What does it mean to encounter something? The term has beautiful connotations — as a verb it exists between the passive and the active, between looking and seeing, listening and hearing, throwing and catching. This is, no doubt, because of the reciprocity — we bump into dead matter, we discover the forgotten treasures, but we encounter something that, at the same time, encounters us as we encounter it.
A certain sensitivity of sensation and method are required to encounter things. Not any rushed interpretation will do. The sad truth is that it seems perfectly normal of our common sense ways of dealing with the world to find the world inert, banal, and entirely uninteresting. Sure, there is a joke or a cat gif that can delight us for a moment, but for the most part we discover only things and means, strategies and commodities, rather than things that encounter us as we encounter them.
For example, how does a thinker encounter the public? How to keep alive the mutual sense of surprise, curiosity and bafflement when the market place, or the ‘local pub’, is always pitched as far from the ivory towers in as many senses as we can note? How do we encounter nature when it has been “purged” from our environments, and framed as an ‘evolved network of bio-mass’ out there on the fringes?
There’s a basic intuition, insofar as we increasingly surround ourselves with efficiency, and smoothness of use, that any possibility for encounter is going to take the form of the interruption, be that in the form of politics gone awry, the knots of suffering that punctuate our lives, or a broken hammer. There in those gaps the correct comportment is needed to negotiate the forces that are inevitably unleashed and run riot. But interruptions are as often fortuitous as they are treacherous. The danger and promise of the peripheries, and their pores…