The Unavoidable Exchange


My friend had been waiting for several weeks to hear if they’d been selected from a massive pool of applicants for a summer internship with a local medical group.  While confident in her abilities, she was still nervous about the application simply because of the sheer volume of competition.  When the results came back, everyone she’d told gathered in her room and were dying with anticipation as if their own future were in that envelope.  The first sentence was all it took to know she hadn’t made the cut.  She was frustrated and demanded to know why.  Upon further reading, she found that despite her being one of the best and most qualified applicants, the program was forced to deny her entrance as a result of failure on the drug test portion.  Having known this person my entire first year, I knew for a fact that she’d never abused drugs of any kind, which she affirmed through tears.  After several days, she came to the conclusion that although unintentional, she had been exposed to drugs.  At a house party, she had been in a closed room with some friends who were smoking weed, and since the smoke had no escape, all it could do was build to the point where even those not participating had no choice but to inhale the incriminating substance.  The mistake of not opening a window resulted in the loss of an opportunity of a lifetime, and most-likely a blemish on her record.  Without realizing, or intending to, she had partook in drug use, simply by being in its presence.


Although hard to analyze this from my perspective, being close to the person in question, I couldn’t help but think of Nancy Tuana’s Viscous Porosity.  From this perspective, there is little distinction between an individual’s composition and that which surrounds them.  Whether we like it or not, our bodies are in a state of constant exchange with the world around them, in the case of my friend through the most basic act of survival, breathing.  My friend’s situation is eerily reminiscent of Tuana’s claim that, “…human agency, though not always intention, is knit together with more-than-human agency.”  By this logic, what we choose to surround ourselves with truly makes up what we are.  One poor decision led to her interacting with the environment in a detrimental manner, even if her intention was to avoid it.  This leads into the idea of relationality and interactionism.  By Tuana’s methods of analysis, it was the fault of my friend for being in a situation which would allow her to interact with a harmful environmental factor, as interaction is the means by which several entities are tied together.  Therefore, the fact that she was aware that she was being exposed to the smoke was enough to link the relationality factor between her and her surroundings.  There are, “…interactions between beings through which subjects are constituted out of relationality.” and therefore any relation, intentional and immediate or inadvertent and indirect are  still parts of who we are, down to the cellular level.  Tuana’s explanation of this takes a medical standpoint on her own philosophy, although loose, when she explains that, “There is a viscous porosity of flesh-my flesh and the flesh of the world. This porosity is a hinge through which we are of and in the world.”  The ways in which we are parts of the world are a result of the absorption of all we come into contact with via porosity.  While not a one way street, we are at the mercy of these interactions more so than the world, because even though the marijuana was altered and affected from this interaction with her body, the party which suffered the worse consequences was fairly obvious.  We must not discount, under any circumstances, the fact that we are at the mercy of our environment, simply because we have no choice but to interact and exchange with it.


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