“To Be Radically Open” by Shabnam Piryaei

To Be Radically Open: An Aspirational Manifesto

 by Shabnam Piryaei

  1. To be cognizant of what is purposefully misunderstood, and what is needed, by certain people and powers, to be misunderstood.
  1. To contemplate how what we do and make resonates with what already exists.
  1. To discern that which has always been there, including that which has implicitly been there all along. Though implicit implies something that is less present and cannot be seen, it is in fact already there—it just isn’t necessarily being given away, or it is less visible given our ways of seeing.
  1. To ask ourselves which modes of sensing and reading do Western pedagogy, philosophy, society, etc., privilege. What exists in the environment that makes certain connections more likely than others?
  1. To be willing to problematize our own ways of thinking: to make the fraudulent visible, to identify “necessary” exclusions we make, to be willing to critique what we most love—including when that which we hold most dear is our abhorrence of something—and to ask, again and again, why we continue to cling to it and what is at stake. Repeatedly returning to oneself is imperative to practicing radical openness. It is, as Nathaniel Mackey writes, a revisiting of the very material that we proffer.[1]
  1. To avoid deliberate misrepresentations of the other for the purpose of producing our own “smart” arguments.
  1. To avoid the tendency to make totalizing claims when trying to criticize or subvert totalizing claims. Our narratives will never be able to sum it all up, and we should be grateful for this.
  1. To avoid critiques that in fact affirm what we are critiquing, and to avoid reproducing the same hierarchies we are critiquing—in particular hierarchies that privilege us. This involves disrupting, unsettling, revisiting and resonating, rather than overcoming—a term that acts reductively in that it implies that the thing to be overcome is containable.
  1. To be critical of our own over-simplifications, and our uncritical use of language. How do these labels, these forms of organization, provide the basis for collective comprehension or reference, but are written from a perspective of incomprehension?
  1. To be critical of classist notions of intelligence. To assume that practical experience, or life experience, is bereft of contemplation, intellect or philosophy is ignorant. To assume that philosophical theories cannot be derived from laboring and thinking in a field or raising eight children in a one-bedroom house implies a false and self-serving division between a “pure” thinking and interpreting, and a “pure” doing. Obviously, this is, in part, how superiority works. Superiority is relational; the one who claims to be superior needs the other to be inferior. In other words, the value of the superior figure is entirely dependent on making the other figure, to whom it directly relates, inferior. Those who promote the binary of pure thinking and pure doing—a class-based notion—need to reinforce that binary to secure their own social, intellectual and historical position.
  1. To recognize that philosophy is based on an interpretive act; we are an interpretive community.
  1. To recognize our own temporalities, in that things—including ourselves—will change. We must allow for movements, ideas or relationships—including those of which we are a part—to change and to die.
  1. To embrace our own multiplicity. This involves embracing ourselves, as Nietzsche writes, as “artistically creating subject[s]” who do not privilege the “repose, security, and consistency” of rejecting multiplicities.[2]
  1. To be willing to take risks, and to risk ourselves.
  1. To be receptive to un-experienced or unanticipated potentialities, possibilities and multiplicities—the incessant otherwise[3]—that, as Daphne Brooks writes, “confound and disrupt conventional constructions.”[4] And these conventional constructions don’t want to be disrupted. To preserve themselves, they will object; they will fight back.
        [1] “One of the stirring characteristics of music for me is its recursiveness, that it revisits the material that it proffers. No one statement of it is final or comprehensive. There are always other possibilities and tributaries you can pursue. That’s what I find myself doing in these serial works, revisiting tropes and phrases until it becomes more generative. That gives a sense of expansion and of being involved in this large endeavor that is not just one’s own work or ego or confined to one’s life.” (Nathaniel Mackey, IndyWeek, http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/famed-lyric-poet-nathaniel-mackey-unites-modernism-jazz-and-poets-near-and-far/Content?oid=4301587) [2] “Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor can one live with any repose, security, and consistency: only by means of the petrification and coagulation of a mass of images which originally streamed from the primal faculty of human imagination like a fiery liquid, only in the invincible faith that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself, in short, only by forgetting that he himself is an artistically creating subject, does man live with any repose, security, and consistency.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, 57) [3] “To see things in light of possibility is the ability to see how they might be otherwise. Such ‘seeing’ also involves a genuine re-cognition: seeing differently, as though for the first, time, something familiar or taken for granted. So once again, we are presented with the challenge of integrating continuity and discontinuity, the familiar and the unfamiliar, the old and the new.” (Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, 20) [4] “We can think of their acts as opaque, as dark points of possibility…Dense and spectacular, the opaque performances of marginalized cultural figures call attention to the skill of the performer who, through gestures and speech as well as material props and visual technologies, is able to confound and disrupt conventional constructions.” (Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 8)