Phenomenology of Green Tea Box 2

“Sometimes I feel sad when I’m happy.”

“I know what you mean…”

What is “I know” here?

There are many possibilities as to what I am trying to get across could be, and you are choosing from those possibilities ‘the right one’, like consulting an inner internet, googling your inner resources to find multiple hits that clarify what I’m getting across. But what is the “I know” or the “I see” in ‘that’?

“See that over there?”

“On the red counter?”

“Yes–there, see?”

“Oh, the green box?”

“…Is that what it is?”

“Yes, that’s just an old green tea box.”

“Oh right, now I see.”

But how am I, and how are you, in ‘that’ occasion, coming to an agreement, modulating the shared object of our conversation toward mutual recognition? We agree, but really there are two poles we are holding together in this exchange: the pole of what we are aiming at mutually recognizing (to further our shared communication), and the pole that is in each of our inner spaces of experiencing. Taking first the inner experience, isn’t ‘it’ (the exchange, the aimed at shared recognition), all of it even, within each of our inner spaces of experiencing? Isn’t this shared experience in a certain sense ‘immediate’–‘not mediated by anything’–that is, isn’t it all there immediately, beyond ‘meaning’? The whole occasion, me, you, my and your body, the very processes of trying to get across to you that I’m not sure what that green object is on the red counter, and your pointing out that it is ‘just a green tea box’–all of that, by switching focus a little (or being too tired to focus) is just ‘stuff’, activity in my/your inner space. It is immediately there, outside of being located in time and space, outside of relationship, as stuff that remains out of tune, static waiting to be banished by a careful turn of the dial toward the proper station.

As soon as we, for ourselves, for the exchange between you and I (self and other) zero in on it as composed out there in time and space, brushed with the colours of our shared language paint, then the immediate inner becomes mediated, pulled inside out to splash the world in our shared ways using the world’s own palette, which we however mix and compose with, in the way you and I learned in the same college of art. And yet ‘it’ also, at the same time, never leaves ‘the immediate’ of the inner spaces of experiencing.

Keeping that in mind, as a kind of instrumental focus, a perceptual paintbrush, to gather paint from the everyday artwork for painting new, unframed canvases, is a kind of sober psychedelic, a modulated madness. With the “I know”, I pull the complexity into an agreement for myself and also for you, if I’m getting you to follow and understand the meaning of my pointing finger, like a kind of enigmatic magician’s lens hiding from itself its own sleight of hand.

There is a certain non-verbal muscular act to ‘I know’ that–‘all in one motion’–tends to hide the flexing of perceptual, linguistic, cultural, and aesthetic variables, via the mediation of “It’s just a green tea box”, but which is not actually immediately confined inside that little green box, ‘at the same time’. It is possible to grasp into, to ingrasp, the muscular tissue of that “I know”, that silent flexing of experiential flesh that is actually full of observable nuances, and to condition that tissue at a different gym.

Phenomenology of Green Tea box 1

The green tea box.

Actually from where I’m sitting typing it is a rectangular box sitting on my red counter, with the French side turned toward me. Vert. But green nonetheless . . .

There are coils of green swirling on it, light greens shading into even lighter greens, all a refreshingly verdant foliage of genuine Chinese tea meaning-stuff. But isn’t it really ‘just a box of tea’? And yet the phenomenologists are telling me that, regardless of whether its green or vert or grun, IT still is the green object of my perceptual intent, which intent gathers it ‘there’ on my counter, curled onto a collective lap of comforting continuity in time and space. And these tendrils of language I use to fix the flux in place, when looked at more closely, reveal a strange complexity, an interactive multi-media art show of layered cognition, sensation, memory, whispering seamlessly beneath ‘it’s just a green tea box’. And just beginning now, or anytime, to consider it that way, like catching the trick of a perceptual illusion (Am I looking inside the transparent cube, or at its top?), thereby tampering with my own ‘taking it for granted function’, does change everything, does open up a whole new landscape of seeing, or injects a certain kind of poetic precision into ‘green tea box on red counter’. Reading Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, Gendlin, I find myself haunted by the immense labour they put into explicating ‘the felt sense’ of their own versions of green tea boxes–a red book cover, an ashtray, a window that might or might not be opened if even noticed at all, a bus line-up, ‘democracy’.

This intellectual-cum-perceptual project is not a deconstruction, but an engagement with what is really at hand; it is grasping the green tea hand’s warm perceptual flesh, as it reaches out from the mysterious juncture that is me and my object.

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