Mark C. Taylor


On his book Field Notes from Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living

Cover Interview of October 30, 2009

A close-up

Field Notes lends itself to browsing, starting and stopping here and there.  One of the interesting things about early responses to the book is that people’s interests and concerns draw them to different sections.  Instead of trying to summarize various sections that might attract different people, it is possible to get a better sense of the book by reading the chapter from which the book takes its title, “Elsewhere.”

I have been elsewhere.  The distance is short though its crossing takes a lifetime.  Elsewhere is not far – it is near, ever proximate, never present.  It is a place or placeless place that is strange because it is so familiar.  Rather than beyond, elsewhere is between the places I ordinarily dwell or think I dwell.  When journeying elsewhere, you do not leave the here-and-now; it is as though elsewhere were folded into the present in a way that disrupts its presence.  The everyday world does not disappear when you linger elsewhere – all you care about approaches from a distance that increases as it diminishes.  Gradually you begin to realize that nothing is merely itself –everything, everybody is always also something else, someone else, somehow else, somewhere else.

When you are elsewhere, vision, and with it awareness, doubles and, as you recognize this doubling, doubles yet again.  Far from confusing, this doubling and doubling of doubling clarifies by disclosing an elsewhere that is always there by not being there – like a looking-glass world into which you can always slip but can never leave.  The mind is split, divided, torn not between consciousness and the unconsciousness but within consciousness itself.  Two in one, one in two – neither separated nor unified, neither many nor one.  Just as the everyday does not disappear when you are elsewhere, so elsewhere does not vanish when you attempt to come back.  Once you have been elsewhere, you can never come back because elsewhere always returns with you.