A Rushed Quality by David Odell

David Odell
A Rushed Quality
May 2015
Brooklyn, NY
Punctum Books
326 pages
ISBN-13: 9780692426562
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Although sometimes convoluted, David Odell’s A Rushed Quality makes a valiant effort to illuminate the truth of consciousness and perception. Making abundant use of parables and metaphors drawn from culture, literature, math, and physics, it presents difficult topics in an engaging manner.

A Rushed Quality seems more a set of musings, however, than a cohesive narrative with a thesis, development, and conclusion. Odell takes a menagerie of topics from the fields of metaphysics and consciousness, and combines them in intriguing ways—though perhaps the combination is too eclectic at times. Approximately 300 paragraphs on the nature of reality comprise the book. Using principles of interpersonal relations to describe ethical philosophies, along with the Hegelian concept of the Other as a contrast for the Eastern principle of non-dualism, Odell also employs seemingly endless formulations of new permutations of basic, conceptual ideas. Some permutations are novel and interesting; others confound.

Making abundant use of parables and metaphors drawn from culture, literature, math, and physics, it presents difficult topics in an engaging manner.

Odell clearly understands many central tenets of metaphysics, though his writing can tend toward obfuscation, given his often-dense lexicon. He strives to write in lyrical prose, but his training as a mathematician shows through, and parts of the book are dry and cumbersome. Often, however, a mathematician’s precision would have been welcomed. Take, for instance, when Odell writes: “In introspection it is impossible to observe anything that precisely matches this picture and yet meditating on the picture brings about a change in the quality of consciousness.” Perhaps here a more concise way of saying this might have been in order, such as, “there is no such thing as objective existence.”

One of his metaphors is as follows: “The parliament model is one where an effective unity, the state or the self, is actually constituted by the relationship or compresence of a number of agents which individually are of an entirely different kind of function. It is a metaphor which enables some phenomenological insight in to the heteronomy of the self.” Instances such as this seem to employ many superfluous words, and I found myself wishing for the brevity of a short and sweet “proof” of a hidden unity of self beneath broken and overlapping functions of narratives.

Certain observations by Odell appeared stretched too far and thin to make much sense of them. For example: “Chasing this phantom passenger as far as possible out of idealistic redoubts it arrives at the edge of an abyss. The theoretic nature of the subject shelters a demand, and when this demand is apprehended nakedly at the limit of theory one finds it peculiarly un-shy of the abyss.” I found myself asking, "What am I to gain from this?"

Much of the text reads as if it is targeting the niche reader, and does not attempt to address the lay reader. Phrasing many philosophical ideas in mathematical metaphors, the ideas may escape the comprehension of the average reader (if there is such a thing). Odell brings in the theory of non-standard analysis to explain self-inquiry, the mapping of sets to talk about the cardinality and correspondences of various realities, and calls infinity, “something which can be equal to a proper part of itself.” This last definition makes intuitive sense, but somehow seems mathematically imprecise.

It can be easy to accept the state of the world at face value, and he certainly never does.

Moreover, Odell’s approach to understanding the self is logical and rational, and he’s weary of anything that smacks of the transpersonal or mystical—because of this, he has difficulty positing any certainties about the self, and rather whittles it to a pulp. Normal pieces of literature build upon each other, but this text rather degrades or deconstructs into a cluster of somewhat frayed logical ends and abstruse partially-constructed principles, collapsing upon itself. In this process, Odell sometimes ends up equivocating terms: “Call it a life or a consciousness, or a history, a psyche, or even by another name, it is essentially the same thing.” However, he does not go on to discuss what these essentialties are, or what the essentiality is.

To Odell’s credit, certain aspects of this postmodern deconstruction are beneficial. He grasps the illusory nature of our experiences and the present state of the world, which he guides us toward with questions such as, “How does it come about that there is an experiencing of suffering? On what medium has it grown?” It can be easy to accept the state of the world at face value, and he certainly never does. 

Shelby Keizer
Nomadic Press
Keizer is a melancholic poet and investigator of esoteric phenomena who spends most of her time in astral worlds. When returning to the physical dimension, she consistently has a fetish for black leather.