Thursday, February 17, 2011

From History to Cosmos and From IT IS to I AM

A few more thoughts about Canto X before moving on to XI. Recall that "To see humanity as only earthly is to deny the human state" (Upton). In Hell, this denial manifests as the inability to see -- or be in -- the present moment. Or, let's just say BE, fool stop!

Again, as mentioned in yesterday's post, there are two "presents," one animal and one human (and therefore divine; or, if one prefers, vertically higher). "In life" the neo-barbaric Epicurean limits himself to the former, "to the empirical [animal-sensory] present, the present simply 'as is'"; he is therefore "denied the Eternal Present" (ibid.). As a result, in being denied the present, he lives only in the past and future, which are not real.

Now, what are the past and future from the human perspective, as opposed to their mere quantitative meaning? One could say hope and regret, or worry and nostalgia, or contrition and resolve.

I suppose one could even sum up the future as "anxiety" and the past as "depression." For if we are not anxious about what the future might bring, we're not really alive. And if we don't feel the absolute unrecoverability of past -- and of how things might have been -- we didn't really live it.

However, there is a way out -- or up, or in -- and that is the present in its divine-human mode. Really, it is our only sanctuary from the anxieties of the future and the loss of the past. And it is precisely this that the hellbound Epicurean is denied.

Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

For the Epicurean, this is inverted: be extremely anxious, even panicky, about the future, in the hope of escaping the evils of the present.

Nor can these souls "let the dead bury the dead," or put their hands to the plough without looking back (Luke 9:62).

There is a reason why Only the unexpected fully satisfies (Don Colacho). The unexpected delights because it escapes our attempts at control, which only end up strangling the present.

There is actually an analogue of all this in psychoanalytic developmental theory, something we have discussed in the past. I can't get into all the details, but one of Melanie Klein's most important contributions was the distinction between what she called the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. To achieve the depressive position is to have attained a degree of maturation, integration, and continuity of being that extends both spatially and temporally.

Another very bright fellow, Thomas Ogden, says that a better name for the depressive position would be the historical position, because of its profound effect on one's perception and appreciation of time.

First of all, note the similarity between the paranoid-schizoid position and the inability to transcend the empirical moment: in it, "sensory experience is unmediated by an interpreting subject," so that events simply "are what they are."

This state of being is analogous to a plane with "two faces and two faces only." The person is in one state or the other, with no higher vantage point "from which more than one emotional plane can be taken in."

For the person in this stage of development -- and this is critical -- their current state of being determines their "truth." "History is instantaneously rewritten" for the purpose of "maintaining discontinuities of loving and hating aspects of self and object." Here, truth is in the service of emotion.

If you have ever had a borderline person in your life -- and most of us have -- then you know how this works: "the present is projected backward and forward, thus creating a static, eternal, nonreflective present." You are drawn into the momentary primitive emotional storm of the borderline person, who dismantles time and history. It is simply impossible to argue with an un- or dis-integrated person, because they constantly throw out arguments from different planes, aggressively unaware of their contradictions.

If you're having difficulty picturing the process, then I suppose you didn't attend college, or else have a small family. Just imagine living with Keith Olbermann or Ed Schultz. In addition to the shear unpleasantness, one would be unable to escape from their psychotic attacks on time and history.

According to Ogden, the depressive position coincides with the true "birth of the historical subject." Note that the shift is not analogous to any linear process -- say, "piecing together a jigsaw puzzle" -- but is more like the sudden emergence of the three-dimensional image in those Magic Eye pictures.

Or, in the words of Don Colacho, Doubts do not fade one by one: they disappear in a flash of light.

Recall the image of a plane with two sides only; there is no "space" for the sense of I-ness to emerge, a stable mediator between experience and thought. Nor is this person aware of the other planes, for if he were, this would imply the third dimension from which they are declensions.

Thus, "in the depressive position," the person "no longer has access to the kind of Orwellian rewriting of history that is possible in the paranoid-schizoid position."

This is why progressive beliefs that absolutely shock our conscience don't do the same for them. Since the progressive has already preemptively rewritten history with himself as hero, he is able to slip through the nets of logic and evidence. He has a kind of freedom the mature person lacks, but this is a meaningless freedom; really, it is the illusion thereof, just as burying one's head in one's ass provides the illusion of tenure.

Now, back to Canto X. Note that the Epicureans are "ruled by Proserpine, Goddess of the Moon, queen of the underworld," which is another name for the nightworld of the unconscious.

In contrast to her is Beatrice, who symbolizes -- now, wait for it -- a "wisdom" and "wholeness of perception" that is specifically opposed to the "partial perception" symbolized by the loony moonbat goddess.

Another point: the depressive position is not only the historical position, but the threshold of the "transcendent position," which might be thought of as the "space of wisdom" (Bob) which "reveals the whole form and meaning of one's life sub specie aeternitatis" (Upton).

Thus, one might also call it the "meta-historical" or Cosmic Position. It is where one transcends the deuce in order be-a-trice.

22 Comments:

Blogger Sal said...

Hmmm- it wasn't working earlier.

Wonderful post today, Bob.

To reconcile yours and Van's last:
even though progressive's can/will not learn anything from other voices, they may not have a monopoly on voices heard. Had to think a bit to figure that one out.

Prayers for Robin.

2/17/2011 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In addition to the shear unpleasantness, one would be unable to escape from their psychotic attacks on time and history.

Heh - sadly, in these days of constant connectivity, it's still tough to escape even when one is hundreds of miles away...

***

Hi Sal, how's your foot doing?

2/17/2011 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger SippicanCottage said...

"the present is projected backward and forward, thus creating a static, eternal, nonreflective present."

Readin' the Daily Kos again, I see.

2/17/2011 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Julie-
From yesterday's X-ray,it's about 80% healed. Two more weeks in the boot and I can move into a real shoe. The garden is sending out a siren call, but I don't trust myself on uneven surfaces yet.
Funny- I hadn't been praying for patience...

I meant to mention that the Mark Musa translation from Penguin is good, if anyone is looking for something other than the Longfellow- I have the Purgatorio and really like it.

2/17/2011 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

One of the things I note about the borderland people I know -- most of my wife's family -- is how poor they are at telling stories. They can relate their current horrible difficulties, diseases, doctor visits, etc., but they can't tell an engaging or funny story about anything that ever happened to them.

That third dimension is essential to humor. Which is why so many can only do snark -- a 2-dimensional imitation.

2/17/2011 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

The unexpected delights because it escapes our attempts at control, which only end up strangling the present.

Speaking of which, this looks like it might be an interesting read. What in all of history has been more unexpected than Christ telling his disciples, "Eat me." As Scalia notes, "it is an absolute thrill to watch Pitre connect all the dots."

2/17/2011 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

I think a sidebar of "colachoialisms" is in order.

Angio update: I'm back from the ordeal which wasn't so bad. Except for the shaving, oh please, I mean really?. The good news is my arteries are spanking clean so no bypass or stents are in my future. Immediate anxiety relief! But the other news is that my mitral valve is "leaking like mad" so back I go in about 3 weeks for Round Two to snap the wishbone and sew in some Gore-Tex. I guess I'll be waterproof.

WV today is nousne, so if that ain't a good sign, there aren't any.

2/17/2011 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I got a waterproof heart -- that's a country song waiting to happen.

2/17/2011 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Arteries are spanking clean..Wow! that is a close shave!

Great news, Robin.

But can't they use those miniature instruments for Round Two?

2/17/2011 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mush, you are right. And I know just the man to sang it.

2/17/2011 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Don Pietro said...

The gulf between IT IS and I AM is infinite.

2/17/2011 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

R.Fish:

Good news about the plumbing! Ain't nothing to a little valve job. My father-in-law had one, and it was the only thing still working when he died.

Although Jewish, he was a major anti-Semite, so he specifically requested a pig valve.

You'll feel better with more blood pumping to the head, but you may not understand my posts any longer.

2/17/2011 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

" in it, "sensory experience is unmediated by an interpreting subject," so that events simply "are what they are."

This state of being is analogous to a plane with "two faces and two faces only." The person is in one state or the other, with no higher vantage point "from which more than one emotional plane can be taken in.""

For some reason, and from a little different perspective, this reminds me of the bit, you've probably seen it, I think we even discussed it here a year or so ago, where the teacher pours some rocks into a large beaker and asks the class if they think it's full. When they say yes, he pulls out a bucket of smaller rocks and pours them in and they fill in the spaces between the big rocks. Asks and answers again, and again pulls out a bucket of pebbles, and so forth with sand, and then water and alcohol.

The materialist person rigidly relates and rests the events of their life like the large rocks, if you tip the beaker, they grate, grind & clunk against each other, any movement means a complete shift in structure, rattling the beaker risks all the rigid connections, pieces even chip and fall between the cracks, no longer connected. This improves a little better at the smaller rocks & pebble stages, and better still at the sand stage, but they are only more stylized versions of the same problem, like a degree'd Hitchens sort of materialist, they seem solid in many ways, but you can still hear things grind & rattle when it moves - they don't like it at all.

But when the water of the spirit is poured in, it's a qualitative difference in how those events serve to form the structure - they really no longer do. The gaps are filled and are fully immersed & suffused; all is connected and is good where it's at, no matter where the material events come to rest. Even when shaken, while solid matter may rattle and settle, your containment of them and your life, your in-touch-ness with all of it's parts, isn't fundamentally changed, as it is when your only connection between the pieces of your experience must be retained at the same point of contact, or risk it all rattling apart.

When you are filled from above by the spirit, you contain the structure of events, and even when a change in perspective does reveal new shapes and connections, you haven't changed, you still contain it and define the your shape and surface, contained though it is.

2/17/2011 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "That third dimension is essential to humor. Which is why so many can only do snark -- a 2-dimensional imitation"

Very true.

2/17/2011 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Hey Robin, good news and could be better news, eh? Well congratulations on the good news, and here's to making the 'could be better' into the much better.

Gore-Tex... it'll serve you well in the Ocean.

mushroom "I got a waterproof heart -- that's a country song waiting to happen."

I can hear the Twang from here!

wv:calisein

I've seen cali, now Taliesin, that'd be something to see and hear.

2/17/2011 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

I've come here for forgiveness. I've been arguing with liberals. They keep dropping these turds on my Facebook page, and I snapped.
I finally shut them up, I think, when I told them I could not vote for Democrats because they were the party of slave owners, founders of the KKK, the income tax and abortion and except for the extermination of Jews and the murder of the unborn, could they name a successful progressive idea. Please forgive me for talking to the damned.

2/17/2011 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Pig valve! If there's a big discount, I'm in. Bob, I may understand you better because you write in O-ink.

2/17/2011 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

Robin, that may well be the worst pun in the history of the universe. I'm suspending prayers for your health, and going straight to prayers for divine mercy.

JWM

2/18/2011 05:44:00 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Belted out laughing... I missed that pun the first time around...!

Thanks, JWM, for calling that to attention. :)

2/18/2011 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Debass:

We all been there...and I'll coonfess I return there every once and awhile when I let my emotions run wil and try to communicate with the deaf, dumb and blind kids.

Of course there's always a very slight chance that what we say to leftists might get them to actually begin to think for themselves, or perhaps help educate a newbie lookin' for the truth but still ignorant of many of the basics that they will need on their journey, so I can see how valuable some good witicisms can be and continue to learn more n' reinforce all that I gno. :^)

But you didn't stay in the bog of eternal stench for long because you gno better (that stench is usually what snaps me out of the idea I have a chance in hell of reasoning leftists out of stuff they never reasoned themselves into).
Good to see ya!

2/19/2011 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Robin:
LOLOL! I smell bacon...Cosmic bacon! :^)

2/19/2011 02:06:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

Ben-

Thanks for your words of solace. It didn't end well and the futility isn't worth it. Like Bob said-leftism must be awakened from and not talked out of.

2/19/2011 10:20:00 PM  

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