my legitimate strangeness

Serendipity led me from here to there and so to this recording of Robert Plant.

The “liner notes” included the phrase I’ve borrowed as the title for this post.

Having just recently seen a playback of my own first video interview, the experience gave me a perspective on my persona I hadn’t had access to before. Seeing myself on a screen, a “moving picture” locked into the chronology of particular moments trapped in the past, incapable of further change, opened a window on my own strangeness I hadn’t experienced before. No mirror, no photograph, really prepares you for the way you appear to others.

Of course, what I “see” there isn’t what others see. Strangers are creating their first impressions of this “talking head.” Those who know me have a familiarity with how I look, with my mannerisms and expressions. They are simply comparing what they see in this circumstance with their expectations. For me, I bring my internal mapping of how I “see” myself to this and have to deal with a confrontation with an external “reality” that has no qualms about how it intersects with my “sensibilities.”

I’ve been dealing with the affects of Ego, attempting to let go of certain vanities, while most probably holding a variety of others close so as to keep them from my own view. Even so, the video was a shock. Without knowing it, I’ve been looking for what this phrase promises, looking for a way to get a handle on my own legitimate strangeness.

I don’t mean to take you through the details of what that might imply for me personally. I bring this up here because I think it does reflect on this project. We each have our own forms of resistance to something that would fit this title. Resisting it ends up feeding our inability to see more clearly and to be able to adjust and accommodate to changes that take us beyond what is comfortable and familiar.

The last post brought up disillusion, our need of it and our difficulty dealing with it. For each of us, coming to grips with our legitimate strangeness may be how we learn to grapple with disillusion on a personal scale.

Strangeness brings about the same instinctive recoil as we get contemplating disillusion. In both cases, we are dealing with what doesn’t fit into our present accommodation.

We are in transition from one accommodation to another. It is silly to think it will ever be possible to align ourselves with a “reality” when reality is, to such a great extent, a perennial mystery forever hidden from our partial sight and that it is beyond our limited abilities to grasp its boundless complexity. No matter what happens to us, how far we may “evolve,” we will always develop an accommodation with some narrow subset of our condition. This will “heal over” in our perception and form a new “reality.” The question is not how we disillusion ourselves to reach some ideal whole-sight, but that we dissolve our current accommodations – a schema which has failed us – and open ourselves to the evolution of new ones that have shifted sufficiently to give us a better chance to come to terms with the tipping points and epochal changes now underway.

This is an essential point. We will never reach an apotheosis in which we will have transcended ourselves and our predicaments. If disillusion is to mean anything concrete, this is what it should point to; not a Utopia enshrined in other terms, not some worldly Nirvana; but a shift in accommodation; along with modes of thought and behavior that tend to support humility, kindness, and a sense of our vulnerability; as capacities we cannot live without.

Here is where contemplating, and hopefully coming to terms with, our own individual legitimate strangeness comes in; this “internal” face of the insurmountable strangeness of our world – any world. Discovering and coming to grips with our own legitimate strangeness is an ever-present handy aide in our process of disillusionment. It also means that if we accommodate our own legitimate strangeness we will have begun to make a whole series of accommodations to our world that may serve us well when dealing with other intractable aspects of existence.

I’ve focused on strangeness.  There’s something about its preface, legitimate, that may feel intrinsically right, but that could use some exploration. Strangeness alone doesn’t give us much purchase. Legitimate strangeness, on the other hand, does give us pause. We think of legitimacy as having to do with the Law from whose root its gets its base. It stands for all that is accepted and considered, if not sacred, sacrosanct. Coupling this concept with strangeness breaks our habitual expectation. This is the first crack into our present assumptions offered by this phrase.

The second attribute that comes to mind is the relationship with kindness legitimate brings to strangeness; a synonym to the alien, and therefore something we tend to associate with distance, fear, at best, indifference. To throw the condition of kindness at an otherness we find off-putting is a disturbing challenge to what we normally see as kindness’s domain. To make these shifts in adjustment; first bringing the alien into the fold of intimacy and kindness; and then realizing that the other we are considering is our own selves; takes us through a rebounding and reverberating series of transitions that shake our foundations while simultaneously showing us how we can put it all back together. We question our relationship with strangeness in the context of familiarity and intimacy only to then find that this strangeness dos not only reside outside; but that it is at the heart of our own sense of ourselves, of the relationship we have with our personae, of how we fit into our sense of self.

This rings within us with the pure note of a Koan. We reverberate in resonance with paradox. A paradox we “inhabit.” It is this fissioning juxtaposition that gives the phrase its power.

Confronting our legitimate strangeness then shows us the limits of transcendence. This takes us into a more honest relationship with what disillusionment can give us, and therefore takes us into a search for a new accommodation with our changing realities. We cannot ever escape the clutches of Futility unless we can couch our intentions within a view of what is possible that gives us some expectation of traction. We lose our balance, become disoriented, when we maintain habits of thought and action that we “Know” will not work. We also risk futility when we have set expectations that cannot ever possibly be met.

Our path must necessarily stumble along between these two verges as we attempt to find our way. In this process; developing a relationship, an acceptance, and an accommodation with our legitimate strangeness; provides us with a compass. It helps ground us inside a “shell” we know is not sufficient to hold “us,” but that remains the perceptual and conceptual vessel of our engagement with existence. The shimmering, coalescing, and fractured composite that marks our various personae are not the solid self we imagine. Neither are they an illusion in the sense that we will ever escape the consequences of their complexity. Maintaining a radical sense of our own legitimate strangeness gives us a handle on this foment, one that may help us find our way without letting us get comfortable within whatever accommodation we eventually settle upon. It keeps us in a healthy friction between where we “think” we are and where we might be. This friction provides us with traction. This is the key to stepping out of futility into a realm of potential action that can be sustained by a maturing sense of hope’s true realm.

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