Note on Contentment; Note on Fire

I’ve held for what months or longer this excerpt from Ram Dass, posted at Revoked some time before they shed space suit for some alternative astral way of being around. On contentment as method:

In yoga, one of the methods is called ‘contentment’. That’s not a goal, that’s a method.

I can be content this moment, and the next moment I’m moving toward something else. When I am here I am content, when I am here I am content, when I am here I am content. So even though you are going to change something the next minute, that doesn’t mean you change it out of discontent. It changes because it changes.

That is the basis that you do everything in yoga.

Words of Wisdom,” Ram Dass, Revoked, August 14, 2019

Contentment as method. Contentment as above-path, quagmire hovercraft; in yoga, yes, I can find this. The good enoughness of a pose right now. The satisfieciency of this, here-now, floor and mat, gravity and breath. With contentment as method, for work (research, teaching, administrating), for non-work and all that it entails, there is in this relief from straining and striving. Go sit on a shelf, goals. Agency is fatiguing and sometimes needs quieted. Contentment says enough, have an exhale and a pause, surrender to the entropy, have a break from so much reaching.

I am teaching a research design class this semester. And too, of course, we’ve been visited by a pandemic, which has meant IRB suspensions, workaround-thinking, making do, resignation to changes that are out of our hands. We shift online. We Zoom. We grant flexibilities such that everyone can to the extent possible adapt and adjust. Lives are different from waking until sleeping again. Yoga intersperses, walking yoga, reading yoga, cooking yoga, Netflixing yoga, and relationship (the most difficult of yogas). And, too, research goes on–wondering and inquiry that sometimes involves others and sometimes involves only writing, processing, sorting things out. I’ve been thinking a lot about the friction (that edge, almost touching) between career and contentment, between inquiry and contentment, between rhetoric (as compositional, making, striving for change) and contentment. About motive(s).

Contentment as method (in yoga) risks hinting at passivity. In one way of approaching this (perhaps too difficult, perhaps needlessly difficult) pose, motive lapses, disperses. Contentment seems to abandon motive, doesn’t it? I’m not interested in sketching an argument with Ram Dass; no jousting at evacuated space suits. Where’d they go? But I am wondering about that something-more, the fire whose heat is felt in yoga as in motive as in inquiry. Contentment, too, draws on some kind of spark that is not exclusively passive. I have enough, yes, and I am enough, yes. This here-now is enough, yes. And then some–always a paradox. Even so, wonder and inquire, reach and breathe.

Contentment as method, it’s qualitatively helpful. But fire as method, too, grasps at something important about how that change happens. Not another definition of agency (we are reading about agentic shift this week, fittingly). Not necessarily fire as raging with destructive force. But a striker strip, a spark, heat and flame and combustion, immolation as method. Fire as method. What does your research turn to ash? What does your research raise up from the embers? Fire as above-path, quagmire hovercraft; in yoga, yes, I can find this. And sometimes in research. The potential and ever-rising heat of a pose right now, in spite of being human.

The Gaps

One more from Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) before I shelve it. On gaps:

Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as those who have “not gone up into the gaps.” The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit’s one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the cliffs in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock–more than a maple–a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you. (274)

That third sentence from the end, squeak, turn the soil, a universe, but why just one? A pluriverse, maybe. Or pluriverses. These gaps and this turning, in them hints of gap statements, which imply needed inquiry, why hasn’t anyone thought of this yet, why hasn’t anyone done this research, explored shareably this wondering?

Wondering Now

I just turned in my final project for the fall semester–a look at Social
Network Analysis adapted as methodology for rhet/comp.  Hard-line SNA
researchers often turn to mathematical sociology (half-seriously, I liken it to
discourse analysis, peopled), heavy with formulas as probabilities for
activity/system/org-phenomena, structural equivalence, and so on. 
Basically, I wanted to sort the more general areas of network studies from SNA,
tie in a few definitional pieces and key concepts, stake out the methodological
layers of a few SNA-oriented future projects, get grounded.  Been a good
project for that.  And yes, some relief in its completion.  Before the
weekend, I have some grading to pace through; alongside that, leisure reading, a
light read-ahead for the spring, and maybe a few days in Michigan at the end of
the month if Ph. doesn’t have hoops practice.

I didn’t realize this would turn into another update (updates heaped upon
updates lately).  But it does bring me to something I noticed on a science
workbook laying open on D.’s workspace earlier.  She’s plotting out the finer
points of a science lesson for tomorrow.  The book, it has sets of
questions to go with each of the labs.  Usual stuff.  Except the final
question for every unit: What are you wondering now?

What are you wondering now?  Ought to end all semesters
(projects, blog entries, etc.) that way.