09 April 2008

The Culture of Acknowledgment.

I, of course, had these grandiose plans.

I was going to launch into some kind of philosophical discourse using the introduction of Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare by Stanley Cavell. My dear readers, I'm revisiting this book, but more particularly its introduction, for myself and a friend who consequently wouldn't mind talking about such stuff.

Well, time and space and circumstances of this week have prevented me from really revisiting and reevaluating Cavell in the way that I would like. In any case, I thought that after rereading Cavell's introduction I might have something pointed to say about the concept of acknowledgment.

I still may, of course, but that will have to come a bit later than today--like perhaps after the weekend.

In any case, I would still like to briefly address acknowledgment as I would like to understand it for this moment in this point in my life. Or, if I am to be more honest, I would like to pose some questions about acknowledgment, particularly in relationships.

A dear friend of mine has suffered the demise of a relationship that was quite significant. And the one wish of that friend was to have the partner in the relationship say something (hopefully affirmative) about the importance of the time spent together, the shared emotion, the intimacy, the friendship.

There was a desire for some kind of recognition of what had happened between the pair. The desire to know that at least one part of the relationship was a good thing, a great thing even.
There is, I further suppose, the desire to know that all the time and the feeling was not a waste.

There is this need hear the words "you meant something to me," or "I acknowledge what you did to make my life what it is (not necessarily better ; not necessarily worse) and this, will stay with me for the duration."

I no doubt think that this desire for acknowledgment is certainly a complicated one. We want to hear that for the limited time we were with a person or in charge of something, or helping someone, we did everything that we could have to keep things as they were intended at the time.

But I think that our desire for acknowledgment (or at least my own desire for it at times) stems from this inability to understand the larger universe and our place in it after something is no longer true that we believed to be true (even though we as scholars are taught to be supportive of and questioning of the multiple truths in the universe).

What's odd is that when we finally receive those words that we most want(ed) to hear (or come to terms with the fact that we will never hear them at all), things still aren't quite right. After you're kicked out of the band and the rest of them lived the dream that you had together, they apologize to you now that it's all over, by publicly acknowledging your contribution and importance. Does it make you feel better? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

My central question of his very incoherent post is this: Why doesn't acknowledgment always make people feel better?


Megarita said...

I think it's because closure is a myth. Acknowledgment only really works, I reckon, when someone acknowledges that you're absolutely right. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just that it doesn't feel good unless you're being validated, at least in my (admittedly selfish and narcissistic) experience.

Claven said...

Phenomenal post!

The tricky thing is that actions matter far more than words for me. Actions of acknowledgement are hard to come by because they are ultimately about character. They require a lot more thought and emotion than a passive "I'm sorry." In my last go round I pre-emptively disallowed any future apology. A lack of character caused the situation, so I didn't want to entertain the verbal BS.

Acknowledgement doesn't resolve everything because the acknowledgement does not simply erase the action that caused the acknowledgement. Does that make any sense?

Pascal √Čbert said...

I think we tend to mix acknowledgment with validation. Validation is the face you see in the mirror before you switch the light on in the morning. Acknowledgment is the puffy eye and caked hair that blink back at you.

Somewhere between the two is truth and that nearly always causes us to flinch.

I know this doesn't address directly your question but, to tell the truth, I'm going to have to sleep on this one.

a little of this, a little of that... said...

Working from Megarita's and Pascal's comments, I think that when one wants acknowledgment, one wants acknowledgment that validates their own personal interpretation of their experiences in the matter. What they often get (with some degree of latitude for how well the people understand each other and the extent to which spite and sarcasm run wild) is acknowledgment rooted in the other person's experiences, a different interpretation of a shared history.

Dexter Colt said...

The need for acknowledgment is driven by vanity. It is completely self-serving/preserving.

Jean said...

I think it's because we have to create real truth (acknowlegement-- knowing something that surpasses an individual's individual knowledge)while the bonds of illusion are still there.

When we break up, we throw out the illusion and call it that and affix it to the reality it was. If things didn't progress much, the illusion can sometimes recoagulate, (not too much reality there) but in the longer relationships, that ones which generate the deepest longing for that that kind of post--post-- acknowldgement--when they fall, they fall hard and the pieces can't pick themselves up again. just my take. so personal.

JordanBaker said...

Because it's never really "all" you want, no matter how much you insist that it is. It's only when you get it that you realize that it's only a mask for larger things.

ma said...

megarita, probably.

claven, thanks! And I think that I understand you.

pascal, I think the distinctions drawn between validation and acknowledgment.

alot, too true.

dexter colt, I am vain. :(

jean, you are right.

jordan baker, you're right too.

So many brilliant readers. Thank you all.

Dexter Colt said...

Vanity is normal. It is self-loathing that falls in the spectrum of abnormal.

suicide_blond said...

jordanbaker beat me to it!!... it doesnt work..because its NOT truly what they want...even though many times...they themselves dont realize it...