Saturday, June 29, 2013


Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” has many of the things I like in a song: romantic themes, a melancholic atmosphere, and it calls everyone to the dance floor. But the most striking thing about the song is the profusion of visual and ocular imagery. Love in “Mirrors” means being able to see clearly what had before been made obscure by the lack of belief. Understanding feeling in “Mirrors” is expressed as the clarity of vision: “You were right here all along/It’s like you’re my mirror/My mirror staring back at me.” In this, Timberlake sounds very much like my man, Husserl. For he too believed that understanding a sensation meant being able to see it clearly.

A feeling. Sometimes the distance between yourself and the easy conversations you see shared by other people seems like the space between the bottom of the sea and the face of the sun. An impossible distance. All these discontinuous events and thoughts that make up a life remain opaque and indecipherable. Sometimes all you want is a feeling. A tepid, breezy night and I sit by the window. I close my eyes and feel the air move over me. Perhaps this is what Husserl wanted all along: to sense and have that sensation destroy the impulse to see beyond it, to reconcile it to meaning. He wanted to describe no further than he could touch. He placed a boundary before him that contained all he could depict as the residue of experience. Everything beyond it was fuzzy and indistinct and unknowable, not in any reliable way at any rate. This was a man after my heart, a man that wanted to know only what life gave us to experience and not why. Nothing could be known except what could be adequately represented as experience. The desire for meaning was forestalled with the ruthless devotion of an ascetic. I drive down Telegraph as the day ends and the street is divided by the sinking sun. The top halves of the oaks shine like coins in the oblique light. Their leaves reflect and soften the light. The tops of the buildings have all turned rose-colored. The windows and the part of the street above the rising shadow-line are painted by the tired light. Everything else is in shadows. The bottom halves of the trees appear obscured as though you were looking at them through darkened glass. The pavement looks like a stagnant river as it stretches away from me. The grayish world of the shadows is the context that allows the sun its last moments. What would Husserl say about that? The lights and shadows transform the way we apprehend objects. They either clarify or obfuscate what we see in such a way that they allow us to confuse what is simply an optical effect with what might seem like an epistemological or perhaps even a moral one. True that. But I construe it nonetheless as the inequity of the sun. Just as I apprehend the night air over me as a benediction. My point is that I make a shitty phenomenologist.

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