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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

opening - an objection

Among the chief ornaments of the romance of philosophy is the high place accorded to the open, or to openness. Open the understanding or the mind or the eye, openness as a state of being – these are all on the plus side of the ledger. Heidegger, of course, is the great poet of openness in this tradition, charging openness with a numinous relationship to being that you can take or leave – but he is only building on a vast previous structure.
Closing, perhaps as a consequence, is never given high marks by philosophers. Closing one’s eyes or one’s understanding is, automatically, a bad thing. Even in building an argument, to come to a conclusion – a close – is often transformed, in the text, into opening up.  After the Absolute spirit has tied itself in knots and done more tricks than Houdini, he at last is in a good place at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit. You would think that the absolute spirit would be able to close up shop and go fishing. But no!  He has to open up once again and go, in recollection, though the whole muddle again. No closing for it!
Such are the lessons of the masters. But Adam, ever the dissenter, disagrees.
A couple of months ago, he was with the orthodoxy. Back in those primitive days, he would often strain towards the door knob, or at best, hang from it, crying for the door to be opened.  This happened most often when Mama or Papa had made their exit. Sometimes, though, it was the principle of the thing.
In the last month, however, he has a, learned the word door knob, and b, figured out how to turn one. Having set himself up to join the grand tradition of opening, he, instead, has begun to close doors meticulously.
Of course, one of the things about being out in the open is that you can be seen. This is fun and spiritual if you want to be seen. If, however, you want to hide, closing is your friend.
However, closing seems to have more than a ludic value for my wee little pea. He seems to recognize, in a closed door, a symbol of a larger order. Thus, when settling in to bed and grudgingly accepting the turning off of the lights, he delays the onset of sleep by pointing to the door and demanding it be closed. The thing about this is that he often has already closed it. It is as if Adam recognizes further degrees of closure. There is the closure that you use to hide with in a game, but there might be other types. One is, perhaps, that opening invites people to leave a room. It introduces a certain selfish individuality among one’s courtiers, who might be inclined to go through the open door and go into another room and start watching Peppa Pig or Goodnight Gorilla on the computer – such unimaginable riches!
Now, from the romantic philosophical view, closing here might be a symbol of involuntary servitude. But from another point of view, say that of a two and a quarter year old, it might be a sign of solidarity. It is, definitely, something with a dimension beyond the mere physical closing, just as opening has its more numinous dimension. One of the irritating things about opening in the tradition is that it is often treated as a natural property. The open is the natural situation. But one could well argue that, for living things, opening is unnatural. Skin, tegument, eyelids, doors, drawers, pots, urns, bags, all the paraphernalia of closing shrewdly measure the heroism of opening against the cleverness of closing.
I am not saying that Adam doesn’t appreciate opening. In fact, once he has closed the door on me, he will open it himself, eventually, if I don’t make a sound or an approach to do so. And he points out, every day, how much he wants an outdoor basketball court. (He likes to say I want lately. After seeing a story about a little girl who wanted the moon, he also wants the moon, which he imagines would be a very big basketball.  I want the moon daddy. Cursed little girl!). So in the technical sense, he likes the open – the undomesticated, or at least the domesticated only to the degree that it has resulted in a basketball court and a park with a slide.

To wrap up this rap: Any child’s history of philosophy would have to cast a more skeptical eye on opening as a given and a good.    

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