continuum of tension is the fact that dichotomy implies stasis and I don’t believe we are static, I think we are all growing all the time which means we move back and forth between poles, creating, inevitably tension between the poles between which we float.

2) We are creatures of action and the thought process is a much more recent development, thus it is harder for us to wait in an uncertain situation then it is to act. We attempt to change the situation through personal agency, we lash out, attempt to pass off or bury the pain/ difficulty of the understanding (although it will eventually return). That is the beginning of the existential crisis; the attempt to understand the feelings/ situation/ relationship but that once it is understood there is nothing else to be done with it, there is no goal, or ending and so it will sit without resolution. In the lack of the resolution our personal tension(s) is(are) located.

Truth: 1)Absolute/ objective: don’t believe in it, think its a way to soothe our anxieties but the world is too varied to think there is one ‘truth’, I think there are just lots and lots of personal truths that added up are indicative of a collective unconscious that is not itself ‘true’ because it is also variable

2) Personal: The tenets upon which we base our identities and ideologies to give us anchor in a variable world.

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