Friday, December 08, 2006

Time without Charisma

I think I get it now. Charisma is the emotional experience of believing that you can harness the sort of limitless potential that might be attributed to a deity to transform the world creatively. It is the emotional experience of the new possibility for power felt as liberation from the emotional perception of frustration and monotony derived from the limitations of ordinary life, a frustration that derives from an existential disappointment with life that derives from a tendency of the human imagination to create one-sided images.

The images humans we create evoke strong emotion, the imagination offers hope against life’s many intractable difficulties. However, because the imagination’s images are invariably one-sided, in practice, any attempt to transform the world in accordance with the image meets significant frustration. As most such attempts are bound to failure, this augments the emotional response of excitement when such an attempt appears to work. Weber suggests that this emotion is exceptionally difficult to sustain as the idea becomes an accepted part of mundane, everyday life. The legitimating effect of charisma is not sustainable over time.

Yeah, well fuck that, I thought. Starting when I was very young, I liked the experience of power, the ability to transform objects creatively. Everyday life was boring. I hated its mundane routine. So, sublimely unaware of what I was really feeling or what I felt, I gravitated toward what felt good: the ability to transform objects, particularly myself. I sought to constantly transform myself, to always be becoming. Perpetual revolution. Seeing the change happen liberated me from mundane routine. Yes, I lived by other patterns, highly regimented patterns. But the patterns were my own, not the world’s. And they didn’t bore me because unlike the world’s patterns, they gave me the experience of power.

MS changed that by slowing my ability to work. I couldn’t really cut back my work, so what happened is that the pace slowed and my ability to focus in sustained bursts, the thing that makes change happen before your eyes. Now change never happens before my eyes. Everything blends into everything else. Life is unpunctuated, feels as if it has no clear segments. It’s, well, a slow boring of hard boards. It takes passion and perspective. I need the passion to keep plugging away. I need the perspective to accept the pace.

The sense that I was always becoming was illusory, as it was largely an effect of making change fit into specific compressed periods. It was the imposition of that structure onto the experience that provided the experience of charisma. I made sure I could see it happen in a way that felt very responsive to my will. The feeling that I just “am” is just as illusory. I’m changing. I’m just not doing it fast enough to generate that ecstatic feeling. But it has other compensations. I’m not bored. So maybe I can be okay with this. Maybe a slow boring of hard boards won’t drive me nuts. I have to think about that.

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