Disorientation and Queer Objects
The instability of levels produces not only the intellectual experi-
ence of disorder, but the vital experience of giddiness and nausea,
which is the awareness of our own contingency and the horror
with which it fills us.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
of disorientation are vital. They are bodily experiences that
throw the world up, or throw the body from its ground. Disorientation
as a bodily feeling can be unsettling, and it can shatter one’s sense of con-
fidence in the ground or one’s belief that the ground on which we reside can
support the actions that make a life feel livable. Such a feeling of shattering, or
of being shattered, might persist and become a crisis. Or the feeling itself
might pass as the ground returns or as we return to the ground. The body
might be reoriented if the hand that reaches out finds something to steady an
action. Or the hand might reach out and find nothing, and might grasp in-
stead the indeterminacy of air. The body in losing its support might then be
lost, undone, thrown.
Sometimes, disorientation is an ordinary feeling, or even a feeling that
comes and goes as we move around during the day. I think we can learn from
such ordinary moments. Say, for example, that you are concentrating. You
focus. What is before you becomes the world. The edges of that world dis-
appear as you zoom in. The object—say the paper, and the thoughts that
gather around the paper by gathering as lines on the paper—becomes what is
given by losing its contours. The paper becomes worldly, which might even
mean you lose sight of the table. Then, behind you, someone calls out your
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