Thursday, September 15, 2011
The future anterior: Notes to Thursday's class
let's come back to the idea of the binary karma/dharma (action). in the context of the gita "discipline in action" is called karma yoga.
karma yoga makes sense if seen from the pov of "we are in the middle of," arms length of our duty, which brings forth the idea of time. we never have enough time! time is our nemesis. when we virtually interact with our own movie "as if" we were in the future of our present whereby we can tap into what is yet-to-come, what is still "on the verge" of happening.
karma is connected with the idea of immanence. why should arjuna fulfill his karma? recall that in the gita, the narrative is twofold: on the one hand, we have this actual battle where kin will die; on the other, we have Arjuna's inner struggle. going to battle is a virtual way of getting outside his own movie.
krishna counsels arjuna to "disturb" the normal order of things (which for the latter appears as chaotic). arjuna's desire is to call off the battle, but this path of inaction is wrong. this is why: Krishna is -as it were- outside, in Arjuna's distant future. by doing his duty, arjuna moves from immanence (his inner battle plus his actual battle) to transcendence, i.e., changing himself and things for the better.
how about the pair action/inaction? we get a complicated picture. you would've thought that asceticism, which we encounter in the upanishads, would be a good example. after all, the ascetic lives a life of dedication and commitment to self-governance. but this is a point we've discussed in class: if the ascetic left his own milieu to pursue a life of transcendence at the cost of his most immediate duty, he is not achieving much. he may end up desiring what he tries to avoid! in the context of the gita, asceticism is like burying one's head on the sand like an ostrich, in order to avoid the relentless chaos of the world.
what is chaos? inner battle the very thing what arjuna is really afraid of. he wants to go his way with inaction, not disturbing, not facing his own demons.
notes: karma" comes from the root kri, which means "doing" and includes all the actions that a person performs. "yoga" comes from the root yuj, which means, "to join." the idea combines three aspects: 1- a sense of duty towards others, 2- an absence of desire for rewards, 3- a sense of equanimity, which enables one to be as neutral to environmental influences as possible. *what's future anterior? watch La Jetée. **in the future, one looks back to another moment (it doesn't have to be the past). for instance, last week's class is in the future of classes we didn't have before. imagine a person who makes the mistake of marrying the wrong person. by the time s/he feels happy, there will be many failed attempts at being happy. so, in a sense, happiness is the repetition (& resolution) of non-happiness.