Gander suggests, through both form and content, that we must be startled awake, defamiliarized from our already strange surroundings in order to begin to accurately perceive. Gander’s shifting forms and non-subordinate presentation of ideas and images work toward this end by holding us as reader in a state of flux—our minds must remain open to receive the work, as we are prevented by the work itself from automatically organizing our experience into categories. Gander disables the formation of patterns, as each place or experience is written about in various forms and mediums, and even when repetition is introduced the repetition is not strict but variable.
This forced posture of openness enriches our understanding of our surroundings. Our minds want to organize, to compartmentalize and label the encountered “other,” and Gander writes on the importance of resisting this: “To welcome the / strangeness of / strangers/ not versions / simply of / my own / thought.”However, in order to recognize the other, we must first gain an awareness and control of our own perceptive boundaries. We must have some sort of awareness or control over our own perceptual biases/boundaries in order to move past them and openly perceive.
Gander suggests that in learning how to perceive the “other” we will move closer toward understanding ourselves: “Our distance from others…is exactly that of our distance from ourselves.” But what regulates this relationship? Does one influence the other or is this a simultaneously reciprocal relationship? To know another we must on some level be aware of ourselves, knowing where we stop and the “other” begins—disabling our perceptional and contextual biases, separating our subjective perceptions from the actual observations and experience. Do we move closer to ourselves as we close the gap between ourselves and others, or is knowing ourselves a necessary precondition for knowing the other to begin with? And what does our knowledge of ourselves do for our relationship with others? Does it move us closer or further away?
In one poem he writes of the necessary “exigence of our dying / for access / to our own nakedness” (34). These lines appear after presence is discussed—“Tenga presente. Keep/ in mind”—suggesting that true presence requires a sort of crisis. To be fully present and self-aware requires recognition of our mortality, a recognition and separation from life’s monotonous patterning. Gander’s shifting, startling forms seem to provide us with this necessary moment—the repeated encountering of the “other” starts this process of self-recognition, which must be completed before the “other” can be fairly or fully understood. This sentiment echoes the essay we read already in the semester from Alphonso Lingis, in which our ability to live into our calling hinges on our recognition of our mortality. To know the other we must work toward knowing ourselves, and this selving does not separate us from the world but rather allows us to take our proper place–functioning in sync with a more mysterious, earthly rhythm.