Wren warbling on a branch

Espial: Reward

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Your Reading Materials Found Here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7v7y4ar9e5zy061/Reward_ReadingMaterials.pdf?dl=0

Reward is a particularly challenging & creative mechanism to understand. Not quick motivation & not quite lethargic, reward is the gear which finalizes the action: without offering any definitive structure itself, reward determines completion. 

While we are understanding reward, it becomes imperative to consider what comprises a reward, at what stage does the reward become known, and how can the reward dissipate? There are dozens if not millions of ways we punish ourselves for the sake of reward.

Somehow it has been taught to place reward on a balance; that to receive also means to give. The economics of reward, here, become insidious and self-entrapping: to gain is to gain the choice to lose. How do we mitigate the trappings of reward so as to live a life where we can both be virtuous and yield unrepentant growth? 

Reward, to me, is a more theoretical value. With the most essay-based reading material, I hope to provide a strong opportunity to analyze your necessity and relationship with reward. 

Quail range of motion. Courtesy of Armita Manafzadeh

Reading #1:

Jacques Lacan, “Drives and Lures”

Osamu Dazai, “A Promise Fulfilled”

Christopher Hamlin, “Filth”

Ruminations: 

Lacan, “With the individual — and as long as it is a question of the individual with all that that implies concerning internal dispositions and external actions — we find ourselves faced with limits. There is something that cannot be sublimated; libidinal demand exists, the demand for a certain dose, of a certain level of direct satisfaction, without which harm results, serious disturbances occur.”

Dazai, “Even as I inwardly strove to maintain my monotheistic belief in the deity we call Love, the doctor’s expositions of his theory were like breaths of cool, fresh air, briefly dispelling the gloom in my heart. “

Hamlin, “Unrelentingly, these writers deny us the satisfaction not only of material achievement, but also of body, health, and even of self. These meditations are often (though not invariably) sad, but it is a preutilitarian sadness, a fully valid response to the world implying no problem in need of resolution and reflecting an outlook in which happiness is not the benchmark against which all social and natural phenomena are to be measured.”

With the density in the first selection of readings, there are two intended consequences: I hope to slow-down the obvious readerly move of devouring, and I hope to provide a plethora of opportunity for connection. Lacan and Hamlin, I think, are feeding into each other in certain ways, in trying to provide exposition for a human condition of reward. I think starting off staring at the necessary acceptance of limitations is a good stone from which to pivot, shown therein Lacan’s writing, “With the individual — and as long as it is a question of the individual with all that that implies concerning internal dispositions and external actions — we find ourselves faced with limits. There is something that cannot be sublimated; libidinal demand exists, the demand for a certain dose, of a certain level of direct satisfaction, without which harm results, serious disturbances occur.”

Limitation feeds very easily into Hamlin’s denial: “Unrelentingly, these writers deny us the satisfaction not only of material achievement, but also of body, health, and even of self. These meditations are often (though not invariably) sad, but it is a preutilitarian sadness, a fully valid response to the world implying no problem in need of resolution and reflecting an outlook in which happiness is not the benchmark against which all social and natural phenomena are to be measured.” Both of these sources are yielding a similar endpoint: of satisfaction and happiness (unique, sure, but similar). Somewhere within the enjambment of satisfaction and happiness lies the operative tool of reward, and somewhere within this seed lies the ways in which one might use reward to create the inevitable staircase. 

I think Dazai is a refreshingly cool breath in the middle of these two thinkers, offering us a short glimpse, a story that functions very easily as a quest for reward, completed. May we all find that we desire and can see love, someday. 

Exercise #1:

Create a table much like the one below:

Reward for EffortReward for CompletionNonlinear Reward
Dance session after working outFinishing-poem cocktailsBuying myself a damn cake

Map out three genres in which you can identify yourself being rewarded. For me, I’ve provided reward for effort (i.e. giving myself an hour to dance after working out), reward for completion (i.e. buying a nice cocktail for myself after finishing a difficult poem), and a nonlinear reward (i.e. buying myself a cake at the supermarket for absolutely no reason). 

Try to write out three scenarios in each genre which you feel satisfy your unspoken constraints that bind the genres. 

Deliberate (and I always encourage writing it down in a journal or somewhere), what distinguishing pleasures are found from each separate type of reward. What would happen were you to get a reward typically reserved for your first genre for your third genre? Determine the lines you’ve drawn, how long you’ve drawn them, and with what tool. 

Reading #2:

Sinéad Morrissey,

  1. “Reading the Greats”
  2. “Clocks”
  3. “Dash”
  4. “Fur”
  5. “Fool’s Gold”
  6. “Lighthouse”
  7. “The Coal Jetty”

Donna Haraway, “Of Paradigms and Scientists”

Giannina Braschi, “Assault on Time”

Ruminations: 

Morrissey, “Is it for their failures that I love them?” 

Haraway, “Despite the multiple layers of meaning, the idea of paradigm consistently points in three substantive directions. Mastermann distinguishes the categories artefact paradigm, sociological paradigm, and metaparadigm; this book treats the subdivisions of metaphor and model, community, and revolution as roughly parallel.”

Braschi, “The eye of the window loses its transparency if the wind shuts it. Solitude has no enigma when it stays alone. But when your heart is a party, solitude becomes crowded with memories. Ignore this eye and that door.”

While the first readings set us up for a conversation about counterpoint and juxtaposition as enriching experiences, I think this set of readings, with Morrissey, Haraway, and Braschi, offer a magnifying glass on the ideas of counterpoint and juxtaposition. It might sound simple to say that the act of complication is what instills reward; however, I do not believe it is entirely wrong. But when they speak of complication, they are not speaking of the affect of discourse but the clarification within—that it is the processes and not the process as a whole. Morrissey offers an entryway with, “Is it for their failures that I love them?”

Braschi, following suit, offers the tail of this question (or the process of complicating it), “The eye of the window loses its transparency if the wind shuts it. Solitude has no enigma when it stays alone. But when your heart is a party, solitude becomes crowded with memories. Ignore this eye and that door.” 

Haraway, while not having any particularly outstanding quotes that speak toward this direct experience, I think allows for a template of this process. She takes the process of offering a profound ontological breakdown for the criticism and beliefs of a topology, and allows herself, within the discourse to weave and connect, complicate and walk away, to a point where I felt rewarded having understood the thought process behind what created this excerpt (even if I do not exactly know the full offshoots or blossoms of knowledge from the history offered within). 

Exercise #2: 

Take a passion of yours and try to create a compelling guide to this passion. Write your backstory with it. Detail the foundational texts, videos, mentors who guided this passion. Create a table of contents. Try to explore the sub-genres of this passion, who the masters are for those sub-genres, what might complicate or distinguish the sub-genres and how your relationship is with them. Spend as much time as you want with this, but try to limit yourself to 10 total pages. Anything after that breaches into fanaticism. Or, at least, you should be paid for that effort, and unfortunately I can only attempt to pay you in attempted emotional-spiritual benefit. 

When you’re done, ask yourself if you’ve excluded or occluded anything within the subject. Additionally, ask yourself of what parts of your guide provided the most pleasure and joy to write and what parts were among the lesser pleasures. 

Reading #3:

Katie Peterson,

  1. “Provisioning”
  2. “The Sentence”
  3. “Sweetness in the Face”

Mark Jerng, “On the Possibilities of an Antiracist Racial Worldmaking”

Alejandra Pizarnik,

  1. “And what to think of silence?”
  2. “I check for you in the wind”

Ruminations

Peterson, “Two winters. We continued / into the valley. we mended / the argument.” / “I believe you have been through enough. / The coin you spent is just a waste of what / the treacherous and fecund earth will cough / up when you stare its sweetness in the face.”

Jerng, “Instead, we must continually be alive to the question of historical possibility.” 

Pizarnik, “Silence is temptation and promise.” / “Each word is you begging to utter it. Each word is the long invitation to memory.” 

After coming to terms with unexpected representations of reward, and trying to consider finding reward in the process of challenge or complication rather than the result of challenge or complication, the next progression to take would be to find reward in nothing. Pizarnik closes this reading out with the lines, “Silence is temptation and promise,” and, “Each word is you begging to utter it. Each word is the long invitation to memory.” Of course, one can easily argue here that silence is certainly not nothing, yet here we are: a process without complications, a process that can be asked more from and will never give more than what it is. 

Jerng’s essay on worldbuilding is, in my opinion, a perfect capstone for theoretically understanding reward: as to understand the nuances of reward, as is prominent throughout the intentions of satisfaction and complication, is to create a world, ripe with laws and consequences. I don’t have much more to add to this than, in optimism, Jerng writes, “Instead we must continually be alive to the question of historical possibility.” 

A wren shouting about their next reward. Courtesy of Luzia Grob Dos Santos‎.

Finally, Peterson taps into both of these feelings: “Two winters. We continued / into the valley. we mended / the argument,” and, “I believe you have been through enough. / The coin you spent is just a waste of what / the treacherous and fecund earth will cough / up when you stare its sweetness in the face.” The continuation into the valley being the insistence of Jerng’s worldbuilding for historical possibility, and the quiet belief, insistence as silence, as a virile form of reward in its own. When all else, nothing is welcome. 

Exercise #3: 

Sit for thirty minutes in silence. Set a timer but don’t make the alarm be loud and obtrusive. Try to set the alarm to a favorite, soothing song. 

After, try to write, in one sentence, what reward is. 

Take another fifteen minutes in silence. This time set the alarm to a discordant song. Startle yourself awake from silence. 

Write one more sentence of what reward is. 

How are these understandings different, parallel? To which genre of reward are they speaking to most? 

Take a breath. You’ve done it, you’re exceptional. 

Final Exceptionalism: 

Unfortunate that we cannot simply afford to give ourselves every gift that we could ever want. 

Fortunate that reward does not have to be tied to gift. 

While we are determining where we reside within our necessities for reward and how to behave both considerately and unrepentantly toward it, believe in your capacity to desire more.  

Similar to the second exercise, for this final exceptionalism I want you to create the guidelines of an education for a passion you’ve had but haven’t pursued. If this is a hobby, or learning about a subject that you were interested in long ago but perhaps forgot, create guidelines that yield growth in a way that feels both tangible and realistic. 

Readings, videos, homework, challenges, milestones, and applications should all be considered in developing this educational exercise. Spend a few hours in total working on fleshing out this syllabus, and reward yourself when it is completed. 

It is up to you whether you want to pursue this education, at what pace, and with whom you’d like to engage in it. 

Should you fully finish your education, reward yourself once more. And tell me.  And tell me all the things you’ve learned. I will be so proud of you.