Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ravenous Emptiness and Existential Hunger

If you haven't already seen it, you should read this post by Vanderleun on the left's inversion of the seven deadly sins. Seems a shame to call it a mere "post," because I think he's stumbled upon a formula that may be more profound than he realizes: that the left not only rejects the notion of sin, but elevates it to virtue.

Which means that they actually do believe in it, only in an inverted way: for where would the left be without wrath, pride, envy, greed, lust? These are the forces that drive their whole project, so they must constantly be stirred up.

That being the case, I wonder if it is also true that progressives regard the classical virtues as sins? I'll let you ponder that one, but show me a prudent leftist -- prudence being the cardinal virtue -- and I'll show you a neocon, i.e., a recovered liberal.

For "none but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good in so far as he is prudent" (Pieper). Prudence is another word for wisdom, which is precisely what is jettisoned in any materialistic philosophy. Thus, most progressives categorically reject objective truth and morality, but "whoever rejects truth, whether natural or supernatural, is really 'wicked' and beyond conversion" (ibid.) -- which is to say, beyond even the reach of God, God being Truth.

Progressives also transmogrify actual justice into the totalitarian monster of "social justice" -- a justice which is simply subordinate to their justice-denying policy preferences. This is par for the coarse and vulgar, since the imprudent man "will often call lies and cowardice prudent, truthfulness and courageous sacrifice imprudent"; but "all virtue is necessarily prudent" and "prudence is the cause of the other virtues' being virtues at all" (ibid).

And "courage"? Forget about it. When Hollywood leftists are called courageous for making films in praise of their courage for making left-wing films for each other, you know the word has lost all meaning. The Dan of Steel had it right: Show biz kids making movies of themselves / You know they don't give a fuck about anybody else.

We never finished gluttony, which is a somewhat ambig & fatuous category for the left, as they tend to displace spiritual health to the medical arena, and then be preoccupied with trivial threats to one's physical well-being, such as "second hand smoke" or condoms for heterosexuals to avoid overwhelmingly homosexual diseases. Therefore, like the First Lady, they may be concerned about obesity in their own way, but not for any good reason. If they were only so concerned about the soul's health, the rest would take care of itself.

Nazis too were quite preoccupied with the pursuit of physical ideals. They were anti-tobacco, anti-obesity, and pro-natural lifestyle. (Just found this rather strange article that praises Nazi science for its awareness of the dangers of tobacco and asbestos -- which is like saying the ice cream was delicious except for all that bovine excrement that was mixed in. But as with Obamacare, the bullshit is non-severable.)

As Upton writes, gluttony is "a perversion of a natural instinct" rooted in "an attempt to become complete, to fill an empty place in one's soul.... [F]or the damned the quality of fulfillment, which is based on a spiritual ascent they cannot accomplish, only intensifies their peculiar distortions."

This provokes several associations in me. First, as mentioned yesterday, the phase of orality is actually rooted in a relationship. For the baby, the act of suckling is accompanied by a sense of taking in warmth, comfort, and love, which "fills up" a painful emptiness inside -- an emptiness that is clearly "beyond words," since the baby has no language with which to symbolize it.

Human beings never stop needing the translinguistic experience of emotional/spiritual fulfillment. Furthermore, to the extent that they missed out on it on the "ground floor" of childhood, they will later seek it in all sorts of inappropriate, dysfunctional, and self-defeating ways that are guaranteed to produce frustration and misery, not just with food, but sex, alcohol, drugs, shopping, texting, whatever.

A critical point to bear in mind is that, through what Winnicott called "good enough mothering," the baby gradually goes from a condition of "oneness" to that of "twoness," or from omnipotence to reciprocity. At first the "ruthless baby" imagines that it conjures the breast out of its own need, but gradually the (m)other comes into view.

You'll see this transition in your baby when they become aware of a desire to please you -- to return the love and to give fulfillment instead of just taking it. It's a beautiful thing to experience, because it's as if all that infinite love you've poured into your baby starts returning to you. Which helps make up for the financial loss.

One of the things I learned in my psychoanalytic training is that patients with issues related to this stage have a great deal of difficulty "taking in." It may be at either extreme; for example, one patient may want to "devour" the therapist, while another peevishly "spits out" every interpretation you make. Another might take in your help, only to secretly vomit it out after leaving the session.

But in order to be properly (psychospiritually) nourished, we must first be aware of the emptiness and need inside. This is precisely what the narcissist, for example, cannot do. The narcissist imagines himself to be perfectly complete -- except his painful lack of completion unconsciously leaks out in the need to be noticed, admired, and idealized.

For the narcissist, the world becomes the infantile mother who registers in her face the wonderfulness of the baby. Which explains the infantile rage of the narcissist when the world-mother fails to mirror their grandiosity.

Upton touches on something similar, noting that implicit in gluttony is a kind of psychic imperialism, a "power complex, a hunger to incorporate everything in one's surroundings," which allows "the ego to inflate beyond its true limits."

Here it is important to understand that envy is a primary cause of greed. Since the envious person cannot tolerate the painful feeling that someone else has what he wants, he attacks the object of envy -- which only makes him more intensely greedy because of the absence of fulfillment. It's one of the perennial votercycles of the left: envy --> greed --> envy --> greed. The constant class envy only results in the desire for more.

Which is why for progressives, it's Never Enough. The eventual Supreme Court decision on Obamacare will officially determine if there is any limit to what the ravenous state can force one to do.

Upton also makes a subtle point about human sacrifice and psychic cannibalism, which are not motivated by the desire to accumulate possessions so much as the will "to incorporate the very soul of another."

This very much reminds me of Citizen Kane, who attempts to fill his empty soul (which resulted from traumatic maternal separation) with that absurdly overstuffed warehouse full of material possessions (which are dispassionately consigned to flames at the end of the film). And recall that the very first murder in recorded history occurred with the envious citizen Cain whacking his brother, since he couldn't tolerate the emptiness Abel provoked in him.

Appeasing Gluttony, that ravenous and insatiable emptiness:

25 Comments:

Blogger SippicanCottage said...

You've stumbled on a formula just as profound: Steely Dan explains everything.

2/09/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That is a beautiful video, isn't it?

Donald Fagen once said that Ray Charles solved the mind/body problem back in the 1950s. Works for me.

2/09/2011 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"For the narcissist, the world becomes the infantile mother who registers in her face the wonderfulness of the baby. Which explains the infantile rage of the narcissist when the world-mother fails to mirror their grandiosity."

That also explains most trolls.
HEY! LOOK AT ME! I SAID LOOK AT ME!! HOW DARE YOU NOT LOOK AT ME?!! DAMNIT! WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN TO ME?!!

Of course, that also explains most politicians, particularly leftist ones. Oh, and "journalists," celebrities, the NY Times.

Speaking of hives like the NY Times, I reckon these deadly sins can operate on a collectrive level as well as an individual one.
Certainly the NY Times, San Francisco Comical, Huffing and really Pissed now!, DKos, MediaMatters, Hollywood, democrats, etc., exhibit all the symptoms.

2/09/2011 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous vanderleun said...

My Steely Dan koan of the day is:

He say
I detect
the El Supremo.
Redundant
is
is not
is

2/09/2011 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"That being the case, I wonder if it is also true that progressives regard the classical virtues as sins?"

Well, they never seem to get tired of mocking the classical virtues and anyone that is trying to live them.

I believe that's what progressives call "courage."

Of course, they would never go so far as to mock Muslims or Islam.
I guess they don't wanna overdo this "courageous" thing.

2/09/2011 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the Nazi article, how bizarre. Does the Anti-Defamation League have no bigger concerns these days, that they can worry that people aren't saying nice enough things about genocidal maniacs? What's next, a praise of the Hussein brothers' use of sustainable power in their human shredding machines?

Back to the post,

It may be at either extreme; for example, one patient may want to "devour" the therapist...

I think I've met a few people like that. So overwhelmingly needy and desperate for attention that they're like emotional vampires. On the one hand, you pity them because they so obviously need healthy relationships, but on the other hand they are unbearable to be around because there's no boundary, and thus a healthy relationship is literally impossible. Just saying "hello" upon making their acquaintance becomes an offer to be best friends for life, and subsequently trying to maintain a healthier distance becomes a stab in the back. There's no middle ground.

2/09/2011 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

razor-laser sharp guitar lines of Steely at their finest: by Jeff Skunk Baxter, who has Rumsfeld's home phone # [he became selftaught expert in Missile defense]

wv
dumsin [!]
what to do after dim sum?

2/09/2011 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"psychic cannibalism"

Just read that last night in Upton. Was in one of the last circles if not the last. Now I'm wondering if she also mentioned it earlier and I missed that.

Anyway, certain overdone activities may look like gluttony externally but I'm wondering if they always are. In other words, not always caused by a "missing whole". Alcoholism comes to mind. Many say some who suffer from it may be due to their genetics or otherwise some biological tendency.
Not to cause a disturbance in the force but, I've seen explanations for homo(and hetero)sexual activity described as a type of consumption (devouring)...which implies a psychic need rather than somatic.

2/09/2011 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, the only consistently successful treatment for alcohol is a spiritual one, i.e., AA. Not for nothing is booze called "spirits."

2/09/2011 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Cure for what ales ya.

Anyway, have you seen the Simpson's episode where Barney's (belching bar guy) affliction begins? He appears to be doing better-than-fine until someone gives him a taste.
They totally ripped-off the Ignatowski (Taxi) episode.

I may have watched too much TV once.

2/09/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Progressives also transmogrify actual justice into the totalitarian monster of "social justice" -- a justice which is simply subordinate to their justice-denying policy preferences. "

Vanderleun's Oscar Wilde quote, "“We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” comes to mind. What if you're in the gutter, staring up at the fruit of the tree, and decided not just to moon upon it, but to pluck it, bring it down from above and into your grasp? What is the proregressives 'social justice', but attempting to turn the virtue of Justice, into some vital vittles to be taken, distributed and et up?

When you get the notiion into your head that the ideal can be transformed into a particular pleasing something defined by you, that you can have and eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil, pluck it, hold it, shine it, admire it and eat it up... You fall.

2/09/2011 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van,

What if you're in the gutter, staring up at the fruit of the tree, and decided not just to moon upon it, but to pluck it, bring it down from above and into your grasp?

Seems to me there's a vital bit of info there. Namely, the revelers in inverted virtue long for that which is higher than themselves, but at the same time can't bear for it to be higher, brighter, cleaner, because it reveals their lowly state for what it truly is. Therefore they must bring it down and cover it in filth, perverting it so that it becomes the opposite of what it was meant to be.

2/09/2011 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Human beings never stop needing the translinguistic experience of emotional/spiritual fulfillment.

Along those lines, I've found it interesting over the past few months to see, in other people, the almost overpowering desire they have to connect with a baby. The old need the young in an essential way that our society, with its lowering birth rate and segregated communities, actively inhibits. As evidence, first there's Japan. More personally, there's the horde of Friday grandparents who whisk the baby away as soon as I show up for portrait sketching. As well as virtual strangers. I know, I know - everyone loves a baby, but at times there just seems to be this almost desperation, like they haven't seen one in years. I've had at least a couple of people tell me that they never see young people and children, living in their retirement communities, and the impression is they really suffer from the lack.

2/09/2011 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "... the revelers in inverted virtue long for that which is higher than themselves, but at the same time can't bear for it to be higher, brighter, cleaner, because it reveals their lowly state for what it truly is."

I think so, that is the core method of the left, to take and vertical ideal, and particularize it into a horizontal thing.

Education changes from understanding the good ideas that liberate, to training you how to gather a liberal amount of goods;

Property Rights change from having a property right in that which has been produced through your life, to being given property you have a 'right' to expect just for living;

Free Speech goes from the freedom to speak your mind on an issue which others may or not choose to listen to, to having a right to hear only those things you want to hear - and the right to expect everyone to listen to your words on what you know they should hear, and not be confused by hateful speech opposing you.

They always transform the conceptual, virtuous, into particulars - what might have begun as reverence for the vertical, is transformed through avarice for what they can't obtain, into the horizontal to be consumed, and "Therefore they must bring it down and cover it in filth, perverting it so that it becomes the opposite of what it was meant to be.".

2/09/2011 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Or, had I read a bit further first, "As Upton writes, gluttony is "a perversion of a natural instinct" rooted in "an attempt to become complete, to fill an empty place in one's soul.... [F]or the damned the quality of fulfillment, which is based on a spiritual ascent they cannot accomplish, only intensifies their peculiar distortions.""

They want to have, without acheiving... and will accept any and all substitutes, as long as they come in party-pak quanties.

2/09/2011 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Obesity is recognized as a psychospiritual problem.

That is to say, that people who have enough experience with certain obesity clinics are apparently able to tell whether a potential client will be successful or not on intake.

So, there are psychological/behavioral tells for people who want to deal with obesity vs. those who are entrapped by their obesity.

2/09/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I thought narcissism was going to be stripped from the DSM-V.

In any event, there needs to be some sort of DSM-type book that actually has value within the world of psychology.

2/09/2011 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

JP said:
"In any event, there needs to be some sort of DSM-type book that actually has value within the world of psychology."

There's always last year's model.
I mean, edition.

2/09/2011 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

<<psychic cannibalism<<

I think this can serve as metaphor and as "reality". There are vampiric individuals who can actually drain energy, albeit unwittingly. Who knows, this may have something to do with the enabling/enabled dynamic and why so many criminals come in pairs.

I'm thinking that the left "progressive" cause is almost an entirely vampiric enterprise. By inverting virtue, it lives off an energy not its own. Thus it always seems so wan and cold at heart and often in appearance. Often frantic, too, in its search for new energy sources lest it die on the vine.

2/09/2011 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Will says:

"There are vampiric individuals who can actually drain energy, albeit unwittingly."

Some do it willingly.

It's one of those things that's a bad idea to attempt or actually accomplish.

2/09/2011 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

By inverting virtue, it lives off an energy not its own. Thus it always seems so wan and cold at heart and often in appearance. Often frantic, too, in its search for new energy sources lest it die on the vine.

Goes back to the idea of trying to get more [fun, pleasure, vitality, etc.] out of something than there ever actually is in it.

2/09/2011 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger chandler said...

On the insight that 12 Step is a spiritual program of recovery (that saved my own life) and that alcohol is called "spirits"...alcohol is also referred to as "false courage."

. . .the beauty of the 12 step program is similar to the beauty of this site. . .so thanks for keeping it real one day at a time.....

...oh a final note on spiritual revovery being the most effective....on some 12-step meeting room walls it says "Your best THINKING got you here."

2/09/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

I worked with Skunk Baxter briefly a few years ago during my stint in ______. Simply an amazing human being.

2/10/2011 02:59:00 AM  
Anonymous njcommuter said...

I wrote this recently on another forum under another name. It seems appropriate here.

--------

An actor plays Aragorn, a man fighting an evil that threatens the world. But the same actor points to the people trying to unseat a ruler who picks women out of crowds to rape them while their husbands are made to watch, a ruler who is part of an unholy arc in the most unstable part of the world, and that actor declares that the people trying to unseat this man are evil. Not misguided, not in grave error as to means and ends, but evil.

Pol Pot was evil. Stalin was evil. Every ruler whose goal is to reduce people to cogs in his machine is evil, though perhaps in a lesser degree, and the business of ruling is often trying to find the least evil path through a maze of evil actors. (Not for nothing did John Adams declare that the Constitution of the USA is only suited for the governing of a moral people.)

I recently saw Tron Legacy several times. Several because I'm not skilled enough to pick it apart while on the thrill ride that is the IMAX 3D presentation. At one point in the film, the character who has just entered the virtual reality gets to tell the one trapped in it what's been happening. He runs down a list of popular (and mostly discredited) talking points: glaciers melting (some, and others are growing, and we've just discovered a new mechanism that dominates the slight changes in temperature), rich getting richer/poor getting poorer (in the USA, only happens in high-tax States) .... But in spite of that, the core themes of the film are rock-solid conservative: genocide in the attempt to create a perfect society from above and the Law of Unintended Consequences, which the Old Guy faces by diving into Zen, and finally expiates himself by personal sacrifice.

A while ago I quoted Chesteron: Literature is a luxury, fiction a necessity. It is by exploring fiction that we learn to exercise our moral judgement and our capacity to predict what evil people will do.

We have a disconnect, I think, between the fiction in which we recognize and explore our natures and their moral dimension, and our approach to reality. And those most skilled in fiction seem to suffer the most from the disconnect. Until we recognize, as Chesterton did, that "literature" must have a deeply moral dimension and discard Oscar Wilde's declaration that "books are well written or badly written, that is all", we will live under that disconnect, paying among us a terrible price.

We can't help writing myth—fiction—into our stories. It's who we are. It's what we are. I rather doubt that the authors of Tron Legacy actually wanted to play the Earth Mother/Sky Father myth, but "Q"'s ontology practically demands it. And if either Old Man or Old Man's creation is her Earth-Mother, then the her relationship to Young Man at the end is bordering on creepy.

I conclude this undisguised opinion on the moral value of fiction and its links to reality with three successive articles by Gagdad Bob.

[[The links didn't survive the cut-and-paste and as we've all read them I didn't bother to copy them.]]

2/10/2011 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Hello Bob, I saw this yesterday - better late than never! Looking forward to working my way through your whole Dante series. Wanted to let you know I've linked to this from my own little blog & added a link to One Cosmos to my sidebar. :-)

2/14/2011 03:23:00 PM  

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