I read an article about “zozobra,” a concept devised by Mexican philosophers of the early 20th century. Zozobra names a type of anxiety. For the philosopher Emilio Uranga, “Zozobra refers to a mode of being that incessantly oscillates between two possibilities, between two affects, without knowing which one of those to depend on.” “Zozobra,” write the article’s coauthors, “is a soul-sickness,” a “gnawing sense of distress” due to “cracks in the frameworks of meaning that we rely on to make sense of our world.” Figures like Jorge Portilla proposed what the authors call a “nationalist” solution to this crisis, with leadership intervening to construct “a coherent horizon of understanding at the national level…a shared sense of what is real and what matters.” Is the US, as these authors suggest, afflicted with zozobra? Is zozobra another name for what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics”? Haven’t frameworks of meaning always been sites of struggle between dominant and subordinate groups — classes, sects, tribes, etc. — as per Gramsci? To understand zozobra as a distinct affect, I hear myself thinking, one needs to situate it amid what was happening in 1950s Mexico, this being the moment and place of the term’s theorization. With spring underway, though, the concept slips away from me and evaporates — for my mood is less one of anxiety than one of excitement.
Revive the phenomenological category of the “lifeworld.” Review its history and weave it into the act of sitting, being-with-nature, the appearance of a pair of cardinals, lovers chirping, flitting from branch to branch amid a grove of trees. How can we best experience the sense of life as it unfolds into consciousness? Sarah steps around the corner, visits me to talk about pens beside a burst of pink flowers. Think of this, and of the cardinals, too, as signs of grace — sunlight through trees, enlightening signals of love and goodwill. The goal, as always, is to formulate a vision of wellbeing more compelling than the neoliberal “eudaimonic” subject. Perhaps I should read the work of Mexican philosopher Jorge Portilla, one of the so-called hiperiones, a group that also included Emilio Uranga. Time to school myself in Latin American philosophy, so as to better understand the interventions of El grupo Hiperión. With the arrival into the lifeworld of the Other (an arrival that has always-already occurred except in myth), the lifeworld divides into “homeworld” and “alienworld.” And this process of division continues indefinitely, with the proliferation of the Other into multiple Others leading to the reconstitution of the arrivant’s lifeworld into an interface with an ever-changing multiverse. Countless leaves, branches, insects, birds — being transforming day by day. The past, persisting for potential reactivation by consciousness, allows the latter to travel among worlds, entering and exiting identities as in a dream.