Part 1: Mechanical Labrador Cerberus (and the other ones)

Sometimes the everyday appears to be the sole reality, the reality of realists, dense, weighty and solid. At other times it seems that its weight is artificial, that its denseness is insubstantial: unreality incarnate.”
(Lefebvre 2002 [1961] 194.)

Reality, it is fair to say, is a chaotic system as this idea nowadays figures in physics. Every hypothetical change in the physical make-up of the real – however small – sets in motion a vast cascade of further such changes either in regard to the world’s furnishings or in the laws of nature.” (Rescher 2010, 37

Description of the Contents

The first part of the Guide focuses on the questions of reality and specially on our nearest, taken-for-granted reality, which is described as a hybrid made out of different, unmatching pieces. The idea of bricolage is presented both as the basis of everyday life and a way of scrutinizing it. Everyday reality is depicted with the metaphor of huge, friendly but stubborn, fuzzy haired and bit stinking Mechanical Labrador Cerberus, whose anatomy forms the structure of the chapter – its body depicting the basic acts unavoidable in the everyday life, while its three heads and mane of snakes are the culture, which defines the ‘normal’ ways we execute these acts.

Flexible Reality is concerned with the essential questions about reality(-ies). The aim is to make visible the relational and changeable nature of ‘reality’ and the delight provided by our sustaining ignorance of it. The discussion stays at introductory level, because that is enough for the practical purposes of the Guide. In this context, judging the correctness of one or another of the ideas is not of interest, because due to reality’s and fiction’s incurable entangledness, any of them can be used for the purposes of reality tinkering.

Living as a flea in the fur presents some basic concepts for starting to think about the surrounding reality: paramount reality, life-world, natural attitude, taken-for-grantedness, world within one’s reach, multiple universes. The chapter highlights the impossibility of detaching oneself from the everyday, and is based mainly on phenomenological/sociological sources: Schutz, Berger, Luckmann.

How to scrutinize the anatomy of a hybrid? discusses the possibility to deconstruct and study the everyday, which is seen as a bunch of relations rather than a collection of certain acts or locations. The method is found in the concept of bricolage/collage, presented by Ben Highmore. This chapter emphasizes the idea that even if the ingredients of a situation might at some point seem as given, its character is based more on selection and arrangement of the content than plainly on the material at hand.

Eight major muscles opens the analysis of everyday by introducing eight classes of basic acts: eating, sleeping, dwelling, personal hygiene, social contacts, working, leisure and moving around. These classes pose us questions we have to solve in one way or another in our lives. In the metaphor, they form the body of the Labrador Cerberus, being molded by surrounding culture. They can be examined by asking the basic questions: what kind of, how, when, where, with whom, why?

Three heads and myriad of snakes discusses the three heads of the hybrid – all-pervasive oxymorons supporting our highly detailed everyday practices, the structure creating “normal” ways of concretizing the basic acts. Like oxymoron, as a bricolage of incompatible concepts, our everyday life is essentially ambivalent in its nature of occupying different levels of desires and activities, demanding us simultaneously to yield before its pre-constructed structures and letting us to create new ones, promoting at the same time feelings of pressure and freedom. Because of their complexity, these oxymorons offer us plenty of spots for delicious interruptions. Everyday life is seen as controlled coincidence, conservatiove subversion and measured experience.

Looking for the limits. Because of the practical viewpoint of the Guide, all the pondering done along the way has to end in a practical manner. This chapter offers a tool for answering the basic questions asked in the chapter Eight Major Muscles – a simple card game, which helps to think/memorize situations, where the limits of ‘normal’ are visible. These situations are so multiple and variable, that I see encouraging the reader to construct them by herself as the most productive option. Although s/he would never really play the game, I believe it activates her to think about the limits more than offering some ready-made examples would.