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Phenomena

Prologue: Intimacy

Here are some thoughts on intimacy:

  • Intimacy is not one way of being

I have been thinking a lot about intimacy and wondering if it can be made public without being monopolized. Intimacy is useful but is it something more than that which brings us human beings together through a sharing of a multiplicity of knowings?

The temperature of intimacy cannot be measured but somehow I am imagining it to be hot. Similar to the rising temperature of some affects, intimacy can be brought about through tenderness, violence, and anger.

  • Intimacy is not private, it is ‘not knowing’

There is a koan in Zen Buddhism that goes like this: not knowing is most intimate. [1] This not knowing is called ‘great doubt’ and it enables different ways of thinking or perceiving the self and the world. If the condition of not knowing is most intimate I take this to mean that in some ways we are left open and vulnerable. In this sense intimacy is not private but always public as it welcomes all encounters and teachings from a blade of grass to an artwork, or from the bacterial flora in your gut.

  • Intimacy is shared with the organic and the inorganic

Intimacy is sharing a life with other humans, non-humans, and all that lies between, who are at times indifferent to your humanness; who might see you as a warm place, prey, or simply part of the surrounding environment.

  • Intimacy is the door left ajar

I have been wondering if we can think about intimacy along the lines of what Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, says “[…] the self is made up of non-self elements.” [2] Non-self elements make me think about the human body and how the human is made up of a multitude of non-human parts. We are made up of companionship; those that accompany us, and we with them. What if instead we were to put our companions first through a caring of the body’s non-human parts? Intimacy then would become the door ajar to encounters that might be imperceptible, difficult, messy, and not privileging the self.

  • Intimacy is not knowing Intimacy is like memory in the following ways, it is reconfigured and fluctuates, it becomes distorted, or embellished. Yet it is not, as I read recently, something that anyone knows how to do, but regardless of this everyone thinks that they have it right.

Intimacy is the interconnected relationship that emerges, flickers, and disappears over and over again; it opens out by not knowing. Ultimately being in the condition of intimacy is the experience of grappling with the space that is created by the intimate gesture of not knowing.

[1] Marc Lesser, “Not Knowing is Most Intimate.” Marc Lesser (March 1, 2010). Accessed November 14, 2016, http://www.marclesser.net/not-knowing-is-most-intimate/.
[2] Thich Nhat Hanh. “Insight of No-Self”, Last Talk of the Third Week of the Summer Opening Retreat, Plum Village, July 26, 2013, live speech, Youtube, 1:40:17, http://tnhaudio.org/2013/08/05/insight-of-no-self/. Accessed November 14, 2016