Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Present is a Foreign Country

No, The past is a foreign country... --L. P. Hartley

Wait, you're both right!

A particular passage by Dawson struck me, so I'm striking him right back with this leaden post. He once wrote in a letter that "it seems to me that there is no more sense in asking, 'What is the use of history' than asking what is the use of memory. An individual who has lost his memory is a lost individual, and a society that has no history and no historical consciousness is a barbarous society. It is as simple as that."

If this is true -- which I believe it is -- it leads to the questions, what is human memory and what is it good for? Neurology has revealed that memory is not some sort of exact imprint of the past on the brain. Rather, it is always very much a "work in progress," with things constantly being added, deleted, and synthesized into a more or less comprehensive picture. Thus, our memory is much more analogous to an impressionistic painting than a photograph. (In reality, it is a pneumagraph or lengthy lifetome we develop though a recursive externalization and internalization of the soul.)

Looked at this way, there really is no such thing as a wholly objective past, only our ongoing construction of it in the present. But the present is obviously never stable, so we might look at history as "the presence of the past," which is to say, an extension and probe of the present into the past, rather than vice versa -- which is why history must be rewritten (or at least reevaluated) by each generation, since the past keeps changing in light of what is revealed by the future. In other words, the past includes its meaning, and the meaning can change in light of the present.

Or, at the very least, these two modes must be considered dialectically: the past extends into the present, just as the present reaches into the past. What we call "history," or the re-collected past, is more like a dynamic whirlpool created by these two streams.

Furthermore, there are implicit and explicit currents going in both directions, not to mention vertical and horizontal. For example, the unconscious agenda of a historian (what we might call the "pre-collected past") will guide what he considers historically important, while some past events are of such magnitude that they impose themselves on the historian, sometimes to the exclusion of events and conditions that are subtle but more important. (For example, psychohistory attempts to understand the subjective psychic conditions of a particular era, as opposed to the objective conditions only.)

These are some of the main reasons two historians can regard the identical reality -- even utilizing the same materials -- so very differently. One historian looks at the American revolution as a rare and glorious irruption of Light into the nightmare of history, while another sees it as a frank power play by wealthy and self-interested elites. One sees demagogic anti-anti-communists as gallant adversaries of paranoid right wingers, while another sees them as pathetic Soviet dupes.

Thus, the past is clearly conditioned by the psychic present of the person interpreting it, but the psyche itself is always conditioned by its own past, so there is a kind of double recursiveness. When I read leftist "revisionist" history, the first question that occurs to me is not "why is this person wrong?," but "why is this person such an assoul?" They would no doubt feel the same way about me, but perhaps dishonestly convert the feeling to an intellectual statement. But in reality, the gut feeling is actually the more accurate and direct conveyer of truth, so long as one's gut is not disordered by, say, logorrhea or coonstipation.

Is it possible for one's gut to be in the wrong place? Of course! Referring back to Dupes, consider all of the leftists who have positive gut feelings about Castro, or Gorbachev, or Hugo Chavez, or Daniel Ortega, or Jimmy Carter, or John Edwards, or Obama. Conversely, just consider the gut feelings they had about Ronald Reagan. I was there. There is no question whatsoever that they hated him more than the Soviet Union, just as contemporary leftists hate George Bush more than Islamists.

So the proper functioning of one's gut is quite important, a reality that usually goes unnoticed by infertile eggheads who are adept at rationalizing gut feelings into sophistry, in what is known as intellectualization or "shit masquerading as scholarship."

You will notice that intellectually inferior leftist elites do this constantly, that is, disguise simple contempt (which comes first) as intellectual superiority (a mere by-product of the emotional state), whether they are talking about global warming, economics, religion, "right wing talk radio," Sarah Palin, etc. Again, they are just like everyone else, only prone to disguising their feelings under a veneer of tenurebabble or MSM groupthink.

And this is why they are so incredibly blind to their prejudices: because they are first felt and only then disguised as self-evident "thoughts." And because these liberal feeling-thoughts are not self-evident to the conservative, the liberal imagines that it must emanate from malevolence, which is to say, evil.

For example, liberals always mischaracterize Rush Limbaugh as hateful, when I can't even remember ever hearing him angry. Rather, the predominant mood of the program is nearly always one of joie de vivre -- as in joyously kicking liberal's asses. Just because they hate having this done to them, they imagine that Rush is hateful.

This is why conservatives generally think that liberals are simply innocently ignorant or willfully stupid, while liberals feel that conservatives are evil. And since we are evil, there is no reason to develop sensible arguments to deal with us. You don't argue with evil, you condemn it. Thus, invective, defamation, and moral condemnation are the left's stock-in-trade (e.g., "The Worst Person in the World"), from the mountains of academia, to the midloons of the state run media, to the lowbrowlands of Hollywood, and into the sewer of dailykos and huffingandpuff.

Psychoanalytic therapy works exactly along these lines -- at least the form of therapy in which I was trained. That is, whatever a patient says about the past, it is presumed that he is actually (in some sense) making a statement about the present -- about his own present psychic organization, about his relationships and conflicts, and especially about the here-and-now reality of the therapeutic situation.

In fact, this is what Bion meant by O. That is, as he sat there with a patient, he considered the reality of the situation to be an evolving bipersonal field -- an ultimately unknowable, noumenal reality that shifts and changes on a moment-to-moment basis. One must notice the subtle changes in the state of this field, and not necessarily get distracted by the content, since the content is more like the penumbra around O. (You married cats out there, think, for example, of when there is an, er, disturbance in the force. You only find out later -- if at all -- what it was really about. Marry a female, and you are signing up for continuous reports on the emotional weather.)

In order to intuit O -- or for O to evolve into (k) -- we must, as Bion wrote, "suspend memory, desire, and understanding." When in the presence of anyone, there is an unstated, preverbal reality between or "around" the two of you. This reality -- which is an aspect of O -- is as "real" as the conscious speech that passes between the two parties. You could say that it is more like the background, context, field, or "container" for what transpires within it. And it isn't an "empty" space, but -- as in modern physics -- a space that conditions the content "within" it. (Someone once said that you know how you really feel about someone by the instantaneous feeling you have when you receive a letter and see their name.)

We all notice this field, even if only (or especially) unconsciously. Call it the "vibes" of a situation if you like. As a therapist, one is trained to pay close attention (but not react) to the vibes given off by a patient (the "counter-transference"), since they speak volumes about the psychic reality in which the patient lives and has his being. Furthermore, one must be especially careful not to confuse the patient's vibes with one's own, which is easy to do if one lacks insight and awareness.

We all experience this from time to time. For example, we might be in a bad mood, so we experience our spouse as a different person than we did yesterday -- as a persecutory presence. Or perhaps you have listened to a particular piece of music, thinking you didn't like it, when it was just the mood you were in.

Sometimes we can awaken from a powerful dream, but the emotional state of the dream will persist during the day. For me, it is a common experience that certain types of music are inaccessible if I am not in the right frame of mind. What can sound like the music of the spheres one day can sound like music of the squares the next.

To be continued.....

26 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

...what is known as intellectualization or "shit masquerading as scholarship."

Thus, that particular "perfume" that pervades so much of modern discourse.

And liberals saying Rush Limbaugh is hateful?
Oh, you mean like on Al Sharpton's radio show a few days ago, when the good Reverend demanded that Rush be taken off the air for all his racist comments?

11/30/2010 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

So the proper functioning of one's gut is quite important, a reality that usually goes unnoticed by infertile eggheads who are adept at rationalizing gut feelings into sophistry, in what is known as intellectualization or "shit masquerading as scholarship."

Heh - I think a spit-take warning was needed for that one...

11/30/2010 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

This intricate post delves into the workings of consciousness down to the street level, as it were. Utterly fascinating from start to finish.

We begin to understand that interpretation of the past is a fairly fluid undertaking.

That gut feelings (a holistic or integrated form of consiousness) are a more accurate indicator of reality than the intellect.

Overall vibes should be heeded closely.

That we are at the mercy of mood states, which play havoc witin relationships or with enjoyment of the arts.

With these nuanced truths now flushed out into the open (some for the first time, I believe), we can begin to ask a question:

How do we take command of our inner world and not be subject to unwanted moods, vibes, or errata in interpreting the past?

I theorize there may be methods to enable a more capable inner being.

11/30/2010 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

For me, it is a common experience that certain types of music are inaccessible if I am not in the right frame of mind. What can sound like the music of the spheres one day can sound like music of the squares the next.

It's interesting how that works. Every now and then, I like to keep listening when something hits me wrong, simply to figure out why it's suddenly so grating on the rare occasion the reason isn't apparent. I try to do the same thing with people - that is, when there's a strong visceral reaction to someone I want to know why.

11/30/2010 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

GM says:

"How do we take command of our inner world and not be subject to unwanted moods, vibes, or errata in interpreting the past?"

Through the appropriate pharmaceutical application of beer.

11/30/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

We all notice this field, even if only (or especially) unconsciously. Call it the "vibes" of a situation if you like. As a therapist, one is trained to pay close attention (but not react) to the vibes given off by a patient (the "counter-transference"), since they speak volumes about the psychic reality in which the patient lives and has his being. Furthermore, one must be especially careful not to confuse the patient's vibes with one's own, which is easy to do if one lacks insight and awareness.

I can personally relate to the vibe that people give off. I broke off a relationship because the vibe wasn't right. I felt like a crazy hippy when I told her that she puts out this mood which sucks all the fun from the room. The sad thing about it is she was otherwise a beautiful, intelligent woman who I thought seriously about marrying, but her vibe put me in the wrong frame of mind.
As for the past, I've found if I don't keep the truth out front I end up Wille Lowmaning myself.

11/30/2010 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

When I read leftist "revisionist" history, the first question that occurs to me is not "why is this person wrong?," but "why is this person such an assoul?"

I have a similar response -- instead of WWJD, I think NTSA (Not This S*** Again).

11/30/2010 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

Re: Vibes

"Positive waves, Moriarty, positive waves. Woof - woof"

11/30/2010 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And this is why they are so incredibly blind to their prejudices: because they are first felt and only then disguised as self-evident "thoughts."

"I love you, man. I want you to look after yourself.Eat the salad."

(Via Vanderleun)

11/30/2010 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I wonder if that was Gibbs. We know it wasn't Moochelle because the Secret Service didn't have to intervene.

Which brings up an interesting question. If the First Lady is kicking the crap out of the President, does the Secret Service:

a) intervene
b) referee
c) post the video on youtube

11/30/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

I get a hostile vibe from Dupree, Van, and RG, even over the internet. Julie comes across as loving even when being harsh. Wierd. Mushroom is simpatico. G. Maher is stuffy and stale. Tigtog and James don't give a specific vibe.

I love it all, especially hostility. Hostility is an acquired taste; once you get used to it, life without loses its savor.

I know my own vibe. Needy. What can I say.

11/30/2010 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

This is why conservatives generally think that liberals are simply innocently ignorant or willfully stupid, while liberals feel that conservatives are evil.

On the contrary, I think most conservatives are stupid. Moronic. Dumb as a bag of hammers.

You on the other hand obviously aren't dumb. You probably aren't really evil either, although you certainly seem headed that way (see, eg, your logic that justifies torture as long as the right people are doing it). I guess that's the source of my fascination, to see someone with a degree of intelligence contort themselves to conform to an essentially stupid ideology.

And since we are evil, there is no reason to develop sensible arguments to deal with us.

You know, I've seen several attempts from liberals to engage you with "sensible arguments". They are inevitably met with ridicule rather than any sort of attempt at dialog. Or censorship, which Is what I imagine will happen to this comment.

11/30/2010 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Always the victim. We feel your pain. Not so sure about the fascination, though.

11/30/2010 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Some actions are inherently bad, and it would be difficult if not impossible to justify them in any circumstances -- for example, the rape of a child.

So, a child has been abducted by two individuals. One is taking the child to a location where the abuse will take place. I have caught the other one, and I know that he can tell me where his partner is headed. Whether or not it is perfectly legal, is it reasonable and moral to hold the jerk's head under water to get him to talk?

11/30/2010 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Not so sure about the fascination, though.

Of course, Anon imagines censorship, so who knows what else he imagines...

11/30/2010 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

the past extends into the present, just as the present reaches into the past. What we call "history," or the re-collected past, is more like a dynamic whirlpool created by these two streams.

Speaking of matters of the past and present, Groundhog Day is on. Also Scrooged.

11/30/2010 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

GM:I theorize there may be methods to enable a more capable inner being.

This is exactly what much Buddhist practice is about. Some, like my dear wife, delight in it. Others, like myself, find it a dry and painful austerity.

JWM

11/30/2010 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Is it possible for one's gut to be in the wrong place? Of course! Referring back to Dupes, consider all of the leftists who have positive gut feelings about Castro, or Gorbachev, or Hugo Chavez, or Daniel Ortega, or Jimmy Carter, or John Edwards, or Obama."

ie: the Chebaggers.

12/01/2010 12:50:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ano said:
"You probably aren't really evil either, although you certainly seem headed that way (see, eg, your logic that justifies torture as long as the right people are doing it)."

Why on earth would anyone want the wrong people doing it?

12/01/2010 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mushroom said:

"So, a child has been abducted by two individuals. One is taking the child to a location where the abuse will take place. I have caught the other one, and I know that he can tell me where his partner is headed. Whether or not it is perfectly legal, is it reasonable and moral to hold the jerk's head under water to get him to talk?"

Damn straight it is! Not only reasonable and moral, but just, plain right.
A criminal's rights should never trump the rights or the life of their victim.

Leftists and all "letter of the law" modern day pharisees (the ACLU) should try explaining to a raped and battered child or the parents of a murdered child how a criminal's rights, comfort and feelings are more important than their rights, well being and life.

12/01/2010 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

we're here
we're queer
we're in your face!

12/01/2010 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To: blackhole
Re: "Tigtog and James don't give a specific vibe."

"Arf arf." Don't neuter me dude. BTW who is RG? Also, are you like really into Soundgarden or something?

12/01/2010 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

GE - was that a reference to the Smithsonian?

Surprisingly, they've actually pulled the Jesus portion of the exhibit. The rest stays, though - wouldn't want to ruin the friends and family atmosphere.

12/01/2010 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

'What is the use of history' than asking what is the use of memory. An individual who has lost his memory is a lost individual, and a society that has no history and no historical consciousness is a barbarous society. It is as simple as that."
...But the present is obviously never stable, so we might look at history as "the presence of the past," which is to say, an extension and probe of the present into the past, rather than vice versa -- which is why history must be rewritten (or at least reevaluated) by each generation, since the past keeps changing in light of what is revealed by the future. "

I like that a lot, especially history as the presence of the past. And even more than a probe into the past (or rather in addition to), it helps us aim into the future.

12/01/2010 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

bh said "I know my own vibe. Needy. What can I say."

Eh. I think your neediness mistakes my non giveeness for hostility. Maybe it'd help if you can't hear my laughter. But probably not.

12/01/2010 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"could"

Sheesh.

12/01/2010 08:37:00 AM  

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