Friday 18 February 2011

Crossing the boundary between the individual and the infinite

There's some common ground to explore between Luhmann's work on communication and Bataille's work on eroticism and transgression which is interesting me - particularly as I think about the 'caress of learning'. My principle thought, in line with Bataille, is that every caress is a boundary-crossing between the individual and the infinite. Every caress takes us from what we know to be our own, to something where our individuality dissolves. Within this, there seems to be a family resemblance between a resonant cathedral, the sound of breathing, a kiss.... all tend towards the infinite. If learning and teaching are like caressing (and I think there's something in this), then teaching and learning are also 'boundary-crossing', where we are taken from what we know to be our own and we dissolved into something infinite. Typically, we might identify such an experience and exclaim "that's cool!".... of course, in this way, iPhones, Facebook and agent-based modelling all have the capacity to caress too.

Boundary-crossing is present in Luhmann when he talks about art. "Perception cannot communicate and communication cannot perceive"; art is a special form of communication which escapes the binary code of language's "yes" or "no" and connects directly from one perception system to another. Clearly, caressing does a similar thing; the domain of sensuality becomes a consensual domain of apprehending the infinite. But I'm being rather poetic when I want to be precise...!

What's the point? Well, Luhmann would say that the point is communication. And the fact that we have art is because it allows the perception system (Psychic system) to reorganise in such a way as to make communications more probable. That really is what we aim to achieve in education too...

Bataille's "becoming aware of the infinite" may simply be way of describing the sensation we feel when our perception is enlarged. What makes our perception larger is sensual experience. It may be sensual experience gained through religious ritual; the sensuality of silence, of awareness of breathing and life. It may be a sensual experience of seeing a naked body. It may be a sensual experience of listening to music or seeing art. In each case, it is our perception that is engaged, and through being engaged, it is enlarged. Through being enlarged, we perceive something more infinite that our individuality, which is largely defined by our communications. It is the enlarging of perception and the involvement of sensuality in the process of enlarging perception that leads Bataille to equate the religious and the erotic. But I suspect he looks at it from the wrong end... if he looked from the perspective of what goes on in perception and its relationship to communication, I think his insights would have expanded from just looking at religion and eroticism.

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