Togetherness: reset the song

Togetherness: reset the song

What exactly is togetherness?  To unpack this term and open up several ways to understand it, I offer several readings of the word using de/re-constructive etymology.  I am not talking about going back to the Greek, or the Latin, but taking just what we have when we look at the English word togetherness.  I mean, why do people always talk about the Greek roots of words?  Did words not exist before the Greeks?  Where did they get their words?  Why don’t we ask that and go even further back than the Greeks?

But I digress.

The first two letters are T and O.  This spells “to”.  According to Merriam Webster to is a preposition that indicates “the direction of something”, as in “You are going to Hell!”  The word “to” can also indicate addition, attachment, connection, belonging, possession, accompaniment, or response to something.  Last, but not least, to can indicate the infinitive form of a verb.

The third, fourth, and fifth letters of togetherness are G, E, and T.  Get, again according the Merriam Webster dictionary, means “to gain possession of” or “obtain by entreaty or permission”.  What did you get for Christmas?  As the years go by you will get old and get really wrinkly if you keep smoking.  Get can also mean “understand”. The definitions of to and get could be combined to mean “in the direction of gaining possession of or obtaining by entreaty understanding of or a state of being” or simply “to understand”, as in, “I get the joke.”

The letters 6 through 8 of togetherness are H, E, and R, respectively.  Her is the feminine third person singular pronoun indicating ownership.  As in, “I am her bitch.”  Pretty straight forward.

The last four letters, N, E, S, and S, when combined in that order spell ness.  Ness, according to the dictionary in the version of Microsoft Office I am currently using, is “a section of coastline that projects into the sea”.  Why a man named his company using two words 99.999% of men don’t want to hear and became the richest man in the world is still a mystery.

But I digress.

Combining, then, the four definitions of the parts of the word togetherness, we get the definition in the direction of gaining possession of or obtaining by entreaty understanding of or a state of being of a woman’s section of coastline that projects into the sea.

Who exactly this woman is I cannot say.  But from the definition I would postulate that she has beachfront property.  Whether this property is a white sand beach in Jamaica, or a rocky pebble beach somewhere near Big Sur on the California coast, or a raging section of waterfront down in the Tierra del Fuego, I cannot say.  But what I can say is that she must be wealthy.  She doesn’t have just beachfront property, but a section of coastline.  And from the times I have been to the Hamptons and hung out with old money in Martha’s Vineyard, I have seen some nice spreads, but no one talks about having a section of coastline.  That is some serious dough.

But I digress.

The meaning of in the direction of gaining has some interesting connotations.  Does it indicate that in the state of togetherness one is merely in the direction of gaining possession of or obtaining by entreaty understanding of or a state of being of her section of coastline that projects into the sea, and will never actually reach the ness?  Does this mean, then, that actual togetherness is impossible?  That it is a continual striving for an unobtainable goal, that no matter how much I try, I will never reach it?

Does this gaining refer to understanding or conceptually receiving something from the coastline, as in I finally made it to her coastline, her damp, writhing, fecund coastline and was so moved by it that it projected into my blood, my heart, my soul, that I groked it?  That in essence, I became the sea that her coastline thrust into?

Or are we talking about mere real estate?  That by entreaty, by fair means or (if those didn’t work) by foul, by marriage or by war, I took possession of her section of coastline that stands valiantly against the dark angry seas, a bulwark upon which the innocent Andromeda was lashed to by her father King Cepheus, King of Aethiopia, in order to save his people from the Olympian wroth of Poseidon.  Clearly we have a case of female collateral damage – two men using women as pawns in their struggle for domination.

But I digress.

Continuing, though, in this vein of gender, I wish to draw your attention to the third and fourth words within togetherness, her and ness.  Combining them we get herness.  –ness is a suffix and, as we all know, means the state, condition, or quality of.  Therefore herness is the state, condition, or quality of being her.  Her is not only the feminine third person singular pronoun indicating ownership, but also the feminine third person singular pronoun used to indicate the reception of action, whether directly, as in “Gonna smack her with a lead pipe/ Gonna smack her with a 2×4” (The Dead Milkmen) or indirectly, as in I gave her a diamond ring and a fur coat as way to ask for forgiveness for my terrible wretched behavior in the previous example.

The appropriateness of the examples aside, to get herness…hmm… in the direction of gaining possession of herness.

Does to get herness mean in the direction of gaining possession of femininity?  What level of herness are we talking about, the superficial layers of vestments? Whenever I put on my wife’s clothes I feel that I am merely in the direction of herness.  I am about 500 miles off from being anywhere close to being mistaken for a her.  Or are we talking about the whole enchilada, the whole kit and caboodle?  Chop chop snip snip, oh what a relief it is!  Did you know that Thailand and Iran are the #1 and #2 countries for most sexual reassignment surgeries in the world?

But I digress.

We could be talking about an individual who is already female biologically, but who nevertheless feels inadequate in the role of woman due to societal and cultural pressures.  Through a variety of methods whether sartorially and/or surgically, she tries to develop a heightened level of femininity?  Or are we talking about an individual who goes in the direction of gaining possession of femininity by becoming the ultimate nurturer and caregiver.  Is Angelina Jolie trying to gain femininity by adopting so many kids?  Was Oprah, whilst she had her talk show, trying to gain femininity by providing all of her audience members with free food, books, sweaters, and VW Beetles?

Thusly, in a partial conclusionary summation, we have two readings of the word togetherness – to get her ness and to get herness – each with multiple connotations.  I haven’t even gotten to the vowel replacement processes.  Using a simple a for e process we get the terms to get harness and to gather ness.  While the former evokes thoughts of Japanese rope binding, rock climbing, and animal husbandry, the latter brings to mind territorial wars and relates to to get her ness.  But I will not go into those readings now.

I must egress.



Presence vs. Awareness

What is it?
There are many workshops that deal with presence.  Practicing it, creating different kinds of presence.
But there is only one kind of presence – either you are in the room or you are not.  It’s digital,a binary.  Either the food is in your belly or it is not.  Either the whisky is in your glass or it is not.  Either you’re pregnant or you’re not.
If we are to look at the etymology of the word (and a little part of me dies when I do this), we see that presence comes from Latin praesentia – “a being before”.  The origins of the word have nothing to do with awareness.  Before…in front of…location…place…space…either you are before someone or not.
Does this mean that practicing presence is an exercise in punctuality?  You are either in the studio or not.  Punctuality is something that many dancers could practice.  Oh, the irony…we of time based art have a hard time showing up at the correct time.
What people really mean when they say presence is awareness.  When people say that someone is not very present, they mean that someone’s awareness is on something other than what they themselves are focused on.  Differing awarenesses.
Seeing dancers who are not very “present” on stage… well, that’s impossible.  If they weren’t present, you couldn’t see them.  They appear “not present” because their awareness is elsewhere.  Frequently inexperienced dancers seem “not present”.  Their awareness is probably taken up by nervousness, or anticipation of messing up the choreography.  Their awareness is of the moment they are in, but their awareness of that moment is of a different variable than what the viewer is aware of.  The nervous dancer is aware of his or her panic about the upcoming moments, getting that lift right, or freaked out in an open improvisation because s/he is “stuck” center stage in a ball facing the floor.  It seemed like a brilliant choice 2 minutes ago…what do I do now?
The “unpresent” dancers, though, have not disappeared.  They are just focused on something else than the viewer is.
Injuries can also come from lack of “presence”.  This, though, is a result of a difference in awareness.  Imagine a contact jam.  Person X is very present in (or aware of) his sensations – the weight on his torso, the sweat of his partner, the exertion of his muscles etc.  He is so caught up in his sensory perceptions, that his awareness doesn’t see the heel headed towards his face.
Heel meets face.  Ouch.  If he really weren’t present, then he would have not been hit.  If his awareness were outwards, he might have been able to avoid the incoming heel.  His awareness could have changed his presence to another location and avoided the calcaneal(is that a word?) collision.
presence, awareness, presence, awareness…
By conflating the two terms, and I would say that people favor presence, giving it greater value, we are favoring the mind over the body.
Maybe this is a Cartesian remnant, a vestigial thought held over from the Enlightenment – I think therefore I am – favoring the mind over the body.