Thursday, 15 July 2010

Resistance & Availability

I want to propose two generic criteria for the real.

In order to count as real, a thing must (1) put up resistance, and (2) be available for relationship.

If a thing doesn't put up resistance (be it material, mental, emotional, temporal, spatial, etc.), if it doesn't require work or produce friction of some kind, then it isn't real. Similarly, if a thing isn't available for relation (to humans, or nonhumans - it doesn't matter), then it isn't real.

In short, resistance and availability are necessary for relations. If a thing doesn't put up resistance, I can't enter into relation with it. It would just be subsumed. If a thing isn't available, I can't enter into a relation with it. And if a thing cannot enter into relations, then it isn't real.

Relational interdependence, as structured by resistant availability, is the mark of the real.

At one level, the problem for human beings is simply that we're real.

That is to say, at one level, the problem for human beings is that our relationship with the world is marked by both the world's resistance to us and our availability to it.

Experiencing the world's resistance, our goals are frustrated. Experiencing how the world entrains us in projects and trajectories not of our own choosing is also frustrating. We're tossed about on an ocean of resistant availability that slips through our fisted fingers like water even while it sweeps us along with tidal force.

Being alternately resisted and entrained by the world, we rebel! We ramp up the contest by reflexively shifting up a gear, by greedily resisting the world's resistance and fearfully resisting our own availability.

We generate a lot of additional smoke and friction by increasing our own resistance and all this additional smoke and friction make it hard to see things clearly. In particular, all the additional smoke and friction makes it hard to see our selves clearly. By ramping up our resistance, by putting up a bigger fight, we seem to make our selves more real - after all, resistance is one of the things necessary for the real! The more I resist my own resistant availability, the more real "I" seem to be.

But this is only half the truth because the real depends just as much on availability as on resistance. Resisting our own resistant availability, we inevitably burn too many bridges and withdraw too abruptly from too many entrainments - in other words, we reduce our own availability and, thus, the overall strength of our connection with the real.

The key is to learn how to sit with this resistance (both our own and the world's) and this availability (both our own and the world's). Just sitting - spine straight, attention sharp, body supple - we are neither too resistant (we work with rather than against the world's resistance) nor too available (we are not broken and swept along by whatever happens to come over us).

Neither too resistant nor too available, we neither conquer the world nor get trampled under by it.

It may be possible to stop resisting our resistant availability. (Or, at least, it may be possible to stop improperly resisting our own resistance to this resistant availability!) But I do not believe it is possible to be done with the resistant availability of the real itself, either in terms of the world's resistance to us nor in terms of our resistance to the world.

Western mythologies have long dreamed that the resistance of the world could be overcome. But the coming of such a frictionless heaven would destroy the real itself.

Similarly, Eastern mythologies have frequently dreamed that our resistance to the world could be entirely overcome. But the coming of such a cessation would also destroy the real itself.

Both are modulations of the same fundamental fantasy. Both fail to receive the ordinary, inescapable resistance of the world and our availability to it as the gift that they are: life itself.

Real life.


  1. Nice window into the cosmos that you guys have over here. I will return. Put you on my blog roll.

  2. Very interesting. What is real? What is this I?