The Attention & The Ecstasy

The Attention & The Ecstasy October 25, 2016
Source:, CC

In a previous post, mention was made of the nexus linking the subgenre of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), the practice of dance, the attempts to transcend our limitations within the confines of our bodies, and communing with the divine.

However, there was in that post an embedded presumption, something that remained unexplored until a discussion on music came up in a dinner conversation earlier this month. Indeed, this presumption is what undergirds the notion that dance functions as a bridge between the temporal and the transcendent. The point of concern here is the nexus between music, the body and ecstasy.

No, not THAT kind of ecstasy (although the consumption of that form of ecstasy altering the experience of listening to EDM is explored here)!

THAT kind of ecstasy is chemically induced mutation of the kind of ecstasy considered here. The ecstasy considered here is not so much a drug but an anthropological category, an orientation towards self-dispossession spoken of by Emmanuel Mounier as a constant stepping out of oneself, a letting go of oneself to escape the confines of the hermetically sealed ego of Descartes. This is the independent, self-sufficient self touted in financial, fashion and tourism ads.

Paradoxically, however, these calls to believe in one’s own self-sufficiency is encased in a range of sensory stimuli – music, lights and images. These stimuli do not just draw one’s attention, for casting attention for a moment is a real drawing of self out of self. The act of giving attention to something is thereby one of the most mundane and also the most visceral acts of self-dispossession. We are thus never in a zone where we are not called to ultimately surrender ourselves to another.

Such attention – and such self-surrender – however, can be forced out of us. This is particularly the case in a cultural landscape where one becomes flooded by visual and audio stimuli when it is not wanted. Every brick, bulb, pixel, decibel and drop of ink draws us beyond ourselves in a tiny act of self-transcendence. Because of this, it is not only the cases of an encounter with another person where self-donation is demanded of you as a voluntary act. The seemingly neutral spaces where advertising is displayed and music is piped or blasted are not ethically neutral. They are  ecstatically loaded.

Thus, with our attention as Christians to restore an anthropology of self-donation, there is also a need to widen the inquiry to include those loci in our culture where that self-donation is already taking place and being demanded of.

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