The Present is a Foreign Country
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.....