“Change life! Change society! These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space . . . new social relationships call for a new space, and vice versa.” —Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space
The first of what we had hoped would become a series of Trash Community gatherings was advertised by Glenn Wallis as “a gesture of fishing out the drowned.” What came out of this gesture—one thing, at least—was a mutual recognition among its participants that we are all drowning. Drowning, that is, in what has become the dominant space of Western Buddhism, a space seemingly devoid of the possibility for new forms of critical practice.
Space, as Henri Lefebvre reminds us, is a social production. Within socially produced spaces, moreover, is where social relationships both emerge and are shaped. What I am hoping for when it comes to the future of Trash Community—a future which is thus far, admittedly, obscure and unpredictable—is the production of a new kind of space, and in turn, new kinds of social relationships. While the production of new spaces and new social relationships must by nature remain, in some sense, a blind process, a few common themes emerged in preliminary discussions of what such a space might look like. Ideas such as “non-hierarchical,” “anti-mutual admiration society,” and “friendliness toward unfriendly disagreement,” might be among those we hope to embody in such a community.
In the nearly two-hour-long chaos that was the first Trash Community gathering, some things became clear (although plenty of things became obscured as well!). For example, it became clear that the environment most conducive to the emergence of new perspectives and ideas, as well as non-ordinary conversations that may lead to non-ordinary forms of practice, is one in which a variety of perspectives come together with an explicit resistance toward a unification of perspectives, toward, as one participant quipped, “community silos.”
Therein emerged another explicit postulate to be added to those already formulated under Trash Theory: “We are each the master of our own perspective.” This postulate is not meant to be read in a trite, individualistic, spirit. Rather, this postulate is to be understood as the two-fold recognition that (a) despite the insistence among the often over-stated emphasis on unity characteristic of corporate liberalism, subjectivities do differ, and that (b) we each possess the most direct access to an understanding of our own perspectives, which is to say, our own subjectivities. Perhaps, in the spirit of Buddhism’s obsession with introspection, we may borrow such a practice and repurpose it for the sake not of reifying our subjectivities but of placing them into dialogue with those of others, in the hope that something new and interesting emerges in the way our own subjectivities are understood and continually formed as process.
We hope, then, that the future of Trash Community functionalizes as a continued struggle as a coming-to-terms-with, and willingness-to-challenge, our own subjectivity. This aim may be strived toward in a variety of ways, none of which are exclusive, nor one better than the other: the reading and discussion of a text; the dialogic—rather than “meditative”—contemplation of a word or phrase; the discussion of one or other concrete individual or social struggle we find ourselves in as individuals and social beings; and the list will hopefully get longer as more conversations proceed. Loosely, the structure of such a struggle would consist in a rotation of individual-led facilitation—a word which, while it does imply focus and directionality at the hands of a Master, crucially, within this context, it contains within it an explicit exclusion of the possibility of Masters, Gurus, or any such form of a big Other. Anyone is equally welcome to facilitate a discussion. The topic, text, phrase, or personal struggle which is to be placed in the service of such a discussion is left entirely up to whomever chooses to step into the role of facilitator within a particular conversation. The only constraints that do exist, and which we hope to continue making explicit, are those outlined above.
We plan to kick off the first officially “directed” Trash Community with a conversation facilitated by Elizabeth Reed, who first made explicit to us the idea of a “mastery of one’s perspective.” We hope that you will join us to listen, discuss, and—ideally—be inspired by, the next instantiation of Trash Community.
Stay tuned for a Doodle poll to figure out our next session. If you have any questions in the meantime, don’t hesitate contacting us: firstname.lastname@example.org.