I worked for an organisation once that had sessions, periodically, that offered supervisory support. This was something both I and the supervisor dreaded, I’m sure (I’m sure I dreaded it) because I was subtly but manifestly not pulling the same line as the institution demanded. In other words, I had a particular idea of what might benefit the organisation, and since the organisation was service based, of what might benefit the people who used the organisation’s services (I won’t call them clients: they weren’t voluntarily availing of the service). Now, much about the organisation was good and admirable: the general ethos of concern and consideration brooked no argument. It was the subtle stuff that bothered me. Some of the subtle stuff was dealt with in the literature that each employee was required to read, stuff about how to talk to people, and how to think while interacting. But you can’t really tell people how to think, can you? It’s somewhat more intrinsic than that, isn’t it? Telling someone how to think if they don’t have what they call in Ireland a ‘gra’, or a heart, for it, is akin to the reeducation policies that operate when any extreme ideological governance takes control. I hasten to add that no violence was done to me. None at all. Except the grinding sense that I was inclined to go one way – towards less medication, less control, more holistic thinking, compost loos, organic beansprouts (I exaggerate, but you get the general gist) – while the organisation, for all their dedication to the principles of considerate care, was inclined, and indeed, felt itself forced, to go another (medication, health and safety issues involving heavy use of chemicals, sanitation, boundaries, distance).
Tomorrow I leave in preparation for the third meeting. since I transferred, with my supervisor. I’m very aware that writing this is writing in a public space, that anything and everything can be seen. That writing on the web is like writing postcards – one must imagine that anyone, benign or malevolent, has access. Therefore I will say very little about what I anticipate. Part of my preparation has been this uploading of different sections of work I’ve undertaken over the last couple of years as an attempt to organise what it is I think is worth preserving from the alteration in focus. Yet I do see parallels.
European Philosophy is a jungle to one ‘brought up’ in the Anglo-American analytic tradition. It offers no safe quarters. The temptation to resort to earlier positions of ridicule or contempt are exhausted, and one is thrust into the sunlit glade with nothing to defend one but a vague sense that all the boundaries have collapsed.
I am attempting to incorporate two bodies of work – one which is entirely new to me, the Shobogenzo, the Zen tradition of zazen – and yet, which is somewhat familiar, given that I have involved myself, informally and through the teaching of yoga, in a rough and ready study of the practice of observation as a core shift in perceptive inclusion.
The second, older (for me) tradition is that of environmental ethics. But it has been suggested that I work to excise the notion of ethics from the work entirely, using the ideas of evolutionary biology as well as the philosophical work of Hans Georg Moeller to show that taking an ethical stance involves exclusion, involves staking out an ideological territory, and one that will necessarily create opposition among those who don’t share the common ground. In many ways, I applaud this approach: I would love to believe that there is some way in which we can dissolve our ideological boundaries. Yet my more pragmatic inclination is to imagine that it is impossible to include every perspective on the burning boat that is our ecological crisis. We have to find some formula that will allow us to include only those activities that bring us a reasonable chance of response.
I’m all at sea. This is not an unfamiliar situation but it carries the same deep dread as those supervisory support meetings: I will arrive, supplicant, veiled witness, muffling myself with politesse, while the whirling gears of rational thought screech at the impossibility of encompassing the sense that I had made of things before with the demands of a new, somewhat empty, paradigm.
Wish me well.