The Preconceptual

What is authentic experience? What does it mean to have an experience? Is it a transcendent moment? But what happens when we achieve awareness of the transcendence and seek to communicate it, to articulate, share, and preserve it? Does that mark its boundary? But what are we preserving exactly? A memory? A sad surrogate, a feeble construction for the real thing? But it’s not quite a thing really. Present experience, if presence is absolutely possible, must preclude communication, no? Deep presence (a concept I’m imposing on something I can’t otherwise grasp) is preconceptual. Or is it postconceptual? Why am I bothering with this convoluted language game? What am I grasping it?

Presence is an intellectual rabbit’s hole. We approach it as optimal existence, and yet we also celebrate as optimal our capacity to exert authority over that existence through the strange marriage of consciousness and language. The moment we usher what Lacan conceptualized as “the Real” into reality (social order), we mythologize existence and segregate ourselves from its purest form, even as we desperately believe we’re getting closer to it through the Word. We drape a comforting story over life’s relentless fluidity. We build an elaborate structure, perhaps in the hope that we might contain or trap this purity. What if language, which tries to capture experience, could house the deepest profundity we know? But wouldn’t the deepest profundity defy knowing? Wouldn’t it forever elude language’s grasp?

The ineffable itself has to be conceptualized. Nothing is pre-conceptual once we begin talking about it, and I don’t mean nothing is pre-conceptual. Nothing itself is a concept. Try to imagine nothing and be maddened by the something that inevitably emerges. Salvation is not in our imagination, it’s in living intimately. It’s pre-conceptual existence, when we suspend our biases and categories and give ourselves over to life. And yet salvation itself is replete with varied value systems, so it’s not that exactly that we experience when we abandon all our best laid plans. It’s nothing that we know that we feel or think. We don’t feel or think at all in our purest moments. We adopt Heidegger’s ideal of being-there-in-the-midst-of-the-world, in the Clearing of Being, participating fully, conceptually absent, in the depth and fullness that life Is, prior to any human imposition and mediation. When we forsake our humanity – that is, the very concept of humanity and all its coding – we are most alive. But don’t ask me to describe what that means. It doesn’t matter. The lie is thinking that it has to.

Meaning isn’t the problem. Meaning is our solution to the problem that we haven’t yet confronted.

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