What has been the great imperative of my life? Geoffrey Philp has tagged me for this meme, invented by himself. It is always flattering to be tagged for a meme, so thank you, Geoffrey!
The great imperative of my life was revealed by my reaction to a children’s book called Eva Meets Noriko-San, which my father brought home from the public library one evening when I was about three. In it a Swedish girl, Eva, visits a Japanese girl, Noriko-San, in her house, and learns how it is set up.
The walls are of paper, of course, and the beds are on the floor when not rolled up and put in the cabinet. Tables are low, and there are no chairs for sitting, but only cushions. Food is eaten with sticks and most importantly, writing is done with brushes. The direction of the characters is not left to right in horizontal lines, but right to left and vertical.
This book was the most interesting item I had ever seen. I looked at it, had it read to me and said, “This is what I like – seeing the world arranged in a variety of ways.” I was very satisfied because now I knew what I liked.
I learned from this book that the way we do things is not natural, but is rather a constructed system, and that there are many systems. I liked the discovery that one could acquire more than one system, and move between systems.
Indeed, this is what I like. Everything I undertake is, at the most fundamental level, undertaken because it offers the opportunity to walk into a new system and learn to navigate within it.
Philp tags over eleven people, so I will do the same – madly, but with a method in’t:
Absorbant – Alonso Ruvalcaba – Barbie – Credo – G Bitch – Guyana-Gyal – Hah! – Opt Out – Oso Raro – Paper Chase – Peripersonal Space – You.
19 thoughts on “Great Imperative Meme”
Dear Professor Zero,
It fits together! So your self-interrogation of the Whiteman is also an analysis on entitlement?
Geoffrey, I think yes, but you’re ahead of me on this.
If the Whiteman is self-created and part of your conciousness, then your self-interrogation reveals the part of that “he” has, for want of a better term co-opted. It’s also revealing the subjects over which you still are uneasy and no longer wish for “him” to control. Each subsequent interrogation reveals a part pattern of control. In time, I think the whole will be revealed when you have renounced/exorcised the Whiteman. The only problem is “he” may be too “good” to let go.
Hm. He’s part of my consciousness but he is not self-created. He’s various real powers which are and as power does, he seeps into me. But he’d have to be exorcised *from the world* for me not to have to have most of these conversations, since all but the most recent are are virtually verbatim transcriptions (dressed up to be funny and more abstract than reality was) with various real persons, present and past. The whiteman in the most recent post (“A Rather Internalized Whiteman“) is indeed part of my consciousness – he is an amalgam of things said to me by my mother, the ladies and gentlemen of Al-Anon, a shrink in the 1990s, and a bevy of mostly assistant professors who believed they were wise. It is indeed within my power to exorcise this whiteman. Too good to let go – why? Good, how?
Interesting – that is the sort of thing this Al-Anon related shrink thought. He’d say, what, things are going well and so you are happy? It would be normal if you got scared or worried or frustrated if things were going well! It would be more normal to want things to go badly, since that would be more comfortable!
I was mystified by this logic then, and I still am now. More comfortable, how? I would ask. Why should it not be comfortable to have things go well? This greatly frustrated the man. He finally explained that it did not fit with what he had learned in his textbooks. Most people, he said, preferred to have things go badly so they could complain about it. I still find this odd. I have certainly met people like that, but most people I know are not.
What I was thinking about along the lines of entitlement, when I read your first comment, is that I am shocked and horrified when I have these interactions with whitemen. My reaction is: what? you are going to try that on me? On *me*? I expect to be treated as an intelligent person and an equal (expect non-discrimination) which means, I guess, that I do at least sometimes experience that … which reveals, I suppose, not just what my politics are (good) but the position of relative privilege I enjoy and the extent to which I feel entitled. In other words, maybe, at some level I think the whiteman is my friend (“I know someone in the Big House, so things will be all right.”). Who was it who said that “the extent to which you are shocked by what goes on is directly proportional to your faith in the system”?
I am willing to do this, it sounds like a good exercise in memory, but I am not really sure what is the imperative in noun form that we are speaking of here, is it a book or publication that changed or guided our lives?
Hi CM! I think it could also be an event or a concept. Here is what Philp says on how he came up with the meme:
“About a week ago, I was reading an interview with the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley, and I came upon the quote, ‘The only imperative of my life has been egalitarianism.’ And I thought: What has been the great imperative of my life? And then, I thought, this would make a great meme.”
I should probably revise the post, because really, the “imperative” it reveals is this part:
“[The realization that] the way we do things is not natural, but is rather a constructed system, and that there are many systems. I liked the discovery that one could acquire more than one system, and move between systems.
Indeed, this is what I like. Everything I undertake is, at the most fundamental level, undertaken because it offers the opportunity to walk into a new system and learn to navigate within it.”
What I was thinking about was the times when the “whiteman” does appear in your conciousness. And when I think of self-creation, I’m thinking along the lines of Bob Marley’s, “Sheriff.”
What I meant by too “good” to let go, is that the “Whiteman” as a character is so deliciously formidable that one could spend a lifetime debating him which would make very interesting writing and reading.
Too good to let go in that sense: definitely!!!
Marley’s “Sheriff” – yes, and that’s deep, I will meditate on it. Times when the whiteman does appear: yes, there is a whole archaeological project to be done on that.
What occurs to me on this last point, right now, is the struggle with the ‘whiteman’ over what is right or objective. As in the “What is a scholar?” posts, in which “I” and the whiteman or his surrogates struggle for hegemony not over what might be revolutionary, but over who gets to define what is traditional.
“Indeed, this is what I like. Everything I undertake is, at the most fundamental level, undertaken because it offers the opportunity to walk into a new system and learn to navigate within it.”
The discourse continues…
I have just made my Imperative Meme, thanks for inviting me!
What has been the great imperative of my life?
Fear….Frequently I joke about it, calling “It” the great motivator. I am afraid to fail. I am afraid to succeed. I am afraid to love. I am afraid I won’t be loved. I am afraid of me. I am fraid not to be me. I am afraid I am a fraud. I am afraid I am the only authentic voice left. I am afraid to try. I am afraid not to. I am afraid of becoming irrelevant. I am afraid nothing matters anyway. I am afraid of being rejected. I am afraid of being dissected….
Fear….causes me to attempt the impossible, swim against the tide. It is the unquenchable fire…my blessing and my curse.
Barbie, what honesty! You have spoken another word that many of us dare not breathe.
Absorbant, I like the statement, “I made this.” So many children and adults don’t have the opportunity to say this.
Hi all! And I saw your meme, Absorbant (muy interesante) but comments are off (and by the way where is the beech tree picture on the other post?) … I will haunt your site slightly later …
Prof there is something prone to be published as book in that post. Haunted me allright!
I’m honored you tagged me, Prof. Zero, and I am struggling with a response. Great imperative? A single one? A recent one? And what do I consider my greatest or primary imperative? This may take me a while……..I should probably read others’ responses to get a clue.
Professor I have written my response. I do not want to waste it as a weekend post that will be buried during my week day postings.
This was indeed a very telling meme.
Great meme and fantastic discourse. Thank you.