Life as an Extreme Sport

disappearing into experience

The things that make you disappear into experience are random things. Or, to place it in Sartre’s terms, since I really should be writing about Sartre and not the other things swirling in my mind, some things hit so hard and fast they drop us from the reflective into the non-reflective, me-in-the-world. Like the red stained wood and Elliot Bay ferry images of Seattle’s Best Coffee.

It’s funny; Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t really make me homesick. It makes me laugh, because the closest they’ve been to Seattle is some alternative world Seattle where you go north on 99 from Queen Anne to get to Downtown. There are occasionally things I recognize, like flyers for the 5 Spot, but it’s so obviously a fictional place I feel no greater affinity for it than I do any other place I’ve never been.

But for just a moment, the pure, non-reflective experience of this Seattle’s Best had me both wondering where I was and experiencing Seattle, and missing Seattle. I miss the sharp smell of the saltwater air, the breezes racing up streets, playing hide and seek with you as you run through the Downtown grid, the misty dripping of the weather, the campus, the people. I miss going to wine bars with friends, meeting up for coffee or movies, the occasional night dancing, sitting in my cramped living room with the cats, doing shots to Stargate, birthday parties… I miss the life I had.

Isn’t it weird, when we slip into experiential being, and forget where we are? I had that a lot last weekend in Denver — I was around everyone I see here in Albany, and inside, so it was hard to remember that I was actually in Denver and not simply at a long affair at home. Stepping up to the Seattle’s Best counter, looking at the ferry/Public Market picture, I had that same sort of experiential dissonance, where for a moment, I knew I was in Seattle, and if I turned around and walked outside, it would be damp, grey, cold, and familiar. The moment I moved to reflective self, to saying “I am thinking I’m in Seattle”, I was of course able to say “no, idiot, I’m standing in Albany thinking I’m thinking I’m in Seattle” (which I suppose leaps from the first to second reflective state), but there is still a sharp jarring between the non-reflective and reflective. I feel I’m in one place, while I know I’m in another.

I wonder if any of the phenomenologists have an answer for that?


  1. Kelly, I’ll drink a latte for ya on my ferry to Orcas this afternoon! Thank you for some reminders of why I love this place, despite the fact that it’s 40 deg F and raining.

  2. “Disappearing into experience”. I really like that phrase it captures something I have been thinking about but I haven’t been able to articulate very well. Just yesterday I was debating with my friend Stacey over the relationship between language and experience. Your phrase hear give me something to ponder.

    I don’t know if I have the answer to your phenomenological question but having travelled a lot across the US in the last year or so I have come to appreciate the remarkable sameness of places. You pull into one town and you accomodate your surroundings in a way that affirms their familiarity even though you haven’t been there before. You notice the same shops, the same patterns, same traffic lights. Occasionally difference punctures the illusion. A street sign, house style, some piece of architecture. Strange weather. But for the most part sameness prevails. I think this is the force of history and past experience compelling a specific perception of the present. Of course the real trick is being in a place that is all too familiar and recognizing it for its newness. Very occasionally I will have that experience here in Seattle where a rush of everything comes over you as fresh and new. It seems like it is only in these moments that I am actually able to perceive Seattle as it really is. The rest of the time experiential blinders are on.

    Oh yeah, Seattle is nice but be careful romanticizing it too much. It is raining and miserable right now. 🙂

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