Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

This year I am resisting  the idea of writing a wrap-up post to catalogue all that I’ve read and thought about in 2012, and I’m resisting even more the idea of plotting out all that I’d like to read and think about in 2013… of course I’ve got scratched out reading plans sitting around my desk and stacks of books I’ve slowly acquired over the last few months that I am eager to pick up and begin. I love the beginning of the year because there is always so much potential for “newness” and there is always the idea that lurking just inside the next book is an idea or an image that will radically change something about me or how I perceive the world. Reading is such an incredibly powerful activity that way.

So instead of putting together a neat wrap-up of last year and a carefully detailed outline of the year to come, I’d like to just post a quote from something I recently read… the first “new idea” of 2013. This comes from Tim Parks’s essay “The Mind Outside My Head” which, although it  was published this past April, I just read (hat tip to the Twitter world). It is about a conversation Parks had with the Italian philosopher Ricardo Manzotti and Manzotti’s ideas of a spread consciousness versus the traditionally understood internal/subjective conciousness. After his conversation with Manzotti, Parks takes a walk around Milan and writes:

For some time I walk the streets of Milan trying to accept that consciousness is not locked in my head but spread out across the revving traffic, the rustling leaves, the dog shit, the blue sky, the gritty cobbles, the solemn facades, the soft breeze, the unseasonal temperatures, the screaming children, the air, the women. After a while it begins to make sense. There are small shifts of mood passing from street to park, from outside to inside, from red to blue, male to female, night to day, tram to metro, center to suburb. There are varying tensions between focus of vision and field of vision, between conversation and background noise. In general there is more: the intrusion of smells, the slap of a passing truck, a persistent touching of heat and breeze.

I will not pretend to understand everything that Manzotti is talking about, even if I do find the idea fascinating. Also, Parks does a lovely job of translating this idea of Manzotti’s for the layperson and applying it to the realm of novel writing, and, in a more general way, to an individual’s experience of the world. Parks takes Manzotti’s science and makes it a subtle argument for a different way of constructing one’s particular openness toward the world, a way of observing and allowing the outside world inside. So, I think, it isn’t a bad way at all of looking forward to the future as I step through these first few days of the new year.

Bonne Année. Happy New Year. Wishing you all a million pages of fascinating ideas in 2013. 

3 Responses to “stepping into the new year”

  1. Stefanie

    Sounds like a fascinating article, will bookmark it for reading at a quiet time. Happy New Year to you Michelle!

    • Michelle

      Thank you, Stefanie – Happy New Year to you as well. May 2013 be filled with all sorts of bookish adventures for you.

  2. Lilian Nattel

    I like that quote very much. I don’t think I could explain it, but I liked the mood of it, and it made me smile, and feel the same way as when I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s work.

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