Foreword: Advice in this Liquid Midst

in The Negotiated Self
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Miracle: From the Latin mīrāculum: object of wonder. Mīrāculum from mīrārī, to wonder at. From mīrus, wonderful. From smeiros [(s) mei – PIE – proto-Indo-European] “to smile, to be astonished.” Also Sanskrit: smerah “smiling.” Also Old Church Slavic: Smejo – to laugh.

jackie Seidel, 2016, p. 7


No Foreword can pretend to usurp or outrun that which it faces. None of us need another summary fly-over. So, I’ll begin with this meagre attempt at stepping into the territory of this lovely text.

Such is the trickle of water down a metal chute. Alberta. Spring. Such is an exercise in staring down depressions in the snow. As long as I can remember, cutting troughs in slush has been a great locale of enchantment. As a child. Still, old guy, these singing, boot-soaker pleasures. A hand had in having Spring come faster as the released ices shoot their way to water.

d37347865e582A trickle of water down a metal chute
Seasonally affected, this, but this is no disorder. When experience is stood over and magnified, it enlarges and enlarges me with it:

The more you practice these things, the more accustomed your mind will become to them, and the easier it will be to practice what you had initially found difficult to learn. You will have visions of the Buddha day and night. (Tsong-kha-pa, 2000, pp. 185–186)

One arises from formal meditation and goes about daily activities, seeing the manifestations of the world and living beings as mandala deities. This is the Samadhi that transforms the world and its living brings into a most extraordinary vision. All experiences are taken as manifestations of great ecstasy. (Tsong-kha-pa, 2005, p. 125, emphasis added)

So, thus, this book names and re-names a “deliquescent move” (Derby, 2015, p. 61): “from Latin deliquescere ‘to melt away,’ from de- … + liquescere ‘to melt,’ from liquere ‘to be liquid’” (On-Line Etymological Dictionary), a move characteristic of hermeneutic work at is best, which “makes the object and all its possibilities fluid” (Gadamer, 1989, p. 367).

Consider, under this move, this partial, not impartial, list picked passim from this text:

“Co-constructed,” “ever changing,” “negotiated,” “perpetually in progress,” “fluid,” “fragmented,” “fuzzy,” “co-authored,” “reflexive,” “reflective,” “imaginative,” “multiple,” “elusive,” “intangible,” “fragile,” “contradictory,” “flow[ing],” “complicated,” “interconnected,” “felt,” “personal,” “colonized,” “ongoing,” “composed,” “lost,” “re-gained,” “unresolved,” “ever-changing,” “forming and re-forming,” “indeterminate,” “shadowy,” “unknowab[le],” “temporariness,” “regenerated,” “raw,” “visceral,” “incomplete,” “back-formed,” “aggregate,” “generative,” “nomadic,” “re-emergent,” “intersubjective,” “vulnerable,” “becoming,” “in the throes,” “elaborative,” “shifting,” “volatile,” “contradictory,” “unfinalized,” “dynamic,” “dissonant,” “subjective,” “self-conscious,” “unconscious,” “embodied,” “process.”

This “making fluid” is a sometimes-ecstatic, sometimes-painful, often-both act of restoration and reconciliation as these pages ensue, because it aims at making its object – our lives, our living, our identities – teachers and otherwise – into what it has been all along, but what has sometimes taken on the semblances of frozenness, hardness, reification, sedimentation, calcification, capture, or the like. The great shock found repeatedly in this text is that our living has never been such a trap, however deeply felt the entrapment. It has always trickled “beyond our wanting and doing” (Gadamer, 1989, p. xxviii).

The unavoidable parallel niggle is that none of these words is exactly right or exactly wrong and this is no remediable error, but in the nature of the task at hand. Every time we might zero in on one of them, they fulfill another old hermeneutic adage:

Every word breaks forth as if from a center [and] causes the whole of the language to which it belongs to resonate and the whole world-view that underlies it to appear. Thus, every word carries with it the unsaid. (Gadamer, 1989, p. 458)

Zooming in on any one of these terms is instantaneously zooming outwards. Every word radiates outwards into the worlds of its emergence and sustenance, all its relations, presumptions, histories, ancestries, “to which it is related by responding and summoning” (p. 458).

d37347865e657Buddha meditating under spring sunlight, being a magnification of ‘A trickle of water down a metal chute’

Look, then. When every word is stood over and magnified, it enlarges and enlarges me with it.


The list of words from this text not only point to deliquescence. They themselves are each precisely that. Each term makes each term open-eyed to that which it aches to, but fails to, quite name:

d37347865e669The third eye blinks in slight indigo, being another magnification of ‘A trickle of water down a metal chute’
“We can entrust ourselves to what we are investigating to guide us safely in the quest” (Gadamer, 1989, p. 378). Aristotelian dreams, Thomist dreams of mensuratio ad rem (Gadamer, 1989, p. 261). That is to say, how to approach this liquid phenomenon must find its measure, not in some methodological assurance or confidence or some goal of “fix[ing] it once and for all in a way equally accessible to all” (Husserl, 1970, pp. 177–178), but in the thing itself. We find these swirls of words in this text, these poetic and deeply personal, sometimes painfully intimate outreaches precisely and exactly because of the deliquescent nature of the thing itself that calls for something adequate to its nature in the express of words:

Both the one who understands and the thing that is understood “are” historically, that is, in the process of unfolding themselves over time, and neither the one who understands, nor the thing understood “are” statically present [-at-hand] independently of each other. Both “are” in their interactive development. Hence, understand is still a mensuratio ad rem, as Gadamer puts it, or, in another traditional formulation, an adaequatio intellectus ad rem, except that the “adequation” of the intellect, its measuring and fitting of itself, is never to a timeless thing that always is what it is, some brute fact, “determinable” and independent of the one who knows it. [W]e might better speak of a reciprocal adaequatio intellectus et rei, of the temporary adequation of two entities, intellect and thing to each other, each in their particular historical development at the given time. (Smith, 2011, pp. 24–25)

d37347865e713A reciprocal adaequatio intellectus et rei, being a further magnification of ‘A trickle of water down a metal chute’
d37347865e721“Like a prisoner whose cell gate has never been locked’ being, for now, one last magnification of ‘A trickle of water down a metal chute’


To learn what the path to Buddhahood is, is to learn what the True Self is. To learn what the True Self is, is to forget about the self. To forget about the self is to become one with the whole universe. To become one with the whole universe is to be shed of ‘my body and mind’ and ‘their bodies and minds’. (Dogen, 2007, p. 32)

My thanks to Megan Liddell (2016, pp. 175–176) for spotting a fleeting idea from David Loy’s The World is Made of Stories:

Our stories are never finished, and therefore never unfinished. If reality itself is always incomplete, each moment becomes complete in itself, lacking nothing. (Loy, 2010, p. 40)

Immerse yourself in meaningful, rich and deep work with students and you will forget about finishing it. Teacher, you are never finished, but you are also never unfinished. What matters most is what you do with the very next moment in front of you. (Liddell, 2016, p. 176)

The water’s now well down the driveway in the full mix of things, still-ripple and shining in the mixes of road gravel and horse shit and boot prints in the slush and sloosh.

It’s why the dogs scurry back and forth when we walk the road. So much dissolved to solve in every whiff. Two great fur saints following the paths of deliquescence.

So, there go the Ravens, my dears, again caught and uncaught on the warm Spring-air foothill uplifts.

To be dying under their wings is a weird miracle.


Meanwhile, I read my way through this book, feeling much “like a prisoner whose cell gate has never been locked” (Loy, 2010, p. 41).

Meanwhile, too, as per all those gathered in this text, I write my way here to this gathering. This has become my practice, my gate-key. To paraphrase Tsong-kha-pa (2000, p. 211) from a text originally composed in Tibet in 1406, I compose this in order to compose myself over this written gathering.

Tsong-kha-pa said, too, “cultivate love for those who have gathered” (2000, p. 64). Solid advice in this liquid midst.


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  • SmithP. C. (2011). Destruktion-Konstruktion: Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricouer. In F. Mootz III & G. Taylor (Eds.) Gadamer and Ricouer: Critical horizons for contemporary hermeneutics (pp. 1542). New York, NY: Continuum.

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The Negotiated Self

Employing Reflexive Inquiry to Explore Teacher Identity

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