Saturday, May 13, 2006

Symmatriarchal Bobservations

There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things--even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God. --Valentin Tomberg

Why do we love our children so much, anyway?

Seems like a stupid question. Nevertheless, it occurred to me during yesterday’s bike ride.

Of course, I’m new at this, so perhaps I’m the wrong person to ask. I’ve only been a father for a little over a year. How is it that I lived all that time without my son, but now I don’t know what I would do without him? As much as he needs me, it’s entirely possible that I need him more.

In this regard, I’m already finding that “love” is a hopelessly inadequate word to describe the situation. It’s way beyond that. Nor is it even a feeling per se. Of course it includes feelings, but it seems much more existential than that.

So anyway, while pondering the question, the following words popped into my head: “He is the foreground of your background, and you are the background of his foreground.”

Ummm, is that you, Petey? Could you repeat that?

Nothing. As usual, just the vapor trail of his present absence.

Not coincidentally, just before my bike ride I had begun reading a new book I’d been waiting to dive into, Thinking, Feeling, and Being, by the Chilean psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte-Blanco. Although generally unknown even among psychoanalysts, I believe Matte-Blanco is one of the most illuminating thinkers that ever lived. Unfortunately, like another one of my influences, W.R. Bion, he probably won’t be accessible to the lay person. Don’t worry. That’s my job.

Matte-Blanco’s ideas are so fruitful and far-reaching, and yet, he has very few followers. Like Bion, he doesn’t so much tell you what to think as provide a new way to think--including how to think about thinking.

I’m going to move the argument along here, so I will just say that Matte-Blanco’s key insight was that Freud’s discovery of the unconscious actually represented the discovery of an entirely different mode of logic, which Matte-Blanco called symmetrical logic. This is in contradistinction to the normal “daytime” Aristotelian logic of the conscious ego.

Freud observed that the unconscious displayed various distinct characteristics that defied normal logic. For example, two entities could occupy the same space (e.g., your wife might be your mother or child), or two different times could be copresent (e.g., your adult and child selves might be side by side). What Matte-Blanco realized was that these strange attributes were possible because of the symmetrical logic that governs the unconscious mind.

Now, back to the question of why we love our children so much. As I mentioned above, for me the whole thing is so intense that it’s pretty obvious that fatherhood has introduced me to vital areas of myself that were dormant before. They were there--they had to be there--but they were unlived. They were in the background--the “unthought known,” as the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas put it. Call them “thoughts in search of a thinker,” or feelings in search of an object.

But there’s that banal word again, ”feelings," that doesn’t really do justice to the situation. It is much more like part of me--a very large part--was “unborn” and given birth by my son. The child was father to the man. But not really. The child was father to the child, that is, to some part of myself that was forged and forgotten in my own childhood.

Why forgotten? For the same reason that my son, although this is the most intense and formative time of his life, will forget all about it. Our interaction couldn’t be more intense and animated, and yet, he won’t remember a thing.

Consciously. All of it will form the background of his very substance, a background that will be the context and container for his being for the rest of his life. But he won’t “know” it as an object until he becomes a father. Only then will he realize how much he was loved, because the father (and mother) who loved him so much will be reborn in his baby. His symmetrical background will have become his asymmetrical foreground, and only then will he really understand what Mother’s Day is all about.

As Kramer once exclaimed, “Mother nature’s a mad scientist, Jerry!” But it makes sense. We would be psychologically crippled if we loved our parents as much as they love us. We can really only rediscover the intensity of their love in our relationships with others.

I’ve been an orphan now for quite awhile. My father died when I was 29, my mother six years later, before they could be reborn. But their eyes are looking down on me. Or rather, up at me. And down on my son. In that supercharged space in between, you finally get it.

Which is why I can’t repay my son enough for what my parents gave me. That'll be his job.


Anonymous said...

Just wait, Bob. It's coming. You WILL hear the sound of your father's voice again. One day in the not too distant future, you'll be correcting your son, and you'll use one of those expressions your father used, and that you SWORE you'd never say. That's when you'll hear your father's voice in the distance...he'll be laughing.
ed in texas

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I should have mentioned that.... Children bring it all back up, good and bad.

kahntheroad said...

Hope I'm not killing the mood...
But I just had to share this. Forget Neil Young, here's the younger generation's artistic expression of moonbat RAGE!!!!!

Makes you long for Pete Seeger, huh?

I think my conceptual grasp of mind parasites has increased 10 fold after watch that.

Gagdad Bob said...

In approximately 1968, rock music split into a dark side and a light side. The light gradually dimmed to almost nothing, but the darkness is as bright as ever.

Sal said...

you hate yourself for it, but when your child's child uses a very naughty word in the check-out line at Target, or refuses to dance in $25 tap shoes at their dance recital or changes their clothes five times in one morning or develops an irrational fear of ordinary household objects like the vacuum cleaner, it's sweet.

oh, such sweet retribution.

Happy Mother's Day to Mrs. Bob!

Fergus the Cat said...

Hmm, music and moms . . . now how can I . . . OK, I've got it . .

I know nothing of being a mother, though my FeME often refers to me as a little mother something or other. (FeME is, of course, acronym for Feline Maintenance Engineer. This is not to be confused with FEMA, the Fed agency, though the similarities between the two regarding duties and services are striking)

I also represent musical Light. Tell me if I don't. (see:

Therefore: A Happy Mom's Day musical shoutout to all moms (and that includes great dads like Bob)

jwm said...

What a contrast! Khan- thanks for that link -er I think. Those guys have potential. All they need is lyrics, a melody, a singer, and someone who can play, and they'll be ready to do gigs at backyard parties. (so long as they bring their own beer) I'm not kidding, it made Booger the Cat run away. But right after watching and listening to that toxic nonsense I went back and read Bob's post. It was like a drink of clean water after spitting out a mouthful of rock salt. Beautiful post today, Bob. Got me choked up a little.

Will: You're causing me no end of grief letting Fergus post. Especially since Fergus the Cat can spell, and stuff. The cantankerous manx isn't allowed near the keyboard until she passes English 60 with a C or better. Hoooeee, am I getting complaints.


geckofeeder said...

Your post made me cry, Bob. It is the greatest gift to be a parent, and so devastating when you can no longer protect them. For your parents to miss out on enjoying you and what you impart so effectively is, well, I don't know what it is but kind of soul wrenching I'd say.
A mind parasite infested cab driver from the ROP assaulted my daughter and her fiance last night here in Santa Barbara. Luckily the police were right there on State Street and arrested him. She tried on wedding dresses today with a huge black eye. The drivers punch came direct from the ROP. Me, I've got non moonbat rage! Thanks for letting me unload here, it feels so safe.

will said...


Your mistake is letting Booger riff on *your* keyboard. Get the Wattana SmartCat keyboard (made only in Bangkok)

You think Fergus can spell in English, on my keyboard? Of course he can't. He couldn't spell his way out of a manilla folder. The reason is cats think in *images*, in pictograms. The SmartCat keyboard can be customized to a cat's needs. For example when Fergus wants to say "There is trouble coming", he simply types in (1)a pictogram of me + (2) a pictogram of his cat carrier. Or when he wants to say "Hurry up" or "Please proceed at a faster pace", he types in the pictogram for (1) me, plus (2) the pictogram of his food bowl. SmartCat then translates to English!

By adding a third or fourth pictogram, amazingly complex and abstract cat thoughts can be articulated. For example, by typing in the pictogram of (1)a guillotine, plus (2)a pictogram of Jerry Lewis, plus (3) a pictogram of a frog, Fergus can say "The nation of France has been losing its soul ever since the Revolution and the Terror and the subsequent surrendering of its Christian identity." And he can say that in only three paw strokes! SmartCat does the rest!

The only down side is that, due to the need for more than a few pictograms, the SmartCat keyboard is approx. 22 feet in length. However, most garage space will accommodate this. Let Booger be free to express himself as only he can. Get him a SmartCat!

In the interests of disclosure, I do have to say I have a little stock in Bangkok Wattana.

will said...

Gecko - that's terrible. My sympathies.

May I ask what in God's name prompted this assault? Obviously, the Feds should look into this RoP guy, see what kind of ties he might have.

Sal said...

Gecko -
what a dreadful thing to have happen; I am so relieved they were not seriously injured.

Who here saw the movie "The Village"? (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Those who were expecting a straight-forward horror film, which is what the trailers were promising, were hugely disappointed. Parents were not, b/c they got the theme - the lengths to which one will go, wise or not, to protect your children.

jwm said...

Holy Cow! I'll add my sympathies as well. Thank God your daughter and her fiance are all right. The ROP is the mother of mind parasites. I'll sign off before I go into rant mode, and post something heartfelt, but totally inappropriate.


geckofeeder said...

These my husband pulled up from the Santa Barbara New Press
Letters: Bias against cabbies who follow law
January 20, 2006: Iam a little stunned by the cheek of these cab drivers
who claim the county is biased against them because they are Muslim.
I've always had to have both city and county licenses since I first
applied for a job driving a cab in the summer of 1973. Each company I've
worked for since has required city and county licenses with proper
insurance in order to operate a cab . More»

Letters: Taxi license process straightforward
January 20, 2006: As a veteran cab driver in Santa Barbara, I'd like to
weigh in on the subject of Muslim cab drivers claiming unfair treatment
by Santa Barbara Sheriff's deputies. I'm a white male, Santa Barbara
local, and recently have been stopped by a Sheriff's deputy for no other
reason than to have my licenses and other required paperwork checked.

Letters: Fly by Night drivers go the extra mile
January 20, 2006: We very much hope that Muslim taxi drivers are not
being targeted by the Sheriff's Department for citations regarding the
county (vs. city) permits. Our hope is that the drivers' county permit
applications are expedited so they can get back to work on their usual
routes, which undoubtedly include county areas. More»

Muslim cabbies say deputies singling them out for tickets
January 17, 2006: A dozen or so taxi drivers in Santa Barbara County say
they are being targeted for tickets by a few sheriff's deputies because
they are Muslim -- a charge the department disputes. The drivers, who
work for two companies owned by Muslims, say they have received upward
of 30 citations in the last two months for not having Santa Barbara
County licenses. It's a requirement that has been in place for at least
three decades, but the drivers say they didn't know about it because it
was never enforced until recently. "We don't want to break the law,"
said Habib Mehai, owner of Fly By Night cab company. "If we had known
about it, we would have gotten a permit." More»

Thanks Will, Sal, JWM. The cab drivers name is Habibi. The police told my daughter that Habibi felt a lot of remorse. My daughter was so appreciative of the police being on it so quickly, but didn't care if he felt remorse or not . Iin the world she lives in you don't hit a woman( or children, dogsBut I guess these days if you insist onputting yourself in a situation in which you have to take a cab at 2AM Sat night you could find yourself in the car of some mindparasitsychotic. But being an old bag, I am connecting dotsI just read todays Mark Styne (Chicago Sun Times).Sorry for such a long post on this, and Happy Mother's Day.

Ben usn (ret) said...

I'm glad your daughter is now safe.
This RoP scum deserves the maximum sentence for this assault, and then some, plus a lawsuit.

They grow up so fast. Cherish every moment, as I'm sure you do.

dilys said...

Beautiful post. Especially striking to have a parent say he's not supposed to love you as much as you love him.

I went to a forgiveness seminar once where a speaker pointed out that mankind can only give to our children and they to theirs. As you say, repaying the debt. That when parents try to "get," to be paid back directly, then comes abuse and fruitless loops of developmental kinks. If parents themselves are reeling from developmental deprivation, it takes depths of possibly superhuman grace to get back on track. Going to supermarkets all over town, and looking around, is sad and inspiring and educational in this realm.

Here's a link connecting Matte-Blanco with Borges.