Back in 1985, I was lucky enough to take up now Harvard literature Professor Elaine Scarry’s first book, The Body in Pain: The making and unmaking of the world (Oxford University Press). It’s just the type of book I would not pick up planfully and am grateful, instead, to the Review Assignment gods for delivering it to me. Scarry’s asserts that the individual experiencing pain–whether as the result of intentional infliction or as a symptom of another condition–undergoes a revocation of the personal construct s/he recognizes as reality. It is not that the subject’s context undergoes objective change and yet, pain unmakes our contextual basis.
Ten years later, my house seemed to be breeding volumes by a very different Scarry: Richard Scarry, an American picture book author and artist, created a deep catalog of books in which animals of every species, anthropomorphically costumed, engage in every aspect of busyness the conscious body can express. There are books about occupations and books about vehicle use, books set in densely built cityscapes and others at sea. Scarry’s explorations of cheerful, colorful, overlapping busyness give the beholder pause: in fact, to explore Scarry’s busy world, one’s own busyness needs to be paused.
Together, these two Scarry’s taught, and reteach me when I can remember their articulations, that what I call “world”–that is, my reality–calls on me to construct insights that pain alters, and to take pauses to see that world in its busy details. Neither of these activities–recognition and pause–come readily to me as a matter of habit. Another damn good reason to read widely and catch the advisings of so many other constructivists.