I learned… to construct an ongoing narrative of the self, composed of what the psychoanalyst Robert Stoller calls “microdots” …“the consciously experienced moments selected from the whole and arranged to present a point of view”.
The Self as a kind of narrative construct has deep resonance. As I have noted before, we are agents. We are intelligible to ourselves and others. We have intentions, we act, we exist in a social milieu, we cause stuff to happen and we do all of this as time runs out. These are the key elements of any plot line. Our agent-Self is the writer (“I am going to put myself in this risky situation”). The Self is the reader (“How am I going to respond to this situation?”) and the Self is the critic (“What the fck am I doing to myself and why?”). Maybe some of us live inside a totalizing epic narrative but most of us dimly discern trajectories linking some of the thousands of short stories of which our lives have been composed.
The Self is the protagonist, the through-line moving between moments. At any of these moments our main character-self may encounter a “microdot” of memory; a rich compression of sense data, affect and scripts that vividly re-presents a lived experience. Such a terrific mixed metaphor! The Self as a story constructed by a Super-Pointillist; a composition by Seurat or Roy Lichtenstein in progress, in real time, in the always now of the Self.
Let’s mix the metaphor some more, the Self as hero of the always now is the melody, seeking in each succession of moments a resolution of chords….wanting to hear in the dense harmony of notes atemporally stacked above a reedy now a fullness that will stop time. When I look at Picasso’s Night Fishing in Antibe, I am held in such a moment. I re-experience the joy of color. I feel the vibrancy of another mind’s confusing intentions. I remember the smell and feel of warm nights in Mediterranean cafes. I feel acutely embodied and curiously detached from my physical surroundings.
How we experience art helps us describe how we experience ourselves.
Oh yeah, Proust.