Montana Trails Magazine
by David Patten
Montana indeed has much to offer. It is time that Montana calls attention to its vision. If we are listening we may be able to overcome systems of renunciation which aim at mere exploitation. Within Montana the trails which reveal the human task are already in existence. Instead of artificially decomposing the distance we have to travel, we must learn to walk them. One who walks these trails is called a cragsman. In a very fundamental sense we are all cragsmen, stewards of Montana!s vision, thinking like living beings when we are not thinking like dead beings.
In our obsession for perfection, for masters of journeys, we are not listening to Montana. In our terrors we tend to demand clarity and commitment to the dream. Resenting the confusions and profusions emergent in our lived world, we bend every effort to insure that our doings remain pure and untainted by the “debris” around us. We tend to seek commissars and meditative yogis who will “straighten us out” and who will provide “understanding.” Rejecting those less than perfect others with whom we share a life, we lend our weight to the obsessions of “advanced civilization” which blocks understanding and prohibits the recognition of even the most commonplace truths of everyday life.
The sense experience, which is Montana, bears within it an intrinsic proof that these melancholic obsessions can be overcome. The Dream folds back when one is awake and in the midst of that wild thought called Montana. For sense experience is wild thought. The “cooked” thought which sees in Montana only various resources such as coal, lumber, and “tranquility” is but a desperate attempt to supress and domesticate this origin of all human thought. The moving body cannot be so cavalier about renouncing the primacy of sense experience as can the Modern Dream. Indeed, anyone who has tried to walk or breathe solely on the basis of the blueprints and “descriptions” (actually proscriptions) of “legitimate” thought would be bound to fail. Well beneath what we may prefer to think about our connection with the earth and with each other is an ongoing, and lived, dialectic which only lovers care to admit as real.
We are all cragsmen of the sense world and as such are caught up in an involvement with it from which there is no escape, no redemption. The erotic tensions of breathing in and out, of touching the wind and being touched by it, of seeing and being seen, of expression and speech in the silence, of coexistence, never end during the space time we can think about them. The profusions and confusions of Montana, the mutual involvements which belong here, are not banished by the preferences of ideological commissars and meditative yogis no matter how “powerful” they are in renunciation. Beneath the level of manipulative thought we know that there are other, and more powerful, modes of thinking and existence.
The sing!e dream of mastery over nature, self, and others, has introduced a shadow over the profundity of our being in the world. For centuries we have cherished the Dream in so far as it has promised to eliminate the tension of existence. The Dream dreams of instant obedience to a vast design, instant gratification and availability, even of “rejoining” an eternal Bliss by the abandonment of embodied existence. The last century of the era of the Dream has been primarily a century of social and psychological engineering, the “mission” being to “set up a situation” where all differences are finally “mediated” out of existence.
Living men and women think like living men and women; they know the hollowness and dangers of the Dream. Not a word is uttered which is not a celebration of the tension of lived existence. Even the champions of the Dream belie that dream when they open their eyes, when they stand up in an up-right posture and begin the proud affirmation of differences and unities called walking. Anyone who has taken up the trails amid these rocks and ideas celebrates Montana. The subversion of the Dream is intrinsic in the everyday sense world.
Consider the dream of “Immaculate Perception,” a critical deployment against the lived world. Our everyday understanding is that there is one visible world and many views of that world. In everyday sense experience we understand our view as partial and incomplete, we know that there are other views of the same thing. We understand intrinsically that by moving about the thing, nearer to it, around it, we can improve our perception of it. We understand that we can never see every side of it, all-at-once; further, we understand that the other fellow, looking at the thing, is seeing in it something which we may never see since we do not have his eyes, his history.
Until recently every culture has tried to guard against illusion (a mis-taken view). The fragility of human culture has prompted traditional societies to favor certain views over others, to make a space for some views and to forbid others. Vision, however, had not lost its umbilical connection with the Visible and the views. These tensions were welcomed as the vitality of human culture. The doctrine of “immaculate perception” was not a part of traditional culture.
Being alive as a human being, being awake and upright I can not help noticing a tension between myself and the world that supports me. A HERE is born every time I am awake, a HERE which is in contraposition to a THERE, a HERE which is invisible to me and yet which is essential if there is to be a THERE which is visible. All the great descriptions of things which have been inscribed in history, in this space time which is our lives, were written from some HERE, from some position which is in contra-position to the THERE. So primal is this relationship that even if I were to go over THERE, the THERE would become a HERE which is in contra position to THERE (which could be our previous HERE without its HERENESS).
All obvious truths. So obvious that we usually forget them. Yet the doctrine of Immaculate Perception denies the validity of any of it. The doctrine seeks to replace the partiality of views (intrinsic to being awake) with the so called impartiality of no view at all. If I refuse to be awake, if I agree with Galileo and Descartes (the “founders of modern thought”) that sense experience is the “work of the devil” and inferior to methodological thought then I can imagine an Archemedian, Indifferent, Transcendent, and Extra-ordinary vantage point which overlooks (curious word) the thing. From such a vantage point which is nowhere and everywhere it should be possible to see the thing as “it really is, in itself,” as it were. In the Dream I can point out that machines do not suffer from an awareness of HERENESS, there is no HERE to a machine, and therefore they can “see” more accurately and better than our own eyes. It follows then that if we want to see a tree rising before us we would be led to microscopes and telescopes and other instruments. The untrained eye, with its hopeless partiality, needs only to be replaced with an “impartial” lens if we wish to see the world as it really is. So says the Dream.
That the abolition of the HERENESS of perception also abolishes the THERENESS of the thing, reducing all to meaninglessness escapes the attention of the Dreamers. Much of the frantic activity of this era of the dream stems from the illusion that we live amidst a vast sea of nothingness, of meaninglessness, and we struggle to bring something out of “nothing.” Given the beliefs about immaculate perception it is no wonder then that the essence of the thing has been reduced to an idea which must be “captured” again and again lest it fade.
Of course sense experience still haunted the program for Immaculate Perception, but it has been admitted only as “sense data” sense (metaphysical constructs) , as “bits”, or “vacuous side effects of events in the afferent nervous system.” As such, when compared to those procedures of the “trained” few.
Whereas human culture struggles to arrange views around a pulsating hierarchy of common involvement with the Visible, the doctrine of immaculate perception struggles to replace that involvement with the duty of dreaming. It is not just the earth which is so threatened, it is human culture itself.
Much has been written about dreams and dreaming, all by people who are awake and writing about the loss of lived tension involved in sleep. Not much is written about being awake (although that mode of existence haunts every piece of writing) and standing in an upright posture. Preferring the self-denying description of the eye, of the body, as an “apparatus,” an object among objects, we have left to poets the task of exploring the terrible realities of being awake.
The miracle of “standing up” has not received the attention it deserves. The proud stance of a cragsman, fully alert to that which can only be a scandal to the dreamer, draws us out of our rest and into our lives. Having abandoned ourselves to the embrace of the world during the night (which we can do only if we trust it) we raise ourselves (for no one else can do it for us) and once again bring the world into view. Tottering on our feet we exempt ourselves, partially, from the laws of gravity, and establish ourselves as unique beings. While standing in the world we raise up a position which is opposite other parts of the world (be it the ground before and beneath me, that tree, or that strange creature over there who is my partner in the world.) We are partners in The world (not merely My world) and are each partial to the phenomenon called Montana of which we are, independently a part. Flowing out behind me and around and behind the Visible before me is an invisible something which includes me, who I can not see. For my partner, on the other hand, I am part of the Visible, and as we stand there face to face we discover a mutual entanglement which is the flesh of our freedom.
The discoveries we make while being up-standing are many and too obvious to be talked about (but we forget them at our peril). Yet it is the obvious which prompts men like Erwin Straus who observes: “In rising up from the ground man and animal achieve the contraposition to the world which rules the structure of all experiencing.” By rising up in a standing position, by individually standing opposite the world, we take up again the sense relationship which is destined to reveal the vision which is Montana.
We are bound together only in being “separate;” together only in contraposition to one another.
Once up-standing, totering in our op-position to the world and in our togetherness with the world, our movement becomes the implication of freedom, of our affirmation of ourselves and of the world. The aspects of our relationship with the world take on tremendous proportions: nearness and remoteness, weight and weightlessness, up and down, color and darkness, sympathy and disinterestedness, separation and togetherness — all rhythmically intertwine in the freedom which is walking.
The dreamer wonders why men walk. Why do we go through the tensions of rising up, falling, rising up, falling, and rising up again, and again, only to be reembraced by the ground again? Some “explain” this as at best an attempt to reduce tension as if rest was the desired state of being. This explanation is similar to the one which argues that we breathe so that we can die, or that we eat merely because we desire a state of not eating.
Perhaps the old admonition, relevant to all animal life, “Get up or Die” has something to do with it. Sustenance for animals requires movement; survival as a biological creature has something to do with the why of walking. Biological survival is, of course, quite important and all too often ignored (as are all motives in the various depictions of the world and its parts as mere “apparatus,” machinelike.) But with man something is at least as important as biological survival.
Animals are born and sustain themselves with fairly sophisticated and quite articulate systems of instinct which guide them, nay, which rule them. An animal’s reflex toward the world helps to maintain what he is, and he is not free to deviate much from what is possible for his kind. We might say that animals do not so much have a world as a world has them. They are embedded in the world.
The nakedness of man, his freedom before a world of instincts and world embeddedness, his audacity of life, undetermined and unfixed requires of man a confirmation. Turning about, man seeks to confirm his at-homeness. The great objectifications of the world, whether as material object, biological geist, or as transcendental subject, are but attempts of man to confirm his own existence, which he suspects but cannot see. The other creatures around us understand this necessity for the strange one to confirm himself, and only hide from him when man refuses his task and rests “content” in his past creations.
To confirm our at-homeness. The contraposition of one standing opposite another, opposite the world while being part of the world, part of the other, reveals a relationship which is unbroken. Turning meaningfully toward the other one realizes the metamorphosis of that relationship, a metamorphosis which can be said to be the story, the being, of man. Turning toward things along the trail procures not only our own thoughts and conclusions but an age old dialogue which needs this turning for its truth, its strength, its proper destiny. The attraction toward the world which the walker embodies in his stride reveals not only the world but also our relationship with it, our belonging there in a sense far deeper than a mere biological committedness.
Things will not be revealed to us through the power to renounce that dialogue which blossoms when we turn toward things. If we dream of finding the “natural” world, unaffected by human culture, language would be considered a source of error. It would seem to cut the continuous tissue which joins us vitally to things and to the past, and would act like a screen between ourselves and that tissue. We would have to be silent and try to rejoin in Being a philosophy that is already there ready-made. Yet we speak in our turning toward things. It is as if in turning toward things we wish to express our vital contact with the world, a vital contact which is hesitantly inexpressible since it is silence. We experience the need to speak, to turn toward things; from the bottom of our experience comes a bubbling up of speech and movement. We find that truth is not necessarily mute, that turning is not necessarily a loss. We have to believe then that speech, the bodily expression that moves, is not simply the contrary of truth, a deception or mask over Being, but an articulation, not merely of myself but of the structures of the world, of that vital tissue which is my lived relationship with the world. It is in taking up the thing again that truth comes to be.
The cragsman of these terrains, having discovered in his own experience of turning toward things the changing relationship between his own speech and the world, realizes that culture, language, and what the other has to say are not necessarily an imposition upon the world, a “second” nature which somehow must be renounced. The home of man is not mute, is not transcendally ready-made. It is emergent in the freedom of turning toward things.
Merleau-Ponty wrote: “Freedom understands the use of freedom.” In turning toward things and listening to the dialogue emergent there we can begin to understand how others have responded to their relationship with the lived world. The one who walks amid the expressions of the world understands at the core of those expressions the vitality of the human experience in its turning to and fro, in its articulation of the world. Even the attempt to empty language of its profusions and vital connection with the life world is born of that experience in which we find ourselves simultaneously opposite and in the world. Even the attempt to eliminate the turnings of the trail, to eliminate the “obstacles” for new travelers, as in superhighway construction, is an articulation of our relationship with the world, albeit one which seeks to turn away from the world and to deny any lived relationship with it. The relationship, which is the home of man, remains unbroken in spite of our preferences. But it is a changing, metaphorical one; it can be impoverished or enriched.
The fellow who trusts blueprints and maps more than he trusts his own eyes and limbs changes my own journey but does not eliminate the need for it. If one denies his own experience of being in the world in favor of conventional pronouncements (for example the declaration that all kilometers are the same whether at the beginning of the trail or at the end) he may be impoverishing the dimensions of experience but he has not replaced that experience with those pronouncements. The death of another does not break this vital tissue but most certainly changes it. Indeed, our terror in the face of the world is understandable, and even revealing, but it does not eliminate the attraction toward the world which the walker embodies in his stride. In our freedom we may choose catetonia and symbolically murder the world and the things and others in it but the lived world continues beneath our retraction.
When I awaken to a position vis-a-vis the world, I am a position, I do not take or have a position. Only in the relativity of abstract thought do I have a position. Awakened to the presence of the world my eye floods past the thing and back to it, fully aware of the background and its impingement upon the thing. With the thing in sight I discover a backside, and a horizon, which although belonging to the thing, is not totally in sight, as is the thing. As I move around the thing, I discover that the thing is in constant change while its backside and horizon constantly endures as an impingement just out of my vision. This experience of an ever changing visible world has led to an identification of the enduring world, which is supersensible (out of vision) as the “real” world. Plato’s “enduring ideal forms” and Aristotle’s “species forms” are but instances of this equation of the true with the supersensible. It is from the areas “out of vision” that we have come to expect the forces which regulate the changes manifest in the visible world. But it is precisely the sense world which finds its permanence in constant change. Permanence is not the mere opposite of change, it is the truth of change. Reality is not opposed to appearance but rather reality is appearance raised to the level of truth. The backside belongs to the frontside and vice versa, the horizon is the meaning of the thing. We gain nothing by taking the thing away from the horizon, or by ignoring the thing in favor of the horizon.
Things are subject to laws governing their appearance. But we must ask what is lacking when we assume we know the laws of change which determine the changes of appearance. If the background and the horizon of the thing, if the supersensible determines the change of the thing into “something else” what is the function of the visible appearance of the thing before me? The great flaw in the grand and motionless Law of Changes is precisely this lived movement, this sense experience which emerges when I am alive and awake and engrossed with the thing. What is lacking in all laws of change is the relationship we have in our sense involvement with the thing. This lived involvement insures that change can be understood not merely as “becoming other” but as a power of development, wherein nothing is lost and all becomes itself.
By moving along the trail I discover that life is no longer merely an instance of law, or the result of an interaction of laws. The lived movement reflects not mere change or a kaleidescope of spectacles for a spectator but a turning back upon myself as I turn toward the visible thing. The thing develops, as I do, in this relationship of sense entanglement. It becomes not merely “something else” as I move around it, it becomes itself. Similarly, I do not become “another person,” “another consciousness” as I turn around the thing and find another view, I become myself.
There are many modes of movement, and how they affect the law of changes varies with each mode. Consider the march and the dance. While marching my body is made to answer to certain philosophies of direction which minimize turning to moments deemed proper. The eyes resist the call of things about me just as my muscles are confined to specific movements. It is not by accident that political movements which have been reduced to desires to be “somewhere else” and to philosophies of purity have produced methods of marching, bodily movements, which severly restrict the manner of walking. In some cases, such as in the infamous “goosestep” the insistence has been upon seemingly inhuman efforts. The dance, on the other hand, is a giving in to turning. Direction of movement is less important and the body heaves itself alternatively to the left, right, and up. Whereas in the march, the torso remains on a single horizontal plateau, in the dance the torso tends to imitate the limbs. Seemingly in celebration of the world dance moves in all directions. Dance tends to intoxicate us as we turn and heave. Our surroundings are left behind and we lose contact with things. All becomes a blur as we spin about. We lose contact with ourselves, our bodies are abandoned to the laws of gravity, perhaps even crashing into things in our enthusiasm. Turning loses its vitalism if it becomes too fast, too fast to hear the dialogue of the music itself.
The dance and the march meet each other at the extreme tendencies of their movements in spite of their obvious differences. At their extremities both are intoxications in which the presence of things are ignored. As we have suggested, when the presence of things are ignored man loses himself along with the world.
Walking combines the advantage of both dancing and marching. We get to where we wanted to go, twisting and turning as we go, taking up things without being captured by them and developing a language which is a rememberance and celebration of things met and gone beyond.
Montana is not unaffected by the systems of depersonalization which undermine the meaning of change. Relationships “made in heaven or the stars” or in the “think tanks” of government and corporate isolation generally lack the spontaneous opening which would be their truth. Thought of as indifferent to and distinct from lived and apparent existence any defense of them introduces the catetonia which immobilizes movement and which de-faces, or truncates, development. To depersonalize the relationship man is with the earth, with his own body and work does much to “render” the tissue of Iived existence into resentment and cultural destruction. A cragsman must guard against the view which loses its emergence as seeing, the consciousness which loses its emergence as self-consciousness, the object which loses its emergence as thing.
Relationships are lived or they are cancelations of the lived. Many have discussed this in relationship to various labor relationships. But consider the relationship between a man and a woman. There are loves which are true, and loves which are intoxications. Once we have “fallen” into love we tend to reguard the relationship as “heaven sent” and as “natural” as life itself. We speak of love as being “blind” and notice that lovers tend to over-look certain of each other’s habits which have developed in connection with other relationships. The partner’s visible expression of his/her other relationships are “passed over” in blind passion for this particular relationship. The partners lose his/her own uniqueness, their strangeness toward each other. Both collapse into an extremely private “weness” one which has begun to lose its diacritical tension, its being opposite and in the world. Soon the resentment of having lost one’s stance in the world joins with the demand that the relationship be “broken” or protected at all costs. A “protected” relationship is one in which all other relationships are kept away. All too often the modern home is designed to render “unnecessary” the lived involvement with the world and with other human beings. Under the demand for “protection” we tend to imprison our loves in such a way that “there is no living with them.” Perhaps it is no wonder that murder is rapidly becoming a family phenomenon.
Relationships which are lived rather than broken, assumed, or defended bear within them a life which sustains their truth. Allowed to mature in the midst of the life-world such relationships develop into a relationship which is inclusive rather than exclusive, where all organizes itself into a hierarchy which includes the remote and the near, the deep and the light, the other and myself in all our complications and delights. A lived love is like walking down a trail. A cragsman is a true lover; in walking he not only falls in his step but lifts himself only to fall again and to lift again. Each movement in his relationship with things and people opens up the relationship to its truth, which is a simultaneous togetherness and a respected separateness, a unity of co-existence. To deny either our separateness or our togetherness is to supress the development of our relationship with the world. Indeed such a mode is a denial of being alive.
The self satisfied “cool millennium” so promised by technological thought is such a denial of the tensions of being alive. Relationships are rendered as “permanently relative.” The here and now, and there and then, are lifted into an eternal meaninglessness, leaving only the dreams of being alive. All are “transcended, mediated” and put out of play through the standardization of their relationship. Everything takes on the appearance of sameness and at an infinite distance. Technological thought does not want anybody to take anything personally; indeed to do so would disrupt the smooth flowing nonsense which, it is said, benefits us all. Paradoxically, the growing doubts about what we are doing are reflected in an intensification, a speeding up of these misdeeds. Refusing to be up-standing we desperately drink more of manipulative thought, avoiding like drunks the profundity of being in Montana.
The cragsman cannot ignore this antithesis of development. There are no “pure ones” untouched by madness. But the cragsman bears within his being the possibility of going beyond these distortions, of finding a “living” within the space-time which we all share. Such a living will not be in private-corporate isolation from the world but, literally, in the midst of the lived world.
The vision of Montana which is emerging on every side is one of the stewardship of the earth. It is becoming evident that the obstacles are in fact the obstacles of our own idols and not that of the earth and our upstanding relationship with it. It is this issue which calls for our working for the land rather than the land merely working for us. The lived tie with Montana is pointing to the fact that nothing can be the support for idols, all will be man’s home, his origin and his destiny.This preface has attempted to express the entanglement of lived movement with Montana. In that entanglement there are others who have preceeded us and who will follow us. Their presence haunts the lived world and helps it to blossom. College degrees, land ownership, money wealth, social position, watertight ideologies — none of these “preconditions” are necessary for one to “do something.” (If they were the land and everything upon it would be “up for grabs.”) We need only to listen to that which our own lived relationship is telling us. And to become warriors for the earth.
The dwellers of this spacetime, these cragsmen, can ensure through their efforts that all men lose their idolatry and in so doing thicken the experience which is Montana.