When I think of Sartre I think of three things: Grand Theft Auto Five, the summer and his concept of ‘place’.
The memory of Sartre is placed in-between the summer of 2014 and the enjoyment of playing grand theft auto. I’m synesthetic. I see numbers occupying a landscape like a track. They have moods, emotions, and colors. The number forty two is my favorite number. It’s composed of the operands six and seven. Six is brown, seven is blue. Together, forty two makes a cedar colored deck. I can tell you why.
Five is the easiest operand to work with in any expression. When learning my multiplication I often confused the sum of the relative expressions. Five multiplied seven times is thirty-five. Five multiplied six times is Thirty. Six multiplied six times is thirty Six. Six multiplied by four is twenty four. I often confused this expression with eight and three.
When I was in school we were taught multiplication by rote memorization and practice.
Eight and five is 40. Nine and five is forty-five. Nine is red. The color red often represents danger. When something needs to catch our attention it is often written in red. Matadors use red capes to draw in a charging bull. But red also designates success on a test. A ninety percent or greater grade is often written in red, in my mind – or at least, it was when I attended school.
Eight is yellow. It is caution. I spent a lot of time swinging on our families’ back-yard swing-set after dinners, just before bed. We grew up in a beautiful neighborhood, and our orientation of play at dusk was always west. Embodying the optimism of youth, always anticipating the range of activities the next day could allow, we would search between the arch of each swing for the measurable quantities we were aware of. Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors warning. Kids on swings never want it to rain. When the setting sun promises to rise the following day equal to our measures of its value to us, its yellow glow would slowly fade forming crimson red and pink. Painting the sky and entailing the procession of youth.
So nine has this bivalent, dangerous quality; often frightening, yet always elusive to determination. And eight, which symbolized an approximation of academic aptitude. Like an insouciant courtier operating properly beyond affectation, as if even the most extraordinary comes as naturally to her in movement as breath to sleep, to excitement.
Seven is cold. On paper it represents mediocrity or disappointment, depending on the context. If it was received after effort, the latter. If it was received after indifference, the former. And yet it is also an enticing number. It’s blue. Like the above-ground pool in our west-facing back-yard. Or like the tease of spring, when shorts don’t quite keep you warm but you wear them anyway hoping that by doing so nature will find your sacrifice worthy and concede. Spring and roller-blading street-hockey are mutually exclusive. In our nice neighborhood, the street cleaners rarely cleaned the salt off the road in time for our desire. Spring means summer, and summer means summer-break.
Six is brown. A grayish-brown. Six represents my guitar. It is the struggle of music, the guitar-lessons and the practicing. Academically, anything starting ‘six’ is unacceptable. I got my first guitar when I was in the sixth grade. Six is not my favorite number.
Five itself is black, always. Simple. Easy. Empty.
When I think of six and seven I think of the thirties. Thirty to thirty nine is a harsh area. Is Eight times four thirty-two? Is nine times four thirty six. Though six times six is thirty six, too. Six plus six is twelve. Twelve is a great number; four times three. Nine plus four is thirteen. Thirteen is a prime number. Seven plus six is thirteen.
In contrast, from forty to forty-nine, the feeling is much different. Everything is bright and spacious and light. The thirties are cramped and dark and uncertain and empty. Yet inside three moves you have a base-ten; eight, nine ten (as operands multiplied by five). And in the first quarter of that area you have seven and six. Forty-two. This brown and this blue. Each associated with the first view of a final obstacle. In the first hand music, and in the other, spring. Intimately related and yet often opposing each-other when they function.
Available to me now are far fewer potential places because the space of available interaction due to my illness and its consequences (both direct (physical) and indirect (emotional, social, etc…) has diminished significantly. Even in such a short period of time, as summer-January is.
The diminishment of place contributes to psychological well-being tremendously. Especially when it is due to a diminished space of available interaction. That distinction is an important one because although the diminished-effect could have been prevented, it wasn’t. Diminished of place can be due to many things, but rarely is it strictly due to the diminishing space of available interaction.
That space of interaction is the space in which I can interact with the world. But more specifically, with those things which give you place (family, education, work, activities, hobbies, knowledge. Even geographic freedom), and also the quality of the interaction.
For most people, all they are likely to experience is a diminished quality of interaction without their space being limited. It may feel limited, and they may limit themselves. But not irreparably. As is the case with me (where repairability is the capacity to repair, oneself, not the quality of the object being acted on, or repaired). For me, the quality of the object has diminished beyond repair, and thus the space has diminished.
This is a significantly distinct aspect of life with a complex chronic medical condition that is overlooked. There’s always lots of talk about the ‘experience’ of chronic illness. There’s never a shortage of stories. Some of which involve very precise and very creative metrics (social networks, pain, autonomy, quality-of-life (specific government metric for determining disability status). The spoon theory is a convenient and fairly reliable explanation.
We are all in some sense synesthetic when it comes to place. We create relations between objects (ideas, people, places, memories etc…) and ourselves giving us a sense of place. When kids invite friends over they say ‘wanna’ come over to my place’. Linguistically, they mean their home. But semantically they mean their personal place within that home. The relationship they have with the property, with the home, with the objects in the home. The relationships with the people; as a son, or a daughter, a brother or a niece. And quality, not just quantity, affects their place too. Particularly in relation to social standards. If you come from an abusive home you might not feel a place. Or you might feel your place is among that group of people like you, or whom society excludes or disregards. You may experience this directly, or sense it from the absence of rewards typically received by people with better places – which often most importantly include the opportunity for more ‘place’. For more friendships, relationships and jobs. And for the quality of those as well.
When it comes to place, hierarchical ordering is wonderfully largely absent. It’s like 42, each associated with the first view of a final obstacle, within a landscape often blindingly open and inviting, or dark and unexplored. Place is somewhat always both.