Alexandria Peary (2016) The Role of Mindfulness in Kairos, Rhetoric Review, 35:1, 22-34, DOI: 10.1080/07350198.2016.1107825
- Mindfulness approaches offer guidance in noticing the present, which can be applied to the rhetorical situation of composing to achieve positive outcomes in invention, engagement, and fluency. Mindfulness enhances kairotic practice in three important ways: first, by including flux as a factor alongside exigence, audience, and constraints; second, by offering a dynamic of time and space for composing that emphasizes actual time, separating invention from performance; and third by providing access to intrapersonal rhetoric (23).
- Fundamentally, this view of kairos alters our notion of rhetorical situation as it includes impermanence alongside the exigence, audience, and constraints that Lloyd Bitzer identified as the “three constituents of any rhetorical situation” (6).
- While skeptics of Sophistic practice critique this contingency as a form of evasion or moral relativism, others perceive it as a source of creative opportunity—a type of ongoing, always-available heuristic. According to Gregory Mason, this kairos can be “linked to a broader affirmation of transience in life” and stands in contrast to the Platonic pursuit of timelessness and its ideal, static forms … Kairos is responsive to the present; it becomes a matter of improvisation, of creating in response to the “shaping influence of the ever-changing present occasion” (24).
- When applied to writing, mindfulness entails the perception of the constant change—or groundlessness—that occurs during composing (24).
- Undoubtedly, much writing is accomplished without mindfulness, but when the qualities of mindful writing are understood—including reflection, critical thinking and awareness, ability to see multiple possibilities, heightened decision-making capacity, access to imagination, not to mention affective ones including greater calm, presence of mind, and physical well-being—it is possible that composing could benefit from this approach. Contemplative practice can help students reach insights that in turn bolster their rhetorical engagement (25). [Why do we/must we privilege Rhetoric? Why must contemplative practice serve the Greek master to be accepted in FYW pedagogy?]
- As Peter Elbow points out in Vernacular Eloquence, writing comes with physical modalities of both time (it persists, unlike the ephemera of unrecorded speech) and space (it occupies a physical dimension) (25-26).
- According to Bryan Short, the temporality of rhetoric tilts toward the future perfect tense, discussing the past in the future (such as “I will have completed the memo by 2 PM”). This future-perfect temporality is an anxiety connected to repression; the mind promises to keep at bay “anticipated rather than experienced sensations” (369). In other words, an individual in the act of writing overlooks the sensations that are arising in the moment and instead dwells on a future moment of evaluation (26).
- Awareness of actual time and its incumbent sensations can help an individual refocus on the kairotic present and ignore hypothetical scenarios involving the anticipated reception of discourse (26). [Okay, but I wonder if there is a deeper connection here. Invention, as becoming the future via the present moment? Maybe?]
- Mindful writing does not discount these important rhetorical considerations, but it does argue for increased attention to the attributes of the composing present that frequently pass unseen (26).
- James Moffett defined this inner speech as a writing-conducive mix of intrapersonal dialogue, memory, verbalized and not yet verbalized mate- rial that meditation can assist. For Moffett, “inner speech that boils off the self represents some sort of confused concoction of self and society. Through ordering this chaos, we may use composition to achieve composure” (235).
- Inner conversation, called discursivity, intrapersonal communication, internal rhetoric, and, more picturesquely, “monkey mind,” is a constant self-talk in which individuals wittingly or unwittingly partake. A lack of awareness of the intrapersonal can cause problems in interpersonal communications, as the psychoanalysist Carl Rogers proposed in the 1950s (83–85).
- Individuals who practice mindfulness attempt to become aware of but not reactive to that inner conversation as one element of any present moment (27). [Look more into monkey mind. Also think more about the non-reactive component as related to worknets and controversy mapping (ethos, etc.)]
- Nienkamp maintains that internal rhetoric carries as much impact as interpersonal rhetoric, that a rhetorical self is constructed as much as a piece of writing is constructed, and that it is specifically internal rhetoric that keeps kairos from becoming purely opportunistic (27)
- Kairotic invention is not a matter of course; instead, instruction and practice with this type of invention needs to occur to avoid the human predilection for mindlessness. Multiple difficulties with writing result from a lack of mindfulness: the inability to separate composing from editing, to develop a productive audience relationship, or to accurately perceive the writing pro- cess. Furthermore, a lack of awareness of the present moment is our default position, not kairos (28). [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]
- Just as an individual denies the different nature of discrete moments by attempting to repeat pleasant experiences (a fine meal at a restaurant, a successful experience of bargaining at work, keeping a souvenir from a tropical vacation), a person similarly resists impermanence when writing by utilizing the same drafting strategy, maintaining the rigid rules discussed early on by Mike Rose, keeping a ritual in order to write, or thinking an interaction with an editor or teacher will resemble one in the past—to only name a few (28). [Is ritual/resisting impermanence always bad, though? Is there an occasion for practice/rules/ritual? Early in learning, perhaps?]
- Stanley puts this well when he says: “From a Buddhist perspective, attachment to a fixed ground is seen as an existential dead-end” (63). A gimmick clung to will likely lead a writer high and dry on a beach of blank thought(28). [Makes me think of premature thesis-writing!]
- The rhetorical self is susceptible to mindlessness and requires training: “Education, then, must promote the practice of internal rhetoric so that students will act in accordance with kairos and thereby gain and exhibit wisdom” (Nienkamp 131) (28).
- Accepting changeability isn’t an easy feat (all the more reason for instruction), and the Sophists recognized how staying flexible, dissoi logoi, to circumstance “touched the heart of the painful problem of knowledge” (Untersteiner 119) (28). [Challenges of contingency … Also, look more deeply into dissoi logoi.]
- It’s almost as though writing experts are averse to entering an individual’s real-time engagement with composing, deemed private or too internal. As a result, the scholarship of invention has emphasized theory over praxis, offering fewer of the “heuristics generally considered to be the fullest expression of the canon” (Atwill xi).
- Also in Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention, Janet Lauer has described how in the discipline of Composition-Rhetoric, “a number of earlier emphases in scholarship on invention have either disappeared or been marginalized” (2).
- Worsham suggests that invention touches upon the sore point of whether writing is a “learned competence” and that to teach invention as a technology (a systematized techne) is to constrict human potential, making it “bloodless” (29). [Can we observe an ebb and flow of trend here? And is this critique of theory>praxis enacting the very thing it warns of?]
- The correlate to this Buddhist precept of non-attachment to even the concept of non-attachment is that ultimately even the notion that writing entails a process should be up for questioning. As an upshot, there is nothing stable or static in this teaching but rather constant contingency, even in the discussion of pedagogy. Thus the answer seems that teaching kairos itself has to employ kairos— in teaching the moment, one needs to make conscious use of that moment. This praxis can be accomplished by a mindful progymnasmata of performed writing techniques that include—and not overlook or disregard—the permutations of the moment inside the classroom (30). [So what does this look like? Do this!]