Closeness

Tijana Radenković

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April 18th – 25th


Look! They are back!

I haven’t seen them in a while.

Well, their shapes are where we cannot see. Most often.

Then I’d prefer not to see them at all.

But it’s not their ‘fault’. Perceiving things at a deeper level is not always an easy task. You should give it another try.

I’d rather say: they are good at hiding themselves.

You think they do so on purpose?

I don’t know. And I don’t even care, to be honest. But once they are put on display right in front of my nose, it makes more sense to me to keep them out of sight. They smell so bad!

Let me suggest something else.

Like what?

The world as we know it manifests itself in different and often very complex ways, right? So, in your own way of witnessing this variety and this complexity you might have missed some important details, which – in one way or another – stand in opposition to the straight perspective you’ve been following so far.

Which is to say: I am not open enough to new perspectives that you, for instance, have experienced on an unprecedented level? With the little help of your ‘perfect’ viewing tools?

No. What I am trying to say is that, on your own route to understand the world of appearances, it may be that you have come across some… how to put it… some obstacles. And they prevent you from experiencing some other possible worlds, neighbouring your own. “Some other worlds” that I do not take advantage of, as an eye-opening challenge? Instead, they remain as my mere ‘problem’ of perception. So, if I understand you correctly, I am incapable of seeing the ‘reality’ of things surrounding my own body in this world, simply because this so-called reality is unperceivable by human eyes? Is that what you are trying to say?

But we are looking at those “unperceivable things” right now! They are not as invisible as you understand them. Don’t you appreciate how I tried to make some sense out of what you insist to be just a nonsense?

The way you do it does not change my attitude towards them. On the contrary, it creates the sense of discomfort. Perpetual discomfort. Even fear! They appear to be everywhere and anywhere, invading us from all sides, regardless of what you do, where you stand or where you move. This is beyond my imagination – it freaks me out!

Yes, they appear and re-appear, as they like. And our own role in this process is not small.

Why don’t they leave us alone? And find some other place to live?

What do you think, how do you and I appear to them? Do you think that they appreciate our ‘hospitality’ or they’d rather look for another shelter?

I think you’ve already exaggerated with your hospitaliy so to give them a ‘proper’ exposure: a dozen of shelters! This does not surprise me, however: you’ve always fencied providing structures, especially when it comes to the most bizarre objects at your disposal. This is strange. How can you even touch them?

I am not touching them: we are touching each other, all the time. Subconsciously. We share the space where our bodies delve, together. In a sort of harmony. Without feelings, though.

You are trying to be funny, ha?

No. I’m serious. It’s all about the many ways of being, and how we approach them. Our relationship is very professional, to say at least. But also – quite personal.

So?

So, how about approaching the world of appearances in a radically different way?

But look at them! My God, it’s a colony!

Haha!

It seems like they are invading us… from all sides. A kind of occupation.

The question is: who’s been colonizing whom, and under which pretext?

I hate them. They make me feel sick. This is too much – they are all around the place, I think I can even feel them under my skin! They are so ugly. Please, let me go.

Wait. Don’t be so negative in fuelling your paranoid fantasies. What you are saying brings us back to the familiar side of our childhood phobias, always nurtured by some ignorant adults (of course, for their own purposes – that was an easy way to keep us under their control, for a long while). But we have grown up meanwhile, haven’t we? And we do not want to repeat their mistakes, right? Let’s approach this intimate strangeness in another way.

I have no clue what you are talking about…

Think about the other of your own self. And about the ‘fearsome’ displays of truth related to it. Throughout history, people have unfortunately had a surprisingly limited capacity to understand other beings, be it human or non-human. In worst cases, these two categories have been interchangeable – to the extent that some groups of people are treated worse than animals, even today. Do I need to remind you of the most obvious examples?

No, go on. I don’t like remembering the nineties…

In any case, those examples encompass the lack of empathy, of emotional intelligence, and the sense of guilt alike. Ignoring them may sometimes lead to drastically limited horizons of thought. In turn, such horizons are able to provoke processes of perceiving both oneself and the other in a dangerously misleading manner (ending up with unforeseen and even tragic consequences, if I may add). Just look at my ‘shelters’ again, please. Look how their inhabitants are expanding, in number and size. But this does not make them less beautiful and attractive to human eye. And even if they smell, they still make an inevitable part of our environment.

Things are clear: they’ve never been invited here. And they keep settling down regardless. Why not welcoming their alleged strangeness as an extraordinary feature of our own ‘normality’ (despite all self-defense measures undertaken for the sake of our so-called well- being)? Think about this: how much the fact that we can now see all those anonimous, ‘invisible’ creatures help us broaden our cognitive space? How much their ‘occupation’ of our physical space can tell us about the intertwined, mutually enhancing encounters between apparently unrelated micro- and macro- cultures?

There is nothing ‘cultural’ about them – they are purely barbarian and primitive! Aren’t you sick of them? They look so ugly to me. Actually, they are so dark and so ugly that I’d preferably have them exterminated – once and for all. Or avoid thinking about them as much as possible. Let’s stop. Please. I don’t want to know anything about them. Parasites!

That’s a kind of ‘statement’?

Yes.

Sounds pretty racist to me .- and also naive: they are part of the world we live in, they are part of our own bodies. In some ways, they are parasiting upon our own bodies, but they are also giving new lives! And exactly because of that we should consider them as almost human, if you wish. And no ‘black’ or ‘white’ version of our own, supposedly superior reality of well- being could ever compensate for one simple fact.

Which is?

The basic need to acknowledge their existence on equal terms with our own.

Hmmm….

Wait, I’m not done. It is our duty, as human beings, to recognize their status for the sake of a common well-being in the future. This might not be a ‘healthier’ future, in purely scientific terms, but we should aim at developing a more inclusive ecology of knowledge. Therefore, I do not see their ‘neighbouring’ presence as a problem (which is exactly what many have tried to convince us about, by all possible means). I’ve never believed in perfectly clean, white bodies in comparison to those that are doomed to remain ‘forever dirty’ and dark. Instead, I tend to see all of us, despite our apparent differences (you’ve named just a few, I’d prefer not to comment further on this color-based division scheme, if you agree) as specimens of one and the same organism – in search for mutually beneficial co-existence.

Are you crazy? Have you seen them growing over time, all over the place? Our place! Like mould and mildew, they’ve been expanding and grabbing every single millimeter from us! Rapacious monsters – and now I’m supposed to accept them as ‘landlords’ of our own lands! You mean: of our own bodies?

Damn parasites… Your body is not itself. Nor is yours…

I do not use the same cotton sponge twice. Neither should you. And problem solved.

But they will come again, no matter which powder I put on my face before going out.

Perhaps it’s time to take off the ‘masks’ we have been wearing for a long time, believing that they could make us look better in the eyes of a beholder. Perhaps it’s time to wash our faces from constructed ‘truths’ about ourselves and the others, from master lies and dogmas that have kept us locked within the world of our presumably superior, untouchable interests, always at the expense of every ‘invisible’, ‘marginal’, or ‘inferior’ minor element in our most immediate surroundings.

Speaking of interests, is this the so-called method you’ve been conceiving in order to trigger my attention, once again, about the subject of your own interests in ‘wildlife’?

All undomesticated species have the right to claim their own living territory to the extent that this act does not harm either side’s wellbeing. As a matter of fact, and biology also comes here into play, there is no sense in defending, so to say, an ‘ethnically clean’ corporeal territory as exclusively one’s own and as naturally given. I’d say there is something we could, possibly, learn from this ‘colony’ (as you’ve named it) occupying everything around – including your own tooth-brush. And for me, it is much more significant that this learning is understood in terms of intercultural co-existence than a mere interest in wildlife. I cannot prevent people from looking down, and with disgust, at organisms they tend to see as simply pathogens, life-threatening ‘monsters’. But I keep myself close to them, in an almost intimate manner, as a way of learning about the world we share – and by recognizing their right to be in this world as they are: our inevitable companions, the unavoidable guests and even welcome friends, whose presence (and longevity!) is incited by the warmth of our living bodies, or by non-living objects we get in contact with on a daily basis. And trust me when I am telling you again, no matter how silly it may sound to you: your body is not itself. It’s a shared territory where previously unknown knowledge may be growing, together with microorganisms, those uninvited and hardly visible though extremely powerful ‘guests’. They may teach us something new about the ways of living together, in a world all the more alienated from itself. In the end, LEARNING is nothing else but a personal experience of disorder through the crack in our rigidly established perception of the world.

Text: Marko Stamenković