Archive for March 21st, 2016


March 21, 2016

I’m struck again by the aptness of John Lachs’s Intermediate Man dedication: “For my family… three generations of immediacy.” All the more striking, then, are his initial explications of the concept of immediacy as self-reliance in the extreme pre-Friday Crusoe fashion, “in direct and immediate touch with the conditions of his existence,” knowing “all that was needed for life” (sans Internet, notice – see previous post on Michael Lynch’s “Internet of Us”), depending on no one, at home in his island solitude.

What’s striking is that Lachs, with that 1981 dedication, foreshadows a kind of immediacy that looks far beyond the moment to see in a glance the sweep of generational time, and then immediately pulls back from that expansive vision to a more explicitly insular idea.

This recessive adjustment leads him to forswear interest in the remote future, with remoteness understood trans-generationally. Mediation and “psychic distance” result, he says, from the varieties of ways in which the institutions and practices of modern life cut us off from our own direct experience. The few generations it takes to span a century are already too many for our direct attention and interest.

“The greatest immediacy is gained by full physical presence which opens all our senses,” followed by the fading presence of visual and auditory stimuli. There’s not much more to the future, in these terms, than an even less robust ideational shadow. Barely a presence at all.

William James may be understood to have meant something similar when he said the fons et origo, the fount and origin of life, is perceptual. But a point of origin is only a start.

Emerson extolled self-reliance, wondering why any of us ever settles for less than an “original relation to universe.”

Carl Sagan said we’re “wanderers” in space and time, irresistibly curious about the remotest reaches of the cosmos, bound to go there imaginatively now and dream of really going, one of these generations.

Teddy Roosevelt said “all for each and each for all.”

An original relation to the universe can be inclusive, expansive, and motile. Its present can grow, its moment can last, its island can include countless generations of immediacy.

7:00/6:50, 35/57

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