Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Eastern philosophy? Social science?  §

Over the years I’ve learned that while I experience the world and everything in it in a tremendously nuanced way, most people experience the world in a very different, much more unitary way.

For most people, the world is a series of objectivations that can be judged, in context, to be either good or bad.

For me, the world is a field of possibility that is culturally divided into objectivations (that include things like contexts), all of which are both good and bad.

— § —

In response to this, others tend to suggest that I overanalyze simple phenomena into endless nuance because I want to think myself an intellectual, a.k.a. an academic.

They tend not to accept the converse possibility that the reason I have ended up becoming an academic is because I tend to see endless nuance and not simple phenomena, and academics provides me with a forum in which to think and act as an agent in the world in a way that legitimates my own phenomenological experience of it—i.e. that academics feels like home, not that I’m trying to build a home in academia.

— § —

It’s also endlessly fascinating to me (and something of an exemplar of precisely this phenomenon) that the experience of the world that I just described is seen in some quarters as eastern mysticism of the most vulgar kind, and in others as dialectical analysis, “scientific” thinking of the most high kind.

It is, of course, both and neither of these at once. QED.

— § —

This particular bout of reflection proceeds from the dual sense that what we are doing here in our lives this month is at once both a tremendously commonplace thing that is relatively safe, with predictable outcomes, and little practical influence on our emotional and social lives, and at the same time a tremendous, even world-shakingly massive undertaking of a very rare sort.

Again, both seem true to me, and I feel both things at the same time.

— § —

At times like this, even the meaningless manhole covers in the street take on a deep significance. But of course, they are still the meaningless manhole covers, and I realize this, too.


Ania says:

That’s pretty black-and-white, what you just wrote about “most people”, isn’t it?

The world, and indeed many people, I think, are full of nuance. Nuance is nobody’s enemy. What is annoying, though, is getting LOST IN NUANCE, letting it paralyze you, obscure a moderate perspective on life, lose distance to oneself and the world, and push you into a cocoon of infinite circular dwelling on the same thing.

I wouldn’t mistake people’s lack of constant out-loud deconstruction of every last nuance they perceive for their lack of nuanced thinking.