Turning disgustedly away from appalling reports of the latest trainwreck of a GOP “debate” between those petty and petulant little violators of their mythic hero’s 11th commandment, this morning I’m thinking instead about a shipwreck, immediacy, and the passage of time.
John Lachs, in person and in Intermediate Man, put immediacy on my scholarly agenda when I arrived in Grad School back in the Great Communicator’s early presidency. Far more importantly, he put it on my personal agenda. No one had ever drawn my attention so explicitly to the rich and rewarding possibilities inherent in attention per se, when we attend to the simple stuff of ordinary perceptual life.
The shipwreck in question was Robinson Crusoe’s, fending entirely for himself without help to procure his meals, build his shelter, interpret his Bible, or plan his days. He had no choice but to attend, raptly and constantly. His stranded life was adverse but authentic, socially impoverished but perceptually full. His utter isolation is not to be envied, but his independence and self-reliance are impressive.
William James also spoke of shipwreck as one of life’s permanent possibilities. If we love life we must be prepared to survive it, and to do that we must learn to live in immediacy. Most of us are rarely tested by anything so extreme as genuine shipwreck, thank goodness; but survival through conditions of extremity and hardship is within our range.
We’ll survive this election season, for instance, if we don’t allow our attention to be swallowed by the false “reality” of those contrived media circus events but instead turn to other and better things. What isn’t better?
John Lachs dedicated Intermediate Man to his family, “three generations of immediacy.” Way better!
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