One of the books I am reading at the moment is called 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life by Roger-Pol Droit. It’s full of different exercises you can try to see deeper than the surface of things.
The second exercise in the book – Empty a Word of Its Meaning – is one that resonates with me in weaving as well. You know the kind of thing – keep repeating a commonplace word and it loses its meaning, or as Roger-Pol Droit puts it, “it detaches itself and hardens.” He continues, “You find yourself repeating a series of strange sounds. A series of absurd and meaningless noises, that denote nothing, indicate nothing… “. This happens to me especially during a boring meeting when someone is going on about a specific topic, and they keep repeating the same word. It just becomes farcical because the word becomes disassociated with what they are talking about.
It’s a weird feeling when that happens – you feel slightly disassociated from reality and everything gets a bit surreal – but it’s kind of nice.
This zoning out of surface reality happens to me sometimes when I’m weaving. If I’m doing repetitious work that needs focus but not total concentration, such as weaving a predictable pattern that I’ve woven lots of times before (as I often do in weaving samples), I can find my mind going a little somnolent. This is an interesting place to be in. You are aware, but not totally focussed on anything external. Your mind is in a kind of free-fall, your body feels a bit in limbo.
It can also be a creative place to be. When we are caught up with words relating to everyday life, we are pinned down in our reality, fixed to the earth with concrete meanings. When we find ourselves in mental free-fall, we have the chance and opportunity to be incredibly creative, with the sub-conscious providing new associations. It’s kind of like having a brain partitioned like a computer hard-drive. One part does all the obvious surface stuff, the other is for another experience. When I zone-out of surface reality, my mind pops into the partitioned section where words don’t exist and normal sensations take on a different quality.
Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be an astronaut floating in non-gravity? The lack of reference as to what’s up and what’s down, no gravity to root things to where they should be in our normal experience? I think that’s kind of what must happen mentally when we zone out.
As children, I think we are much more aware of this side of our personalities. Imagination takes kids to all sorts of fantastical but relevant places. Perhaps it’s something that we need to cultivate more actively as adults – to regain that slightly disturbing but ultimately exciting and freeing sensation . As Roger-Pol Droit observes, “Just a few seconds are enough to tear that fine film within which we make sense of things, smug with the power of giving things names.”
Whilst not everyone reading this blog will be a weaver, or like to weave repetitious samples, we can all play the repeating word game, and find that incredible space where reality is suspended……