June 19, 2020:
I propose three readings.
A Materialist reading derived from Spinoza and Althusser. Spinoza calls the process through which material reality is constructed "conatus": the random binding together of constitutive elements as they collide, conjoin, and persist. Althusser writes of an "aleatory" materialism, where chance contributes to the outcomes of individual events, as well as ultimately the course of history globally. My interest is less ontological, more psychological, that is, subjective, meaning, the social process through which individual subjects are constructed. I believe random encounters between people contribute as much to the formation of identities as the better-explored processes of Oedipal and interpellative development. Where situational fluidity is an important component of identity. My writing here tries to examine these themes of randomness and the constitution of identity through encounter.
An Existentialist reading. We are individuals in isolation; our encounters deepen the distances between us. In my opinion this is backward. We're only isolated when we're isolated, that is, when we remove ourselves from all encounter no matter how random or seemingly trivial. Meanwhile these latter have a stronger impact on us than we routinely acknowledge.
A Cubist reading. The Cubists implied three dimensional objects by juxtaposing multiple two-dimensional planes depicting the object from different points of view. These pieces are analogous to those planes. We are multidimensional beings, we display facets of ourselves in different contexts, and, like Nude Descending a Staircase, we're in motion. This reading would capture the technical practice of displaying multiple dimensions of identity through interactions with others, but it downplays my sense that identity is to significant degree created — not merely expressed — through these interactions.
Whether one chooses from these readings or imagines others, the outcome of collecting these pieces is a kind of self-portrait where the narrator's personality and sense of self are delineated through and by interactions, for the most part random, with others who are, at least initially, unknown.
The pieces are discrete. There's no inner structure or implied narrative. These are snapshots, not frames from a film. The narrator does not undergo a process of evolution or enlightenment over the course of his linear existence in time. What I'm saying is: this is not a story.
Conatus. The persistence of a singular thing not in spite of but by means of encounters and conjunctions.