Conversation after the exercise, an (edited) transcript:
Tuning into our readings. This is really subtle … showing up things. What was the nature of the distraction that I was experiencing? The distraction was not always coming from the outside: there is the inner distraction and the outer distraction. Resistance to noise can create the inner focus.
How can we be so attuned? How can we be so synchronised? The times we both stopped at the very same point without knowing that the other one would stop. A strange intuition — what is that? Does reading out loud create the conditions of concentration? Or is it to do with recognising that you are in the same space as someone else who is engaged in the same kind of task? This somehow refocuses you.
When you were reading out loud I could tune into where you were in the reading. But these are the points where you are not really reading — if you were really reading there would not be the need (within our parameters) to read out loud. The points when you are reading out loud are the places that show up the not really reading.
There is this instruction - but you are questioning yourself constantly. What is the right-ness of this doing? What is the precision, the parameters of precision? Or even, when am I really reading? What is the reading if you say I am really reading? Yes, she is reading, reading, reading — she is performing this technique. What does it mean? No one knows where we are when we read.
My mind was distracted - I needed to hold on my own voice. In the beginning this meant that I wasn’t reading. This announces a moment of dis-focus. Sometimes, I don’t read out loud because that also created a kind of exposure. I could be listened to - I don’t do this to be listened to. I just do it for myself.
Was the decision to stop reading out loud indicating the point of concentration reestablished or some other thing? Not to overuse the means. I stopped the loud reading when I felt that I could again be on my own, when there was no kind of distraction going on.
This task that we set ourselves - which was we read out loud almost as a notation system actually, it notates the dissipating focus, the loss of concentration, distraction. How is that different to when you read out loud for clarity — when there is a loss of concentration in the middle of a sentence, when you lose the thread of it? Is that a different kind of distraction?
One could speak of the interaction between the noise, the spatial distraction and then being over-attracted to the text, to one word. When there are unexpected turns in the sentence or when there are words that you don’t understand. The very interruption of going back and re-reading and re-focusing on a sentence is disturbing. The reading as an activity needs a certain flow.
There is a level of external noise that is enabling. I have to be concentrated - I have to make more effort to really be there. It forced my inner attention to the text. The impossibility of concentration because of silence — silence as a condition of impossibility.
When I am silent with the text I have more ability to roam in my mind. To make it more my own - I can follow the text but I can also be in my own space with the text. When I have to work against the environment I feel like I can only follow the text. I cannot make my own thought in parallel.
The triangulation between my own internal thinking processes, external distraction and the text itself. The sense of the inner space and outer space threshold: the more noise there is externally the more I am concentrating on being simultaneous to the text in my thinking; the less noise there is the more my own internal noise seems to arise.
The hands and the page — using a finger to trace the words. Trying to stay in fidelity to the task. Could I use the chaos of an opening to really understand something about reading, because you really have to work against so many resistances to really stay with the task?
What would it be like if I walked when I was concentrated and then stood still and read out loud when I was distracted? What is it that enables me to go from a state of lapsed concentration into concentration? Is it to do with getting back into the interest of the text, or something to do with the rhythm of walking?
It felt like I could only recognise that I had lost concentration after the event of it. My capacity to show that I had lost concentration, by deciding to stop, or to voice, was always a second or more later than when the shift had happened.
When I came nearer to you, there were times when your voice distracted me, or called me away from concentration and there were times when it increased my concentration. It was not consistent. Sometimes the sense of hearing you also doing it and the confirmation of the task somehow sharpened my focus. It creates a certain kind of community. We are doing this: we are together.